Hints and Tips - 5 minute read
Keeley Nolan, Lead Subject Advisor
With plans to head back to school in September, you’ll be wanting to make sure that all students are up to speed and ready to tackle what the new term brings.
Here are some ideas that I hope well help and reassure you as you think about ways to consolidate your students’ learning in GCSE English for the coming year.
One potential time saver here is to encourage independent reading outside of the classroom. This can be challenging but may still be achieved. A study by the University of Sussex found that encouraging students to just read led to them making quicker progress in both comprehension and speed.
Use quick quizzes to recap – can students:
Students could work in small groups to write a synopsis or create a storyboard for the plot of their texts.
Use a hot seat exercise to build textual knowledge through peer support. Students take turns to be in the ‘hot seat’ where they take on the role of a character from the text. They’re questioned by other students about their role and characterisation (physical description, ideas, personal journey, relationships etc.) If students get stuck, others can help them out. This is a great way to encourage students to debate and question the role of a character or the issues in the text to build their confidence in arguing a personal response.
Exercises like this can also help you to diagnose gaps in knowledge and understanding that need addressing.
GCSE English Literature assessment asks students to look at another moment in the text or another poem in the cluster. This is to assess students’ understanding of the whole text.
Asking students to pull out their key moments based on different themes and concerns helps to consolidate understanding of the text and develops a sense of how the ‘parts fit to make a whole’.
When we talk about moments, we mean key events, situations and interactions in the narrative. It isn’t the length of a section which defines it as a moment, but the importance of that interaction, event, narrative shift, plot twist etc. in shaping students’ understanding of plot, character and theme. What is considered as key will depend on the focus of the task and on students’ personal response to the text.
Mapping out key moments or links across poems in the cluster helps students to build up secure content knowledge. They could create a series of revision notes focusing on theme, character or relationship development, or mind maps that provide a visual path through the text.
While students’ should try to choose their own moments or poems, you could provide worked examples of how the same moment or poem could be used to explore a number of ideas.
The focus for GCSE English Language remains on developing the skills to explore unseen texts and produce original writing.
These skills should be developed through reading a range of texts, which could include the Literature set texts. In addition to the above suggestions, consolidation of set text knowledge could support the skills needed for GCSE Language by:
In these activities, students can also develop their writing skills. Students can explore use of vocabulary and grammar to consider what is effective and to have a go at using these techniques in their own writing.
In any writing activity, students should choose a topic or focus that is within their range of experience so that it is something they can authentically write about. This could be an opportunity to encourage personal reflection on the ideas explored in set texts.
In the coming weeks we’ll be providing you with more support to help you and your new Year 11s at the start of term. Keep an eye out for our GCSE English support highlights – rounding up a range of useful resources – and checklists to support revision.
Do you have ideas to help students tackle the new term you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below or email us at OCRenglish@ocr.org.uk. You can also sign up to receive email updates or follow us on Twitter at @OCR_English.
Keeley Nolan, Lead Subject Advisor
Keeley is a Lead Subject Advisor at OCR and is responsible for a portfolio of English qualifications including both GCSEs. Keeley joined the English team in 2014, leading on the development of GCSE English Language and supporting first teaching of the new specification. Prior to joining OCR, Keeley spent two years teaching abroad. In her spare time she enjoys travelling, reading and swimming.