Extended writing is a vital part of all modern qualifications and they can be daunting to all students. The expanse of a page in front of them. The knowledge that what they is worth 15 to 20 marks. As daunting as it is, it doesn’t have to be impossible. Here are 6 ways of improving extended writing, no matter what level of qualification your students are taking.
The first area to get right is the structure of the essay and to stick to it. I use two different structures in response to the kind of answers required, the first is PEE and the second is FEAR. PEE is the more straightforward and the students will generally know this structure from English or other subjects.
The advice I give my students it that the Point is only ever one sentence long. If they are writing more than that, then they are making more than one point and therefore it should be more than one paragraph. The evidence should always be two sentences and not necessarily begin with ‘for example’. Two sentences forces the student to look deeper in the text they are looking at for more than one example to back up their point. The result is that the evidence they look for and employ tends to be far deeper, developed and detailed than if they gave the first piece of evidence they could find. The explanation needs to at least three sentences long. The is firstly to make sure that the student has fully explained how the evidence they have chosen backs up their point, but also that they delve deeper into their thoughts and add more detail to their answer.
FEAR is different. Fear stands for Focus, Evidence, Action and Response. This framework provides a little more structure for students. In the focus element, students write as specific a sentence as they can about the focus of the paragraph to come. It is best to include the words of the question and the focus the student wants to take on. The evidence is explaining why you want to focus on this example. Action is a description of how the actor is performing and what they are communicating to the audience with that action. Then the response is about how the student responded to the example highlighted.
Finally there is the option of having no set structure at all, but stipulate a balance in the students writing. A balance between context (why the actor is acting as they are), description of acting (what the actor is doing) and evaluation (how you or the audience are responding to that acting). I find that it is this insistence of a balance between the three elements is what I’m building towards and striving for with regards to Year 11’s and Year 13’s.
Key Words of the Question
Highlight and use the key words of the question in your answer. This is an example of a ten mark question from the 2011 exam paper; explain to your performers how you intend to work on exploring verbal communication in this extract, giving reasons for your approach, supported by clear examples. The key words there being;
- Explain to your performers
- How you intend
- Exploring verbal communication
- You approach
Use those words as starter sentences or building blocks for your sentences with phrases like “I’d explain to my performers that…”, “it is my intention…”, “I intend…” or “my approach to exploring…” et cetera.
Using these phrases helps to signpost to the examiner how you’ve addressed the key elements of the question.
Get a list of connectives and identify which connectives are going to be good for each question. Try and not repeat a connective throughout the answer. Here is a link to one I use on TES by nahall, https://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/connectives-mat-6125588, although it appears quite basic, that is it’s success: it is easy to navigate and use.
Similarly with identifying the key words in the question, it is important that students identify the key words of the assessment objectives and uses them in the answer they write. Again, it helps to guide the student towards writing a higher mark answer and signposts for them the key parts of the essay.
Planning with Analysis Triangles
Draw a triangle (or whatever shape necessary to make sure all the Assessment Objectives are covered) and on each side of the triangle write one of your Assessment Objectives. Then around the outside of the triangle plan what you are going to write about, making sure that the content hits the Assessment Objectives.
Make the work look sophisticated by adding subordinate clauses rather than using compound sentences. Moving the subordinate clause to the front, is an even more sophisticated looking sentence structure!
“The mariner takes these visions seriously and he becomes deeply traumatised”.
“So seriously does the mariner take the visions, he becomes traumatised by the end”.