Approaching creative writing for Edexcel IGCSE

This s designed to support student sin their writing rather than to “teach” techniques. It focuses on the idea that range and variety is paramount and includes a link to the brilliant Triptico Slow Writing web page. if you have not used that resource, I cannot urge you too strongly to do so without delay.

creative writing 1

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Yr 9 OMAM table tops

Material on OMAM for my new Year 9s. First attempt at looking at characterisation

table OMAM

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Year 7: learning to analyse

As a result of a short baseline test, I am using this with my Year 7 class today. Feel free to borrow and adapt.

How to write about author choice

Here is the test:

blog 2014 draft y7 base line

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Planning an essay: How does Owen evoke sympathy…

A quick powerpoint to discuss a possible essay plan for Owen’s Disabled as part of the Edexcel IGCSE anthology B.

owen sympathy

I have added a screencast link to help with study at home:

Good luck!

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Filed under EDEXCEL CERTIFICATE, IGCSE support, poetry

Teacher Experts and Cynics, my response.

My thoughts on my role as a middle leader can be found here. This is a response to Alex Quigley’s post

Here are some pictures to whet your appetite:

leader pics

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An open letter to 11EX2. On results’ day 2014

Dear all,

Well, that’s that! The results are in and although I have left for pastures new, I wanted to share my thoughts with you on this momentous day.

I am incredibly proud of all of you! You should be positively glowing today as you reap the rewards of two years of (hard) work, tears and cheers. Your results: 8A*, 19A, 4B and 1 C are amongst the best I have ever seen. Especially from a set 2. 84% A*-A with a department measure of 68%. You performed well above the norm.

Enough of statistics (and TRAPPERS) though. We all remember my mantra that “monkeys can do maths” and that statistics are the most easily manipulated type of information on any page.

I’d like to focus on you and what I remember from our two years of IGCSE preparation. I treasure much of the work you created, especially the Little Miss books:

Little Missmiti

Little Miss Cowrafe

little miss photos

And the range of window art:

cocoa window
refugee window, complete

And Jodh’s composition and analysis of Refugee Blues:

photo response refugee

But beyond these tangible memorials, I recall a class which was too big and prone to divide itself into small groups and which was frighteningly silent. In Year 10. By Year 11, you had all developed such confidence in delivery and thought that the tables could fizz with discussion, even with Imran snoring gently to one side. Some of you worried about studying Shakespeare – it was too hard, you thought, yet the 12 A*-A grades would suggest otherwise. As you develop, remember that only focusing on work which you find “easy” will in no way develop you as thinkers. Challenge is at the heart of development and the better students learn that risk taking and challenge are two of the most vital steps towards achieving in life. Please hold onto this thought as you move into the VIth form – things get harder there and you need to be brave.

Finally, although I maintain that teaching you has made me a better teacher in many ways, don’t let anyone kid you: you sat the exams. You alone and the sense of pride is yours and is fully justified. Step forward: Hyder, Supreet, Abdul, Vishal, Karthiga, Nigara, Vanraj & Bhavneet and take the plaudits of the class for your A*s. Some of you may have been surprised and some relieved. Certainly there are a couple of names I didn’t expect to see in that list and I am really excited at the prospect of you developing these results in the lower VIth.

To all of you, then, Miti and Arti, (joined at the hip), Shambling Imran, Zakie – working so hard, Nakkers and Nikkers, Sujjj and Karthi, Ro-Ro, Varshikles, Super and Bhav (who maintained A* quality throughout the year) and to all the others, all 32 of you, Cheerio!

Take care and build on this foundation. You made an old man very happy today.

Best wishes for the future,

Jonathan Peel

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Filed under EDEXCEL CERTIFICATE, Paedagogy, teacher training

Paradise Lost ix: literary contexts and thinking points.

A powerpoint to engage with some of the literary contexts of the poem and to encourage class discussion and thought. I have also included a couple of web links, 1 to the York Morality play text dealing with the fall of man, and the other a quick definition page of Epic poetry. Both are mentioned in the powerpoint.

paradise contexts

THE FALL OF MAN York Cowpers Play


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Filed under AQA LitB 4, Milton, OCR A level

Results’ day blues

For the last 9 years I have been a VIth form tutor and have approached A level results with a mixture of apprehension and excitement.  Interestingly, as my eldest son reached Year 13, I found the day to be a whole new experience.  I am not saying that the system is broken, but I do have deep concerns about the whole process of turning results into places at further education establishments.

I will try to explain.

  1. The process begins at school.  Predicted grades are produced by a school based on AS results.  Even at this stage, the discrepancies between schools in applying the data is huge.  The various models available – ALPS, ALYS and so on, each provide slightly differing data and then there is the “league table factor” which means that many schools don’t want to seem too harsh in case their VIth form gets a reputation for not producing a sufficient quantity of University entrants each year.  At the school I have just left, the benchmark last year related to UMS achieved at AS.  If a student scored in excess of 50% of the UMS spread for a particular grade, we predicted 1 grade in excess of their AS result as their A2 level.  NO exceptions, and no notice taken of any potential resit.
  2. This means that there were some in the upper levels who saw their ABB (say) remain unchanged and I have little issue with this.  I have always urged realism over idealism when filling in a UCAS form and repeat a mantra that there is no point getting an offer from WarwImperiUrham if there is no realistic chance of achieving the outcome in the summer.  Besides, there might be the option of trading up if there is really unexpected success.  The issue is greater at the CDE end of the market however.
  3. The issue here is that few Universities allow course entry requirements that are this low.  This can been as a Good Thing in the sense that if University is meant to be the highest point of formal education, all students should be intellectually able to cope with the demands of an undergraduate course.  However the current trend seems to suggest that courses are being rated by the subject of study, rather than the possible quality of the establishment.  This means that the student who is predicted CDD has little chance of finding any courses at all which fall within this ambit, let alone finding 5 of them to populate the UCAS form.  Time and again I have railed against a student insisting on applying to courses wanting ABB from a CDE base.  “Don’t be silly”, I say. “they will probably refuse you and even if they accept you, you are not going to get those grades…”  “Ah”, the reply comes, “then I will get in through clearing!”
  4. And they do.  To courses often way in excess of their actual grades attained.  Universities being eager to fill places suddenly open up courses hitherto requiring Bs and As to students attaining Ds and Cs.  And I am very grateful, but confused.
  5. If a course is of sufficient quality or complexity that students require ABB in November, how can tutors countenance entrance to students attaining CDD in August?  Either the original entrance requirement has been inflated as the universities try to justify the now almost uniform 9000 tuition fee or this is simply a way to reduce applicants now that universities do not interview every applicant, as they did back in the dark ages.  However, how does a lower level student work this system?  All messages through the application process tell them that they are not good enough, not just for Oxford or Bristol, but also for Portsmouth or Keele.  Yet, in August, a well placed phone call on achievement of their prediction suddenly opens up courses to which they were unable to apply.  Are we setting them up to fail by this practice, or is there simply a sensible recalibration of what is actually required to study particular courses at particular universities?
  6.  This article shows a drop out rate in excess of 27,000 students in the first year of their study in 2013.  A mixture of a misguided (?) drive to get in excess of 50% of school leavers to enter further education is one reason for this – many simply were not suited to further academic study for a wide range of reasons, but it also begs the question whether the slightly bizarre arrangements relating to entry via clearing outlined above are a contributory factor.  It seems to me that the inflation of entry requirement seen anecdotally in the last few years (no doubt someone has the figures) and discussed in this article from 2010 partly as a response to perceptions of dumbed down A level results has resulted in a curious gap in the UCAS application process: At the top level there is relative parity between prediction and requirement for most Russell Group courses, but at the lower end students are finding very few courses to which they can apply in the first place, confident of attaining the grades required.  Simply raising the prediction is no answer to this, it is better to find a way to accurately reflect the needs of study, allied to the ability of the student.  With so few interviews taking place, there is little chance for a University to read behind the data and actually match a student to a course.
  7. This has concerned me for a while, but this year it came home.  My eldest has got a place of study, via clearing and I am thrilled and thoroughly confused by what was a tiresome process – offered a place through UCAS at his chosen university at BBB on CDD prediction.  Attained CDD – brilliant .  Anyone who knows the Ginger Ninja will know just what this means.  No interviews, he actually rang the university to ask if there was an error – “why did you offer a place on a course so much higher than my prediction?” he asked, and was told to be positive.  He was.  He missed the entry requirement and was rejected around 3.00pm on results day.  By 5.00 he had been accepted at a course which he had seen in the Autumn and ignored because of the ABB requirement. He had a 10 minute phone call and is now an excited pre-undergraduate.  I hope it will go smoothly, and believe him to be a good bet for success.  However I still do not begin to understand how he has got onto a course so much in excess of his results.  I am thrilled that he has, but it really does make little sense.  I hope against hope that he does not become another statistic for the wrong reasons

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A relationship poetry group for Year 9

This is something I want to run out next term. Obviously there are so many poems to chose from, once I started it was very hard to know where to stop, and this might continue to grow. We use a home-grown anthology in year 9 and generally try to have a clear focus. War, relationships, the future, growth… (now I want to compile a new one starting with Heaney’s Drowning Kittens…)

Still, I went for texts and writers I love. Hardy and Heaney, Shakespeare and Rosetti, Kay and Duffy…

year 9 relationships anthology

So why these poems?

The two Sonnets are crucial to opening up a discussion. Shakespeare powerfully arguing for the everlasting nature of true love and a poem full of the richest figurative writing imaginable and Rosetti, seeming to speak from the same position until the volta introduces the shift and the move to selfless, rather than selfish love. Both are featured in the Edexcel IGCSE anthology which students may encounter in Year 11, though by then the shifts and changes in policy regarding these exams may well mean that the whole syllabus has been radically altered. Not to worry. Great poems deserve to be read.
Also in the anthology is Alice Walker’s Once Upon a Time. The poem looks at the effect of the loss of a loved one – a parent in this case and I have paired it with Heaney’s Digging, in my mind. Walker seems aware of the harshness of her childhood but ultimately sees the positive far outweigh the negatives – beatings happened, but he taught me “how”. Similarly, Heaney vows to “follow” his father. The close relationship (is there a better assonance and balance in all poetry than “snug as a gun”?) is clear, despite the obvious differences between father and son. Again, I hope to find much to discuss and develop in this idea.
Duffy and Kay are paired with two poems about or inspired by childhood. In Duffy’s poem the daughter tries to imagine her way into her mother’s mind and tries to imagine the life her mother led. She seems entranced by her mother’s youthful good looks, although the sense of possession found in the title hardly suggests a willingness to let go. Kay’s poem is all about imagination and childhood. The fragility of a childhood dream – an imaginary friend – which is both tragic and uplifting – I enjoy the grandiose lies of the cat burglar and sense of dissatisfaction with her father’s role as a Union Convenor. I think Kay is a wonderful poet to teach and share with young people and would eagerly teach the Adoption Papers as a single text if time and syllabus allowed. Maybe another time.
Finally, Hardy. I simply adore Hardy and in the Emma poems, the treatment of loss and grief is unsurpassed. Here there is much scope for exploration of Hardy’s rather selfish conclusion as he views himself and his philosophies, but also for the treatment of the “woman”. How affectionate is this poem? Is he angry and confused? Expressing grief or wallowing in self pity?

I can’t wait to see how opinions differ. After all what is the point of teaching poetry if everyone meekly accepts a single interpretation?

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Filed under GCSE support, poetry, teacher training

Frankenstein: introductory screencast

This is an introduction for AS students, based on the teaching outline I wrote earlier on this site…

I hope it is useful.


frankenstein intro  powerpoint to follow links.

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Filed under AQA LitB 4, coursework, Frankenstein, OCR A level, teacher training