Springboarding – Using a Picture to Create a piece of Writing

A friend of mine on Facebook lives in Makati, near Manila in the Philippines. He is a film actor, photographer and blogger in his own right. He was with another photographer recently on their way to the 37th Flores De Mayo fashion show at MOA when he saw this Street Man, and asked his friend to call him over. He gave him some money and asked if he could take a snap of him. The man agreed and is “posing” but in the couple of seconds he got, he was able to snap three shots and says that “you can see a lot of his life’s story in his eyes.”

Here is one of the photos he took.

Courtesy and permission given by Don Gordon Bell ©

He is a street man of the Philippines. His story is etched in his eyes. Sometimes, your tutor may give you some form of writing to do, as classroom practice, in order to get those writing skills honed for the second part of the two exams you will have to sit at GCSE. Depending on which course you are on and who runs it, the task will differ, but let’s just say, for a moment, that it goes something like this: Using this image, create a piece of original writing that tells us something about life and how hard it can be.

Now, how would you go about writing an answer to that one?

The first thing to do is mentally, in your imagination and sight, split the picture up into 4 equal sections [top left = 1, top right = 2, bottom left = 3 and bottom right = 4]. Then, when that is done, begin making notes on each section, in detail. With four headings, one for each section, you then begin to have some ideas.

Not sure what I mean? This is what I see.


Screenshot 2016-05-10 16.13.53

Now, with these things in mind, I can begin creating something that is unique, creative and original bringing in all of these ideas about the man, the way he looks, the way he acts [made up – why does Rutger Hauer as a blind wanderer with a stick come to mind?] the way he has a reaction with the people he meets. All of these are possible, but what do I choose to do?

Note: The truly unique ones get the best marks!

There are several choices. You could create something that is from his point of view. “I am a street man of Makati” etc, using all of the above and some more ideas as they come, writing it in paragraphs accurately brought together by discourse markers so that it makes perfect sense. Or you could write it like you are a reporter [almost] like you are reporting on street life in Makati being harsh and unpredictable and how one has to be tough to survive. Or, you could even write something that is almost poetic, or descriptive, or something else I have not even considered. So long as it does what the task says, you will get the points.

This, I am afraid, is where the 3 grade or higher will be achieved [A* – B in old money].

Go on, have a go at this for your own practice. If you come up with a good one, let me know via the Facebook page.



A Question from one of you…

I received the following question today… I will try to answer it here.

I have a question.. I like to leave missed lines when I start a new paragraph, but in some exams my lecturer says I should write one block of writing, which in my opinion is too much for the eyes. Is she trying to set me up to fail?

And also where I study, I’m not going to say where, the institution has changed the examining board to City and Guilds and the way that exams are marked is extremely confusing. Instead of the normal Band 1, 2, 3 etc. It is now split so for a exam I will receive a ( i & ii Band (3) 6 marks) & (iii Band (2) 3 Marks). (These two marks is for one exam). I cannot figure out this Mark in total, my tutor says that your suppose divide it by 2. (Confusing). Can figure it out?

The question itself is many sided so I am going to give a holistic answer in as much detail as I can.

  1. Missed Lines – Each course I have ever taught in 20 years of teaching have all had the same rules regarding this. The teacher though, as well as the marker, chooses to ignore it, but there are some that do not. Your best option is to do them correctly, not missing lines, just in case you get a marker that maybe knocks a mark off before they even read your answer. Take my word for it, the first thing I look for is the style of paragraphing. If it is done correctly, then I am thinking this should be C or above. Then when I read a really good answer, the C goes to a B and then an A and so on, in my head. Likewise, if I see dodgy paragraphing, I am immediately thinking “oh dear” and expecting a D grade answer or lower. Then if I read and it is a bad answer, the thought of the C vanishes down through E, F, G etc. So do it right!
  2. Length of paragraphs – On a sheet of A4 lined paper, you should see at least two paragraphs, but the better answers [A* – C] tend to have three, or at least have started the third before turning the page. That length of paragraph [10-15 lines] is just the right amount to read, take in, digest, understand and appreciate, before moving on to the next idea/paragraph. Also, as long as the paragraphs have some form of continuity, they should be fine. When one ends and we cannot see a link to the next, we think “oh no” once again and begin thinking accordingly. If you want the C or above, then it is 2-3 per page, or a maximum of 6 for 2 sides of A4. Mess them up and there goes your C grade through the door. No teacher worth their certificate will set you up for a fail so do not worry. If they do, then report them to the Department for Education in your country!
  3. Banding/Marking – This is where it does get confusing, for the teacher and the student, dependent on which of the widespread countries you live in. I see the data for this website two or three times a week and every country in the world has a student who has used this site. It is a truly humbling thing for me to see, for I know I am helping all of you in some of the most far flung places of this globe. But when it comes to marking and marks, there are so many different courses [AQA, WJEC, EDEXCEL to name but three. Each might want you to write using properly “assigned paragraphs,” or in their right place, but when it comes to points for certain things, each does it differently so because I do not know the one you are on as you read this, it is impossible for me to pass judgement on it.

    The student added these words: “Instead of the normal Band 1, 2, 3 etc. It is now split so for a exam I will receive a ( i & ii Band (3) 6 marks) & (iii Band (2) 3 Marks). (These two marks is for one exam). I cannot figure out this Mark in total, my tutor says that your suppose divide it by 2.” 

    The numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 etc are the mark or grade you should receive at the end of the course. An A* grade of old will now be a “1” grade when the final thing comes to you in the form of a certificate. Thus, a “3” grade will be the equivalent of a C grade of old.

    In the exam, there will be questions that are added together. One might be a written answer based on how well you have read the text whilst the other will be a more creative piece of writing based on the text read. If both are out of 10 marks for example and you get a 4/10 for one and a 8/10 for the other, then you would add both together [12/20] and then half it, causing an overall grade of a 6/10 for that exam question. It might, for some exam boards, be one mark for section A [reading] and another for section B [writing] and do the same Maths with the scores.

    Then when you add them all up together [2 exams is usual now] the exam board meet in their corporate offices and they decide what overall number of points will be a 1, a 2, a 3 and so on.

    If you are not confused by that, then I do not know who will be, but rest assured, the teacher will have the biggest headache of all, having to understand and teach this new way of preparing, teaching, marking and getting students ready to undertake both exams.

    I hope this helps…. but if not, go to the Facebook page where we can discuss it further.