Forever …

I’m here to tell you that I’m at that road
And I’d rather walk it with you than walk it alone

Prince – Forever in my Life – Sign O’ the Times

Why are high standards or expectations important? Let’s start at the beginning – the first Teacher Standard in the DfE Teachers’ standards mentions high expectations!

Part One: Teaching – A teacher must:

  1. Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils.

Schools are committed to preparing every student so that they can lead a productive and fulfilling life and become responsible citizens. A strong academic performance is necessary, however, equally important is helping all teenagers we work with, understand and acknowledge their aspirations and dreams. To achieve this, as educators, we need to ensure young adults leave school with the tools to fulfil those ambitions and sometimes that means having high expectations so that all students challenge themselves.

Matt Bromley’s NQT Special: What do high expectations actually look like? is a good blog to begin with. “The Pygmalion Effect dictates that the higher your expectations of your students, the better they will perform – but what do ‘high expectations’ actually look like in practice?” Matt Bromley advises. Matt’s blog is fantastic on high expectations you can Read more here.

In my blog I hope to give you some practical ideas, and suggestions as to how we raise aspirations and how we set high expectations from day 1.

The importance of raising the bar for all students

Why are high expectations important? It has been my experience that students will meet the bar where it is set. I am sure if asked ourselves, we would all say we have high standards – but do we? Do we really? Let me explain.

After a couple of weeks into a new term we made changes to the initial groups in Year 7 and a student had a different teacher. First week in the new class the teacher set homework and student handed in on time. When the class teacher marked the work it was about 1/2 a page (standard exercise book) of writing. The teacher spoke to the student in class and said it wasn’t acceptable, It didn’t meet their expectations and the student needed to re-do that night. The next day the student brought in 2 x A4 pages of writing. I am aware that quantity over quality never wins, but it is important that students are able to write at length for many reasons. If, as a department, we just let students hand in unacceptable, scrappy, unfinished, late or work below their capability etc then we are allowing them to set the bar. And we can’t do that. Getting students to work to their best ability and produce high standard of work (I think) becomes harder if we don’t set the rules from the start.

These are a few of the strategies we use, as a department, to ensure standards are high all of the time, for staff and students.

  • As HOD I run a “catch up” session twice a week during lunch. Class teachers can send a student to me to re-do work that hasn’t met the required standards. Students have to finish/re-do the work during their lunch.
  • Exercise books are sent home, usually before parents evening, so that parents can see the work in books and comment in them. You can read more here. This helps us prepare in advance and address any issues/concerns with parents at parents’ evening.
  • As a department we work consistently so that students know what is expected of them, regardless of class teacher. We achieve this mainly through the sharing of resources. As HOD I follow up any concerns brought to my attention by the class teacher, class or homework, immediately with students, pastoral team or parents. This ensures we work as a team.
  • We carry out regular learning walks and book looks to ensure consistency of student engagement in lessons/homework. You can read more about monitoring of student work/department here.
  • We monitor end of unit assessed data closely and issue targetted intervention where needed.
  • Furthermore, we offer students many extra curricular opportunities (see below), both inside and outside of the classroom. I’m fully aware that most students wouldn’t participate voluntarily (for many reasons) if we left ‘sign up’ to them, therefore we make the majority of the following compulsory to all. We vary the delivery so that it isn’t onerous for staff or students: some are during the lesson (eg masterclasses), some are run as homework. You can read more about the masterclasses here.

Instilling good reading habits, including wider or linked reading is also at the top of our list for high expectations, You can read more about the importance of reading here.

The majority of the following are run each year, every year (*COVID restrictions has made this difficult recently), but we believe that the following help to set high standards/expectations for us as a department and our students.


  • Students take part in reading challenges at Christmas, Easter and Summer
  • Photo (INSTAGRAM) competition(s) to promote reading, run by students
  • Form time reads (classic/modern) – in years 7-10
  • Register and Read in yr11
  • Reading displays throughout year to promote reading
  • Audio recordings – Senior students record themselves reading extracts or poetry for lower school students


  • ISA Essay competition
  • ISA Shakespeare monologues
  • ISA Poetry competition
  • Local poetry competitions
  • 500 words fiction writing competition – national
  • nonfiction writing competition – national

National Awareness days

  • National poetry day
  • National writing Day
  • World book day – give away a new book to all KS3
  • Shakespeare Day

Cross curricular

  • Work with other dpts – eg art design a book cover…
  • Black History month project for student character building program
  • ISA Comic strip

Raising academic excellence

  • KS4 key speakers – twilight session
  • Year 11 spend the day at a nearby university
  • KS3 projects – 1 project each half term in years 7-9
  • We appoint a Poet Laureate annually
  • We appointed literacy leads for a student led working party
  • Star of the week
  • Revision from yr10 September
  • Lectures once a half term in KS4 on a text being studied


  • We host performances from travelling theatre companies eg A Christmas Carol/Macbeth
  • Whole school theatre trips eg The Goble

Speaking and listening

  • Poetry by heart – Year 7 learn a sonnet
  • Poetry by heart – Year 8 learn a poem in pairs
  • Poetry by heart – Year 9 learn a soliloquy
  • Debate club (local speaking competitions)
  • ESB (English Speaking Board) Year 9 all take part in this exam

Making English fun

  • We sent a book around the world
  • Lunch house group fun eg Scrabble, book bingo, spelling bee


  • We work with local companies who come to us and deliver workshops/creative writing for KS3
  • Ks3 go to the library and join, benefitting and supporting the local community

Raise progress in lessons

  • Specific spelling and grammar starters 7 & 8
  • Weekly reading comprehension for homework 7 & 8
  • Weekly spelling 7 & 8
  • Exemplar essays in both KS3 + KS4
  • Revision booklets from KS4
  • KS4 weekly unseen questions – silent writing
  • After school Revision language or literature
  • Tutorials with targetted intervention on specific skills

Aspire Higher Programme

In September we are launching the Aspire Higher Programme is a specialised educational programme geared towards stretching and challenging all. Students will be able to sign up, collaborate and lead on various topics connected to their learning. Some examples are:

  • Guest speakers
  • Students lead clubs or initiatives
  • Excellence in English Award – students to complete a selection of tasks/challenges which build over their 5 years

Clubs (after school) voluntary/not mandatory

We tell students getting involved in clubs, school life and the aspire higher programme are all a great way for students to meet new people and enjoy their time at school, ensuring they strike a healthy balance between studying and a social life. But it will also make students a better candidate for prefect or head boy/head girl, college applications and job interviews by giving them lots of practical examples they can use to show off their skills.

I asked Twitter why should students join school clubs – and these are the replies I was given:

But why are high expectations important?

All of the above, everything we do as teachers, a department and a school to raise the bar, have high standards in and out of the classroom and our expectations are for the benefit of the students. They will help students with:

Resilience– the ability to deal with setbacks, when something goes wrong.

Good communication – how clearly students put across ideas and their ability to listen to others.

Effective leadership (and management) – students need to demonstrate that they have the potential to motivate and lead others in order to achieve common objectives.

Adaptability – It’s essential to show everyone that students are able to adapt to new situations and learn new skills.

Teamwork – this is about giving students an opportunity to lead a team successfully, but also being an effective team member taking instructions and direction from somebody else.

And all of the above are skills that will help students go on to lead a fulfilling and (hopefully) a happy life!

Thank you for reading.

4 the Tears in Your Eyes

Many people came from all around
Hear this man preach, glorious sound

Prince – 4 the Tears in Your Eyes – The Hits/The B-Sides

Deep Dive… what does that actually mean? Well, according to Google:

deep dive – noun
  1. an in-depth examination or analysis of a topic.
    “the series promises to take a deep dive into the complexities of long-term relationships”

I, like many other HODs, am beginning to get all my ducks in a row for some form of deep dive. My journey will begin with a good old department review with my amazing colleague HOD for Humanities Eve (@evebrindley).  I hope this helps you with ways to proceed forward. A huge thanks to Leah (@Read_Learn_Lead) for sharing her dpt review forms.

Realistically you could not cover everything listed here on this blog, the intention is to use it to help you ask the right questions for your department/school/students. The documents I’ve attached are very basic/simple, but again to be used as a start point for you to adapt/add for your department/school/students.

Download Department Review BOOKLET

The teaching and learning observed during a series of lesson observations

As well as carrying out formal observations, department review should have “drop-ins” to evaluate standards.

  • Teaching, particularly in terms of the planning for, and delivery of, learning opportunities that enhance progress for all pupils;

What will I see in the classroom? This could include:

  • Lesson Observations (approx 6, depends on size of dpt/sch)
  • Talking to students (ensure you have class lists ready so you can make a note of who you speak to in case needs to be followed up). Questions to students:
    • What are you learning?
    • Why are you being taught this?

Document needed: school t&l observation form (not attached – just use your school’s form)

Examination results achieved by the department

Analyse and evaluate results subject’s or department’s results

  • compare pupil attainment data year on year
  • compare with other schools/local/national
  • KS3 Teacher assessments
  • External standardised tests (SATs/FFT/GL/Midyis/Yellis/GCSE)

As well as looking at overall results, the analysis will show you where individual teachers are being most effective.

  • Information handling, particularly in terms of identifying how well individual pupils are performing against expectations for their age and capabilities, monitoring their progress over time and evaluating all their achievements, including the non-academic and communicating this information to parents and pupils.
  • What do the examination and externally standardised tests show about pupils’ attainment?
  • What do changes in their attainment levels indicate with regard to pupils’ progress and the value which the school adds to their achievement?
  • Are there are differences in the achievement of different groups of pupils (e.g. year, gender, ethnicity, SEND, EAL, most able etc)?
  • Is the department meeting school/academy targets?
  • Are students on positive VA?
  • How does department data compare to local and national data?
  • What percentage of students are on track to meet grade-level goals?
  • How do specific subgroups, such as English Language Learners, compare to the overall student population?
  • Are there achievement gaps between different student groups?

Regarding KS3 assessments (End of Unit or End of Year), what are you testing and why? How do they prepare students for KS4 exam skills?

Document attached: Examination results achieved by the department

The quality of marking/feedback to students on how to improve

Scrutinise pupils’ work: How does subject lead track KS3/4 data?

HOD/HOF- If anyone looked at books in your subject – what are we likely to see?

List maybe 1-10 things you/your department do regularly to help student progress.

Back in Nov ’19, Caroline Spalding (@MrsSpalding) had a fantastic thread asking what would you see in her students’ books! 


Find the thread and read it!

Also, back in November, Ms Evans EngTwit (@MissEvsEngTwit) also posted a fantastic thread on her experience of her deep dive:
Ms Evans

Ms Evans uses “Learning Journey sheets” – showing explicit vocab teaching, showing knowledge students may not have had before starting a unit. This is also a very similar idea or concept to unit “Big Questions”.

I’ve taken the following from her thread – ask yourself:

  • What will we see in your books? A large selection of books will need to be looked at
  • Can you find an example of explicit teaching of tier 2 and tier 3 vocabulary?
  • Can you show me in the books where previous learning has been build upon?
  • Can you show me in the books where students have made progress?
  • Can you show me where students have acquired new knowledge?
  • Why do they need to know this [new knowledge]?

Will teacher feedback and any DIRT tasks evidence where misconceptions had been identified and can you see progress made.

Document attached: Book Review

At Class/teacher level KS3 tracking and EOU/EOY assessments

You need to identify students who may not make expected progress. It is important to gather this information at the start of each academic, but regular checks throughout the year are also valuable. This way you can monitor students’ progress during the year to determine whether students are making adequate progress and identify if any students are not progressing or falling behind.  Collecting data will help you assess strengths and weaknesses, and identify the area of need. Then you can begin to assess further need/strategies to move forward so that all students meet standards and expectations.

Do you and your department know:

  • What assessments are we using to identify, monitor, collect and assess?
  • Where is the student with regards to the department learning progression?
  • How is the student responding to core instruction? Is it working?
  • Are they on track to meet standards?
  • Are there areas where the department has more than one test?
  • What are their strengths or weaknesses?
  • What learning goals should I set for this student?
  • Is additional, more targeted, testing needed eg intervention?
  • How is the student responding to supplemental intervention? Is it working?
  • Do I know which skills they need to progress?
  • How does he compare to his peers?
  • Are they retaining previously taught skills?
  • How does my group of students, as a whole, compare to other groups/subjects in school?
  • Are there patterns of weakness among students that indicate a change in curriculum or supplemental program may be needed?
  • What skills/knowledge are you trying to measure?

Document attached: Key questions for KS3

Extracurricular activities, interventions and study support

  • How does the department support students?
  • What interventions are offered?
  • What extracurricular activities does dpt offer?
  • Do you offer students chances to compete in different areas of your subject?
  • How do you know your year 7 are on track?
  • How well do you work with other departments/share information?
  • How closely do you work with your SENCO/SEND Dpt?
  • In English are you covering reading, writing and speaking and listening opportunities?
  • How is literacy promoted across the school?
  • How are KS4 interventions taught?
  • What is different between teaching, revision and intervention in your department?
  • How many will likely need additional support to meet learning goals?
  • What percentage qualify for intervention?
  • How many should be further evaluated for special education service needs?
  • Are additional resources needed?

Document attached: Extracurricular activities

Curriculum experiences

As a subject leader, you should ensure:

  • You focus on the particular features of your subject
  • Your subject’s full curriculum is being covered
  • The curriculum and other opportunities and, in particular, how well they provide for the individual needs of the pupils

You can also explore how well pupils are applying literacy/numeracy skills cross-curricular.  If you were asked “Tell me about your curriculum”. What could/would you say?  For example has HOD/Dpt have you made changes to your curriculum? How did you design your curriculum? Again ask yourself:

  • Who do we get (primary), who are our feeder schools? What’s their curriculum?
  • What do CHS learners struggle with?
  • What do we need them to know by the end of year 9 so that they are KS4 ready?
  • What do our results tell us?
  • What does the National curriculum require?
  • What knowledge do we want them to have?
  • What is a sensible order for them to study this in?
  • How are we going to assess?
  • How are we going to build the skills alongside the knowledge?
  • How is your curriculum mapped out at KS3 (7,8,9)?
  • Can you point out where knowledge is built upon and across the years?
  • Can you show challenge in assessment tasks?
  • Can you show how the NC is covered in full?
  • Are the skills/content leading to (KS4) exam board assessment objectives?

This brings us back to the Big Questions (and back to Ms Evans thread – know it, prove it, link it, say it).  Why are Big Questions useful? Compare the above to Ofsted’s initial questions:

  • What are the starting points for your children?
  • How do you ensure effective KS transitions?
  • Can you show me how this matches the NC?
  • Are there links across the curriculum?
  • How do you know students have made progress (acquired knowledge)?
  • How do you build on the knowledge they have acquired?

Christine Counsell (@Counsell_C ) tweeted this fantastic image from one of her presentations which is useful when planning your curriculum. When I asked Christine if I could use the image, she agreed, but asked if I could point out:

Key thing to note is that these are questions for senior leaders to ask in order to sustain better conversations with middle leaders. i.e. never using it as an audit tool or checklist”.

curriculum christine counsil

Document attached: Curriculum experiences and support for learning further Qs

Leadership and management of the department

Evidence of this can be taken from in previous sections, as well as:

  • Policies and procedures you have in place
  • Records of continuous professional development
  • Curriculum plans
  • resources provision, particularly in terms of suitably qualified and trained staff and the availability of appropriate learning materials, equipment and facilities; and management of evaluation, planning, implementation and monitoring that ensure that good progress is assured for all pupils.

Inspector(s) may want to meet and talk to all department staff.  Staff need to know their curriculum/policies and students!

  • What do your team really think?
  • How well do you know your students?
  • What content is being taught?
  • Why do you teach what you teach at KS4 (or KS3)?
  • How is your wellbeing supported by your leaders?
  • How do you know your students are making progress?
  • How do you build upon prior knowledge?
  • What CPD have you been offered?

Ongoing, as your curriculum evolves, you need to ensure:

  • After teaching a unit, as a department review it. Annotate your SOW to improve teaching next time.
  • Is knowledge the “right” knowledge students need to succeed?
  • Are the units in the right order? Consider in English reading is always before writing so that students have picked apart examples of what a good one looks like!
  • Are the units cohesive, and are the links that you think are there secure?
  • How do you ensure the knowledge sticks, that students recall/remember the knowledge and how can you check/test for this?
  • Is your KS3 preparing students for KS4? How do you know?
  • How do you ensure your curriculum is knowledge rich? (as opposed to exam skills led)?

Document attached: Department staff questionnaire

Student voice (their comments on the subject and the support for their progress).

It’s important to communicate with pupils about their experience of your subject.  Pupil interviews are useful when exploring pupils’ views on a subject. You can also find out:

  • If all aspects of the curriculum are being covered sufficiently from the pupils’ perspective
  • Whether pupils are enjoying the subject or being challenged
  • What do your students think about their learning/curriculum
  • What do students think about behaviour in your subject?

The term ‘pupil voice’ can be slightly misleading, as it is important to find out what pupils know as well as what their views are.  Consider using a pupil questionnaire to identify pupils’ opinions about teaching and learning in a subject.

Document attached: Student voice2

Create a departmental action plan

There should be a strong correlation between the departmental self-evaluation and the school SIP, with the departmental action plan showing how it is enabling the achievement of actions set out in the school action plan.

The action plan does not need to be too detailed, but it should include:

  • The areas for development
  • What actions to take
  • Who will monitor each action

Document attached: Action plan

As I said at the start, you can’t do all of this! This is perhaps a start point, pick and mix the questions that best suit you, your school, your students and your department.

Thank you for reading!

Willing And Able

There’s some kings in my deck and a queen or to
So you know there ain’t nothin’, Nothin’ that I wouldn’t do

Prince – Willing And Able – Diamonds And Pearls


My reflections on my first couple of years in my role as Head of Department.

Just under a couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be appointed as HOD. In that time, I’ve got some things right, and some things wrong. I want to talk about the things I mostly got wrong because, although I couldn’t see it, I was heading towards a perfect storm!

Rewind two years ago: I was new to the school and new to the team and I was walking into a very established team. I had been given a remit and as anyone new to a role, I wanted to do a good job.

For the purpose of this blog I am going to focus on three areas I found the most challenging; difficult conversations, monitoring and making changes.

The elephant in the room

Difficult conversations: this was, and possibly still is, the hardest area to get right.

All schools want to raise achievement and standards. I decided my first job would be to look at year 11 data and felt one of the best ways was to moderate the recent mock marking. Once I’d reviewed the mocks I felt some marks didn’t fall within tolerance, especially in specific skill areas. I held a meeting to discuss the marking, so as not to single anyone out, I brought some model answers to show levels (against a mark scheme). A piece of cake I thought! Nope: that was a big mistake.

On reflection, I can understand why.  We all want to feel as if we are doing our jobs well. When I was training I was told my marking, when moderated, didn’t fall within tolerance. But I now realise I am somebody who likes clear and direct instructions but I think more importantly I had an established relationship with my line manager. Her delivery was clear. Mine, possibly out of nerves, was muddled.

Of course, I didn’t consciously set out to be unclear in my delivery, but walking into a meeting after a very short time and being negative was never going to be received in the way I’d hoped it would! A more accurate description would be to say that it went down like a lead balloon tied to the Titanic.

What would I do now?

I wouldn’t have held that meeting! I would set time aside in department meeting to focus on specific areas of the exam spec, skills or questions. For example, we could have all marked a student response together, a visualiser would have worked well, then discuss(ed) as a team why it fell into a level/mark. Or I could have provided exam board SAMs and as a team we could have discussed the mark given.

That would have been a better and more productive way of dealing with it.

The devil is in the detail

Monitoring a department is an area that I would often push to the side. I would set time aside for tracking different aspects of the department. Sometimes I would manage to adhere to my allocated time, sometimes I couldn’t due to more pressing issues. Again a big mistake.

The importance of monitoring (in a supportive way) cannot be overlooked. Had I kept to a schedule I would have had a much firmer grasp on all areas and I would have been able to deal with any issues (regardless of how minor) as they cropped up, not further down the line when it is much harder to resolve.

What would I do now?

I make up a schedule and ensure I stick to it by blocking out time on my timetable for monitoring (learning walks, book looks etc) over a half term. Again, any minor problems can be swept up quickly and dealt with before they become an issue and then possibly require a difficult conversation!  Seriously, I/we need to avoid anything getting to the stage that it “needs” one of those!  Sticking to a schedule means I can ensure department meetings address points before they escalate, through ongoing CPD. Slow and steady wins the race!

For example, after a book look staff could bring examples of marking and again as a team discuss positives together. Or if there’s an issue with the level of challenge in particular units, we could discuss how to raise it, for example, change the texts, or the focus.

The best thing since sliced bread

I moved from one secondary to another with a completely different demographic.

By the time I was appointed HOD I was a heavy social media user (mainly twitter).  I had started blogging and attended conferences at weekends. Being surrounded with so many enthusiastic and passionate teachers who were willing to give up their time, experience and knowledge (let alone resources) helped me grow in so many ways. For example there was so much discussion around certain edu-books (Reading Reconsidered, Bringing Words to Life, Closing the Vocab Gap) and before long I was spending vast amounts of time on Amazon! I brought with me a raft of new resources and started changing things. I wouldn’t go as far as to say “big mistake”, it wasn’t.  Changes I made, based on previous experience, research or books I’d read, were good – they focused on more challenging texts, high-quality purposeful resources all with the sole purpose of raising standards or improving progress. What was misguided was my implementation.

Change is good, and it’s needed. However, it’s important to consider why are you changing something? What will it add? How will it improve outcomes? Whatever you do has to have a purpose and ultimately has to help students making progress in one way or another. There was some resistance to some of the changes I wanted to make and again, on reflection I can see why.  In a conversation with Zoe Enser (@greeborunner) about this blog, she reminded me of the Ikea effect (as David Weston, @informed_edu, called it) “they had built it, it was theirs and now you were dismantling it!”  Once again I should have been clearer (again there’s that word) in my delivery. I should have been clearer on why some things needed changing and why it mattered.

What would I do now?

I wouldn’t make so many changes in such a small amount of time. I’d make sure any changes are in line with the school’s priorities and improvement plans. First and foremost I would be explicit in explaining the importance of any change.

Hit the Nail on the Head: What does the future hold?

At this point, I do need to stop and say that you can’t discuss/debate everything “as a team” or through CPD. Sometimes as a middle leader, you just need to make a decision. That’s part of your job.

I also need to point out it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. These are some of the strategies I have implemented successfully: I’ve worked hard on bringing structure and consistency to the department, raising achievement through standards and challenge, organisation of units, marking, feedback and assessments, dealing with deadlines alongside exam admin and sharing of resources. I’ve brought new texts in, streamlined starters and homework to target key skills. I began a strong extracurricular program, including national competitions, taking all KS3 to the library, year 11 to the local university, trips to the theatre and in-house performances. I have raised the profile of rewards, certificates and positive praise in the department alongside communication home with parents. I asked the exam board to come in and host a training session, and I ensure subject knowledge/teaching is always a focus of department meetings and to support the department I set up lunchtime “catch up” sessions for students not working at expected standards in their classwork and/or homework.  Once the team could see how to move forward, we began to see real improvements  – many of the strategies and initiatives I’ve implemented have been very well received, not just by the school, but parents and students and so far all had a positive impact in both KS3 and 4.

This year we had a very successful set of GCSE results in language and literature with nearly half of our students walking away with a grade 7-9. As a team, we clearly got a lot right – together!

What will I be changing for my third year?!

I need to remember the snowball effect – all decisions, strategies and initiatives I/we decide on will build and build: it doesn’t need to be overnight. I will continue to learn and grow as a middle leader. My school SLT and other Middle Leaders are fantastic and have supported me throughout my journey. The school has sent me on specific CPD courses to help me and are always there if I need to ask advice.  Also, they’ve supported all the strategies and initiatives I’ve suggested to help raise student achievement and begin to foster a love of English in them.

My priority for the next year ahead is to continue to support and lead my department in the way a good middle leader should.

Thank you for reading.

Some free support (taken from David Weston Unleashing Greatness in Teachers)

DfE CPD Standards –
Developing Great Teaching report-
Free webinar on instructional coaching –
Monthly bulletin on effective CPD –
A library of articles on effective CPD –

Feel Good, Feel Better, Feel Wonderful

Keep ur mind in the vertical motion
Always looking up

Prince – Feel Good, Feel Better, Feel Wonderful – LotusFlow3r


Earlier in the year Jude Huton @judehunton  asked me to present at   which took place on 9th June. The following blog is par of my presentation and slides – without my waffle in between.  My talk was suitable for any subject or phase. If are a different subject teacher just replace the English resources for your own subject/key stage. I have split KS4 and KS3 strategies/interventions otherwise this blog will go on and on; you can read about KS4 here.

KS3 Interventions

I do need to state in advance I work in a small, private independent school and I fully understand that makes managing classes/students easier than in a large secondary.  As a department again we’ve seen significant progress with student standardised scores increasing dramatically through the specific starters and homework put in place.


The first issue I tackled was SPaG through starters. I created one starter per lesson with answers. The ppts are basic but all follow the same format – here’s an example of some of the starters I’ve put together:

ks3 startersks3 starters

ks3 starters

I create one per lesson, with answers. These have worked because:

  1. they form a routine for students
  2. they get students writing quickly, but accurately in a short time frame
  3. they get 5 SPaG questions (blue slide), then mark immediately (green slide)
  4. there’s consistency across classes, all use them.

How we will improve for 18/19 – students all purchase a small dictionary (and a grammar rulebook) at the start of year 7, but I’ve rarely seen them use them. By making some of the slides dictionary based students are forced to use them. The hope here is using a dictionary will become part of every English lesson. Something I rarely see at the moment.

Another issue I saw was some students finished the work quickly, then twiddled thumbs until others catch up. From Sept they will be encouraged to work from a grammar book until all students have completed the five tasks.  For some students teachers did print out the starters.

We want our students to learn more vocabulary – we all know this is key – to do this I’ve built some starters (see slide 3), which looks at 5 words for students to learn/answer questions on, in context. This is continued the next day, using the same 5 words (see slide 5) but different questions.


I’ve mimicked the weekly homework we set at KS4, for KS3. Students are given a piece of text to read, then have to answer anywhere between 6-14 multiple choice questions. These are saved on PDF and uploaded to our homework platform. Here’s an example of a piece of prose and a poem used:

KS3 homework

How we will improve for 18/19 – these homeworks have worked well. To improve for this year I will issue parents with a list of the homework titles so they can check homework/scores etc.

I’ve also created some Quizlet simple 5-word weekly spelling tests for years 7-9. If you haven’t used Quizlet get on it – it’s really easy to use:


You can have a little go on this ‘sample test’ I’ve put together: Test – 5 spellings 

Students can download the app and do these quickly on their phones! All the options from learn, test and match are just so easy to use. Note to use ‘spell’ you need to use a browser, not Quizlet app. I think these will prove very useful.

Once you create them, you can do any of the above – I’ve keyed in the words and meanings. I’ve limited to 5 words as we already have the comprehension homework.


We know students learn from a simple to complex order so our SOW need to reflect this. As a department we are revamping all our SOW to refelct the skills needed for KS4.

KS3 sow


All our SOW will have a Knowledge Organiser (fancy term for a glossary) with key terms we want our students to learn for that unit. These will be kept by students in simple folders and build up through the units/years.

KS3 KO.png

I’ve built these terms into Quizlet tests for homework and they’ve been built into the SOW individual lessons (gaps above are because I am still working on it!).  This means every student will learn the same regardless of teacher or ability (thanks Dawn @missdcox  ).  Terms are used in class (more dictionary work) and in homework and will build on each other into KS4.

A few other strategies I’m putting in place from September ’18:

  1. I’d like students to number lessons, that way ‘if’ a student is absent they can catch work up – easier for me to keep track of missed lessons.
  2. Students will be given a table to list their scores from both starters and homework (spelling and comprehension test). This means I can check any issues quickly and intervene early:



Finally – I asked my old SENCO from my previous school to give me details of their KS3 interventions, which were considered a strength of the school. This is what they did well:

– We arranged for all students with comprehension scores lower than 85 to be tested for their reading accuracy ability.

– If their reading accuracy standardised score is also lower than 85 they receive personalised phonics support to assist them. We have three groups in Year 7 and two in Year 8 and two in Year 9.

– They are tested each full term for reading accuracy. If they improve they go up a group or back to the literacy form, (I ran the literacy form).

– The weakest also have daily intervention for 50 minutes in small groups, no larger than 4, using a range of approaches including precision teaching.

– We also have vocabulary building interventions. Students work on a set number of words using games, rhymes to develop their knowledge, spelling and use of the word. These are measured using tests before and after new word groups.

(In an ideal world we would also offer support for those who have low reading comprehension abilities but this would probably create another three literacy groups.)

We also have study skills for those who still have weak literacy intervention.

After school reading club also takes place, simply reading. They are excused from homework for completing this.

This has been acknowledged by Ofsted as strong practice, they referenced it to catch up, we use SEN budget for this. Catch up funding covers all of those who haven’t met expected by the end of KS2, our reading assessments do not discriminate between those who scored above or below, it isn’t therefore specific to KS2 catch up fund, if that makes sense!


This blog links to our intervention and strategies in KS4 . You can read about our KS4 strategies and interventions here.

Thank you for reading!

Evaluation language

Help, tips and assistance for students. This blog is part of a range specifically for students and can be found, along with others, under Student GCSE Blogs.

AQA Paper 1 – Question 4 requires you to evaluate an extract. This means at the top band/level your exam board wants you to:

Shows perceptive and detailed evaluation:

  • Evaluates critically and in detail the effect(s) on the reader
  • Shows perceptive understanding of writer’s methods
  • Selects a judicious range of textual detail
  • Develops a convincing and critical response to the focus of the statement

This means you will need to use the following language:

Evaluative words and phrases


  • Effective.
  • Successful.
  • Clear.
  • Skilful.
  • Convincing.
  • Engaging.
  • Thought-provoking.

e.g. “The poet’s skilful use of metaphor…”


  • Effectively.
  • Successfully.
  • Clearly.
  • Skilfully.
  • Convincingly.

e.g. “The author clearly illustrates that…”


  • Conveys.
  • Suggests.
  • Emphasises.
  • Demonstrates.
  • Illustrates.
  • Makes it clear.
  • Makes it apparent.
  • Allows the reader/audience to understand…

e.g. “The playwright’s effective use of dialogue successfully demonstrates how…

Further evaluative language:

  • Inspiring
  • Perceptive
  • Powerful
  • Striking
  • Reflective
  • Imaginative
  • Profound
  • Challenging
  • Perplexing
  • Comprehensive
  • Valuable
  • Relevant
  • Thorough

Eg “The author challenges ….”


Thank you for reading!

“All The Critics Love U In New York”

It’s time 4 a new direction

Prince – All The Critics Love U In New York – 1999


On Tuesday 17th October my amazing Headteacher sent me to CamSTAR* Conference 2017.  I picked two sessions that put me out of my comfort zone:

  1. From ‘LOTS’ to ‘HOTS’ – Scaffolding students to higher order thinking skills and better outcomes. Emma Wilkinson, Director of Studies/History teacher, CATS Canterbury; and Louisa Horner, T&L Coordinator, CD Humanities History and Sociology teacher.
  2. DiDiAC – TalkWall: Developing a dialogic classroom. Catherine Davis, Ass Headteacher, Safron Walden Country High School. (I won’t be discussing this session in this blog, hopefully when I use it in my class I will blog then).


If anyone reads my posts regularly you’ll know I dislike anything that isn’t silent writing! It’s easy to criticise an idea/activity without really buying into it. Everyone has an opinion on classroom teaching!

So, for me, the first session was a must. They discussed everything that makes my eyes twitch; flipped learning, group work and activities. Guess what? I think they’ve converted me! I’ve come to realise perhaps my dislike for these types of activities could just be that I’ve been doing them wrong all this time! And the best bit – they’re all differentiated without you doing anything!

1.Hexagons. A series of hexagons are used filled with various pieces of information. The students then use the hexagons to use as a base for a critical analysis essay. Students are given blank hexagons to make secure links.  Each student or group arrange their hexagons differently and make links to other sources or blanks as they see fit.

Why do I like this? You can give students basic scaffolding, however, they add blanks to complete links and main structure. Ensuring their essay is their own work based on their understanding.


2. Students are given a grid of 20 facts. Very detailed. They then have to arrange the 20 facts onto a graph deciding which is the most important at different points.

How can I use this? In English, we study novels and one thing students can find hard is the structure of a story; how has an author created an overall effect. So, for example in A Christmas Carol, I will give my student 5 key events in each stave, then will then mark their graph at the bottom, and along the Y-axis they can add; characters, themes, context, etc in different colours and mark the importance of each at different parts of a story. At the end, they have a clear visual representation of the story. I will then get my students to finish this off with a paragraph evaluating their choices.

In case you were wondering about a graph being confusing, I was thinking like this:


3. A stretch and challenge activity. Again students are given a sheet with 3 facts, in the blank box students need to compare the facts to their own ideas; do they agree with the evidence? If not, what are they basing their argument on? Students have to show an analytical approach. This makes students engage with critical arguments and consider other aspects.


4. Text tiles. This is very similar to the hexagons and are mostly used for flipped learning homework (students need to research a concept/idea, eg read a piece of text, research or watch a video, before the next lesson).  They for example then need to prioritise each tile – which is the most important to the least important. Then evaluate, making a judgement with an exam style question and finally transfer to a written piece of work.


5. Concept task – I’ve already used this one with my A level class. It’s fairly self-explanatory, but I got my students to write an Alevel concept eg Grice’s Maxims in the centre of a page, then they just work their way around the 5 questions answering each one to help them understand. This worked really well. Loved it!



6. Students are given large sheets of paper and in different colours annotate as much as they know about several given topics. Once they can see all the information around them they begin to see patterns, that they can’t often see.


7. Students are given blank grids and fill in with as much information that they know/understand on a given topic, split into subheadings. When finished they then have to arrange and discuss their cards in different orders according to the 2nd resource. You can get students to order the ideas in a different order according to different questions or ideas, does this change their perception of a concept? In English, their questions could easily be adapted to a book/poem students are studying.

8. Students are given an exam style question and then a scaffolded resource to help them develop their critical analysis skills. Students work through the steps, with modelled examples to help them understand how they need to bring all the information together.


Why I liked these so much was the school has seen a rise in the quality of essays written by their students and their results have gone up in their subject. They don’t use these as a 10-minute filler in a lesson. These are planned and created to have a purpose and ultimately help students become analytical in their thinking and writing ability. The activities are used over a period of several lessons, building up to a full written analytical essay.

It’s easy to criticise an idea, but what I can’t argue with is their results have increased because they are writing better critical essays. I suppose (maybe) it depends on how much you’re willing to buy into it.

I will be using these myself as the year progresses.  All of the above can be transferred to other subjects easily.

Thank you for reading!



With no more fruit 2 bear from its trees,

the Haze was finally broken

Prince  – “Deconstruction” – The Rainbow Children


Examiner Top Tips

Once the August result haze leaves English teachers up and down the country, what’s better than sitting down and working out what we did well, or not so well?

One such day I sat looking at our data and I chatted at length with my friend Becky Wood (@shadylady222). She had already begun deconstructing the AQA Examiner Reports for both language papers.

What Becky did, I think was pretty clever, she went through the reports and created an ‘at a glance’ top tips, and the key positive/negative points from the GCSE examiners report. These can then be used to inform teaching or as reminders for revision. I then offered to help by completing all matching resources for both literature papers/reports,

Becky does AQA (you can find them on her timeline on twitter).

I’ve created the Edexcel ones here:

Edexcel – June 2019

Examiners’ Report Summary – GCSE English Language 1EN0 01 – Paper 1

Examiners’ Report Summary – GCSE English Language 1EN0 02 – Paper 2

Examiners’ Report Summary – GCSE English Literature 1ET0 01 – Paper 1

Examiners’ Report Summary – GCSE English Literature 1ET0 01 – Paper 2

Examiners’ Report Summary – Edexcel Paper E Spoken Language Endorsement

Edexcel – June 2018

Examiners’ Report Summary – GCSE English Language 1EN0 01 – Paper 1

Examiners’ Report Summary – GCSE English Language 1EN0 02 – Paper 2

Examiners’ Report Summary – GCSE English Literature 1ET0 01 – Paper 1

Examiners’ Report Summary – GCSE English Literature 1ET0 01 – Paper 2

AQA 2017

AQA GCSE English Language Paper 1 (8700/1) Explorations in creative reading and writing

AQA GCSE English Language Paper 2 (8700/2) Writers’ viewpoints and perspectives

AQA GCSE English Literature Paper 1 (8702/1) Shakespeare and the 19th-century novel

AQA GCSE English Literature Paper 2 (8702/2) Modern texts and poetry


Thank you once again to Becky for the templates and idea!


Evaluating Dickens

Help, tips and assistance for students. This blog is part of a range specifically for students and can be found, along with others, under Student GCSE Blogs.

This is a typical question for P1 Q4 Evaluate:


These are the skill descriptors you need to meet:


When answering this question look for:

  • narrative perspective
  • sensory language
  • powerful imagery
  • emotive language
  • techniques used for effect

I will look at each extract slightly differently, hopefully together you will see which details to annotate, then how to use them collectively to build a chohesive evaluative comment.  At the end I’ve listed other evaluative features to look for.

David Copperfield

It was a murky confusion—here and there blotted with a colour like the colour of the smoke from damp fuel—of flying clouds, tossed up into most remarkable heaps, suggesting greater heights in the clouds than there were depths below them to the bottom of the deepest hollows in the earth, through which the wild moon seemed to plunge headlong, as if, in a dread disturbance of the laws of nature, she had lost her way and were frightened. There had been a wind all day; and it was rising then, with an extraordinary great sound. In another hour it had much increased, and the sky was more overcast, and blew hard.

Techniques used: imagery, emotive language, personification, simile, extended metaphor

Possible choices: 

  • noun-confusion-suggests uncertainty
  • verb-blotted-suggests stain
  • tossed-verb-suggests throw,
  • ‘greater heights’ v ‘depths below’ v ‘deepest hollows’,
  • adjective-wild-suggests untamed,
  • verb-plunge-suggests dive/thrust
  • alliterative ‘dread disturbance’
  • adjective lost and frightened
  • ‘there had been’ past tense clause and semi-colon
  • rising‘ and ‘extraordinary’ adj meaning remarkable/incredible
  • great, overcast, blew hard

Evaluative comment: I agree with the student, Dickens has used a powerful extended metaphor to describe the incredible and exciting turbulent weather. Dicken’s has successfully used words such as ‘flying’, ‘tossed’, ‘wild’ and ‘plunge’ to personify the movement of the clouds appearing uncontrollable. This vivid description ensures a reader can visualise the weather as not only beautiful but also terrifying. It makes you feel as if you are underneath the darkness, feeling its power.

A Christmas Carol

Oh! but he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self- contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office “In the dog-days”; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

Techniques & Possible choices (this extract is full of imagery and techniques):

  • tight-fisted
  • grindstone
  • “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!”
  • Hard and sharp as flint
  • no steel struck out generous fire;
  • secret, and self- contained, and solitary as an oyster.
  • froze his old features,
  • nipped his pointed nose,
  • shrivelled his cheek,
  • stiffened his gait;
  • made his eyes red, his thin lips blue – Red – evil, blue – cold makes him sound like a monster, unlikeable
  • shrewdly in his grating voice.
  • A frosty rime
  • wiry chin.
  • at Christmas.

Possible evaluative comments: Powerful verbs and modifiers build somebody, unpleasant, he’s presented as mean both with money and in spirit. The simile is successful because it compares him to a cold unfeeling rock- he is presented as a cold, mean and a private person suggesting he is never warm or generous. By using the simile to compare Scrooge to a stone, “flint” we understand that he is hard-hearted yet also sharp and quick-witted. When I read, I would link the image of a flint as a stone the sharpen knives giving him a menacing image. Sibilance is used throughout, “sharp”, “steel”, “secret” giving an almost snake-like image for me by repeating the ‘s’ sound. The vivid description makes the character appear secretive, rule 3, Oyster is a hard shell but soft in inside, all words convey a lonely and distant man separated from others by choice. Furthermore, Dickens has cleverly used another simile to compare him to “oyster” supporting his hard image and also presenting him as secretive and isolated. The reader may also sympathise with Scrooge as it suggests loneliness. Also, like an oyster is effective because it is suggesting that he may also have a special quality, yet to be revealed. I can imagine the cold weather and relate to the character, Dickens’ use of the long, complex sentence structure adds to the feeling that Scrooge is difficult and complicated. The description of Scrooge is highly effective as it is detailed and layered. On the surface, he is unpleasant and friendless. However, Dickens also foreshadows a more positive character to come and creates sympathy for me.

Bleak House

Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes – gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas, in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

Techniques & Possible choices: 

  • Implacable
  • mud
  • as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth,
  • Megalosaurus
  • waddling like an elephantine lizard
  • Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots
  • soft black drizzle
  • flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes
  • gone into mourning,
  • for the death of the sun.
  • Dogs, Horses,
  • Foot passengers,
  • jostling one another’s umbrellas,
  • infection of ill temper,
  • losing their foot-hold
  • tens of thousands
  • slipping and sliding
  • broke
  • the crust upon crust of mud,
  • sticking
  • tenaciously

Evaluative language: reflects, observes, reveals, implies, exposes, evokes, illustrates, considers,

Great Expectations 

She was dressed in rich materials-satins, and lace, and silks – all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks, were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on-the other was on the table near her hand-her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a Prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.

Techniques & Possible choices: 

  • rich, jewels, silk, splendid – suggest wealth
  • satin, lace, white – suggest layers ( a metaphor for how complicated Havisham is?)
  • repeated white – suggests innocence, purity
  • contradiction with her age, and choice of words ‘some bright’ ‘other jewels lay’ suggesting innocence has gone (left with), now bitterness?
  • scattered, half arranged, heaped could suggest her mental state or the suddenness of being jilted – again a metaphor for the fickleness of love/males?
  • listing of items, effective as it draws out her (original) happiness
  • the paragraph ends with ‘looking-glass’ – emphasises the importance of what she sees/what she was/has become.

Possible evaluative language:

  • Dickens endeavours to show….
  • Dickens expresses a view …. to the effect…
  • seeks to criticise
  • attempts to expose…..

Nicholas Nickleby – Dotheby’s Hall

Pale and haggard faces, lank and bony figures, children with the countenances of old men, deformities with irons upon their limbs, boys of stunted growth, and others whose long meagre legs would hardly bear their stooping bodies, all crowded on the view together; there were the bleared eye, the hare-lip, the crooked foot, and every ugliness or distortion that told of unnatural aversion conceived by parents for their offspring, or of young lives which, from the earliest dawn of infancy, had been one horrible endurance of cruelty and neglect. There were little faces which should have been handsome, darkened with the scowl of sullen, dogged suffering; there was childhood with the light of its eye quenched, its beauty gone, and its helplessness alone remaining; there were vicious-faced boys, brooding, with leaden eyes, like malefactors in a gaol; and there were young creatures on whom the sins of their frail parents had descended, weeping even for the mercenary nurses they had known, and lonesome even in their loneliness.

Brief evaluative plan: look above at the patterns/contrasts in the language used by Dickens to describe the children. This extract is full of imagery, techniques and vivid language. The extract shows a very explicit description of just how miserable this school for unwanted children is. Their faces are “pale and haggard,” their bodies deformed, showing anger and misery and suffering.  Dickens uses detail to overwhelm the reader with the suffering of these children.

Evaluative sentence stems: 

  • creates a [….] scene
  • creates the impression….
  • helps the reader feel…..
  • the writer’s choice is effective because……
  • the author builds dramatic tension….

A Tale of Two Cities – The Shoemaker

A broad ray of light fell into the garret, and showed the workman with an unfinished shoe upon his lap, pausing in his labour. His few common tools and scraps of leather were at his feet and on his bench. He had a white beard, raggedly cut, but not very long, a hollow face and exceedingly bright eyes. The hollowness and thinness of his face would have caused them to look large, under his yet dark eyebrows and his confused white hair, though they had been really otherwise; but, they were naturally large, and looked unnaturally so. His yellow rags of shirt lay open at the throat and showed his body to be withered and worn.  He, and his old canvas frock, and his loose stockings, and all his poor tatters of clothes, in a long seclusion from direct light and air, faded down to such a dull uniformity of parchment-yellow, that it would have been hard to say which was which.

Important details:  the character is described as more dead than alive, with his hollow face, withered body, and a hand so thin that it looks transparent.  He’s got a raggedly cut white beard, a hollow face, and very bright eyes. His tattered yellow shirt shows a withered and worn body. He has faded down to a dull parchment colour due to lack of direct sunlight and air (a metaphor for freedom?); he blends into his yellow shirt, making it difficult to distinguish one from another.

Possible Evaluation sentences:

  • the author slowly reveals…..
  • the author is suggesting
  • I particularly liked the description…..
  • it made me feel/see/hear….
  • I believed…..

Here are other evaluative comments that you can look for in a text:

  1. look for patterns in words that create strong images
  2. look for emotive language that makes the reader feel something
  3. look for punctuation to enhance meaning
  4. look for verbs or modifiers that have strong connotations (positive or negative)
  5. look for adjectives/adverbs that add to the meaning and help you see an image vividly
  6. look for descriptions that reveal a different focus
  7. look for the senses, used to help reader’s understanding
  8. look for any technique used eg personification/onomatopoeia to reinforce an idea
  9. look for descriptions that build up an image for the reader (eg weather)
  10. look for patterns that build tension across an extract


Try using some of these verbs:


Thank you for reading.

Non-fiction Practice (a real one)!

Help, tips and assistance for students. This blog is part of a range specifically for students and can be found, along with others, under Student GCSE Blogs.

This wasn’t written by me but by a year 11 student at my school (A.Butler). He gave me permission to add to my blog as a Paper 2, Question 5 practice.

Paper 2 question 5 practice

‘Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes and landslides – we see more and more reports of environmental disasters affecting the world and its people every day’.

Write the text of a speech for a debate at your school/college in which you persuade young people to take more responsibility for protecting the environment.

Children torn away from the caring arms of their families; entire communities wiped from the face of the planet; villages and towns that have been centres of culture and trade for generations obliterated by our carelessness, our lack of respect, our failure to do our duty to other members of the human race, and the planet on which we all cling to those few  things that matter to us.

Natural disasters are of course phenomenon’s that can often be attributed to the workings of our planet. But in this day and age they are becoming more and more frequent, and causing more and more catastrophes and chaos. We must face up to the truth: disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes are approximately 40 % more common in our time due to the actions of not just global corporations and national industries, but of the heartless, ignorant manner in which so many of us choose to live our lives today.

It is all too easy to point the finger of blame to developing countries with large populations such as China and India, or to the economic powerhouse that is the United States of America. However whilst these do of course have an undoubtedly huge effect on our environment (it would be foolish to suggest otherwise), it is the common people and citizens of countries around our fragile world that make the greatest impact.

Today I am beseeching that you all take into consideration the obvious fact that the choices you make today will have ever-lasting actions on those less-fortunate that have to suffer on a daily basis.  If you are all part of the new generation of people who are coming to this basic realisation, you will be improving the lives of millions, no, billions. Taking responsibility for your actions doesn’t require a life-time commitment, where you sacrifice your basic human rights in order to protect others, instead, something as simple as dealing with your litter correctly, using public transport, or avoiding cooking excess food can completely alter the lives of other that would otherwise have suffered by our common ignorance. If you take care of your litter, it would negate the need to landfill sites, which still plague our country to this day. Furthermore reducing the use of fast depleting natural resources, and limiting the use of electricity which is still on the whole produced by fossil fuels, all helps the limit the effects of climate change which causes the frequent natural disasters that cause so much suffering today.

My aim here today was not to dictate to you how you should live your own life, but to offer an insight into some of the consequences of failing to make minor, insignificant changes, that you could make to help our environment, and in turn helping others in their lives. I hope you can appreciate this speech and take away the knowledge that if you are just one of the thousands of others who are making new changes in their previously harmful lifestyles, you can make a real difference in our world. This is what I hope you can take from this, and I would ask that you makes small changes in your life, to make a huge difference in somebody else’s own less fortunate life.

Thank you for reading.


If I was marking this I’d put it in the top band.

AO5: 23 and AO6: 14.

Spelling is not quite perfect – and there is an errant apostrophe and a sentence or two! So lacking perfect control.

Also, AO5 says thanks for reading not quite top – you must remember context!



What (exactly) are you trying to say?

Help, tips and assistance for students. This blog is part of a range specifically for students and can be found, along with others, under Student GCSE Blogs.

When writing how do you make the best choices? Hopefully, this blog may help you! I’m going to use this image:


AQA Section B: Writing You are advised to spend about 45 minutes on this section.

I will do other posts on how to plan/a whole narrative piece. This blog will show you how to pick the best words/sentences etc. I apologise again for the differences in colour but hopefully they will help you:

  • Blue – a possible choice
  • Red – synonyms and alternatives
  • Grey/black – my thoughts/explanation for choices

If I begin with a verb (-ing) I start my piece in the middle of some type of action

  • Looking (gazing, staring, leering, glancing) at me (this is a ‘clause’ it doesn’t make sense on its own so needs more information).
  • anyone would think I was another excited (delighted, thrilled) visitor at the carnival (this would make sense, if I add a conjunction ‘but’ I can carry my sentence on giving more details)  
  • but as I shook my head and sat down (having the choice of ‘down’ suggests my character is sad, by showing not telling! The verb ‘shook’ will create intrigue for the reader – )
  • I knew that was the furthest emotion I was feeling. (if the character wasn’t excited – why not?)

I’ll add some punctuation and put all the above together…

Gazing at me, anyone would think I was another excited visitor at the carnival, but as I shook my head and sat down, I knew that was the furthest emotion I was feeling. 

I need to change the focus to introduce a flashback… (if I don’t it will confuse my reader)

  • As I wait for Mark I thought back and wonder how it all went wrong.

Now I need to go back and change some choices above from present to past tense – so would becomes will,  was becomes am ….. shook-shake, sat-sit etc. I will begin a new paragraph to show a topic shift, maybe look back at an event previously that night, this will show the examiner you can handle ‘tenses’ accurately.  This time I will begin with an adverb (-ly) that takes you back to the start of the night…

  • Eagerly (impatiently) I walked towards the carnival. I prefer impatiently.
  • I also want to add a line about noticing the sights… so added The first thing I saw was the

To ensure I hit the higher bands I need to vary my writing and to do this I will comment on the senses.  If this was real the first things I’d notice would be the lights and sounds. I want to comment on the lights, then the noise. Which of these choices would you pick…?

  1. A golden (bright, brilliant, rich, glorious, joyous) hue encased the rides like a jewel (trinket sparkle gem) in the darkness. (creates a beautiful image of the contrast)
  2. Lights shone out in every direction (a little boring)
  3. yellows, reds and greens shot out (effective because rides often have coloured lights beaming out.

Personally, I like (1).  Now I want to focus on the sounds:

  1. I heard the screams of laughter (a little boring)
  2. Next came the laughter (chuckle, giggle, glee, roar, cackle, howling) and squeals (shriek, squawk, shrill, screams, screech) of delight (the adverb ‘next’ joins the lights/sounds)
  3. I strained to separate the screams from laughter and those fearful of clowns. (doesn’t sound like he’s happy!)

I like  (2). I continue with the sounds…

  1. (who is laughing) enthusiastic boys and girls
  2. teenagers (adolescents, youths) looking for love and
  3. parents cold (frozen, chilly) and tired (annoyed, bored, irritated) tiny (puny, miniature, little, wee) smiles fixed on their faces

Then, to see how it’s shaping up, here’s the section together:

Impatiently I walked towards the carnival. A rich, golden hue encased the rides like a jewel in the darkness. Next came the giggles, the cackling and squeals of delight; enthusiastic boys and girls, youths looking for love and parents frozen, bored and irritated, little smiles fixed on their faces.

I know this can seem forced but so far I’ve used colours, adjectives, adverbs, the senses and a mixture of sentence structures. What I haven’t used is techniques such as similes or metaphors. If you want to score the top band you must! At this point I’d start a new paragraph so that I can change the focus again. Remember paragraphs have a purpose!

  • Suddenly (quickly) (the adverb works as it means something happened quickly)
  • I was distracted from the sights as if a wizard waved a wand (the simile helps visualise the comparison of distraction and ‘wand waving’ like a reaction you can’t resist)
  • and I was hit (punched, shot, knocked, slapped, swatted) by a wave. (we know our character wasn’t hit by a ‘real’ wave so it’s a metaphor. Again it continues the sudden change – also I liked punched, so will extend my sentence now)
  • I lifted my head as the smell (aroma, scent, stench, whiff spice) of sausages and burgers hit (punched, shot, knocked, slapped, swatted) me. (again appealing to the senses).
  • The crowd parted. (separated, split) (the simple sentence is effective because it gives little information)

Suddenly, I was distracted from the sights as if a wizard waved a wand and I was punched by a wave; slapping my thoughts back into focusI lifted my head as the aroma of sausages and burgers hit me. The crowd parted.    

I’m almost at the end. Here I’ve gone back and proofread my narrative. There are some minor errors, so below I’ve added or changed anything that didn’t quite work. I also need to add one final paragraph bringing it all together. I’ll leave that one a bit of a mystery!

Now let’s put that ALL together:

Gazing at me, anyone will think I am another excited visitor at the carnival, but as I shake my head and sit down, I know this is the furthest emotion I am feeling. As I wait for Mark I think back and wonder how it all went wrong…

Impatiently, I had walked towards the carnival. The first thing I saw was the rich, golden hue encasing the rides like a jewel in the darkness. Next came the giggles, the cackling and squeals of delight; enthusiastic boys and girls, youths looking for love and parents frozen, bored and irritated, little smiles fixed on their faces.

Suddenly, I was distracted from the sights as if a wizard waved a wand and my senses were washed over by a wave. The sensation was so strong it was like punching my thoughts sharply back into focus; I lifted my head as the smell of sausages and burgers hit me. The crowd parted.  

That’s where it went wrong. It all happened so quickly. It wasn’t really my fault, it was all just so exciting; the sights, the smells, the people. I knew Mark was distracted and he wasn’t paying attention.  I pulled away from him, he wasn’t prepared and stumbled as he lost his grip. He yelled at me, but I didn’t look back. I just ran! I hadn’t thought to stop. I crashed into some people, knocking a girl over. I didn’t care. I went straight for the discarded bun on the floor. A large hand grabbed me and I was abruptly yanked to the side. I looked up as the mud squelched beneath my paws. Mark was angry. He pulled me by my lead as he apologised to the girl. My ears went back and I lowered my head. I had upset my master.

Total 301 words

@PieCorbett (storyteller) suggested the following tips when I discussed writing this blog:

  1. Use adjectives – but don’t overuse them – the adjective has to earn its place adding something new and necessary that the reader did not know
  2. Writing works well when the feeling comes through the description so that I experience the writing as if I was a character
  3. Try to ‘surprise’ the reader – with word combination or sentence variation, mood change or new event.
  4. Shifting clauses – ‘Reaching up, I grabbed the first branch’
  5. Be concise with your choices eg ‘The wind blew’.

I’ve probably made this look a lot more complicated than it is, but I wanted to show you how to write a piece, to consider each choice carefully!

The key is to experiment in your lessons. Work closely with a dictionary and thesaurus – draft out pieces of work until you are happy.

Read lots of different genres; non-fiction as well as fiction, modern and classic!

Then on the day you sit your English exam you are more confident with language and how it works.

This little list of reminders may help you:


Thank you for reading.