I have managed, this holiday, to scale marking mountain sooner rather than later. As I was doing so, I thought about the terms I use, and how they do follow some formula. Such formulas would be of interest, I think, to the teachers and students who follow this blog, as well as those who wish to give some critique on how they interpret them.

So, these terms come from marking the spoken language CA blogged about previously. Primarily, I’m looking for a thematic argument present in the introduction, and developed towards the conclusion. Such an argument can only be written if a plan has covered the thinking ground. Out of 27 essays, I’d warrant only 2-3 didn’t have this present. And, from those, they at least showed an attempt at doing so during the CA. Not one student started “I am writing”, and instead established their thematic emphasis that informed the links in the rest of their essay. Pleasing, but expected for B-A* students I think.

I’m going to write a term, and its context in the marking journey.

Spoken feature analysed:
As I mark the analysis, I see if the student has a spoken feature analysed. Again, all but 2-3 students did so. Those that didn’t possess specific spoken features analysed still addressed techniques that acknowledged the speech as a speech. Their marks were down by a grade or so, though (at least), in order to reflect that such an omission was, at best, lacking in the precision needed for perceptive analysis.

Social attitudes analysed
This was one of two things, for me. The first demonstrated social-historic background, which such students could be expected to have possessed or understood from the lesson (or their cultural lives.) The second second demonstrated the ability to analyse how the audience’s reaction was affected by Obama’s ┬ácontrol. Their social attitudes were perhaps more immediate, but students usually reflected how such attitudes were informed by attitudes overall.

One step up for me is exploration. It requires students to speculate, to use connective phrases to add to their ideas, or to make additional links. It is a distinctive B-grade skill, or even a lazy A-grade skill (which I wouldn’t not normally phrase) because a student can wonder from point to point without prior thought and still write in an exploratory manner.

This is the key word for me. It requires analysis that is exploratory, and also offers critique of its effectiveness (that is, suggesting an alternative interpretation, or an extent to which the analysis should be asserted.) It is rare that an essay sustains a truly evaluative style on a paragraph by paragraph basis – perhaps 5-6 did of this cohort. However, almost every (if not every) essay was thematically structured, which demonstrated evaluative analysis in the sense that students were structuring the order of their analysis to show relationships between their points (rather than simply progressing through the speech chronologically.)

For me, sophistication is clarity. For students, I think they often believe sophistication is complexity. The truth is something of both. To express complex ideas clearly is to be sophisticated. Doing this requires the student to link their ideas together (in a way that is exploratory) that shows a clarity of thought. That clarity can be defined by precision. It is swiftly apparent which students are exploring with a purpose (that is, towards a concluding point that they had devised during the planning stage) and those students whose ideas are connected on a whim. Yes, there is an element that students can contrast their ideas by employing contrast phrases (such as “in contrast…” But without the precision of planning, a level of clarity that leads to sophisticated writing is rarely seen.

That is not to say, of course, that there isn’t something to be said for the connections that arise in the heat of writing. Students, and teachers, should see the structures of writing as akin to a bike, rather than a box. For example, if higher-level students see their plan as a series of boxes which should be filled with ideas and then sealed, then their planning is missing its point entirely. If, though, a student can see their planning a bike moving them from sign post to sign post, then they can refer to the connotations of previous points – that is, lead the reader down diversions and evaluations mid-paragraph – before returning on their drive towards their ultimate point, their literary journey made all the richer for the awareness that such a diversion may have brought.

It should be said that without prior planning, diversions within a paragraph can become the main signpost of the paragraph in themselves. There are no longer diversions, but something that reframes the essay or paragraph entirely (at best) or are entertaining yet vague ( at worst).

So, sophistication in writing is often ┬átermed “imagination” or “originality.” I term such things to be effective in terms of how ideas are connected together. Not simply the realm of students with metaphorical writing styles or imaginations (as gifted as those students might be.)

…the mark this essay deserved
The student was capable of writing something better, but has missed a fundamental aspect of the mark scheme. Even in this day of teaching to exams and criteria, not every student shows themselves capable of applying the marking criteria to their writing.

Right! Time to welcome family to this seaside town and to celebrate with some food.