Hints and tips - 6 minute read
Isobel Woodger, OCR English Subject Advisor
We are conscious you and your students will have been working in varied and unusual ways this year and as a result, you may be asking some of the following questions:
We wanted to focus on some approaches teachers can use both remotely and in the classroom for any of our three A Levels. With those questions in mind, we’ve broken down our suggestions down into diagnostic, condensing, or consolidatory activities.
Content quizzes: set short quizzes on key content for students in the desire component. This could be set text content (characters, themes, plot etc), or other broader topics of study (genre, period, school of criticism, approach to language) or even terminology and glossary based.
Spot the absence: supply students with a summary (of a plot, of a theoretical approach to language) or a list of information (e.g. common language theories, key ideas throughout a poetry collection) and ask students to identify what information is missing. To develop this further, you can include deliberate misconceptions or misunderstandings to test the depth of students’ understanding.
Concept mapping: ask students to draw a concept map per topic or genre covered with all the knowledge and approaches they feel most confident with and ask them to make links between them. Combine the class’s maps together and colour code the least identified concepts and ideas.
Adaptation deviation: use watching an adaptation or production as a way to determine textual knowledge by asking students to explain deviations from original text, how the adaptation or production represents different interpretations of the text.
Academic writing checklist: ask students to write a checklist for features they would expect to see in academic responses for their subject. As with concept mapping, collate all the lists together and highlight the least identified elements for development.
Assessment Objective (AO) breakdown: split each AO into the individual discrete skills being tested. Ask students to determine where these skills overlap across AOs, and to link example pieces of knowledge or writing to each one.
Shared contexts: generate lists of contexts and contextual information for each key text or topic, asking students to establish links between them, to determine which areas of contextual knowledge offer the widest range of application.
Writing in reverse: especially for Language & Literature, and adaptable for Language, ask students to reconstruct a written piece based on student commentary (or for Language, using examiner commentary).
Transcription: for Language and Language & Literature, getting students to grapple with transcription can help clarify their understanding spoken language features, while also developing their analytical skills. You can use transcripts as a fresh way for students to determine examples of particular language features or topics such as language and gender. Here are some open speech corpora available free online:
Question creation: assign members of the class a question type to create, either individually or in groups. In being able to create an appropriate question for assessment, students are having to consider the application of AOs, review possible textual or theoretical content, and make decisions regarding precision and accuracy.
Indicative content: working either individually or in groups, set students a range of questions (preferably on the same section of a component) where students have to write the indicative content for use in its mark scheme. This requires students to present their knowledge about a text in a different way to a full essay response, and to consider a wide range of possible approaches to the question.
Student presentations: set individual student presentations focusing on a key element of a text or topic to be presented or distributed across the class to bolster knowledge together.
New/old information: ask students to apply their knowledge about a text or a topic in a new context e.g. turning their knowledge of language and gender into an academic poster; writing a poem that summarises a key text. This helps to consolidate their understanding of form and genre, as well as the content used to create it.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of approaches but, we hope it goes some way to giving you some ideas for your planning. For more ideas do take a look at some of our past blogs, for example on distance learning or for creative writing in English. Crucially, what ideas could you share with us in the comments?
If you have any questions you can submit your comments below or email us at OCRenglish@ocr.org.uk. You can also sign up to receive email updates or follow us on Twitter at @OCR_English.
Isobel joined OCR as a member of the English subject team, with particular responsibility for the A Level English qualification suite.
She previously worked as a classroom teacher in a co-educational state secondary school, with three years as second-in-charge in English with responsibility for Key Stage 5. In addition to teaching all age groups from Key Stage 3 to 5, Isobel worked with the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education as a mentor to PGCE trainees. Prior to this, she studied for an MA in Film, Television and Screen Media with Birkbeck College, University of London while working as a learning support assistant at a large state comprehensive school.