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I can't blame everything on my teachers but I can't remember anything my English teacher said to me that helped me improve my work.

Focused feedback is proven to be the most effective way of improving a students' grade.

My drama teacher at high school once said that my 'comedy hobby horse' riding for a Spoof Western looked like a 'drunk tramp trying to dance with a broom'. With that comparison, I understood clearly what she meant and modified my acting accordingly and got an A eventually.

Share here what the most effective thing an English teacher has said to you to improve your work. You never know - you could change someone's grade.


Q1 - By Popular Demand

After analysing the mock results (looking at the hidden reasons as to what went well and what went badly) soon having to explain them, here by popular demand is a question 1, which wasn't well done to say the least!

Looking at the 70-80 answers I've seen, there is one key problem:

Using the right skills.

What are those skills?

Understanding what the task is asking you for.
Selecting appropriate information and embedding quotations.

For example:

'What do you learn about the Beach to City programme?' was the mock question.

People mistook the  the key word as YOU and wrote what they learned whereas the key part of the question is 'learn about the Beach to City Programme'.

Others showed the Analytical skills and talked about language techniques or presentational devices. This is not needed!

Look at this as an example of a good answer.

The reader learns that the beach to city programme targets 'Primary School Children' as they have analysed data that suggests that this group are particularly vulnerable at the coast.

There is no analysis - just a summary of the information that is appropriate to the question.

Remember you should have 4-6 embedded quotations and provide a summary of the text that answers the question. Nothing more difficult than that. They like to start you off with an easy question.

So here is a practice question for you:

Source 1

What do you learn about the benefits of a degree in Music? 8 Marks  



Exam Countdown Begins

We are now 8 double lessons away from the exam (6 doubles if you are in mock exams this week) and you've got your mock marks back.

Some of you are very please - some less so.

Here is my weekend rundown of the key errors I have seen question by question:

Q1 - Look at what the question is asking you. You don't have to analyse language or anything difficult like that just select, retrieve and interpret information. Look at the key words in the question and remember the question is not about what YOU learn but what you learn about SOMETHING. Make sure your work is focused on that something.

Q2 - Asks you about why the text is effective. Here you must analyse and evaluate (higher level thinking skills). The question does not ask you what doesn't work but what does so don't waste your time on point out the flaws you perceive. Get in an analyse and find something effective. There is always going to be a range of things to talk about: Language Devices in Headlines. Colours and content of image. Focus in on these and develop your analysis.

Q3 - Thoughts AND Feelings

The key is to cover both: Remember a thought is a cognitive process and a feeling is a sensation or emotion (Dr George Cooper approved knowledge). Make sure you are making at least two points about each and backing these up with a quotations each (4 quotations minimum). Don't analyse language here - this question like Q1 (note it is the odd questions) needs you to explain and interpret.

Q4  - You need to focus on language in this question and to do this you need at least 8 quotations. You must compare and you must analyse and evaluate (note the even questions in the reading section require these skills). You should be jumping in and using quotations straight away commenting on the effect of the language used. By all means comment on structure but it is difficult to use quotations for this so make sure you do this after you have really engaged with language. If you struggle to develop detail then use OWLS.

Q5 - Both reading questions NO PARAGRAPHS NO C! Make sure you have a range of paragraph lengths and at least 6 (think of the 6 pack - I warn you that image will appear again if people leave out paragraphs)

Make sure you have some complex vocabulary to up your spelling mark too.

(Top tips for improving spelling: Read Cover Write Check - Mnemonics: never eat chips eat sausage sandwiches and raspberry yoghurt - Over pronounce words: Con Sci Ence - Look for words within words PIEce trAGEdy)

Q6 - Be careful of the form of your writing. An article is different from a report - see the bottom of my blog for links to articles.

Happy studying - and have a good weekend.

Individual Presentation - Why I am suited to my ideal job...

Many of you will be doing individual presentations between now and December. Here is a top level response that I had from a student at my previous school asked to present on Why they were suited to their ideal job...

Some people have a clear idea from very early on in their childhood about what they want to do when they 'grow up'. This can often focus on the heroes of children's television: a Policeman, a Fireman or whatever 'Sportacus' is.

For many, and I include myself in this, it is a longer process of appraising what I enjoy and am good at in school and then trying to link these skills with a career I think I would enjoy. As I've just been through '6th Form Options' at the schools and local colleges, it is something that I've been clarifying recently.

I'm a creative person and I love my maths and physics lessons; as I browsed through career options  looking at where I could use my skills, my heart quickened and brain began to tick over at the idea of becoming an Engineer. It seems to tick all the boxes for me:

The calculations of weight and mass and the complex formulas to challenge me.

The ability to move something from the depths of my imagination, to paper and then eventually realising the construction in front of my eyes.

The development of relationships and collaborative work between the 'creative team' and 'the client'.

These aspects are what makes school enjoyable for me each day: Challenge, Creativity and Interaction.

So I am sure the job suits me but why do I suit the job?

Throughout my school life I've always been focused and dedicated. Even if a subject did not catch my imagination, I wanted to perfect it and prove to myself I could do anything I put my mind to. But I suppose my 'unknown interest' in engineering came from the simple red and yellow building blocks in Primary School.

I would sit for hours perfecting a building, balancing weight and strength of a structure until I got it right. I would try something, test it and then evaluate it's success and if necessary, start again. These skills are something that would bring success in Engineering. I recognise that the creation of something is a process and that creating and developing a project will need reworking to a client's vision.

Each day is a different day and this variety is something I've learned to cope with. Initially GCSE moved at a pace that could often be frustrating. Learning something new and complex one day and to then be expected to understand and build on this to illustrate something more complex the next day was at times intimidating. But I realise that challenges are the way to engage the mind. This brings me daily excitement: whether it is the challenge of understanding and then applying formula in maths or interpreting data in physics.

Finally, the collaborative work. This is something that I have always been involved in throughout my school life. From school councils to group work in the class, it has been something I've thrived on. I am able to recognise where and when input is needed and take a step back if I recognise that someone has more expertise to lead a group but I am also prepared to step forward and shape a task in order to make sure it is completed by the deadline.

To conlcude, although Engineering is a new discipline to me, I believe I have the skills needed to become successful in this career. I'm dedicated, evaluative and thorough in my work and able to take constructive feedback to develop a constant focus on improvement.

I leave you with a quotation that sums up my enthusiasm for my career:

Engineers are not mere technicians and should not approve or lend their name to any project that does not promise to be beneficent to man and the advancement of civilization.

Thank You

Writing Task of the Week - Q6

Completing the full exams worth of questions, here is a Q6.

Argue / Persuade

Remember - Writing to Argue should be balanced and Writing to Persuade - Biased 

It is worth 24 marks with 8 of those being for Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar. You have 35 Minutes to write it in and you must aim to write 1 1/2 pages - 2 Pages.

Following on from a discussion in class today,  here is a task:

Write an Article for an Animal Rights blog arguing that all children should / shouldn't have access to pets to help them develop.

Remember - be daring, engaging, sarcastic and eloquent.

Show off your grasp of the English language and your wide and varied vocabulary. Try and switch between the humorous and serious / formal and informal.

Variety is key - Happy Weekend.


Q4 Time OWLS

Time to channel your inner Battle OWL.

Q4 is the question that has the most marks assigned to it in Section A and you should be spending the most time on. It is also the most difficult!

First of all the basics - 16 Marks / 24 Minutes / 1 - 1 1/2 pages

Here you are asked to compare the language in two of the sources. This tests the same skill as you have developed through your Macbeth assessment.

What is OWLS - well it is an acronym to help you look for points you can make.

You can talk about:

Overall Tone (of the article)
Words (Key words used that stand out)
Language Devices (techniques used by the writer)
Structure (Sentences and Paragraphs)

Success in this question comes back to our Higher Order Thinking Skills

You have to hit Analyse or above (not create as that is the focus of the writing section) to gain C - A* grades.

This means not only must you pick out the language used but you must also state in detail what effect the language has.

Finally to top it off you have to compare. Does one use a rhetorical question to develop a point in a certain way whereas the other source uses a different device or achieves a different effect?

You should have 4 comparative paragraphs each with a quote from each source that is fully explained and compared. Don't just talk about one source than the other.

Question is below:

Now you need to refer to Source 3 and either Source 1 or Source 2.

Compare the ways in which language is used for effect in the two texts.
Give some examples and analyse what the effects are. (16 Marks)

Source 3

Source 1 Source 2

Good Luck!

Q3 - Thoughts and Feelings

Ok Q3 practice question.

Listen carefully (especially those that missed the lesson because of the Maths Exam).

The question always focuses on the thoughts and feelings of the writer and you have to identify these from the language used.

3 Step plan for this:

1) Read through the article and identify two thoughts and two feelings.
2) Pick out two quotations for each (These should not be too obvious, you will need to show you can infer meaning and interpret texts.
3) Explain how the language highlights the thoughts or feelings.

This question relies on you showing you can interpret information so don't just pick out sections where it says 'I was happy'. Look for detailed meaning in the language:

The writer clearly thinks this is a unique experience as she 'gazed at the sunset in awe'. Her use of 'awe' indicates she is feeling overwhelmed and draws her thoughts to the uniqueness of her experience as she freely admits she has 'never seen anything like this before'.

Follow the link and answer the following question:

Source 3

Explain some of the thoughts and feelings of the writer on her travels in the Maldives.

8 Marks

(12 Minutes, 1/2 - 3/4 of a page)

Q2 Revision - CLIFF TOP Higher Paper

Here is a little Q2 practice for you.

This question is another 8 Mark question and requires you to develop an answer that focuses on Presentational Devices.

To help you out you have CLIFF TOP


Overall Tone

Now remember you don't need to comment on each one of these - just the most relevant to the question (remember the question is always the same it is the text that changes).

8 Marks means you should write 1/2 - 3/4 page maximum in no more than 12 minutes.

Look at the Source 2 (click the link): Explain how the headline, sub-headline and picture are effective and how they link to the text.

Source 2

Remember - C to B answers need to show analytical engagement. A - A* answers need to show evaluation of the text. Be critical, fluent, use evidence and analyse.


Writing Task of the Week

Quick writing task for you all this weekend.

Q5 - Writing to Inform Explain Describe

Remember worth 16 marks with 6 of those being for Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar. You have 25 Minutes to write it in and you must aim to write 1 to 1 1/2 pages.

You have been asked to write an article for a technology magazine explaining why teenagers cannot live without a gadget of your choice.

Remember - be daring, engaging, sarcastic and eloquent. Show off your grasp of the English language and make me smile when I read it.

Have a lovely weekend.

Mr Milne


Revision Kicks Off

Here is the first Section A reading practice for you.

This question requires you to skim read, pick out the relevant parts of the source and interpret linking to the question.

You must use quotations and explain.

You should take no more than 12 minutes on this once you've read the article and you should be writing 1/2 - 3/4 of a page. It is worth 8 marks.

Follow the link - http://m.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/nov/03/4g-national-parks-threat?cat=environment&type=article

What do we learn about the issues and benefits of overhead cables? (8 Marks)

Post your answers to or questions about Q1 in the comment section.

These comments are moderated before appearing so you may take some time to see them.

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