Getting to Grips with the new English Language Mark Schemes

 

My Year 10 English lessons have been a little bit dry of late. But they have allowed us all – teaching staff in the room and students – to start getting to grips with the new mark schemes. We are working on the Eduqas specification however I think this strategy would be transferrable across all exam boards/subjects.

We had studied specific approaches and the skills required for each of the questions for Paper 2, Section A. The students completed each of the questions and then – luckily for me – it was time to mark the questions. This was where I started to feel ‘uncovered’ as a teacher – as if all of Year 10 were about to be find out that I don’t really have a clue what I’m doing and I am just blagging my way through most lessons! My confidence in understanding the mark scheme plummeted. I gave marks to each of the students but wearily handed them back with an apologetic, clueless expression on my face. I was unsure of how valuable and useful the feedback to the students would be as I had no clue how accurate I had been.

We spent a few weeks focusing on some creative writing skills and then, last week, we returned to the dreaded Paper 2, Section A. This time, my aim was for us to get to grips with the mark scheme to help build all of our confidence. We have spent each lesson focusing on a different question from the paper. At the start of the lesson we remind ourselves of ‘how to be successful’ in the question and the skills required. The students then write a response to the question. Students then award themselves a mark, using the mark scheme. I state they must give themselves a whole number and decide where they are within a band – no 4/5/6 allowed. Now it’s time for the students to get up – their favourite part of the lesson! They put themselves in order, depending on their mark*. As a whole class, we then listen to a range of responses. Following each response, we work together to decode the mark scheme and decide on whether or not we agree on the mark the students have awarded themselves. Students then revise their own mark if required, based on our discussions, and work on improving their response.

For each question we now have one or two student experts in the room who the class know they can go to if they require assistance. The lovely thing is that there are different experts for each question due to the range in skills required.

Whilst a little dry, this approach has really enabled us to gain an understanding and, perhaps more importantly, confidence in applying the new mark scheme. Who would have thought getting students to stand in a line and read out their work could do so much good?!

 

*Some people may question how this makes teenagers feel however in our lessons we often share our writing and discuss our successes and failures – as a result, students have willingly completed this task and have learnt from it. The class is mixed ability.