We are developing the use of our principles for learning in RE and have focussed this year on different types of modelling.
As with most things, if it’s not part of an agreed system, things can be forgotten.
In an attempt to standardise what GCSE students have in terms of seeing exam questions and exam answers we have created a set system. So far that indicates which exam questions they will practise and a ‘Be the teacher’ style activity. I am also planning on adding to the plan, ‘teacher modelling’.
All of these are based on important aspects of exam practice:
- Exposure to different types of exam question
- Knowing what the command words require
- Timing of written answers
- Appropriate length of answers
- Knowing what needs to be included in an answer
- Knowing what doesn’t need to be included
- Identifying a ‘full mark’ answer and why it is full marks
- Identifying strengths and weaknesses of answers that aren’t full marks
- Seeing how an answer might be approached and the thought process behind it
- Seeing different approaches to a question
- Developing confidence to answer questions
- Improving their own answers
Plan of exam questions
This is simply to ensure that no matter who the teacher or the class, the student exam practice is the same. We’ve agreed in advance and put on a plan which questions students should be doing per half term. These are spaced so they aren’t necessarily the topic they’ve been studying but topics from prior learning.
* note- these questions have been designed for our course and may not follow the exact exam board specification as we teach beyond this.
Orange = exam questions students will complete
Once they’ve completed their answer, they are simply marked using tick sheets and given feedback in class. They then improve them as needed.
Be the teacher
This is what I call an activity where students are given a sheet with an exam question on it and some student answers to the question. The answers vary in what they have/haven’t included and so the students then have to identify ‘what went well’ and what could be improved. This is an opportunity for students to see potential answers but more importantly to have to apply what they know about the topic and the type of exam question to unpick the answer.
A few things that you can do in this activity that might be useful is to create weak answers which:
- Are too short/long
- Write about the wrong thing
- Use informal language
- Include common misconceptions
- Don’t meet the criteria for the marks e.g. forget something, like a quotation
I then include at least one ‘full mark’ answer. I also try to create answers that look good but have a huge flaw that means they’re not.
A simpler variation of this is that I put a flawed answer on the board and give them a few minutes to identify what is wrong and how it might be improved. We then discuss and I edit it live so they can see the change.
I use my visualiser all the time to show student work, when showing students how to complete something and to complete things together. I also type example answers for students to analyse during feedback. However this is ad hoc and I think is important enough to put into the plans as something we will commit to do at least every half term. As you can see, it has been added to our plans and I plan to populate it with the following ideas this summer in year 11 gained time.
I’m lucky to have a visualiser that I can use to show students what I’m doing. Live modelling can include me writing an answer under the visualiser and students copying as I write. I explain what I’m writing and why. It’s a really good way to see how things we might do without much thinking can be shared with the students. Students have said they like doing this. However, you may need to consider if they will write as you write or they will just listen or make notes etc. It can be tricky if students write at different paces. You may also need to consider your handwriting.
You can equally live model by typing, in large font, onto an on-screen document. The benefit of this is that you can then print the answer.
Example full mark answers
Giving students a full mark answer can help them see what one looks like. There are various things you can get them to do with these depending on what you want them to focus on. For example, if they’re not using enough keyword terminology, write an answer with gaps where these would go and get students to fill in the gaps with the appropriate terminology.
If an answer is too long, get them to cross through superfluous words and cut the word count down.
If you want them to see the different elements of the answer, give highlighters and make a key with each element. Get students to highlight where they can see each element.
Write several full mark answers to the same question so they can see different approaches that can be taken. This helps them to see that there are different ways it can be answered that will still gain full marks. As above they can highlight the common features that mean these answers fulfil the criteria for full marks.
Multiple choice examples
If I have time, I will also create multiple choice quizzes that do a similar thing but students have to correctly identify aspects of an answer as asked. For example, a model answer is given and then a question such as ‘Which of these elements has been missed out? a) a quotation b) the source reference c) explanation of the quotation d) a conclusion
The beauty of these, is that there is no marking for the teacher, and this can fit into our ‘3 homework’ model as one of the multiple choice quizzes.
Overall, this plan for modelling will mean that over the 3 year course, students will have at least 16 full mark answers in their notes, 16+ answers (mock exams have many more) that they’ve attempted and improved and 16 ‘Be the teacher’ sheets. It sounds like we will spend the whole time doing this but it is basically about 3 lessons per half term which is approximately 18 lessons long, so 1/6 of the time, which I think is probably about the right amount of time.