I have been proud of how my Year 10s have approached their studies this term. Many of them will be open about how they require prompting; none of them, though, do not want to achieve.
We have started with our Shakespeare requirement. Balancing the English vs English Language and Literature decision is a tough one. In the past it was much more straightforward to teach a C/D borderline set and allow them to develop until a decision could be made in Year 11 as to which qualification they can best be entered for. Still, that’s the least of the current issues in our educational climate.
Our students have produced personalised plans. The extent to which this will lead to personalised essays remains to be seen: I trust that they will attempt to personalise their essays. In addition, the extent to which I agree with my judgement that we should practise personalised plans with a Shakespeare essay also remains to be seen. Some of the comments of my students before their essay, though, are:
1) I feel frightened. I feel really scared.
This student was absent for key aspects of the PEE teaching. While they are capable, they have not had the direct guidance of my help. I imagine tomorrow I’ll give them some practice before we start. Confidence is a funny thing.
2) I feel 3/5 to write this essay.
3) I feel better able to explain my quotes.
4) I feel ready and OK.
5) This lesson was OK. Writing PEE is getting easier, though.
6) I feel a bit scared about writing in the exam.
7) Hello Mr A. This lesson went well, although I still feel a bit scared about writing in the exam.
8) Hello Mr A. This essay is OK when you get your head round it. I don’t think I’ll fail this essay but I still think I’ll fail English.
9) Hello Mr A. I hope with this essay I’ll pass. Well, I know I’ll pass.
The key thing for me is that I have given some criteria to the students for the C-grade. The formula itself doesn’t correspond directly to the grade criteria, but it certainly leads to the level of analysis necessary.
Personalised introduction and conclusion.
5-7 paragraphs of analysis. Minimum 5-8 sentences each with extended clauses. PEE. Contrast sentences for evaluation, and final topic sentences.
What struck me was the talk of confidence. Yes, these students only write when they are compelled to in class. At this stage, it is probable that not all students will sustain a C-grade level of analysis the entire essay. However, I expect every student to at least write one paragraph to a C-grade analysis. And, from that paragraph, to realise that by Year 11 I would hope that they could sustain that standard.
I would hate for any student to be fearful of an essay or an exam. Or, rather, I would want them to have perspective on their fear. It is not until we have achieved several times that we can have true confidence. And writing, like all aspects of performance, can only improve under the intensity of demand.
I would hate for their motivation for their English studies to wane should these grades not be pass-worthy. I would hope that, like with my running, they would be annoyed at the time, and then proud of what they have achieved well, and then determined to develop that further next time.