English - Once is never enough

11th May 2012 at 01:00
Controlled assessment means pupils won't learn how to edit amy winston

In 2010, AQA made a seismic shift from its legacy specification to the current model where pupils are judged on controlled assessment rather than coursework. Now, for six weeks of GCSE class-time, English teachers function essentially as wardens by keeping pupils silent.

Many English teachers thought the controlled assessment revolution would be a good thing. It had the potential to end the issue of the disaffected pupil who wasn't bothered about handing in coursework, and stop in her tracks the child who had printed out a Wikipedia article and was claiming it as her own.

We were wrong. Pupils now fail to learn the skill of editing their work as they can submit a title only once. In the legacy specification, they were allowed to re-edit their work as many times as they wished, within reason, which helped them to develop crucial skills.

If pupils don't understand that they are able actively to choose their vocabulary and grammar, and can manipulate the response of the reader by making these choices, their writing will simply not be as good.

Editing is as important as punctuation; looking at a piece of work and evaluating how to make it better is a skill that pupils should use throughout life. Asking them to pen 2,000 words in four hours without having to edit a single one could suggest that writing doesn't take much effort - and this is a work ethic that many English teachers are unhappy to endorse.

So how do you encourage pupils to adopt a more thorough approach? While preparing for the assessment they could read and edit their partner's work, identify examples of successful sentences and offer ideas for improvement. After discussing possible changes, pupils can then rewrite.

Alternatively, they love reading paragraphs you've written. Tell them you're a terrible writer and need their help. Have a paragraph on the board that you've written "badly". Hand each pupil a Post-it note when they enter the classroom and ask them to rewrite one of the sentences on it and stick it on the relevant area of the board.

Or take a picture of a pupil's work, upload it and project it on to the whiteboard. Pupils can identify effective sentences, rewrite sections of it or use the Post-it notes to share their ideas.

Pupils deserve a rich and varied English diet, and it's down to us to make sure they are not robbed of this.

Amy Winston teaches English in the West Midlands

What else?

Make reviewing an active experience with Miss R's proofreading kung fu.

Try nbrighton78's step-by-step guide to reviewing and editing written work.

In the forums

If you're tempted to make the change to the IGCSE, check out the feedback from other English teachers on the TES English forum.

Find all links and resources at www.tes.co.ukresources034.

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