The importance of ‘extended writing’

Word cloud.JPGSome thoughts on task-setting and assessment in English, especially at Key Stage 3

In a well-planned Key Stage 3 course on Of Mice and Men, pupils will be gripped by and immersed in Steinbeck’s novel, will enter imaginatively into the world of the story, will explore its context and significance, will investigate ways in which Steinbeck uses language, and will discuss characters and get to grips with themes. They will watch one or more film versions and might think hard about how the novel has been adapted. As well as acquiring a wealth of knowledge, pupils will practise a range of types of talk and writing – some imaginative, some analytical and some discursive – and maybe some drama.

Continue reading “The importance of ‘extended writing’”

From 1994: on coursework and exams

TES.JPGJim Stewart and I wrote this for the TES in 1994, after the first round of new GCSE exams in English and English Literature, replacing 100% coursework. I wouldn’t agree with everything in it now, or with all of the expression, but – as comes across – we were a very angry profession at the time. I’m posting it here as a piece of educational archaeology! Continue reading “From 1994: on coursework and exams”

Post-Levels: tracking progress in English at Key Stage 3

Thoughts on assessing progress and attainment in English at Key Stage 3

This post is based closely on an article for NATE‘s Teaching English (Issue 8, Summer 2015)  I’ve re-posted it here since ‘post-levels’ assessment continues to be a major concern. 

Capture.JPGPost-levels, it was left to schools to decide on how to track progress at Key Stage 3. A number of teaching schools were funded to work on and share ‘approaches’, and these can be found published online; many other schools have formulated their own approaches, and are sometimes sharing these.

However, this juncture has presented English departments with a clear opportunity to assert some important, positive principles.

Progress in English is not linear

Progress in the knowledge, skills, understandings and sensibilities which compose ‘attainment’ in English is not smoothly linear. Children don’t usually progress to their ‘expected’ or ‘better than expected’ final outcome via a series of neatly spaced milestones, but will have periods of accelerated progress in certain aspects and of slower progress in others. This is normal. Continue reading “Post-Levels: tracking progress in English at Key Stage 3”

Objectives and purpose in English

Thoughts on learning objectives and on the way we frame learning in English

This post was originally an article for NATE‘s Teaching English (Issue 8, Summer 2015)

Capture.JPG

‘Is that what you went into English teaching to do?’ Reflecting with English teachers on their planning, whether for lessons or whole schemes of learning, I often find myself asking them this question. It isn’t asked in a despairing sense but as a sort of a litmus test of the real value, integrity or power of an ‘objective’ (or an ‘aim’, or an ‘assessed outcome’.) For example, no English teacher went into the profession to get children to ‘practise expanding adverbial phrases’. No one followed a calling to help students to ‘make comparisons between texts’. Of course, these are important but they are not really an end in themselves; they are a means to students developing power in expression and critical awareness and discrimination as readers. They should not be the start and the end of English lessons. Continue reading “Objectives and purpose in English”

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