Secondary English – Giving the Answers

My school has recently been focussing on questioning in a bid to try and improve the quality of student answers. This has been a really interesting project, which led to the whole school finding new ways to question our students. When it came to our turn, however, my colleagues and I decided to flip the task around. We gave our students the answers in order to improve their questioning.

What’s the point? Well, in the run up to exams, it is, of course, important to help students to understand the exam questions. Giving the answers and asking them to think of the relevant question makes them do several things: firstly it forces them to read and engage with the answers in a deeper way; secondly it provides a model for good (or bad) answers; thirdly it compels them to consider the types of question, which are set in the exam; and finally, in constructing questions it makes students think about the nature of exam questions and the meaning of command words.

I have been delighted so far with the results. There is a lot of mileage in this activity that extends beyond one lesson but as a first step my year 11 students have been using the Unit 1 English Language Reading answers to reacquaint themselves with the four types of question set in the exam (What do you learn about…?; Presentational Devices; What are the writer’s thoughts and Feelings?; Language Devices). The next step is to then get them to focus on the skills used in the answers and match these with command words in the questions (Explain; Analyse; Compare etc.). These tasks should encourage my students to not only understand the exam questions but to really comprehend what the examiner expects in the answers. As a follow-up to this activity (and to test how much my students have really learnt) I will then ask them to write their own exam paper, test each other and then mark the answers.

So, hopefully, by giving my students the answers I will be enabling them to improve their understanding of the questions, write better answers AND peer assess effectively. Next step, getting them to plan, teach and mark for me too!

Naomi Hursthouse
Advance Skills Teacher 
Steyning Grammar School

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