You want us to write how much?!

This Blogpost was inspired by a Twitter conversation I have seen over the past week or so and posted a whole year later.  Sorry it took so long! 

The 150 Word Question appears on the higher GCSE paper.  It is the showcase question.  This is where 5 years of hard work in Spanish needs to appear on the page.

Irrespective of whether you follow a 2 year or 3 year Key Stage 3, I tend to introduce this in Year 10.  Below I will explain how I did it.  The suggestions are similar to some suggestions by two teachers on Twitter.  I will say now that the similarity is entirely coincidental and it was quite reassuring to read their tweets, as I means I might just be doing the right thing!

Here is how I went about getting my class ready for 150 Word Questions:

  1. Show class a question.  Explain to them that this is the showcase question.  It has to show them at their best and what we have spent 4-5 years teaching them.
  2. Translate question in pairs, then share answers.
  3. See if class can divide the two bullet points into three, four or five sections.
  4. Divide 150 by number of sections to give approximate and more manageable word counts  (3 x 50 word sections sounds more achievable)
  5. Go through how it is marked, including how many opinions, justifications etc are needed.  Unpacking phrases such as “narrate events” is also worth a few minutes of your time.
  6. Divide class into groups of 3-4.  They write the best section they possibly can on mini-whiteboards or on paper with alternating lines (any means that allows editing).  This means tenses, opinions, reasons, conjunctions, adverbs.  Remind students that if they have speaking prep that matches the bullet point then they use it.
  7. Remind students of their core language sheets and encourage use of them when writing.
  8. Remind students of their Top 10 Complex Language sheets and encourage use of at least 2-3 phrases from it.
  9. Students compose sections, If they finish then they can try another section.
  10. Hand in mini-whiteboards.
  11. Teacher types up student contributions into a 150 word answer.  Mark it and annotates it with why it scores high marks.  If you have a visualiser, you could do this live.
  12. Students then attempt a similar question in subsequent lesson.  They are allowed their example one, along with core language and complex language sheets.  They cannot copy but can adapt it.  They do this on their own.  You could then mark it or take in a few and give generic feedback.  Students do appreciate knowing how they scored on a first attempt.

Explaining a couple of terms above:

  • Core Language Sheets – idea from Rachel Hawkes.
  • Complex Language Sheets – basically A* language from use back in the day (wow I sound old) of controlled assessments.  Mix of simple memorable subjunctive, past tense, future tense phrases “cuando sea mayor”, “si tuviera la oportunidad, iría a…” etc or “bien que ce soit”

What happens next?

Probably, I will get back to teaching the course, as later in the year they will likely have a mock exam or an assessment point so they can do one without support then.  They also have two good versions to revise from!  Combining the graduated approach above, along with regular practice of 90 word questions should help in preparing for that.  

Other thoughts

  • Encourage students to avoid duplication of vocabulary.  Ban the boring adjectives!  “boring”, “nice”, “interesting” and “fun”.  Instead things can be pleasant, enjoyable and exciting.  
  • Remind them that the poor examiner has to read loads of these and they are all 150 words long!  Encourage them to make it different to the average student.  Tell them they play piano in their room rather than football at the park.  They do not “go to the park with my friends”.  They “go to the cinema with my little brother who is <insert adjective here>”.  Again an opportunity for a more interesting adjective here (but not too interesting)
  • Remember that avoid does not mean you can’t use them when your mind goes blank.
  • Cutting the question into manageable chunks is always helpful.  Can one bullet point be divided into two?  To some of our students 40+40+75 does not sound as bad as 75+75.   
  • Lastly: make a plan.  What language am I going to use?  How can I show off?

 

 

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