Here's a sure-fire way to get the first piece of written coursework done with a new GCSE English group and get to know the pupils at the same time.
It's based on the long-running celebrity Sunday newspaper magazine feature A Room of My Own. Teenagers are often equally proud of their own space at home and, with the right prompts, can turn this into an original piece to inform, explain and describe.
Questions that get them thinking include how the room reflects their personality, clues about their past and future, and the thing they'd save if the room was on fire.
Getting pupils to map their room at home is a vital first step. They see things they took for granted - and the map then forms the basis for individual oral assessment as they describe it to their peers.
Some less adventurous pupils tend towards listing the room's contents, so why not give them a different perspective? How would the room seem to a detective searching for clues about the occupant? I have even had a piece narrated by one pupil's PC as it was unpacked and set up for the first time.
The written piece can then qualify as explore, imagine, entertain, as well as personal description
John Gallagher is head of English at Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls