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Elizabeth Frost Design Narrative - Teaching Question 4 GCSE English Language

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Elizabeth Frost
23 April 2016


I am Curriculum Manager for English and Maths in a college of further education teaching students who are resitting GCSE English.  Some students have failed this several times in the past.


Students will already have achieved a D grade in previous exams so we have to assume a certain level of knowledge.  However, it is obvious that students do not have the level of exam technique that is necessary to successfully answer some of the questions.

We recently held a mock examination to gain an insight into the questions that students were finding particularly difficult.  As this is a resit we have to assume that there is a certain amount of existing knowledge but we wanted to try and narrow this down.  The results showed that the main issues were with questions 3 and 4.  Question 3 is investigating a source text for language devices and question 4 is a comparison question investigating presentational features. 

The students have one year in which to prepare for this resit, during which time they will also be completing 4 controlled assessments.  There isn't much time to devote to each of the individual questions.


The task was to try and find a means to make question 4 more accessible to the students and to build their confidence.  Previously we have used the acronym CLIF (colour, layout, image and form)  to help students to analyse the texts. Students have to achieve a minimum of 70% in each of these questions to be within the grade boundaries expected for a grade C.


The students were all given two source texts that I felt had sufficient contrast to give them an opportunity to compare.  As a class we brainstormed what they already knew about presentation features and wrote these on the board.

Students then decided on one feature, for example images, and, as a class, we created a bullet point list of what could be seen in the images in both source texts, effects and features.  The students then created a paragraph based on what was on the board.  Whilst the students were writing I went round the room giving verbal feedback.  A verbal feedback stamp is used in each of the students' books - they must then write next to the stamp what that feedback was, in their own words, and then act on that feedback.

Once the students had completed the paragraph we chose a different feature and followed the same process as above.  Howevver, we didn't compile as detailed a list of the effects as I wanted the students to improve their skills by doing this themselves. Feedback was given in the same way.


The result was that students didn't feel tied down by the CLIF acronym and felt more comfortable just analysing the texts for presentational features that stood out to them.  Also breaking the paragraphs down and not giving the students the whole task at once meant that they could get feedback in time to improve for the next paragraph.

Feedback from the the students was positive as they were not overwhelmed by the task and the timely feedback enabled them to improve when writing further paragraphs.


It was easier for me to manage the students, but more labour intensive trying to see all of the students in the 15 minutes alotted for the task.  However, it gave me a clearer idea on whether or not the students had understood the task and I could then modify my lesson.

I will break down question 3 in the same way.


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