I was asked into a school recently for a trial day to see if I wanted to teach in there and whilst I was there, I observed a lesson with a Year 11 group, who were just being shown how to answer such a question as this: How is discrimination presented in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men? It was sub-labelled as the WJEC ‘Longer Question’ which suggests one thing and one thing only; the writing of one long, detailed essay on the subject matter.
Now before I go one step further, I think I need to say a few things before I show you how to answer it, as I have with other previous styles of question/task on this site. The first is that to give this to a Y11 group in March of the academic year is tantamount to failure on the school’s part. This sort of thing should be covered in Years 9 and 10 so that the students have the ability and practice to be able to use their skills properly and wisely as they attempt such a tricky answer.
Next, from what I saw of the group, it was quite ‘mixed’ in its ability and so this title needed rethinking a little. Perhaps they could have gone for the theme of ‘The American Dream,’ or some such other theme than this? Discrimination is something we think we know about, but when it comes to writing about how it is presented, or the effects on the reader, is very difficult indeed, especially if someone wants a C grade or higher, even for the ‘easier’ Welsh Board [itself a fallacy of an ideal].
Now, imagine having this one given and you think to yourself, okay I know what a PEE Chain is [the school had never taught this apparently!!!] and you know from my input here to add a D section, for Development [of ideas] into deeper understanding, but then imagine getting that question or task and then you will imagine what I saw on the faces of the students there.
So, how do we apply ourselves to the necessary quotes needed for this task? Well, the teacher and staff threw a single sheet of A4 paper the way of the students and expected them to know what to do with it. Here below, for your perusal now, are the two sides of one A4 page.
Working across the top, you see headers like ‘Dreams’ and ‘Sexism’ or ‘Life of a ranch hand.’ The going down the page, below the word ‘Discrimination’ in this one, you get some quotes you can use. Now this is a good idea for any teacher to do, but please, if you are a teacher, find another, easier way to present this information, for not everyone is good at reading grids like this. Think, for God’s sake, about your ‘variety’ of students for once. So page 1 has 5 quotes, which to me suggests at least 5 PEED chain paragraphs, but to get the real depth in there, I would ask and want 10 paragraphs. The problem that then comes is this is a timed exercise, so 5 may only just be realistic in the long run.
On page 2, overleaf, we then see 7 character names; Lennie, George, Candy, Slim etc. Under Slim;s for example, we see that there is a quote saying that ‘Slim’s opinions were law.’ [p72] Again, a good idea to do this kind of thing, but in my opinion, the students should have, through Y10 and Y11, been able to secure 3 quotes for each character that show us something of the man himself and his thoughts/actions. Again, how to present such information is something that you as a teacher need to think about very closely. The success and lifestyle of the students in your care are vitally important; screw this up at this time in their lives and you mess up their chances of being who and what they want.
So, now imagine that you as a student get this, in March and you are told to have a go at this in class. I for one would be looking at the clock immediately but this is how I think you should answer it.
- You HAVE to use PEED Chains throughout.
- Your first sentence should mirror the question [Discrimination is presented in a number of ways in the novella, Of Mice and Men [yes teachers, it is a novella, not a novel, as was being taught in that school; I could not get my breath that day]!
- Once the first sentence is down, use a DISCOURSE MARKER to begin the first detailed paragraph. Do it as I have taught on here before now. Maybe get 2 paragraphs down for your first point and do 2 for each of the points.
- Choose 3 ideas to write about so that the 5 point plan of INTRO, POINT 1, POINT 2, POINT 3 and CONCLUSION can be adopted.
- Stick to them like glue as well.
- Indent your HAND WRITTEN paragraphs as well. If you miss a line, like you are typing it, like I have had to here, you will NOT get the C grade, because the Mark Scheme [the thing the marker uses to award points and grades] says so. No lines missed.
- Once you have maybe 6 paragraphs, after the first bit, write your conclusion and ANSWER THE QUESTION or you stand the chance of it all not making sense. God forbid that should happen. Your B or C grade may just have become a D grade overall.
- At the end, check through your work and cross out WITH ONE SINGLE RULER LINE any words that are wrong and amend as necessary. Tipex is not allowed and crossings out should be avoided at all costs.
Now that you have the thing done, along with all other answers and tasks, you should get at least a C grade, if not higher. Whether or not you will, of course, will be up to your skills used on the day.
Have a look now, at the 2 sheets of A4. Download them and print them if necessary. Choose 3 ideas or ways someone is discriminated against and list them. Then find 3 quotes to support your ideas. Highlight them. With that done, have a go at answering the question.
I will take some time now to write you an answer to this question and post it later in the month, to give you a chance to have a go at this task for writing practice.