Tuesday, December 21, 2021

GCSE English: The Structure Question – and How it Can Help Creative Writing

Paper 1 Question 3 asks students to comment on the structure of the text featured in the exam.  In order to prepare for this, they must learn quite a lot of vocabulary centred around structure.  This can be used when planning their own creative writing response later on in the exam.  Sometimes joining the dots between the two questions can take a little time.

As such, why not take a look at the video below which has just been uploaded to YouTube. It’s the first time we have partnered with “Teaching and Learning Resources for Me” to create the content that we need on the VLE.

The video covers a response from one student to an exam-style question.  It breaks down each paragraph by the structural features that the student has planned in order to fully organise their writing and to help maximise the marks that they will receive for the piece.

Teachers have a Hobson’s choice really – teach creative writing or teach creative writing for a GCSE English exam. It must be noted that most short story writers would be hard pressed to produce anything nearing their usual quality in 45 minutes – which is the time allowed for our students to flex their creative muscles.

As such this video is an attempt to give students a certain method with which to approach their GCSE English creative writing – so that when they go in to the exam they know how to begin, develop and end a short story (or a piece of descriptive writing) in terms of structure. In that way they can focus on the language that they use – after they have planned the structure of the piece.

I’m going to include the video below, too.  It shows what I think are the top ten tips for Paper 1 Question 5 – and a number of them are rooted in structure.  One of the issues I get as a teacher all the time is that students will insist on producing plot-heavy stories – so much so that their pieces become a list of what happens and then what happens next… and so on! The tips included here will help to ensure that students narrow their focus and don’t try to world-build in 45 minutes – and that means they will be able to focus on descriptive language rather than plot.

I have a prop that I use in class.  I have a little glass snail and I place it on a table. Then I move it diagonally to the opposite side of the table.  That, I tell them, is all the plot that you need to create an interesting and engaging story.  Another thing I do is leave the class and tell them to watch me as I re-enter.  I move (in a very sombre manner) to sit at my desk and place my head in my hands. I then pull myself together and take a deep breath, stand, and announce to the class what they will be studying in that lesson.  That, I tell them, is all the plot that you need to create an interesting and engaging story - #2. 

Perhaps I’m running away with myself here. I hope you enjoy the videos!

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