Saturday, 13 May 2017

Tips on how to revise for English Literature

THE BEST TIP: re-read. You will do this whilst you collect quotations for other revision activities. The more familiar you are with your texts, the better your recall will be in the exam. Direct quotes are best, but you will be credited for referring to the text and paraphrasing. Do your best to learn some key quotes, but remember it is not vital you get them 100% accurate in the exams.

Buy your own texts and annotate them. Make notes in them whilst you reread. Make sure you highlight quotes that are useful for characters, setting, themes and writer’s craft, such as examples of dramatic irony in a play.

Revise key language and structural terminology and make sure you feel secure with this. The internet is your friend – use it to define any terms you aren’t sure of. For example, do you know enjambment? Caesura? Free verse?

Great internet sites generally are BBC Bitesize, Schmoop, Spark Notes, Cliff Notes. YouTube also has some great videos where teachers have recorded analysis of key texts.

AVOID simply rewriting your notes. You can do this on autopilot and you won’t absorb the information. This is the same for ALL revision. You should actively change your notes so that you are thinking about the content. You can do this by writing summaries or transforming key information into bullet point lists. OR, you can make cards/slides.

Make flashcards or use a PowerPoint presentation and treat each slide as an individual card. You can buy revision cards cheaply at the supermarket or online. Or you could use blank postcards.

For plays and novels:

I suggest you make a card/slide for each key character in the text. Write an overview of who that character is and what they do in the text. Find 4-5 key quotes that summarise aspects of that character.

e.g. Lady Macbeth – Macbeth’s wife; driving force behind his actions; tries to command the spirits; good at deception/putting on a front to conceal her true intentions; represses her actions so that she begins to sleepwalk; kills herself. ‘Unsex me here.’ ‘Look like th’ innocent flower but be the serpent under’t.’ ‘Out, damned spot!’ ‘Plucked my nipple from his boneless gums and dashed the brains out.’

You can do the same for key themes: make one card/slide per theme and write an overview of how it is shown in the text. Then find 4-5 key quotes to support it. If you are unsure of the key themes, Google it: there will be Spark notes online that can help you to work through these. BBC Bitesize is also an excellent source for revising English Literature.

Make a card/slide for CONTEXT for each text the requires it. Refer to an overview of your exams to check which bits require you to include AO3, context.

For poems:

Make a card/slide per poem. Select 3-4 key quotes that you think are most important in that poem. Write a list of the key themes, the key structural features and the context of the poem. Make a note of any poems that would link well with this one. To take it a step further, you could analyse the key quotes for language/structural features.

For all Literature texts:

Write your own exam questions, following the wording that has been used in your mock exams. If you need papers, ask your teacher.

Write out detailed plans for exam questions – plan the number of points you could make, find quotations and write brief notes on what you could pick out for language, structure and what effect it would have on a reader/the audience.

Write sample answers. Use different coloured highlighters to create a key: point, evidence, analysis, terminology, effect on the reader/audience, context (if relevant). Highlight your work and look at it – can you see that you have paragraphs with evidence of all colours in them? (Context doesn’t have to be every paragraph, but it should appear at least 2-3 times across the whole piece.)

Use sample mark schemes to try and grade your work. Ask your teacher to mark it for you afterwards.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Poetry Comparisons

I've been working on poetry comparison using the anthology poems from EDUQAS this week with some of my Year 11 students.  

Regardless of the exam board that you are studying, I would advise approaching the comparison question in the same way.

1.  Pick out 3 points per poem that answer the question.  We were looking at how conflict was shown in 'Dulce' and another poem.  We chose Mametz Wood.  

2.  Write these in a table - see my example below.  You put the 3 points for each side by side and see how they match up.

3.  When you write, follow each row of your table in order to create a comparative paragraph.  

4.  Remember, you are always being assessed on how you select quotes and analyse them, with language/structure terminology, for how they impact on the reader.  You should be able to work through each paragraph that you write and underline the examples of language/structure features that you have named.  You should also be able to see the word 'reader'.  I still use the PEACE model to do this -

ANALYSIS (with language and structure terminology)
EFFECT (on the reader)

5.  Make sure each paragraph ends with a clear comparative comment.

The one thing I haven't done in my answer is compare directly the devices that the poets have used.  This is my target for improvement next time!  Watch this space.

QUESTION: (b) Choose one other poem from the anthology in which the poet also writes about conflict. Compare the presentation of conflict in your chosen poem to the presentation of conflict in Dulce Et Decorum Est. [25]


Conflict has left the soldiers exhausted and vulnerable
In the conflict, the soldiers were fragile
Horror of conflict
Horror of conflict
It is not ‘sweet and fitting’ to die in conflict (fighting for your country)
The orders given by commanders in the conflict seemed unfair

In Dulce Et Decorum Est, Wilfred Owen presents the British soldiers fighting in WW1 as exhausted and vulnerable. He writes, “Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots/But limped on, blood-shod.” The full stop at the end of the short sentence, ‘Men marched asleep’, creates a caesura, highlighting how exhausted the men were. The metaphor implies that the men were so tired, they seemed like they were asleep whilst they marched. Also, the verb ‘limped’ seems to suggest that the men’s feet were hurting from losing ‘their boots’, but they carried on regardless, even though they were ‘blood-shod’. The adjective ‘blood’ connotes how injured their feet were. Owen seems to be drawing attention to the appalling conditions the men were fighting in during WW1 to his reader. The equipment was often poor and second-hand, meaning that uniforms didn’t always fit correctly. This would leave the soldiers exposed and vulnerable in the conflict. In Mametz Wood, Owen Sheers also appears to draw the reader’s attention to the vulnerability of the soldiers, although the soldiers he depicts are skeletons, viewed in their graves long after the conflict of WW1 has ended. Sheers writes, “the relic of a finger, the blown/and broken bird’s egg of a skull’. He uses metaphors to suggest that the soldiers were fragile, their bones were ‘relics’, a delicate object from the distant past; their skulls ‘blown and broken bird’s egg’. The voiced plosive alliteration here, coupled with the enjambment on ‘blown’, mimics spitting out words, as though the fragility of the bones horrifies the writer and should horrify the reader too. Both Owen and Sheers present the British soldiers as weak in conflict; even the strongest men would have been tested by the conditions depicted in Dulce and the weapons that were being used in WW1.

Furthermore, both poets show the horrors of conflict in their respective pieces. Sheers writes, “their jaws, those that have them, dropped open’. Some of the skeletons that he sees in the grave are missing jaws, he uses caesura on ‘those that have them’ to try to convey the horrific injuries that some of the soldiers were subjected to when they died. The verb ‘dropped’ presents the ones who do have jaws as open-mouthed. This looks like singing, yet they have died screaming. This will present the violence of the conflict to the reader. Owen also shows violence, yet his soldier’s suffering is depicted at the time of the conflict, not long after his death. He ‘plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.’ The list of vicious verbs connotes the pain that the man was in, yet Owen was ‘helpless’ to do anything about it. Owen was writing at the time of the war about things that he witnessed when fighting in the conflict. This contrasts to Sheers, who is a modern poet writing about WW1 as a memorial, to try and remember those who died and the sacrifices that they made. He chooses to use the images that he has seen of the conflict in his poem, which is focused on the remains of the bodies, nearly 100 years after the war was being fought. The reader is still shown the horror of the suffering experienced in the conflict in both poems though, even if the method is different.

Finally, both poems convey some anti-conflict sentiment. Owen overtly states ‘The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est/Pro patria mori’. He is telling his reader, who he addresses directly with the second person pronoun ‘you’ in the final stanza, that he does not believe the Latin motto, that ‘sweet and fitting it is to die for your country’. The images of suffering connote that death in conflict can be violent, slow and painful. Sheers also seems to be unhappy with the way that WW1 was fought, although he does not state this as clearly as Owen. Sheers writes, ‘across this field where they were told to walk, not run’. His writing here is less figurative. He writes simply ‘they were told to walk not run’. The simple verbs, ‘walk’ and ‘run’, are juxtaposed; the comma creates a caesura on ‘not run’, emphasising that they were not allowed to run. This line suggests to the reader that the commands given were unfair, that even as the soldiers advanced on the ‘nesting machine guns’, they couldn’t run, making them easy targets. In WW1, the soldiers fighting in the conflict were already ill-equipped to cope with battling against modern weaponry, such as the machine guns in the poem. This left them very exposed to harm. That they were told they couldn’t even ‘run’ would seem cruel, as though the men were being given no chance to survive. Both poets seem to have anti-conflict sentiment in their poems, even though they were writing them 90 years apart.

Monday, 6 March 2017

GCSE English Literature: A Few Thoughts on Mr Hyde

The first time the reader encounters Mr Hyde is when he tramples the girl in the street. It is worth noting that this occurs ‘about three o’clock of a black winter morning’. It was ‘all as empty as a church.’ Stevenson’s novella is of the Victorian Gothic, a late nineteenth century reawakening of the earlier Gothic genre popularised decades before by writers such as Mary Shelley and Ann Radcliffe. One trope of the gothic is to create isolated settings. In Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’, for example, she uses mountain ranges, country estates and the frozen landscape of the North Pole. The reason why this is used is straightforward: isolation means the characters are alone with nobody to hear them scream. Remote settings are still used in horror nowadays; characters will often find themselves somewhere away from other people where monsters can easily prey upon them. Stevenson’s problem arises from trying to create the same Gothic scares in the much busier setting of London. He needs to make his victims isolated and vulnerable to attack from the Gothic monster; this is hard to do in a bustling urban setting. He does the next best thing – he sets Hyde’s attacks at night. By creating empty streets, Stevenson has made a lonely place and left the wandering girl, or Mr Carew in a later chapter, weak.

Hyde is small in stature, ‘a little man who was stumping along eastward.’ The verb, ‘stumping’ has connotations of awkwardness. Stevenson implies that Hyde struggles to move in a normal way, yet he is powerful. He tramples the girl ‘like some damned Juggernaut’. The choice of simile here is worth remembering as a key quote when you revise. A juggernaut is a powerful, overwhelming force. It is possible to argue that this is from the animal instinct that Hyde is driven by. He seems to have brute strength. If you have studied the novella in class, you should be aware of Freud’s ‘Three parts of the psyche’, the id, ego and super-ego. However, these are more modern terms for what is going on in Stevenson’s book as Freud wrote about these in the 1920s. Jekyll and Hyde was published in 1886. You can still use id and ego as these are accepted terms for what Stevenson was writing about – the ‘primitive duality of man’.

It is also worth noting that Jekyll and Hyde (1886) was published two years before Jack the Ripper began his murder spree in Whitechapel (1888): be very careful if you want to suggest that Stevenson was influenced by this. He wrote the book before the murders took place! However, Jack the Ripper is still indicative of the concerns of the novella, from a modern reader’s perspective. Stevenson was concerned with the idea that the Victorian Gentleman could have suppressed, antisocial desires and then two years later, a Victorian Gentleman (we know that he was well dressed, fed his victims expensive grapes and rode in a carriage) literally ripped open prostitutes in some of the most brutal murders in British history. Stevenson was not influenced by these - it is impossible - BUT the Ripper murders are an enactment, in real life, of the very issue Jekyll and Hyde was about. The ‘primitive duality of man’.

The strange thing about Hyde’s appearance is that it seems wrong, yet there is nothing an observer can pinpoint that makes them believe this. Mr Enfield said, ‘He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point.’ He is unable to articulate how Hyde is ‘deformed’. Possibly because Hyde’s deformity is not physical, it is mental: he exists without ego and super ego. He has no moral code to shape his behaviour. This is what is lacking in him, rather than a physical absence.

The thing I find most interesting in Hyde’s presentation is how he makes those around him react. When he tramples the girl, Enfield notes, ‘I had taken a loathing to my gentleman at first sight.’ But, strangely, so had the doctor who was on the scene, ‘I saw that Sawbones (slang for Dr) turned sick and white with he desire to kill him.’ Enfield admits he felt the same. When Poole speaks to Utterson later in the narrative, he relays when he saw Hyde, ‘there was something queer about that gentleman – something that gave a man a turn – I don’t know rightly how to say it, sir, beyond this: that you felt it in your marrow – kind of cold and thin.’ People who see Hyde seem to struggle to articulate him: they can’t use their words to describe how he looks or how he makes them feel. I wonder if this is because he is appealing to the animal instinct in them? This is about the observer’s id, their inability to apply social rules to the creature they are faced with. They react to Hyde in instinctual ways: they want to hurt him or run from him, both id-driven impulses. Is Stevenson suggesting, then, that if one gentleman should embrace his animal instinct, that we, as animals too, will start to behave in similar ways? It almost infects the people who come into contact with him. The doctor turned ‘sick and white’ at the urge he felt: to hurt Hyde back. His moral code – that of the Victorian Gentleman – was pushed to the limit by encountering Hyde. He felt ‘sick’ because he felt it at all: it was his own instinct trying to force to the surface, beyond the limits of his self- imposed, socially acceptable behaviour. Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is that Hyde seems to bring out other people’s animal instincts too. We see their own ‘primitiveness’.

A checklist for you on what was expected from a Victorian Gentleman:

The Victorian Gentleman

  • Well educated - from the aristocracy or professional roles.
  • Moral – there had been a revival of the chivalric code during this period. Gentlemen were supposed to be honourable and conduct themselves well. Chivalry, courage and kindness to everyone.
  • Well presented – be properly dressed and well groomed. 
  • Appropriate manners – use the correct social etiquette.
  • Self-restraint – behave appropriately, do not act on impulses.
  • Wealthy – build wealth and keep it. Be wise and thrifty.
  • “Keep up appearances.” Charles Dickens. It is all about a gentleman keeping a good reputation and his honour.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

AO2: Analysing Texts

Point... Evidence... Writing Analytical Responses

You might have been given a strategy for writing a paragraph in a reading response.

The popular one ten years ago was PEE:

Point - make a point that answers the question

Evidence - include a quote that proves your point

Explain - explain what the quote means in your own words and what it shows the reader

Unfortunately, this doesn't really cut it at GCSE now. There is a huge focus on demonstrating your understanding of how a writer uses language and structure in order to construct setting/theme/character/create influence on the reader. To explain is simply not enough.

My preferred method is PEAL:

Point - make a point that answers the question

Evidence - include a quote that proves your point

Analyse - analyse how the writer has used language and/or structure with terminology and the effects that this creates on the reader/audience

Link - clearly link your analysis back to the question that you are answering


Remember that everything your are reading is a construct: it is your job to pick these constructs apart, seeking out layers of meaning and looking carefully at how language and structure have been used to create effects in the writing. Never fall into the trap of writing about characters like they are real. Keep referring to the author to show the examiner you are crystal clear that this is a text and the writer has used devices to construct this person.

In your analysis, break down your quote and requote words and phrases to illustrate your analytical ideas. This gives your analysis depth.

You must use language and structure terminology: the exam criteria expects it and your examiner will be looking for it in your answers.  So, mention those verbs, adjectives, similes, lists, repetition, metaphors, etc.

Discuss your ideas using tentative language. Nothing is definite in literature, it is all personal interpretation. Write that something might mean, could imply, perhaps shows rather than stating that something DOES mean what you think. This also invites you to try and think of other ways that a text might be interpreted.


Explore how Wilfred Owen presents war in his poem, 'Dulce Et Decorum Est'.

Point: In Dulce Et Decorum Est, Owen shows the consequences of fighting in WW1.

Evidence: "Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,/ But limped on, blood-shod."

Explain: This suggests that the men felt exhausted as they marched and many no longer had boots. Some had bleeding feet. This implies to the audience that the conditions in the war were very harsh.

Okay? Not really.

Point: In Dulce Et Decorum Est, Owen shows the consequences of fighting in WW1.

Evidence: "Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,/ But limped on, blood-shod."

Analyse: Owen uses a metaphor, "men marched asleep", that could imply that the soldiers were exhausted; it might also suggest that their abilities were impaired. The enjambment on "boots/but limped on" extends the line, maybe reflecting that the journey was a difficult and arduous one. Owen's use of the verb "limped" has connotations of injury, the men seem to have been damaged by the war; this is further indicated by the adjective "blood" which creates a grim image of the reality of the war for the reader. This could also signify the bravery of the soldiers, that they continued in their duty in spite of the horrific conditions that they were subjected to.

Link: Overall, Owen is exposing the reality of war for his reader through his presentation of what the soldiers endured.


Tip: look for what you know. You might not know all of the features, but you should know some. If a quote uses a simile and you know it's a simile, say so! You are demonstrating that you understand the writer's/poet's techniques.

Google is your friend. If you feel unsure about key devices in poetry and prose, ask your teacher or, failing that, do some of your own research. There is a wealth of information available online. Take action!

Saturday, 11 February 2017

If you want my help, just ask.

If you would like me to write an article about something you feel you need help with in English, just leave me a comment or send me a message on Facebook.  My page:

Writing narrative: English Language Paper 1, Section B.

The two key exam boards that I work with, AQA and Eduqas, are slightly different in how they ask you to approach this task.

For Eduqas, you are given a choice of four titles, usually things like 'The Rescue' or 'Write about a time you got lost'.  You are expected to write a narrative in response.

For AQA, you are given a picture and a choice of two tasks, one is a descriptive task and one is a narrative.

You can't write a description for Eduqas.  You won't be rewarded on the mark scheme without narrative features.

Narrative writing does require some description, but this needs balancing out with plot and character development too.

When I teach about narrative, I ask my students to remember that they need to get a balance between action and description: the things happening and what it is like to be there.

Start by planning 3 or 4 points that your narrative will move through.  So, if I take the title: 'The Rescue', my plan will be:

  • trapped up a mountain
  • waiting to be rescued
  • friend falls
  • rescue comes

This will make the backbone of my story.  I know I need some description.  Now I've planned what I'm going to write about, I know that my description will be what it's like up the mountain.  

In order to write description effectively, I have to include language features.  I will need simile, metaphor, pathetic fallacy, interesting vocabulary, etc.  You should hopefully understand which features make effective writing to describe.  The very best feature to start with is sensory description as the senses definitely bring the scene to life for your reader.

Back to my plan.  I am going to plan my senses:

  • sights - rocky crags, snow, big drop, rushing waterfall below, green slopes far below
  • sounds - wind, waterfall
  • smells - cold burning nose?
  • taste - dry mouth from fear
  • touch - freezing cold


  • emotions - anxiety, hopelessness, terror

This is enough of a plan: key story movement and some sensory description to get me started.  

Things to remember when writing:

Keep dialogue to a minimum.  A story is told through description and action, not two people talking.  A short story isn't long enough for lots of discussion between characters.  

You are writing a snapshot, not a novel.  You don't need lots of back story about your characters, just go straight into what is happening.  It is sometimes good to include a little flashback to earlier in the day that gives more sense of who your character is, but it isn't essential.

Don't start with someone getting out of bed: go straight to the main action of your story.

Don't start with 'It was a sunny day'.

Avoid writing the word 'as' at the start of lots of sentences to get your story moving.

You need to use structure (paragraphs and sentences) for effect; you need a range of sentence structures; you need a variety of punctuation and you need to try to be accurate with your spelling.

The Rescue

Clinging to the cold rock behind me, I leaned forward and looked over the edge.  The drop was sheer, at least a thousand feet.  Enough to kill a man.  

I pressed myself back again.  My ankle was still throbbing from the pain.  David was next to me, crumpled on the ledge.  The wound on his head was bleeding hard and his eyes were closed.  Carl was sitting beyond him, his head resting back against the rock.  He appeared emotionless, but I knew it was the shock.  We'd never expected to end up here, waiting to be rescued.  

Hoping to be rescued.

The wild beauty of the place was no consolation as we huddled on that ledge, praying that someone below would have reported us missing.  I looked across the open green valley at the bottom of the mountain; it seemed peaceful below, warmer too.  Up here it was freezing cold.  I struggled to feel any sensation in my face as the wind stabbed at my skin.  A waterfall, a couple of hundred feet below, crashed down the craggy mountainside, a constant reminder that the only way was down.

We couldn't leave David with his injury and we couldn't carry him.  The path was too sheer and the risk of falling was too high.  The only option was to wait.

It had been a few hours.  The sun was gradually lowering in the sky, taking the temperature down with it.  I could feel my teeth chattering.

'Enough of this.  We have to move!"  Carl's voice was a sudden shock in the growing darkness.  Insistent.  A little mad.

"No, Carl.  We can't."  I tried to reason with him, but he was on his feet, pulling at David's arm, trying to get him to move.

David moaned.

"Leave him!"  I stood, ready to intervene, to stop him, but it was too late.

In his frenzy, Carl stood back.  His foot went back, off the edge.  

It seemed to happen in slow motion.  

He froze.  He frantically waved his arms, trying to get his balance.  I reached out to him, but he tipped backwards and was gone.

"Carl!"  I screamed his name into the black abyss below.

I felt entirely helpless.  Carl was dead.  David was dying at my side.  They were novice climbers.  They'd relied on me to keep them safe and I failed them both.  I would probably die here too.

Then a light appeared, coming from the distance, like a beacon of hope.  It moved towards us accompanied by the thrum of propellers.  

Mountain rescue!

I pulled my torch from my pack and lit it, waving it in a circle above my head.  David made a sound beneath me.  His eyes were open, a smile spreading across his face.

We were saved.

This is 463 words.  You are advised to do 450-600.

Have a close look at how I've used structure and the features I've included.

Friday, 3 February 2017

English Language Paper 2, Section B: Writing Non-Fiction Tips

Tip: Read Some!

Excellent examples of argument writing can be found in newspapers. If you search papers such as The Independent and The Guardian online, you will find that they have 'Opinion' sections. The Times is brilliant too, but you have to subscribe to access it.

Start to read a variety of these. Think about the key points the writer is making on their chosen topic (summarise what they are saying). Look for language devices that the writer has used to argue their points: can you see any rhetorical questions? Rule of three? Second person address? Consider how they have structured their writing: can you pick out any short sentences or paragraphs that impact on the reader?

The more you read good writing, the better writer you will become yourself. Remember, GCSE English exams will have a non-fiction element. They will expect you to both read and write non-fiction. Therefore, getting into the habit of reading some good quality non-fiction in your own time will put you at an advantage.

Tip: English is about skills, not truth

This statement applies specifically to the non-fiction writing section! I'm not encouraging you to embrace lies and deceit.

Your examiner is expecting to see that you understand how to create and support an effective piece of non-fiction writing.

You will face a question that asks you to tackle something random, like 'Write a letter to your local council arguing that more should be done to tackle rubbish in your area."

You are not expected to know lots about the issue or have plenty of facts about it to hand. You need to MAKE IT UP.

First, plan your points. You will need to come up with about 4-5 points about the issue that will create the structural backbone of your piece of writing.

1. The area looks untidy and ugly.

2. The amount of rubbish is dangerous for children.

3. Residents should be encouraged to recycle.

4. Rubbish harms wildlife.

5. A cleaner local area would attract more people to visit.

Each of my points will become a topic sentence that will then be padded out into a paragraph by my entirely made up supporting evidence. This bit is where you get your features in.

Great language features for arguing:

Rhetorical Questions


Imperative Verbs

Second Person Address

Emotive Language

Rule of Three

Expert Opinions

Public Opinions

Facts and Statistics

Counter Argument

These are just some of the key features that you can include in your writing.

I like this bit. Don't get too silly with it, but have some fun creating your evidence. Do this as you are writing; you won't have time to plan all your features in an exam.

Example of Point 4:

Furthermore, the amount of rubbish in our local area is very harmful for wildlife. Dr Ray Smith from the University of London said, "The population of song birds in this country has fallen by 45% in the last five years. Our studies indicate that this is because they are ingesting rubbish, such as cigarette ends, from our pavements." The results of his research clearly indicate the toxic effects of waste on our birds. Surely these distressing figures will prompt you to take action on reducing the waste dumped on the streets in our community?

Dr Ray and his study are entirely made up. I am trying to prove my point that rubbish harms the local wildlife and I am showing the examiner that I know expert opinions, statistics, emotive language, second person address and rhetorical questions are all devices that help me to argue. I will get ticks for making my writing appropriate to the purpose and audience and for using language devices.

Tip: Start with a scenario

I think a really effective way into an argument, or any non-fiction piece, is to get the reader to imagine a situation that is linked to the topic.

Imagine streets covered in waste. Imagine the stink of refuse as it is warmed by the sun. Imagine the fear you would feel encountering large rats, drawn to our community by the extensive availability of discarded food. If the rubbish in our area is not dealt with soon, this is the situation that all local people will be facing.

You, as our council, need to take action on the refuse!


Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Need for Speed

You need to get fast.

Unless your usual way of working in class is on a computer, you are going to have to write in your exams. Not only that, you will need to be able to write quickly.

This is a very useful skill to develop, especially if you plan to continue to college.

How can you do this?

1. Practise

Ask your teacher for sample questions. Time yourself when you answer them. Do this regularly.

Find other opportunities to write: keep a diary, write letters to people, write a short story. The more you write, the quicker you will get.

Don't worry too much about being neat, just make sure it is legible. The examiner needs to be able to read your ideas otherwise it is a waste of time.

Join up your writing; some students print. This is a slow way of doing it.

2. Plan

Always plan. It is amazing how many times I will tell a class about the genius of planning and they just ignore it and go straight into writing, then wonder why their work lacks structure and coherence. Planning also helps you to make sure you've picked the best task for you, rather than getting part way through your writing and deciding you've chosen to do the wrong thing.

Planning organises your points and helps you to clear up any mental clutter so that when you start writing, you are entirely focused on the question.

Ultimately, any long answer in English revolves around making key points, whether you are doing a reading or writing task. The points become your outline/structure and then you pad each paragraph with either your quotes and analysis (reading) or your reasons and supporting evidence (non fiction writing). Planning these points takes five minutes at the start of your question that could save you a huge amount of pain as it avoids running out of ideas part way through or repeating yourself.

3. Check your grip and make sure you are using the best pen for you

Many people experience discomfort when writing. I know that I get tense when marking and this can hurt my hand, arm and shoulder. Also, I see lots of students trying to write with an old, chewed up biro or asking to borrow a pen because they don't bother to bring one with them. Using a pen that is right for you can make a huge difference to your writing. There are so many on the market now that have been carefully designed to make writing easier.

Try out different pens and find one that feels comfortable to hold and that you don't need to grip too hard. This is really worth a bit of investment as physical pain can make writing in your exams much harder than it needs to be. Remember to buy black ink. 

Try not to press too hard. Joining up helps to make your writing flow better and prevents too much pressure.

Have breaks: stretch and wiggle your fingers. Try rotating your hands at the wrist, both ways.

Once you have picked a brand of pen that suits you, stick with it so you are really used to writing with your pen before you sit your exams. Make sure you buy spares! 

Always resist the urge to write in pencil, even if it is more comfortable. You are not allowed to write in pencil for your exams. Get used to using your pen.