The science department have been developing strategies to support students with writing long answers. The key to this has been:
1. Encouraging students to identify the ‘command word’ of the question e.g. identify, compare, evaluate, describe, explain etc.
2. Providing them with scaffolds to produce a ‘one minute plan’, based on the question command word. In science, the questions are worth 6 marks, so students are encouraged to spend the first minute producing a plan.
The following different scaffolds have been produced for the different command words:
When answering ‘compare’ questions, students need to make sure they discuss similarities as well as differences – so using a table like the one above for their one minute plan, helps them to focus on this. Similarly, when they are answering an evaluate question, they need to consider advantages and disadvantages and then come to a conclusion. The final scaffold has been really useful for answering ‘describe/explain’ questions – whether that be a process such as evolution, or the steps in a practical e.g. production of a salt. It’s useful because students are directed to describe each stage (the rectangle) but then also explain each stage (the triangle).
Although this has been developed in the science department, it is also being adapted and used by other departments – history and PE.
The quality of written responses from students has improved dramatically since using these scaffolds, especially when they are used in conjunction with the ‘connectives sheet’ – see earlier blog.
Many thanks to Steph Holt for her work on this.