In recent posts I have mentioned when writing something for the exam or coursework, that planning is vital, but how do you go about this?

I have also suggested writing an introduction, followed by a 3 point midsection and then adding a conclusion and in the right context, that would be one way to write an essay, but some students I have been speaking to recently have found that either to be too structured or have said that it does not allow them the chance to be creative enough to write freely and fluently.

So, they asked me to come up with something else.

Then, when teaching one particular student, we came up with something easier for him to remember, especially as the exams are coming up and it came out as a picture, which is now placed below for you.

4 point plan

In essence, it is a diagram that should help you to structure your writing.

Imagine you had to write a description of a time when you had to make a difficult decision. If you write a bullet pointed plan, or numbered, with 1, 2, 3 etc down the page then things can be written down in the wrong order. If you try however, to make a diagram of it, then you use such as this diagram to jot down some ideas.

So, in the centre circle, you add the title task, say for example, the words “DIFFICULT DECISION” and then you think of a time when you have had a difficult decision to make. Then, using one strand at a time, you add single words into each box, but be careful. Be logical. Be prepared to make it up in the exam as well. The more unique the better in exam answers.

Start with the decision, so [for example] the top right strand might use words like [and using the centre circle as well] DECISION – OPERATION – TRUST – FEARS. The second thread might read DECISION – FAMILY – CONCERNS – FEARS and so on, around the diagram. When all four are completed, you then need to think which strand naturally comes first and label them as 1, 2, 3, 4. [The same would be true is writing about a poem in an exam or for coursework].

This entire task should be able to be completed within 10 minutes! It is that simple for a reason, to make you think in terms of one word answers that you will then develop in your writing.

Go on, have a go now. Using the same title as here, use this diagram planner to make your plan in order to write one. Then, as exam practice [this is posted just before the exam in 2015] actually write a 600 word answer.

Happy writing!


The Unseen Poem [in the exam]

Some of the different exam boards, like WJEC [Welsh Board] and the 9715 [AQA] have a thing in the Lit exam where you are required to write an analysis of the texts you have studied and then you have to spend some time writing about a poem, or a pair of poems [WJEC] so that you can show you can write about something literary without any revision or planning.

Now a few years ago, my school opted to take part in the WJEC course and I write a full 2 year scheme of work for it. Indeed, the thing on here called UNLOCKING A POEM is from their teacher pack and appears as guidelines for students as they write their answer in the literature exam.

So, how do you answer it when it appears? For the purposes of this, I am going to use something from a previous AQA exam paper where a poem appeared called Long Distance II. It is a poem about loss and the student is expected to write an analysis on this one. My question then, relates to how you view this and what you do with it, in the first few seconds.

You need to annotate it [make notes near it] so that you can then have something to guide your writing. Here is what I did with it for a student.


The comments in red are short and snappy, for a reason and took about 30 seconds to add in. They are put there to make me see the thing I need to write about. If you like, each one is my point I will then make in my PEE chains, with the idea of the PEED, or development, [see previous posts if seeing this first] being my thoughts from life that I can add into it.

As each verse progresses, so too would my thoughts and ability to use each word and phrase, mentioning any stylistic devices [similes, metaphors etc] as and when needed in my analysis.

This would make me find it very easy to write about this unseen poem, but I also see that the exam texts it was paired with [Duffy etc] were all about loss as well, so there seems to be a link between section A and section B like in the other exams. Thus, when you are completing section A and it is on a certain theme, do not be too surprised if this theme carries on into the final section.

Finally, one thing for you to consider. You may think that this poem has a slightly different meaning to the notes I have put on. This is for one simple reason; your life experiences are different to mine. Because of this, you will react to this poem slightly differently and this is perfectly normal for you to do so, but the thing to remember is that you need to get both ideas written into your analysis [more than two is even better].

In other words, you need to write about your thoughts and then add words like “However, these words could also mean that…” and add other thoughts. The more varied your answer, the higher the grade. The more ‘sophisticated’ the answer, the better chance of getting the A grades and above.

Using this poem, write an analysis of this poem called Long Distance II. Over the next few days, I aim to do the same to show you what I mean, so watch this space. Happy reading folks.

I Got A Feeling!

Every now and then, I sense something and mention it to my students. As I presently am laid up and not working, I still sense that something may happen in the exam that may be a surprise to you all.

I refer, of course, to a form of writing that may either be used in Section A [unlikely] or more likely, be used in Section B, where they ask you to do something specific. I refer, to the speech!

Have you ever wondered how to write one? Well, there are no hard and fast rules. I would still adopt the 5 stage plan as found on this site. But, the choice is yours. You would need to think about the three usual suspects; AUDIENCE, FORM and PURPOSE in creating your speech, but once chosen, [and the title will dictate some of this] the rest would be up to you.

To show you what I mean, consider this speech delivered very recently. You need to read this and make notes, making up rules that are used in the writing of this speech, from the British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron.


“I’ve just been to see Her Majesty the Queen, and I will now form a majority Conservative government.

I’ve been proud to lead the first coalition government in 70 years, and I want to thank all those who worked so hard to make it a success; and in particular, on this day, Nick Clegg. Elections can be bruising clashes of ideas and arguments, and a lot of people who believe profoundly in public service have seen that service cut short. Ed Miliband rang me this morning to wish me luck with the new government; it was a typically generous gesture from someone who is clearly in public service for all the right reasons.

The government I led did important work: it laid the foundations for a better future, and now we must build on them. I truly believe we’re on the brink of something special in our country; we can make Britain a place where a good life is in reach for everyone who is willing to work and do the right thing. Our manifesto is a manifesto for working people, and as a majority government we will be able to deliver all of it; indeed, it is the reason why I think majority government is more accountable.

Three million apprenticeships; more help with childcare; helping 30 million people cope with the cost of living by cutting their taxes; building homes that people are able to buy and own; creating millions more jobs that give people the chance of a better future. And yes, we will deliver that in/out referendum on our future in Europe.

As we conduct this vital work, we must ensure that we bring our country together. As I said in the small hours of this morning, we will govern as a party of one nation, one United Kingdom. That means ensuring this recovery reaches all parts of our country: from north to south, from east to west. And indeed, it means rebalancing our economy, building that “Northern Powerhouse”. It means giving everyone in our country a chance, so no matter where you’re from you have the opportunity to make the most of your life. It means giving the poorest people the chance of training, a job, and hope for the future. It means that for children who don’t get the best start in life, there must be the nursery education and good schooling that can transform their life chances. And of course, it means bringing together the different nations of our United Kingdom.

I have always believed in governing with respect. That’s why in the last Parliament, we devolved power to Scotland and Wales, and gave the people of Scotland a referendum on whether to stay inside the United Kingdom. In this Parliament I will stay true to my word and implement as fast as I can the devolution that all parties agreed for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Governing with respect means recognising that the different nations of our United Kingdom have their own governments, as well as the United Kingdom government. Both are important, and indeed with our plans, the governments of these nations will become more powerful, with wider responsibilities. In Scotland, our plans are to create the strongest devolved government anywhere in the world with important powers over taxation. And no constitutional settlement will be complete, if it did not offer, also, fairness to England.

When I stood here 5 years ago, our country was in the grip of an economic crisis. Five years on, Britain is so much stronger, but the real opportunities lie ahead. Everything I’ve seen over the last 5 years, and indeed, during this election campaign, has proved once again that this is a country with unrivalled skills and creativeness; a country with such good humour, and such great compassion, and I’m convinced that if we draw on all of this, then we can take these islands, with our proud history, and build an even prouder future.

Together we can make Great Britain greater still. Thank you.


Can you locate all the rules used to create this speech? Once you have seen them, then you may begin to write one of your own. I would choose something you feel strongly about and then write a speech, explaining why something is so important to you.

Go on, have a go! It will be good practice if it comes up in the exam.

From A Jack To A King [From a B to an A*]

I was asked the other day just how a student could  get his work from a B grade, which he was consistently getting from his teacher in the 6th form, to an A grade or even [in GCSE terms] above.

In the end, we went to the Mark Scheme for the syllabus he was studying and looked there, so I strongly recommend you do the same thing. Here is his example:


I believe wholeheartedly that the above is important to look at for you to try and understand, it is not what you write, but HOW you write it.

If the B grade is “accurate” and “appropriate” then it is a good thing that someone is writing like this, in an accurate manner, mentioning key elements in an answer and using the right kind of text or evidence to get the answer right. But that only goes so far to get you the B. It could be that you have a thousand and one ideas in your head based on the inserts or texts that you see. Then you try to write about them and simply do not have the time to develop your essay past the rather good effort that is enough to get a B, but not for the magical A grade.

Then you get this:


Words like “conceptualized” [and I know this is an A Level example so do not shoot the tutor] and “discerning” show us that there has to be that something rather special in your answer to get the A grade or the A* regardless of the level you are at; GCSE or AS/A2.

What I suggest is that you get a dictionary and look up some of these words. For you have to understand the idea of “concept” within what you are writing. Thus, if you had to answer the questions based on the insert showing Jamie Oliver with his school dinners visit a few years ago, as a mock, then you would possibly have to try and think conceptually; about how his vision was to change the bad meals we give our children, about how such values maybe came from his upbringing as a son of a publican [not in the text insert], about the way that such a new thing as this will help the children in the area he is serving meals. It is the depth of your answer that will get you the A*.

What this means is that you have to: WORK SMARTER, NOT HARDER!

Then add in the third thing that an A Level Language exam paper 1 would be marked on and you begin to see why all this is important. In the AO3 element you have to do this:


Any answer you give that is “perceptive, analytical and insightful” is bound to get the A grade. But what does each one mean, or suggest?

Perception is something that is down to the individual. Your perception is valued. But, so is that of the other members of your class and so, you need to write something that suggests that there is more than one way to look at something.

Using the Jamie Oliver example again, what that means is to parents, his intervention into the school meals delivery [wherever it was] was wrong and so they challenged it because they wanted to give their children the chance to eat junk food if they wanted. If they wanted pizza, then it is their right; that was their argument. The perception was that they did not support Oliver’s activities and indeed, in the news, were seen passing bags of chips through the iron railings to eager children in need of fatty foods.

But then there is the perception of the Headteacher, who no doubt, was very supportive, because he [or she] believed that better food equals more ‘on task’ children. Less e-numbers means children able to learn more etc. His perception would no doubt be different to that of the parents. And the same would be true of the children, the Borough officers, the press etc. Your answer to any suitable question would need to cover all those areas to get an A grade.

Words like “analytical” and “insightful” refer to how you can see something and then see into it. For example, a 9 year old writes something that is far and above the norm for a normal, typical 9 year old and it is then used as an insert in an exam script/question paper. It uses adverbs for effect, is spelt generally correctly, shows irony and sarcasm, a huge sense of humour and then you have to write about it.

“Analytical” means being able to analyse every word and its meaning, semantically and pragmatically, but “insightful” then goes that one step further by showing how much insight you have into and about such a text. So, mentioning that there are hints towards social class of writer, age, whether home schooled, state schooled, or more likely, private schooled make the answer more insightful than the usual B grade answer.

I wonder how many would mention left or right handed writer?

Not sure what I mean? Read this below and consider everything about the writer:


Words like “ignite” and “hastily” from a 9 year old?

Assuming he [or she, but handwriting suggests male] did not get any help, that is a very articulate young man, someone who in my opinion, is clever, private schooled, possibly extra tutored, a future PM in the making. He is accurate, fixatedly so, able to show irony well, so has a deep sense of humour for his sister and also a massive love for her as well. As humans, we only do this to our siblings because we adore them. Suddenly, you are writing about something in real depth and the wide ranging essay becomes something that has fewer items to write about, but is a much deeper analysis.

Got it?

Good, now go and do likewise……in your next assessment [or exam].