“As teachers, it is our responsibility to show students how to use and manipulate their knowledge, to form end products and, just as importantly, to ensure that they are of as a high standard as possible.”
(Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby – Making Every Lesson Count)
“…no strategy improves my students’ writing more than having my students watch and listen to me as I write and think aloud. None.”
(Kelly Gallagher – Write like this)
One thing that quickly became apparent when comparing the new GCSE specifications with the old ones, was the increased expectation for detail in answers. Questions that would once have been worth 5 marks were now worth 9 and they needed to write longer, more complex responses.
Some students took to this like a duck to water but others found it more difficult. One thing I have been focusing on this year is modelling excellent work. It is not enough to tell pupils what we want; if we want pupils to write well we need to show them examples of good writing.
One very simple method to achieve this is live modelling. Sometimes I will do this simply by answering a question myself. I’ll write it on the board and talk through my thought process as I go about answering it. I’ll explain how I have broken down the question, how I have decided to start, where I am including examples. I also try to show struggle and mistakes and how I go about correcting them.
Other times, I build up an answer with the class. In the example below, we were considering the question: “Why do some earthquakes lead to a higher death toll than others?”. You can see, next to each slide, the questions I used to prompt pupils and to demonstrate how an answer could be improved.
After we had completed this together, I left it on the board as a model paragraph and they used this to help them structure their own on the other variables that can affect death toll. This meant that there was far less variation in the quality of pupils’ work and all were able to complete it well. Pupils who might normally have struggled, didn’t need an artificial writing frame to help them structure their work because they understood what a good answer should look like.
Live modelling in various forms is very time efficient and has a big impact. The Holy Grail of teaching.
Mark Enser, Geography.