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This week I came across an idea from a colleague in a UK school who used a visual guide to aid students in structuring their essays. Once I saw how they used it to improve their students writing I thought I would give it a shot in my classroom. As I was returning exams this week, I felt it was an ideal time to not just give feedback to students, but allow them to rewrite some of the higher mark questions. The bulk of the difficulty that I find students have in GCSE and A-level, is the strategy they use to write higher mark questions. Depending on exam board, the questions can range from 6 marks upwards to 40 or more at A-level.
I’ve given lessons on essay structure and while I try to set clear expectations of what students should write, often their essays are missing key elements. Writing from a plan is helpful, but some students struggle with plans. This is why I was so keen to try out the structure strips. If they had a clear structure, with some guiding phrases, the hope was that they would be able to improve their writing. After enough practice with the structure strip, perhaps they would be able to write better by the time came for their exam. While I’m sure there’s a danger of letting students become dependent on structure strips, I think there’s a lot to be gained from giving them the opportunity to eventually develop their own. This should follow after they have been given a series of structure strips modelled by the teacher.