My lesson idea was inspired after observing a Year 12 lesson in which they learned about the assessment objectives for their essay writing. I wondered how the students would cope with applying those AOs to their own writing. Sure enough, the class teacher set an essay question for homework and off they went.
I planned my lesson and was ready to teach when they arrived with their newly written essays in hand. I put each of the assessment objective numbers on the board and asked them to describe what the criteria was for each; they easily remembered the AO that involved language analysis but needed to work as a group to identify what each of the others required. As I explained how to use the AOs to write essays, there were obviously some puzzle pieces beginning to fall into place.
I then paired up the pupils and gave them two essays to mark – one was (close to!) perfect and another was full of common errors. They immediately recognised that the bad essay hadn’t been proofread, was full of spelling errors, didn’t engage with the assessment criteria and they found only a couple of instances where they could award marks. Upon reading the better essay, they found it easy to identify how AOs had been met and were using the AO list as a checklist when setting improvement targets for each essay.
As they discussed their opinions of the essays, there was clear dismay on some of their faces and a muttered ‘I wish I could edit mine.’ I asked if they had identified anything from this activity that they would use to improve their own work. One pupil said he would proofread now, while another said she would integrate context differently. Unanimously, they agreed that they would use the AOs more closely next time.
All of this had taken place in the first 30 minutes of the lesson; I had allocated the second half for the pupils to use the computers to edit their homework essays. When they were told they had half an hour to edit their work, the students were excited and hurried to improve their work where possible. They used a different colour ‘ink’ to make their improvements and I assisted each pupil by answering any questions and by identifying an extract of their essay for them to review.
By the end of the lesson, all pupils had a greater understanding of what each AO was about and of how to apply these when responding to a text in order to improve their essay writing. They were inspired and motivated to improve their work, they made measurable progress as a result of the lesson, and they were able to use their new understanding to get better results on their essays – yay!
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