Our year 10s have been booked in to complete the extended reading controlled assessment, and to do so we are using Of Mice and Men. Our long-term schemes of work mean we focus mostly on the literature aspect of the course in the first year, although we do complete the creative writing coursework requirements for the English language aspect. This leaves us with year 11 to develop the analytical skills necessary for the English literature exam, and to deliver a concerted programme of study for the media (paper 1) requirement.

I am teaching a high ability year 10 class. As part of the new controlled assessment requirements, I am very keen for my students to find a happy balance between followed a structured plan, and for them (or at least those most capable) to choose how to plan out an essay themselves.

The mark scheme, as ever, is norm-referenced. That is, it doesn’t contain any specific examples of what a top-grade piece looks like. Such standardisation folders, I believe, have perhaps only ever existed as a department-wide phenomena (what a plethora of hyphenated phrases!) With the happy exception of some of the old KS3 marking material. And the moderation material (!) Therefore, when I look at the criteria, I see that the best answers are ‘sophisticated’.

I take this to mean that themes are interwoven, or analysed in a subtle manner. To this end, I wish to provide my students with a selection of 9 different themes in which to analyse the controlled assessment requirement – ‘What is Steinbeck’s view of George across sections 1 and 6.’ The title itself is slightly different to that, but that is something that I will address later.

The introduction will clearly have some generic components. However, I am long tired of seeing introductions that tell me when and where the novel was written – especially in the first sentence. Instead I hope that the students address a main theme of their choice in the first sentence. That, and the idea that such a theme will determine how they address an analysis of the two sections.

Secondly, I hope that the students will more consistently analyse language and structure closely than before. One of the issues I find with the analysis of both poetry and fiction is that students can become fixated upon