Category Archives: Writing

Language Explosion Template: Helping Foundation Students Analyse Language Features

As usual our mock for the AQA GCSE English Language exam a few weeks ago highlighted that quite a few foundation level students are completely hit sideways when it comes to the language feature question (question 3). Many left it completely blank. This, depsite having managed some analysis of language in their controlled assessments for OMM, R&J and poetry earlier in the year.

So in yesterday’s session I spent an hour and a half dedicated on language feature analysis with them. I brought in newspaper and magazine clippings, mostly from the Sunday Times, but a few others as well, and then ran through a reminder of technique on how to spot a good phrase/sentence that links strongly to the main theme of the article, then to zoom in on particular words or phrases within that to: 1) identify a feature of language, 2) quote it, and 3) explain an effect on the reader (but without using the dreaded empty phrases).

It worked really well, and what I was most in admiration of was my students’ ability to cope with Sunday Times type writing and vocabulary. Afterwards most of them agreed that from this exercise they saw the benefit in aiming to read more of those types of articles to improve their writing and vocabulary.

Some images and templates below (as asked for via Twitter).

  1. My example I went through first (how to do it)

language feature explosion template

2. The template I gave to students to have a go for themselves (if you want to use this just save image and copy/paste into a PPT slide and print off as a full page).

language feature analysis explosion template

3. Some images of completed work done by the students in class

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.

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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:


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! 🙂


GCSE English Language Revision Postcard 29: Writing to Inform

Revision task for writing to inform question 5 on the AQA foundation paper.

Have fun!