This much I know about…a step-by-step guide to the writing question on the AQA English Language GCSE Paper 2

I have been a teacher for 28 years, a Headteacher for 13 years and, at the age of 52, this much I know about a step-by-step guide to the writing question on the AQA English Language GCSE Paper 2.

In my previous post, I outlined a step-by-step guide to crafting answers to the AQA English GCSE Paper 1 writing task, question 5. In this post I outline a similar guide to writing an answer to the question 5 writing task in the AQA English GCSE Paper 2. It is designed for our students in the academic tier above our SEND students – the ones who have never quite engaged with their studies, the ones who rarely do any school work beyond the school day, the ones who find GCSEs a genuine struggle.

The step-by-step guide to question 5, the writing question, is an example of embedding in the students’ brains a metacognitive process for tackling the 40 mark writing tasks. It will not, necessarily, make them better writers; however, it does help them demonstrate their writing at its best when under pressure in the examination hall.

The one specimen English Language Paper 2 we have from AQA has the following exemplar question 5:

What I have emphasised relentlessly to my students is to guard against spouting wildly upon the subject they have been asked to write about. Homework, the subject of the exemplar question, is a provocative topic which students can easily ramble on about, with little structure to their response.

I stress repeatedly that this task is a test of their ability to write deliberately in a certain form, for a specific audience, for a defined purpose. They have to identify the Form, Audience and Purpose (FAP) of the piece of writing before they do anything else.

I explain that the FAP will alter the style of their writing. I demonstrate this using the proforma below:

They then practise writing their own sentences using this similar blank proforma:

The other thing I teach explicitly is Janus-faced sentences. One of the two original thoughts I’ve ever had is the concept of Janus-faced sentences. In order to signpost the thread of the argument which should run through the answer to Paper 2, question 5, I teach students to begin each paragraph with a sentence which looks back to the previous paragraph’s point and forward to the next point in the new paragraph.

Once I have taught these two deliberate features of writing to persuade, I model the step-by-step process to writing an answer to the Paper 2, question 5 task:

The mind mapping step is key. I spend a long time helping the students think beyond the first obvious thoughts through mind mapping topic after topic. As you can see from the following example questions, we have been doing a lot of thinking…

Even if the ideas the students have are a little thin, if they can express them deliberately in a style which suits their FAP, they can score highly.

I have seen good signs of deliberate writing. The following example demonstrates how one of our students has worked deliberately on beginning his paragraphs with Janus-faced sentences:

…and they will provide all the fun you will ever need.

All the fun will ensure that your memories will be looked back on and treasured. On average 95% of teenagers have loved their new experiences and at least 80% of them want to try multiple new ones! The memories are forever and if you have no good ones, then what is there worth remembering?

So, if you aren’t convinced by the lure of great memories, then consider going somewhere with your friends. No one can deny it – going on holiday with your friends is the best type of holiday. Imagine the possibilities, the locations you can visit with your best friends; how you will be able to do what you want and how exciting it will be. Please don’t waste your childhood, explore!

Although these holidays with friends can be great, they also have their setbacks…

The students now have a firmly embedded tool with which they can approach the 40 mark question with confidence. They can write deliberately, having understood how the Form, Audience and Purpose of a piece of writing dictate their style of writing.

About johntomsett

Headteacher in York. All views are my own.
This entry was posted in Teaching and Learning. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to This much I know about…a step-by-step guide to the writing question on the AQA English Language GCSE Paper 2

  1. karengowlett says:

    This is great, thank you. I’ve made this the focus of our final lesson for paper 2 (crediting you on the resources!) as it reinforces the need for a plan and brings together everything they should know, with the addition of the Janus facing sentences. This should be memorable for them and I hope will avoid the ‘where did that come from?!’ when the examiner reads each new paragraph. I’m blending this with HHELMMETS resource (can’t think of the source right now) which helps them with ideas. Ideas+structure = much improvement.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s