Those lovely people at AQA (our exam board), have issued some very useful guidance on how teachers can “help their students to write more successfully at various grade levels if they base teaching and learning on those skills that examiners and moderators are trained to look for.” I hope you’ve noticed that that’s what I try to do. In fact Year 11’s are probably sick already of looking at mark schemes, assessment objectives, grade criteria and the like. I certainly know that I didn’t come into teaching just to squeeze you through those arbitrary hoops, and I hope you occasionally get something more out of my lessons than a gradgrindian slog through what is needed to pass an exam. However, if I’m fair, the hoops you have to jump through are not entirely arbitrary: they are based on skills which can make your writing more effective and interesting, and make your reading more perceptive and interested.
So, I thought that rather than keep the AQA’s wisdom to myself, I would put it up here for you to read, revise and internalise. I will deal with one of the twelve aspects for improving writing or reading (there are twelve of those too) at a time, then probably move the information over to the ‘permanent’ pages on the right so the advice will eventually all be in one place.
Improve your vocabulary by:
1. more expressive verb choices
o ‘screamed’, ‘muttered’, ‘insisted’ rather than ‘said’
o ‘strode’, ‘approached’ rather than ‘went’
o using a range of modal verbs (eg. ‘would’, ‘could’, ‘may’)
o using passive verbs (eg. the destination was reached; the man was bitten by the dog)
o Verb choices should be seen as more effective than adjective choices, particularly in moving on from reliance upon finite verb forms (eg. went, said, did) to use non-finite forms (eg. going, saying, doing) which help to develop subordinate clauses.
2. use of abstract nouns as well as concrete nouns (eg. conscience, ambition, hesitation)
3. use of adjectival and adverbial phrases and clauses eg. ‘with an aggressive manner’; ‘with his eyes narrowed’; ‘relaxing into his chair’; ‘after sipping his drink’
4. varying the vocabulary of different speakers in dialogue (showing awareness of varieties of English for different purposes, including SE and non-SE)