How To Be Creative…

How To Be Creative – In One Easy Lesson

Imagine the scene.

You have been writing your way through Section A in the exam and are happy with your progress so far. You like reading an article and writing about it. You feel comfortable doing that because you have been taught how to do it well by your teacher in the classroom. He has done his job well, but when it comes to being creative, your heart freezes, the panic rises, the bile tastes in your mouth and you want to rush for the door.

If that is you, O Not Very Creative One, then panic not!


There is help here for you, if this is you and you find being creative hard to do.

It is not as hard as it sounds, if you think logically, which you have just been doing for an hour or so, on Section A of the exam. So how do you go from being analytical to being ultra creative? Well, the answer is in the fact that in Section A, you are asked to analyse someone’s creative writing, whether it be an article, an advertisement, or anything else.

Someone sat down at a computer and created it, after all.

Section B then, is your chance to show that you can not only write about something creative, but that you can do the same creative thing yourself.

Imagine once more for me, this task, taken from the AQA 2017 paper 1. It asked in Section B for you to look at a picture and write a description. That was the first choice. Most who took the exam opted to not do this task. I think they were wrong to not choose it, but that is just my thinking. Instead, they went for the more creative one, which asked them to write a story about two very different people, [which is what the picture for task 1 showed] or something like that.

Imagine that in front of you.

How do you plan for that in the few seconds you have before you get writing?

If it was me, I would split the page in two, on the first page of Section A, like this.









I would then add in some detail into each section of the chart, to build up the two opposing characters. Being the father of a son aged 26, who is about to take part in his first ever boxing bout, I might add some of that in as well, making it so that they are facing each other in the story. If I then add in some more ideas, I soon end up with something like this.  







Rough, tough, rugged, medium height and build but strong

24 with wiry ginger hair, curly

Working class background

No father figure

Angry, agitated and fast

Quick tempered

Like a volcano going off when angry

Troubled background

Not worked much

A bit of a loner

Has taken drugs before now

Can be dangerous when made angry



Calm, collected personality

Agile, tall and strong

26 with dark brown hair

Middle class background trying to be someone he isn’t

Steady on his feet but not very fast

Thoughtful and respectful

Not very easily angered

Middle class upbringing, Grammar school boy

Life and soul of the party and likes to drink

Everyone likes him

Before too long, after less than 5 minutes, I am left with a chart that details two very different characters and I can begin writing about them, sharing them with my reader, or in this case, marker. 

But there is a pattern to follow.

I would always start by describing place or person when writing a story. Do not go straight for speech. Let that come later. Choose your style of writing, whether in the first person, or in the third person and go for it.

This is the pattern to almost every single story ever written. You need to adopt it too. 


The idea is you begin by describing the characters first. Steve comes first because he is the rougher of the two, so more easy to have fun using words to describe him, using things like similes to describe him, like saying he is as strong as an ox. Then the same for Michael. Likewise, it is easy to think of words for such as him. Once the characters have been fully described, you will have 250 words already and can then add in a setting, if you have not done so already, as well as speech, so this might be a charity boxing bout in aid of Cancer Research [this is what my son is doing now, so I use this here as an example because it is relevant – you do the same from something relevant to you on the day].

Once the setting has been described, you add in a piece of conflict, like a low punch, below the belt, hurting Steve. Michael might have not meant it but Steve does not know that and his anger burns for revenge. Once the conflict is set, it can be built upon. Maybe Michael does it again, this time on purpose? It goes unnoticed by the referee but not by Steve. As you continue the story, you have to get to a climax, whereby something happens that ends the bout, or puts a stop to it, so either a knockout, or a problem where neither wins. This then leads to the resolution of the story [could be a draw and they become firm friends] and a further description of the themes contained within is able to be expanded upon in your final paragraph, a little like stories used to end with and the moral of the story is…..

If you follow that style and that format, as well as planning it well, you end up with a story to dazzle the marker. So long as your spelling and punctuation is good, the grammar should fix itself because words like boxer, bout, gloves, round, referee, blow and knockout are normally used when referring to this event. That is called the good use of the correct Register. 

Now the task asks you to write about two very different people, so you have to make one as different to the next as you can. One is like a derailed train wreck of a man. The other is a skyscraper, tall and elegant. Your description of them both should make the differences so obvious.

Above all though, when you write it, do one thing and one thing only; SHOW OFF YOUR SKILLS.

Happy writing!


Language & Structure Blues

If you, like some, have had your results and are not happy with them, then this is written with you in mind, because at the end of the day, this teacher knows that one of two things killed you off in the two exams you took in June.

The first would be the nerves. Everyone gets them. Even I do and I have been teaching for 21 years now. It is normal. Try to remember that. But remember the second thing that will have happened on exam day [both times]. If the nerves are not bad enough, then a question on language and structure is enough to make a Saint blaspheme. That’s swear to you. I mean, what kind of government twit put that in the exam? We teachers are not told what the likes of AQA and Edexcel want either, so we are flailing in the dark trying to teach you all the skills needed to answer such a question.

Yes, you know what a noun is, can count the length of sentences and know that the long ones hold lots of detail, whereas the short ones are usually for effect. But this is exam day, when you are on hot bricks anyway, so to ask you to write about such things, is, I believe, unfair.

So, I wrote the following piece with you in mind, using the excerpt from the AQA 2013 English exam, back in the day when it was just one language exam. If you find the insert on their website under past papers, give it a read and then read this, it will make sense. It is entitled, Will Turning Vegetarian Save The Planet?

I asked a student of mine to write an answer to the title of this, based solely on that piece. I shall look at her response tomorrow for the first time, but I shall use my hard copy of this to show her the difference between using the old PEE thing as basically as needed and the need to fill the answer with ideas and thoughts from your own heart and mind. If you have read my other blog pieces you will know I am not a fan of PEE but like to know you know how to PEED instead.

Here it is….

Will Turning Vegetarian Save The Planet?

Task: Answer the question, showing how effective you think the article is.

There are several ways to write an answer to this question using the idea of language and structure. This example does not centre on language or structure, as such, but on the overall effect of the article, which is what was asked for.

The simple [Level 2-3] response to the article question

This article tells the reader about how effective a vegetarian diet is on the human body. It begins with information on “greenhouse gas emissions” and states that by going vegetarian, the “9.2 billion” on the planet by 2058 will be much better off. It uses proof from people like Lord Stern, who believes that “meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases.” This is why this article is successful in making someone think that it might be a good idea to go vegetarian.

Do you notice the point, evidence, explanation there? It was very basic, wasn’t it?

The more detailed [Level 4 – 7] response to the question

In order for the world to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases, there are a number of things that either can happen, or need to happen, depending on who you are. Alex Renton believes that the farming of pigs and sheep and cattle is something that “produces more greenhouse gas emissions than every train, truck, car and aeroplane put together.” She is correct in her assumption, according to the rest of the article because she is able to prove her point, using evidence from credible sources. For example, she quotes Lord Stern, a governmental climate change adviser, who believes that, “meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases.” It is these gases that threaten our very way of life. They make it so that we see heatwaves more, flooding when there was smaller amounts of rain in the past and needs to be placed in check, so as to be controlled more. Otherwise, before too long, we as a global community shall be in trouble. If by eating less meat, or indeed going vegetarian, helps the planet to survive past 2058, then this has to be a good thing. In this way, this article is quite successful because it promotes an idea, backs the ideas up with clearly defined evidence and makes the reader think about what they consume on a daily basis. The language of persuasion it uses is therefore, very helpful to its cause.
       The structure of her article is weighted in favour of going vegetarian, until the middle of the article, and the word, “However,” which always suggests that an opposite side to an argument is about to be shared. In order to create this balanced article, not showing any bias anywhere, she makes the point that to create the man made soya products like Quorn, that replace meat on the supermarket shelves, actually uses “more land and resources than their beef or dairy equivalents.” In this way, showing both sides to the argument, she is able to balance out her thoughts, add structure to her writing, for effect, in order so the reader can make an informed judgement. Because of this, this article is able to reflect on the pros and the cons of meat consumption and allows the reader to make up their own mind. The lack of polemic is good because it is not forcing one opinion down the reader’s throat and allows them to decide for themselves. In this way, this is a very effective article. Would it convince me to eat less meat? Quite possibly!

Which has more detail in it?

What of Language and Structure then?

If you wanted to answer this in terms of language and structure, you would simply do one thing first. Then you would do these things, in order…

1. Locate all good words and highlight them.

2. Make a short plan – split the paper down the middle with a line.

3. On the left, place all ideas to do with structure [sentence & paragraph length, variety, complexity]

4. On the right, place all things to do with language [nouns, verbs, adjectives etc]

5. Then use the W, S, T approach! Word Level, Sentence Level, Full Text Level……a paragraph for each!

6. Then state at the end, how effective it is.

Job done! It is not that difficult when you put it onto the paper logically eh?

Extend Your Writing

Okay. So you are sat in a GCSE English exam. Here is your title piece: Write about a time where you or someone you know did something wrong. What would you write about?

Just how do you go about doing something like this?


The answer is not as difficult as you think. This task was in this year’s Edexcel examination as a choice between a blog piece, like this one I am doing and an article. My students went for the article, when this kind of writing is just so easy to do.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, plan the thing. Use the Power of Y planning that exists on this website. You have an idea, say a place where it happened. For me, that would be a camp site. So you put the words CAMP SITE into the middle of the page. Then you draw 4 lines away, one to each corner, but keep them short. Make sure each line is a centimetre long [ish] and ends in the shape of a Y. From that one idea you have to find two more and so on, so camp site gets us WITH MATE and ON Z250s if it was me. Do this for each line going outwards till you exhaust your ideas and suddenly, 4 ideas become 16 things to write about. It is so much easier to write about sixteen things than four!

Then number each area to show which you will do, in order. And then, begin writing. Easy really. But it is easier said than done if you have little confidence in your own abilities. So let me ask you a question.

How much can you talk about something you did that was wrong?

When you latch on to that one time, I bet you could talk the hind leg off a donkey, as we used to say where I come from, about the event. I bet you would have trouble stopping talking, so why not treat writing in the same way? You have the plan, but do not write about number 1 and just write three sentences before going on to number 2 and so on. Doing that will give you sixteen sentences maybe, bringing you an old fashioned F or G [2-3 in new money] score for your task.


Any work you just did in Section A has been wasted because you did not add enough detail into section B. Your exam script that now has to be sent off to be marked is uneven, imbalanced and might as well be half an exam paper that has been filled in.

The exam marker, people like me, love to see these tasks where there are six or seven pages written because we know you have really given it some gusto sharing your ideas when it comes to having a go at writing with style and verve. You have not just written a half of a page and left it at that, for you have decided to grab this task by the throat and give it one hell of a shake.

So, assuming you have gone into detail describing people, places, colours, smells, tastes, actions, reactions and a whole host of other things, your section B task will be a good one. Do not expect a level 4 if you do not do this in Section B.

At the end of the day, your work should be thought out, planned and detailed. That is the secret to success. Here is my example, written off the top of my head [highly inadvisable to do this]


A Time When I did Something Wrong … or 2P Or Not 2P. 

I hate cocky people; those types of individual who enter into your life and make it a damned misery. It has always been a pet peeve of mine to hate such people because I come from a dysfunctional family where my father was abusive and my mother just sat back and let it happen. So when I am out with my friend for a weekend camping, fishing and motorcycling, the last thing I need to do is get some other biker who is older trying to dominate us to the point where he is making our lives a misery.

I could go into extreme detail but suffice to say that within minutes of his arrival, he had Steve and I looking at each other and trying to decide whether to leave the camp site for another or to get our own back in some small way. Eventually, we decided to do the latter and hatched a plan. It was Steve’s idea really. I do not think my young mind, aged about 18, could have hatched such a nasty and devious plan as this, but I went along with it in the end and question, even now, whether or not I regret it.

You see, we decided to get the camping stove out and make a cup of tea. Not much of a plan I hear you thinking. We had one of those little single burners on the top of a gas bottle that is so hard to get balanced on grass and a pan to boil the water in for the enamel cups. We then had tea bags and sugar with powdered milk, for the “brew” as it is called where I come from. All was going well until Steve had the daft idea to get his own back on this goon. He said he would urinate in the water, so it mixed well, and then add it to the pan for us to boil. Gross, I know, when I look back now, but that was just two Doncaster lads out for the weekend on their bikes around Scarborough, being plagued by this idiot on his bigger, much more intricate bike.

I went along with it but there was no way I was going to taste the thing, even though survivalists will tell you there is nothing wrong at all in doing such a thing. Even now, I am not sure I could do it in even the most extreme of cases. So, the thing got boiled and the brews got shared. I chickened out and got a can of Fanta Orange juice to drink and Steve gave this guy a drink of tea. Steve even tasted his and carried on drinking. He was and remains a complete Troglodyte. How he kept his wrinkle free face from turning inwards, I will never know. But the goon loved it and thanked him for making him the brew. I sat there completely confused.

We waited for the splurrrtt as it would come out of his mouth but he must have had so much sugar in the thing as to alter the taste. Nothing happened. No reaction. No punch line to the joke. The gag had backfired and all seemed to have gone wrong. We knew it was not the right thing to do, but we still did it. We knew that there might be a reckoning, but we did it nonetheless. We were to cheeky lads who always held grudges. Did we ever tell him before the weekend was over? Oh no. He was bigger than the both of us put together. But we did enjoy the giggles that it gave us when the following morning, he asked, “fancy a brew lads?” We declined!

Do I regret it now? Partly. I do not regret getting my own back on the man, whoever he was [for I cannot remember his name] but I do think that perhaps, we could have found an even more sinister way to exact that revenge. Boys will be boys and all that, but one thing rings true from this story and that is Steve and Rob were not the sort to be trifled with. On that note, some things never change.


Now can you notice the style of writing there? It is, unfortunately, a true story. Notice each paragraph. Consider the following thoughts.

P1. Starts powerfully and sets up the scene to follow, always wise…

P2. Starts to tell the story, but only slowly – do not jump straight in there

P3. Expands the story, introducing ideas and events in greater detail

P4. It is only by paragraph 4 that the event is actually told – take your time

P5. Details the reaction in some detail, of the event happening and the reaction

P6. Retrospectively looks back and checks whether there is any regret


There is a logical sequence to all this writing. Logic dictates that when we tell a story, we do so by starting at the beginning, working our way through the story and then we come to an ending, which is best left reflective…….was I sorry etc…….so that the reader can make up their own minds about the story, whether true or not, fake news or just daft story telling.

In the end, you can write it off the cuff, like I just did, but you may lose out on detail, which is why it is best to plan it, including numbers of sections which come first etc and then write it, using as much detail as you can remember, even if you have to make it up. When you can do that, you can write an exam masterpiece to enthral the marker into giving you maximum marks.

Happy writing!

Lit Exam #2 – Oh, The Horror

Just when you thought it safe to go into the exam room again for the Literature exam, they go and do something horrible to you. I am advised this morning that the exam questions for today’s Lit exam, the second and final one, were as follows [assuming you studied these texts:

Q1 An extract showing Joe and Pip visiting Satis House, with the question being ‘How is Joe and Pip’s friendship portrayed in the extract?’ [Great Expectations]

Q1B How is friendship portrayed in the rest of the book?

Q2 The poem was ‘A Complaint’ and one other poem of own choice – Compare how loss is shown with another poem.

Q3 Compare Poems ‘British Summer’ and ‘The Month of May.’

My students tells me that Q1 was okay, that Q2 was awful and Q3 was really good to have a go at, so I am hopeful of success for them in the Lit exam this year.

But how did you do in this exam? What did you cover in each question? Below are just a few ideas off the top of my head and without any text in front of me, apart from when we get to the poetry ones in Q2.


Q1 An extract showing Joe and Pip visiting Satis House, with the question being ‘How is Joe and Pip’s friendship portrayed in the extract?’

Q1B How is friendship portrayed in the rest of the book?


The first part of this question, if my memory is correct, is Joe taking Pip to Satis House in the middle chapters. Did you put how Joe and Pip are close but how Pip would feel slightly embarrassed now because of how Joe might feel uncomfortable in such a setting as this? Did you add any of the following detail in there?

Pip and Joe are friends from the off, but as Pip changes when he is older and more affluent, so too does Joe, because of learning from Biddy and because he works hard to build up an income, so both are socially climbing. The fact that Joe pays off Pip’s debt at the end shows how much Joe has grown from humble blacksmith on the marshes to something of the gentleman that all men wanted to be in the Victorian era. It was the main goal of man at the time and still is, to a certain extent, but Joe is arguably the only real gentleman in the story because he is a ‘gentle man’ as well with all he sees. Friendship, to him, is easy, but for others it is not.

As to friendship in the rest of the book, that is one big book to consider, but did you write about:

Pip and Estella

Herbert and Pip

Pip and Miss Havisham

Joe and the young lady he eventually marries

Pip and Orlick [in opposition to real friendship]

Jaggers and Pip

Wemmick and Pip


[Pic = Herbert and Pip from the David Lean film.]

They are just a few ideas off the top of my head, but all able to be written about using short quotes in those lovely PEED chains to get your point across.

Q2 The poem was ‘A Complaint’ and one other poem of own choice – Compare how loss is shown with another poem. 

Now here, we have the horror question that comes up in every English exam, both Lit and Language. Lord knows what they have planned for you in June but this is not nice at all. I am in complete agreement with my students this year. What fifteen year old or sixteen year old knows about loss in such a way as this and can write about it even if they wanted to?

Unfair, Mr Politician! Totally unfair!

Here is the poem they specified, if you chose this question over the other [if indeed there was a choice]. I am assuming this was the one you got today. If not then apologies.

A Complaint – Wm Wordsworth

There is a change—and I am poor;

Your love hath been, nor long ago,

A fountain at my fond heart’s door,

Whose only business was to flow;

And flow it did; not taking heed

Of its own bounty, or my need.


What happy moments did I count!

Blest was I then all bliss above!

Now, for that consecrated fount

Of murmuring, sparkling, living love,

What have I? Shall I dare to tell?

A comfortless and hidden well.


A well of love—it may be deep—

I trust it is,—and never dry:

What matter? If the waters sleep

In silence and obscurity.

—Such change, and at the very door

Of my fond heart, hath made me poor.

The theme of loss in this poem is countered with the idea of what he has or had in love through his relationship. It is the change in his relationship that shows the extent of the loss encountered. The tenses used like in “What happy moments did I count” tell us this is in the past and he is remembering something good, feeling that profound sense of loss. But the question I have is how far into that did you go, depending on how much time your teachers told you to spend on this question, given the length of the exam itself from start to finish?


If you then chose another poem from that which deals with loss, like Neutral Tones, with its sense of greyness symbolising the dullness of loss or the sense of hopelessness that loss brings to a person, then you did okay in this exam for this question. It is impossible for me to assess how well or not you did because you had choice of poem for the second one, but was your essay balanced? Did it cover both? Did it compare, as asked to, saying how one was similar with the other? If so, then Bravo You!

Q3 Compare Poems ‘British Summer’ and ‘The Month of May.’

This, I believe, is the unseen poetry one which usually is a single poem, so for them to add in a second and say you have to compare them is for me, just plain wrong. GCSE English Literature is hard enough in the first place without making it harder for you, making it more likely you might mess up a question like this. Analysing unseen poetry is an artform and so long as you used the ‘Unlocking a Poem’ sheet ideas from this website, you should have done well on at least one of the poems, but did you compare them both with each other?

See this page to see how to compare poems…

In the end, this was not an easy examination, but the set text extract should have been okay, given which ever text your class studied, but at the end of the day, it will all depend on how well you were taught, how well you learned and how well you revised, to see on the day what grade you get.

Do not be disappointed in late August either way. Just enjoy the experience of this Lit exam which is now over forever [for most] and revise like mad for the Language exams for the one question that will nobble most students is the Language and Structure question in each paper. Language is easy enough, but folks get stuck on the idea of structure. For that, remember my posts on here for the three levels of attack: Word Level analysis, Sentence Level Analysis and whole Textual Analysis. If you write following such a structure, writing a paragraph for each [1.5 sides A4 total?] or one of your own making to make it easier, then you will Ace the two exams in June and be full of smiley faces afterwards.


Happy hunting!






The Lit Exam – Easy or Tricky?

Some students who come out of the GCSE English Literature examinations saying one thing; “that was easy, Sir.” They say this for one of two reasons. Either they have revised, worked hard, been taught well and done well in the examination, or they have rushed the question, not revised as well as they could do and done what they think is a good answer, but one that will in fact get them no higher than a G or an F in old money, or a 2 or 3 in the new ways of marking the thing.

So, how well did you do today?


My student that I tutored read and studied three texts: Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the great play, An Inspector Calls. He says, in round about words that the questions for his first exam were as follows [might not be word for word]:

Macbeth: How is Lady Macbeth portrayed in the sleepwalking extract? How is guilt shown elsewhere in the play?


An Inspector Calls: What is the significance of money in the play?

How did you answer these if you took this exam board question?

It was the first Edexcel examination so seeing this might give you some tips if you need a resit in November, or if you are looking at this next year and trying to figure out how the hell to answer such a question as these. The fact that he was unable to give me the Dickens question is a bit of a bind, for it is my favourite novel of all time, but that is for the second examination and so there is still time for me to write a later blog piece.

So here goes on the two from today.

Macbeth: Lady Macbeth the Sleepwalker

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Given the fact that I have not been given the exact text to work from it is difficult to see where it starts and where it finishes but the fact that it is a separate two part question says a lot. Normally, you would answer the first question and be expected to say something about the guilt she feels in the rest of the play in your answer. But here, they have split it to make it easier and so you will see the need to write [using those lovely PEED chains] about both sides of the question.

What would you include? Well, in the first part, you might write about the following:

  1. She is sleepwalking out of guilt
  2. Her mind is fractured because of the bad things she has done
  3. She cannot control or switch off the feeling of helplessness
  4. As such, she is damaged goods
  5. But then, she did ask for hell’s demons to unsex her earlier in the play
  6. She feels the nature of what she has entered into because the human heart cannot take such a thing as killing another human being

Guilt in the rest of the play

In the end, there is so much guilt to choose from. Here are just a few ideas for you to consider. They are not meant, if you took the exam today or whenever it was and you then read this and think oh dear, I did not put half of that in, to annoy you. If they do, then apologies from the outset, but they are meant to make future learners think about the depth of their answers.

  1. Macbeth feels guilt as soon as he does the deed
  2. He feels the guilt of Banquo’s death and sees the ghost. Is that not his fractured mind also at work? [compare to Lady Macbeth and get more points]
  3. There is the guilt of going to the witches for assistance
  4. There is the guilt of others for allowing Macbeth to do what he does; Macduff for not being able to protect his family etc

Guilt is resident throughout this play. It is there because the writer, Mr Shakespeare himself, wanted us to think of certain themes like this. He was writing around the time of the arrival of James 1st onto the throne in England and Shakespeare is almost saying what would we need to do to get rid of a monarch? How could it happen? It is pure conjecture of course, but can be seen as a muse for writing. The history of the Scottish battles, found in different texts [Holinshead Chronicles] will have had some influence as well. It is even possible to see the previous Queen, Elizabeth 1st, as being partly an influence. She is a strong woman in a man’s world and knows what it means to be so. With these and other possibilities, it is possible to run out of paper in an examination very easily.

But what of An Inspector Calls?

What is the significance of money in the play?


Written as a social criticism at the time against capitalism and its insidious activities in our lives, this play is a critique of how the rich treat the poor, how the employer treats the employee in a time before British benefits systems were invented. You worked and you got money to live. You didn’t and you ended up in the Workhouse. Sad, but true! Very Dickensian, I know, but true.

So to see a writer defining the importance of money in one’s life, one has to write an essay in terms of how one group of people in the play see money and how the other sees the need for it. The question is begging for you to compare the rich and the poor and their attitudes to income.


Here are a few ideas for you…

  1. The employer – Birling Snr – his sense of superiority over everyone
  2. The drunken party goer – Birling Jnr – a lost sense of family
  3. The employee – needful of employment to live, fearful of losing job
  4. The rich friend – keeping the little woman, male and female stereotypes
  5. The Good Samaritan – helping others out when we can
  6. The rich family – their attitudes to their wealth, keeping it in the family
  7. The workforce – How they are needful of the factory
  8. Inspector Goole – His comments on how one treats the other
  9. The Social Comment – the criticism being made of those who have at the time

There is so much more I can think of and that is without looking at the text in full, or revising it. I have not read it or taught it for about ten years, but they are the things that bounce back into my memory because it is such a memorable little play.

So how did you do?

I hope in August that you find out and it is good news from both Lit exams. When you take the next one, in a few days time, remember what is said here about depth and detail. Then it is time to revise for the Language exams in June and knock them into the stands when you answer. Remember, for all your English exams, write using those lovely PEED chains where needed and do not stop writing, for the more you can offer to the examiner, the better chance you have of scoring higher than predicted. If you only offer one page when there are four or five given for you to use, then do not expect much more than a 3.


It is up to you now. Time to get revising!

Making Sense Out Of Chaos

So, the government in their perpetually inept wisdom brought in a new grading scheme and everyone has been trying to grasp the nettle and work with it; student and teacher alike.

Here is how Edexcel Pearson think it works.


Regardless of what anyone else will say, especially teachers who claim that a level 4 is not a pass, the simplistic way to look at this chart is to see that the government are wanting you to look at two numbers; 4 and 7. If you can get an 8 or a 9, then brilliant. But we all can see from this that a 4 is a C.

However, I saw something yesterday that said the government and the exam bodies expect the same amount of students who got an A or a C to get a 7 or a 4. That is how they expect you to do. The rest then, are minor definitions of the highest grades and the very lowest ones. But remember, all of them, apart from a U [for Unclassified] are passes!

So, what do you need to do to get a 4 over the entire two exams?

Well, the first thing to note is do not panic and have a brain freeze on the day. One student of mine recently had a mock and this happened on the second paper. He knows what he is doing and should get a 5 or higher, [I am hoping a 6] but he let himself get flustered and then the old [or young, in his case] head froze and he shuffled his way through the rest of the exam, scoring a 4 overall [a 5 and a very low 4]. In the final exam to come in a few weeks, he should, if he does not let his nerves get the better of him, do well in both and then get that 5 for definite [if he does not, I will eat my car keys!], or a 6 if he writes the right things and does well in the second section of each, where being creative is not always the easiest thing to do on the day.

The second thing is to remember those PEED chains. You all know that the PEE stands for Point, Evidence and Explanation, or some other variant expression you have been taught, but how many of you take time to add Development to those ideas? It is so easy to write one point, use one short quote, to prove it and then say what it means before going on to the next point, but if you allow your life experience to find its way into the exam, especially in section A, where Q4 always catches people out, you will find that letting yourself go a little actually helps, if you stick to the answer. For example, if you write “The writer uses a pyramid like structure to his writing, using shorter sentences each time to make his point” [random, I know; first thing I could think of] and then add “when he says that ‘his life is always hectic” and then add that this sentence is mid length and leave it at that, then it is a waste of time.

I hope that makes sense.

But if you add development into that, at the end and say how it has an effect on the reader, how it makes the point come quicker, how it relates to modern audiences and is quite clever, reminding the reader of a sales and marketing tract, all these things can then add to your answer, before heading into the next PEED chain. Try it next time, in class, or in your next practice answer for Q4 and see what development does for your answer [and for the heart rate of your teacher].

The third thing you need to do is copy and paste the GLOSSARY OF TERMS off this site. Just type it in at the top and hit the link before copying and pasting into a word processing file. Then get someone to ask you to define [and give an example] of each one. Place a tick at each that you know. Asterisk those you cannot and then use that 6 pages to revise your technical English skills. Then learn them all by the exam so you know what hyperbole is and what it does etc.

Then there is that wonderful thing called Time Management which is covered here in this site as well. You have an hour, or 45 minutes for a section, whichever way you look at it, so break the time up for each question and stick to that time in the exam. Do not go over that time and especially under it, trying to pinch a minute or three from section A to give you a few moments more for section B.

Be ruthless in your time management!

But above all, go into the exams with confidence. You have been working towards this and working hard. Now go and make it worth the while. Make the best out of this situation and be the very best you can on the two days you are tested in this brilliant subject, and in August, when you get your results, rejoice with me, whatever they are.

Go on, get revising, now! What’s stopping you?



The Great Poundland Debacle

Normally, I would write pieces on this website which try to encourage you all in your efforts to get that old fashioned Grade C in your GCSE examinations, but something happened this week that has made me take the end of my fingers to my partly worn out keyboard in an attempt to counter something that someone in middle England has said in the public domain about the new level 4 pass and how it is to be considered as a “Poundland Pass,” whereas the higher grade of level 5 can now be considered as a “Waitrose Pass.”

Here is the article in question! It is to be found in the TES, the newspaper for education professionals. In my opinion, such an article as this is not very professional at all. 

Firstly, to consider something like the level 4, which lots of students worked very hard to achieve last year and rejoiced in August when they received their grades, as a “Low Pass” [a local school teacher used that term this very day on a lad I know] whilst seeing the 5 as a stronger pass, is just wrong by anyone in the profession, so I say to the author of that comment, shame on you for even suggesting it.

A pass is a pass, whichever way you cook it. We all know that the old fashioned grades D-G were still passes, albeit at a lower level than the required C, which you needed to move on to such as A Levels or college courses, but they were still all passes and some of them well achieved, even the ones below the grade C. I remember a lad in Year 10 before I left Hall Cross School in Doncaster who was expected to score no higher than an F grade in his English Language exams [overall grade] but with help and assistance because of his Special Needs, achieved a B grade. Anything is possible. So when the government introduced the new system of 9-1 marking and grading, we as teachers asked a simple question; where will the C/D borderline be? What will equate to a C and what will not? We assumed that it might be a simple translation from 9 being an A* and so on, down the list, but soon found that this was not the case.

For months, teachers did not know for sure and then came the bomb shell, that level 4 would be what was once considered a grade C. So, we professionals knew we had to push for the level 4 and above as much as possible, for the student and for the school or college. As a teacher myself, I knew there was going to be some issues that would need ironing out; what is the difference between a 4 and a 5? How do we stop employers demanding the 5 or colleges doing the same when a 4 is still the equivalent of a C? How do we sell the idea to the country that if a level 4 is a pass, then that has to become the benchmark needed for students to continue in education or be seen as having what used to be termed a C grade?

Now, it seems, with articles like this one, that employers are trying to insist on the level 5 as the benchmark, making it totally unfair to those who worked their backside off last year to get that level 4. One young man I know took a tutor on in late March of 2017. His exams were at the end of May and early June for all his subjects. He was eighteen and working, as well as being a trainee engineer and all he needed was the confidence to write his head off in the exam, especially Section B, where writing freely was something he had never really mastered. In approximately six weeks of one hour sessions, he was successfully taken by his tutor from the level 3 [or below] to a level 4 and when the results day came, his level of joy and excitement, as well as blessed relief, was palpable. When his tutor got the email, it had lots of exclamation marks [tut tut, I know] showing his utter joy in his success. His reaction is what passing at the right grade does to a student and is the best thing in the world for any teacher to see when the grades are given out in August.

So, to make it so that the work and effort he put in is now a waste of his time, effort and money is something that makes me ashamed of the profession I love and adore, as well as being ashamed with the government who introduced this sham in the first place and have let this happen. I may have taken my pension and not work anymore in the classroom due to disability, but I see these comments in articles like this and I cringe. How can we let those outside of education suddenly say that level 5 is the benchmark grade to get, or else? How can we stand by and let articles such as the one above dictate the levels of success achieved by so many hard working individuals? I know the article is trying to make that assertion, but to even mention words like “Poundland Pass” and “Waitrose Pass” is essentially insulting and offensive to student and to teacher alike. I find it incomprehensible that any teacher should create such a label as this, especially glibly like this one! I would loathe the idea of working in his school.

To all those hard working English Language and Literature students out there, I say this: keep going, keep trying hard, keep learning and head for the best possible grade you can get. If that is a 5, then rejoice with me in your success. If it is a 4, then rejoice also, for the grade you get is accepted by this teacher as a C grade and is accepted as the benchmark for future development. To think any other thing would be tantamount to labelling someone as incapable at whatever they are doing. I for one, when any student gets their results, rejoice in whatever grade achieved. These students have put a lot of work in over the last few months and years and deserve all the success they can achieve.

All students expect the same thing. It is up to us as teachers not to disassociate ourselves from the positives by mentioning the negatives. It is up to us to promote best practice and that does not mean referring to a level 4 as anything but what it is, a pass at GCSE English.

The Bear – Robert Frost

The Bear

Robert Frost

The bear puts both arms around the tree above her
And draws it down as if it were a lover
And its choke cherries lips to kiss good-by,
Then lets it snap back upright in the sky.
Her next step rocks a boulder on the wall
(She’s making her cross-country in the fall).
Her great weight creaks the barbed wire in its staples
As she flings over and off down through the maples,
Leaving on one wire tooth a lock of hair.
Such is the uncaged progress of the bear.
The world has room to make a bear feel free;
The universe seems cramped to you and me.
Man acts more like the poor bear in a cage,
That all day fights a nervous inward rage,
His mood rejecting all his mind suggests.
He paces back and forth and never rests
The me-nail click and shuffle of his feet,
The telescope at one end of his beat,
And at the other end the microscope,
Two instruments of nearly equal hope,
And in conjunction giving quite a spread.
Or if he rests from scientific tread,
‘Tis only to sit back and sway his head
Through ninety-odd degrees of arc, it seems,
Between two metaphysical extremes.
He sits back on his fundamental butt
With lifted snout and eyes (if any) shut
(He almost looks religious but he’s not),
And back and forth he sways from cheek to cheek,
At one extreme agreeing with one Greek
At the other agreeing with another Greek
Which may be thought, but only so to speak.
A baggy figure, equally pathetic
When sedentary and when peripatetic.


This is a poem about a bear but it is also about so much more than just the bear itself. The poem uses “he” and “she” interspersed throughout, so I choose not to use a word of gender unless directly quoting, so as to not confuse. [It may be a typo off the website I took the poem from and if so, then apologies].

Written by Robert Frost, this poem describes how the bear acts and reacts in its natural environment. The description begins with the bear pulling down the tree branches that are over hanging for it to get at some food. But Frost describes the bear like we would a “lover” as it “draws down” the branch. As soon as it has retrieved the fruit it wants, it lets the branch go and the whole movement is described in one fell swoop, as it snaps back “upright in the sky.” There is a sensuous movement being described here, for the poet thinks the bear is a thing of beauty, capable of movement in such an exquisite manner that gives it a majestic manner as it feeds. This poem then sets the tone for the rest to follow, whereby we are led into the mind of the reader who is pro-animal and pro-animal rights in his approach, or so it would seem.

But could there be anything deeper than this when it comes to hidden meaning? To ascertain that, one has to consider what comes next as there are no verse endings like in four line verse. So one line interconnects with another and so on through the poem as we see the thoughts and feelings of the poet.

The progress this bear is making is the sort of progress that is seen as showing realism in the sense that the bear is in the wild but it is in its own element as well, something to not go near, something to watch and honour, rather than fear and hunt. Descriptions therefore, of how the bear “rocks a boulder on the wall” as how it is “making her cross-country in the fall” enable us to see the great animal in its element and at a certain time of year. The Fall, in America and Canada is the time of year we call Autumn, when all the leaves are falling from the trees and life is beginning to run out throughout nature as the elements give way from the warmth of summer, into the Fall and then moves on into winter. For the bear, it is a time of year where there is a lot to do, a lot to find, to store for its hibernation months through the long winter but there is also not a lot of food left for it to grab. That is its dilemma.

The level of progress it makes is called an “uncaged progress” in that it lingers where it needs to and lumbers off “down through the maples” leaving a wake of destruction in its wake as it leads its life in the natural elements. But then the poet makes us think of how we treat nature and animals in general, our attitudes to them and their needs. He says “the world has room to make a bear feel free” but at the same time, “the universe seems cramped to you and me.” It is true that what he is saying is that “man acts more like the poor bear in a cage,” fighting with rage against anything that will inhibit it. In this way, he is saying that we humans are just like the bear, capable of being nice and kind and also capable of living by our most natural, basest emotions and activities.

The bear fights a nervous inward rage, his mood rejecting all his mind suggests.” How true of humanity is that? We are so fickle at times, wanting things for ourselves over and above the thoughts and needs of others. There is an animal facet to humankind that the poet is making us think of as he paints the picture of the animal in the wild who “paces back and forth and never rests,” just like we do through life instead of focussing on something more solid and more worthy of our time and efforts. The bear’s head is described as swaying “through ninety-odd degrees of arc” as if it is looking at “two metaphysical extremes.” Life for us is like that. We can be taken up with one thing or another when we are either concerned, or worried, so when we look at this poem we need to figure out whether we think the bear is at peace, or not at this moment. Is the bear shaking its head from side to side in rapt contemplation, or is it doing that because life is an endless bore of walking and hunting and eating? Has the bear lost the plot of life and become useless and so, is shaking its head from side to side like some do when they are in the depths of madness? Or, is this shaking of the head that kind of side to side movement that a bear naturally does when moving? The sense of movement in the bear is so strong in this poem, even though the bearsits back on his fundamental butt with lifted snout and eyes (if any) shut.”

Whatever your answer is should be seen as the correct answer, for with poetry there is no wrong answer, for we each come to the reading of a poem with different life experiences and because of those differing life experiences, we interpret a poem differently to others. Therefore, your answer is just as valid as the next person and should not be taken as wrong, even by your teacher. This bear, to me, is nonchalantly sitting there, minding its own business. In parenthesis, Frost stresses that “he almost looks religious but he’s not.” It is the movement “back and forth” that paints the picture in the mind of the reader that makes them wonder why this bear is doing this. The bearsways from cheek to cheek” on a magnificent backside, as if contemplating what to do next.

It is as if the bear is thinking things through but it is also described as a “baggy figure,” something reflecting the utterly “pathetic” nature of life “when sedentary and when peripatetic.” The word “Sedentary” is sometimes used to describe someone who sits around not doing very much, so it suggests that life is one where there is not much to do any more. The bear has lost that special lifestyle that a wild bear should have, probably because of the influx of humanity into its natural region, which does suggest that the poet is being pro animal and anti human in his depiction of this animal in the wild. “Peripatetic” as a word, is usually used to describe someone, like a home tutor, who goes from one home to the next to teach his or her subject. Likewise, it here describes the bear’s wandering lifestyle, one of loneliness and despair and therefore, makes this poem quite a sad one, bordering on the depressive.

But then again, this would be natural for this poet because if you look online at his life, you will see that he had a lot of experience of things like mental illness and depression, in himself and his family members, both through his natural family and the family he married into. So, is this poem a metaphor for how he feels his life has gone? Is the bear a metaphor for him, shifting aimlessly on his own backside at times, sometimes feeling that life is nasty, brutish and short?

The answer is up to you, but it is worth a thought.