Category Archives: College

GCSE English Language Revision Postcard 42: Writing to Explain (Gun Crime!)

Here’s a revision task for the AQA foundation paper, question 5, writing to explain.See the post card for the task and then see some further notes underneath.

IMG_1682 (Edited)IMG_1683 (Edited)

It’s a bit of a challenge! Can you explain the problem of gun crime in America? To be honest it’s doubtful you’d get a question that required such deep understanding in your exam, but if you’re looking for something to get your teeth into for revision, this is a good one.

It might be controversial for some reading this, or painful if you know anyone affected by gun crime. If so, then apologies. However, in its own right the issue is a topic of extreme importance and is often the subject of passionate debate. It’s of relevance if you live in today’s world, therefore, to be able to understand why some countries allow personal ownership and use of guns (known as the “right to bear arms” and embedded in the country’s laws / constitution). Hence this task.Explore the subject a little first if you have the time. If you don’t have the time, then perhaps make time.

Here are a few links to some posts on the web that may interest you about this subject:

  1. A YouTube video where British journalist, Piers Morgan, gets in a heated debate with an American about gun control in America
  2. Bowling for Columbine: At the bank – a clip showing where you can open a bank account and get a free gun in America
  3. President Obama makes a speech about gun control in America


GCSE English Language Revision Postcard 41:Writing to Inform (Time Travel Task…)

Here we go with another bit of writing to inform revision, for question 5 on the AQA foundation paper. See the postcard below for the task, and then carry on reading beneath for some tips and hints.

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As you may imagine, there are a few time travel summary lists already published on the web. For a writing to inform question you can easily borrow their basic style, which is very close to the “who, what, where, when” type technique, but still manages to go further than simply writing an extended list. For example, look at these three web pages:

Don’t just re-write their lists though! To get your time-travelling juices flowing, have a gander down this wider list and google a few things that take your fancy to find out more. You should talk about at least five in your piece of writing. Or maybe you already have a secret stash of well-read time travel books on your own bookshelf at home?! If so, write about those!

  • The Time Machine, by H G Wells
  • The Time Traveller’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
  • Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Replay, by Ken Grimwood
  • Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • 11/22/63, by Stephen King
  • Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain
  • Time and Again, by Jack Finney
  • The End of Eternity, by Isaac Asimov
  • The House on the Strand, by Daphne du Maurier
  • Kindred, by Octavia E Butler
  • Timescape, by Gregory Benford
  • To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis
  • The Accidental Time Machine, by Joe Haldeman
  • Drums of Autumn, by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Time Ships, by Stephen Baxter
  • The Best Time Travel Stories of All Time, by B N Malzberg, P K Dick, and R Silverberg
  • The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers

GCSE English Language Revision Postcard 35: Punctuation – Colons

As said previously, section B of the AQA foundation paper requires secured and controlled use of a variety of punctuation to get strong marks. A quick win can be achieved using a colon to write a list. For example:

“There are many reasons to consider teaching as a career: the delightful students, the abundance of free time, extraordinarily high salaries and very light workload.”

Remember that you don’t need a capital letter after the colon. It’s not a new sentence.

Happy revising!

GCSE English Language Revision Postcard 34: Presentational Devices

A quick way to revise some basic presentational features as a stepping stone task for question 4 on the foundation paper. One of the saddest things I see after a mock or the real exam is when a student has just forgotten what presentational features are and they write about language features by mistake or, worse, nothing at all and leave it blank.

English Language Revision Postcard 33: Using Language

Revision task to recall and use key parts of speech and language features, which are subsequently required to then identify them when reading in section A, question 3 of the AQA exam.

You can describe the women too if you like 😉

Happy revising!

GCSE English Language Revision Postcard 32: Writing to Argue

Revision task for question 6 on the AQA Foundation paper, writing to argue. Also using @HeadofEnglish ‘s viewpoint discourse marker lollipop sticks that she kindly donated to the Twittersphere 🙂

Happy revising!

GCSE English Language Revision Postcard 31: Writing to Persuade -Foundation Paper

Here’s another revision task for question 6 on the AQA GCSE English Language foundation level paper, writing to persuade.

When I’ve said “powerful words”, read emotive as well as less common and rare vocabulary.

The aim of the game with persuasive writing is of course to get the reader to take on your point of view, and as such examiners like to see that a student can “manipulate the reader” – the easiest way to do this seems to be by using rhetorical questions to create a feeling of guilt or shame if the reader doesn’t agree with them. That’s something most foundation level students can easily do. It also seems more effective if the manipulative, guilt/shame inducing rhetorical question is attached to the end of an emotive anecodote. For example:

“My beautiful little sister, Gemima, was only 3 years old when she became ill and died as a result of passive smoking. She had the rest of her wonderful life before her: golden locks that curled around her dainty neck and bounced up and down as she laughed and played, rosy cheeks that burned with energy and happiness, and an intense love for a favourite teddy bear, named Fred. However, her precious life was cut brutally short. Why? All because of her next door neighbour’s disgusting smoking addiction. She would play with her dolls right next to the fence where the neighbour used to come outside to puff on his sticks of death. No-one thought anything of it, until it was too late. You don’t want to be guilty of killing beautiful little children, too, do you? No? The answer is clear. Stop smoking today.”

The revision task:


20 Questions: GCSE English Language Foundation Paper Exam Quiz

I’m probably going to use this quiz with my class before their mock exam next week. For them it will be a recap activity of things we discussed and went through at some length in class yesterday when they did the Exam Isle board game (see previous blog post). Feel free to use with your students too if you think it might be useful.

20 Questions: GCSE English Language Foundation Paper Exam Quiz

  1. How many marks is question 1a worth?
  2. How many marks is question 5 worth?
  3. What type of writing is required for question 6 (writing to…)?
  4. What are you required to identify, quote and explain the effect on the reader for in question 3?
  5. What type of questions are 1a, 1b and 2?
  6. How long should you aim to spend on question 6?
  7. Which question will you attempt first?
  8. What are you required to identify examples of from two texts and compare in question 4?
  9. List three examples of language features
  10. List three examples of presentational features
  11. What three types of writing might be required for question 5 (writing to…)?
  12. How many marks is question 6 worth?
  13. Which question will you attempt 2nd?
  14. How many marks is question 2 worth?
  15. I don’t need to write in paragraphs in section A, the reading section: true or false?
  16. List three examples of discourse markers
  17. List three writing to describe techniques
  18. How many marks is question 3 worth?
  19. List three writing to persuade techniques
  20. What is the difference between writing to inform and writing to explain?

Swap your answers with a partner and peer mark while answers are discussed as a class.

GCSE English Language Revision Postcard 30: Writing to Explain – Foundation Paper

Revision task for question 5 on the GCSE AQA foundation tier paper, writing to explain.

Happy revising! 🙂


Will you survive the terrors of “Exam Isle”? PGCE observation

I’m not sure how it went yet as I’ve not had extensive feedback, but today was my 6th of 8 observations that I have to have as part of my two year part time PGCE course. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed preparing for it. The students seemed to benefit (both from an engagement point of view as well as learning from their endeavour as well as their mistakes along the way). And, so far, I do know that the PGCE tutor who observed the session thought that it was “highly effective”. That’s what he’s written on the two pieces of paperwork he had to commit to signing off in my presence this morning anyway. I will get more extensive feedback later, which I’m looking forward to.

So what did I do? To be honest I ran a session that I loved preparing for but that I know I could never sustain that amount of preparation time on in the normal run of things. I prepared two board games, size A1 (Hobbycraft loves me – I spent a fortune!), to run with two separate groups of learners in one class. There were meant to be 4 students in each group but one didn’t turn up (attendance can be unpredictable in these instances!).

The board game took the students through a series of questions to help them reflect and discuss together what would help and hinder their preparation for the forthcoming exam, and then got them to get their hands dirty thinking, remembering and looking at a past exam paper in order to, literally, piece together the bigger picture of “Exam Isle”. I’d got luggage labels, lollipop sticks, card toppers, and “to do” lists galore. It was a veritable treasure trove for crafting.

Students had to discuss and decide which questions focused on information retrieval, language features, presentational features, writing to inform, explain or describe, and writing to argue or persuade. They had to allocate the right marks for each question, and decide how long should be spent on each one, and what order to do them in. They then had to decide which set of “to do” list instructions applied to each question. It took them about 1 hour 20 minutes to work through, and one group finished slightly earlier than the other. When they were finished they used a little note sheet to do a peer performance assessment and rate each other’s efforts during the game on: teamwork, communication, willingness to improve and knowledge. They then handed back the peer performance scorecards to each other and were asked to reflect on how they might improve on criteria they hadn’t been given 10 out of 10 on. The teamwork and communication criteria were relevant in our FE setting as employability factors. I like to think the willingness to improve could have helped them think about general effort they put in and also maybe the state of their “growth mindset”.

After they had finished this session they glued the board game pieces to “Exam Isle” and the huge A1 boards are now up in my base room for students to keep reflecting on over the next few weeks until the exam on June 7th.

That was the observed session. Part two then came after break when the observer had gone, students relaxed, and people got on with real work 🙂 (the real work included no poster activities at all, and just required students to start working through exam style questions, using marking schemes from past papers to peer and self-assess. I was impressed because everyone was very busy and on task for session 2. During this session I also gave feedback on the last two pieces of creative writing they did before the Easter holidays (“Write about a film you either love or loathe,” and “Use a season of the year as the title and idea for a piece of writing”).

Students have a good idea of what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what they need to work on for SPaG between now and the exam, which unfortunately brought their marks down a bit in the grand total for all CAs done.

I dished out and explained the idea behind the metacognitive journal. They had a go, reflected on the points they were asked about on today’s page, and created a learning target for themselves, in addition to the targets they already have ongoing. I’m hoping it will serve to keep reinforcing what they themselves must do to prepare for the upcoming exam.

No revision homework was handed in from the Easter holidays. I encouraged them to re-start their 20 minutes a day revision resolutions from scratch. To be continued…

Image 1: Exam Isle (before class)


Image 2: Exam Isle (set up as two board games in class this morning before students arrived)

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Image 3: Exam Isle (finished – after students had put all the pieces on and worked their way around the island.


Image 4: Exam style questions on those postcards I’ve been pumping through daily on Twitter and elsewhere. Students used the real things in class this morning and then used past exam paper marking schemes to peer and self-assess.