I thought it may be useful if I marked my farewell to Eduqas with a series of short blogs around how I teach the Language papers, in case it is of use. This blog is the first part of what (I think) will be five all in all.
To me, the Language is a test of two matters: cultural capital- the student’s ability to call upon their knowledge of society, and existing schema when reaching for vocabulary or knowledge to apply to the particular task, but it is also a test of time. When marking for the exam board, the half empty papers, the ones where responses taper off as time gets the better of them are the ones that are the most frustrating. I open with this message for students, as I want to ensure that they go into the exam hall knowing that if at any point, they feel they are on top of time, they are very much mistaken.
That is not to say that it is impossible for a student to get to grips with how to work with the clock instead of against it, as such- and there are a few strategies that I teach students when tackling the tricky task of timing for this paper:
1. Map out your time
The first task students have is working out the time that they have for each section. As both Paper one and Paper two are one hour and forty five minutes, I outline to split the time as forty five minutes for section A, one hour for section B. Then, break it down further so at thirty minutes, you should be wrapping up the penultimate ten mark question. For the writing section, we give thirty minutes to each twenty mark question, or an hour to the forty mark question. This includes five minutes planning and five minutes proofing. This leave us, as an example, one hundred words to cover in five minutes. That’s twenty words a minute. That’s ok (and if it’s not, we have the ten minute buffer to cover our backs but we know what we’re working with). Be intricately disciplined with timings means that we are in charge, not the clock. We own the clock.
2. Plan for effective use of time
Planning is everything, for both reading and writing. I use the same approach for Lit and Lang (to an extent) by using the same terminology for the approach. For ten mark questions, outline three key ideas, collect your quotations chronologically, track beginning, middle, end. The student collects six to seven quotations as they read, no more than three words each. We use the left hand side for terminology, right hand side to outline key ideas. For example, if the question is:
How does the writer show the horrors of Sassoon’s experiences as a soldier? 
The annotated extract would resemble something like this:
Six quotations are pulled to formulate three key ideas in response to the question. This helps to counteract what I call ‘circling thoughts syndrome’; the same two ideas being used over and over again, with not much to develop them into anything substantial. This also avoids quotation overload: using loads of quotations to pad out responses until it is problematic to work out which words are the students’ and which are the writers’. The plan is essentially the response- we have the what, and the how- they just need to turn it into a written piece (a more detailed blog on this later).
The additional advantage to approaching questions in this way- for Paper 2 rather than Paper 1, as paper 2 doesn’t provide line signposting- is that the initial plan for the first ten mark question can be used for less confident students when pulling together ideas for later questions (again, I will blog specifically about Paper 2 later on). This magic three approach gives students a way of ensuring cohesion and avoiding replication of ideas. I use magic three not just for language, but for poetry (we learn quotations for beginning, middle, end, to ensure tracking and development is considered), and magic three adjectives for being able to describe development and change in characters (Sheila’s beginning, middle, end could be ‘naive, intuitive, redeeming,’ or Juliet could be, ‘obedient, helpless, resolute.’ Planning in threes ( I wrote about this a little while ago here) gives a manageable, accessible way in for all students but also emphasises the fact that quotations are not the route to success: ideas are. To return to this application for the Language papers, drawing three ideas from the text to form three paragraphs ensures that the response will have direction once written.
For writing, we use an extremely revolutionary idea called window planning. I use this approach for the literature forty mark responses as well, mainly because of it’s highly complicated and forward-thinking methodology:
I know right? I’ll copyright that. We use the window plan to do the following:
- Map out a ‘where are we,’ paragraph- this could be a purpose outline (‘I’m writing to you as a result of utter outrage at your recent article regarding teenagers portrayed as poor drivers,’), or addressing the purpose of a speech (‘I’m here to outline to you today that teenagers are one of the safest driving groups on the road in the United Kingdom’), or a thesis statement for reading responses on the lit text, but it is our go to planning tool.
- Be selective, not excessive. This calls for concision, direction, and there’s nowhere to hide. We select one sentence type to deliberately include, and one punctuation type that we will work to include- but only the one time. In lessons, we spend a great deal of time considering where is best for an aside in a statement, or where a rhetorical question would be most powerful. We deliberate over best choices, as opposed to just choosing everything.
- We drive direction by ensuring the three remaining boxes are given entirely separate ideas. When you only have four boxes, repeating yourself is a bit obvious.
Know what to give your time
If you’re not on time, time to move on. Students know to let things go and that to dodge a question altogether is the. worst.thing.ever. to tell me about after the exam. The focus is on completion, not depth, and I like to share oodles of exemplars of those students that write scrolls of paragraphs and pick up the same or less marks as those tight, concise responses. I describe the process to students as a collection pot, banking marks as you work. If you linger, if you stand still, you collect nothing. Keep moving.
Thanks for reading and I hope it’s useful!