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'How' questions

Discussion in 'English' started by DalekTeacher, May 30, 2011.

  1. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    I am currently preparing a new Year Nine class for early entry for GCSE English Language and wanted to check on how to best approach a question like below:
    How does the writer... make the article interesting for the readers? Think about: what is said, how it said, use of headlines and images and internet features.
    I am a little unsure about the different between 'what' and 'how.'
    Any help with this would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,
  2. gruoch

    gruoch Established commenter

    'How' is always analytical.
    Think about graphics, language and colour.
    What is the effect of red?
    In a past paper a car ad aimed at female readers had a blue theme. What was the effect of this? Why was this colour choice made?
    If the text is an advert, I always emphasise that it has cost probably hundreds of thousands of pounds to produce and that nothing, but nothing, has not been analysed, analysed again and then - analysed for its effect. Nothing has been wasted.
    How it is said - look for emotive language. Look for 'person' - does it feature 'you', for instance? Or does the piece attempt to persuade the reader that it is telling the truth by using data? Is that data reliable?

  3. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    I see, thank you ever so much for this.
    So, if it is an article, they could comment on the use of quotations, if they are used to make it credible and reliable for the reader?

  4. GloriaSunshine

    GloriaSunshine New commenter

    Are you an NQT? You seem very unsure about this. Not wanting to be patronising but you must make students understand that they must be clear about what the question requires. So, if an advert uses quotations (as in film promotional material), then, yes, they could explain why they have been used. But if it's a question on presentational devices, they should also consider font, placement, colour etc, whereas in a question on language, the focus would be on the vocabulary etc.

    Whatever the question, there are always more marks for explaining effects (how) than identifying (what) techniques and devices.
  5. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    I am confident about it and I have checked the mark scheme as well to make sure that I have done it right and looked at model examples. I still am unsure though because the WHAT and HOW seem to overlap in the question.
    The question is based on an internet article, but it is asking for comments on:
    What is says, How it is said, Headings and images and use of internet features.
    How is it best to approach answering it? Doing each bullet point or just working methodically through the text?
    I just want to do my best for the pupils which is why I am checking.
  6. thequillguy

    thequillguy New commenter

    These are some of the principles by which I would teach the 'how' of these questions.

    Purpose and audience (and to a lesser extent, form) should be identified first. In regards to the audience, I have the students ask,
    Is it aimed at a particular gender?
    Is it aimed at a particular age group?
    And the key one, is it aimed at a particular interest/hobby?

    One they can identify purpose and audience, they almost have the 'how' of the question in their grasp.

    If it is a language question, the students need to identify a number of language techniques (such as rhetorical questions, informality, sentence length etc.) For presentation I would identify such devices as logos, images, camera angle analysis, colours etc. These form the 'what' of the question. Keith Brindle recommends half the marks and round up for the number of devices to identify for each question.

    To answer the house, I would give the students a bank of key linkage words/phrases (this suggests/implies/which) to introduce their 'how'. The how should always be about how does the device help achieve the purpose and audience.

    So, for example, take an article about how teachers who post of the TES should get paid more money. Purpose is to persuade teachers that they should ballot for more money for forum posts. One device identified might be a rhetorical question. The point might read 'Firstly, The Quill Guy uses a rhetorical question to ask the reader whether teachers should be paid extra to post on the TES forum. The use of this suggests that while teachers currently post for free, this needs to be rethought, and that it is up to reader to demand a rethink.' Equally, you can have the entirely opposite point (that rhetorical questions encourage make the reader to rethink the the opposite idea), as long as it applies to the purpose and audience.

    As part of teaching this, I teach it in conjunction with the writing task. I might organise the students to create articles/adverts themselves based on purpose and audience. I'll also give them the generic AFOREST + other rhetorical techniques to use. When they have done so, I would have them peer-assess (or even self-assess). A 6 mark question identifying three devices and writing an answer in the way suggested above.

    In terms of answering the question best, I would suggest the students initially skim-read the text, highlighting numbers, quotes, punctuation (anything that might be language for example.) If they can begin to identify purpose and audience at this stage, great. If not, oh well. Second read through should just be first and last paragraphs, and topic sentences. At this stage, they should have identified audience and purpose. (For the purpose, they need to have some knowledge of the triplets, but the general ones are inform/entertain/persuade I find.) On the third read through in detail, the students are identifying any details that support the purpose and audience.

    The A grade criteria suggests a 'shaped' answer. To achieve this I would then encourage the students to number the article with points 1-5 in order that they think most important (to the audience and purpose.) Therefore, when they come to answer, they aren't simply writing in order of where the points appear chronologically in the text, but rather in order of their importance.

    Finally, I would go so far as the suggest the students have something of a formula for writing the answer with purpose and audience identified in the first paragraph and connectives introducing each point (as the paper for section A is reading, not writing.

    One last thing! The mark scheme is norm referenced, which means that, like the AFs, while it is essential, it is also somewhat nonsensical in the sense that it relies upon the marker's good will and ability to discern the lucidity of the student's answers (on suggested effect is, for example, 'for effect'!)

    Would be interested to see what other people make of this: drop me a PM if you might like some exemplar answers. Hope this might be of some use to you!

  7. thequillguy

    thequillguy New commenter

    And I would model the entire process between 12-20 times before the exam too, both in lessons and in revision.
  8. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    Thank you ever so much for this. This has really helped me. I have taught them a similar method and told them to think about each point being mini PEE paragraphs.
    I have sent you a PM. If you do have any model answers that you mentioned, that would be most appreciated. I will send you anything in return.
    Thank you ever so much,
  9. regentsreject

    regentsreject Occasional commenter

    So are lots of the students! I confess though, to being somewhat concerned that an English teacher should say this. However, although this won't help you or the students with the "how" of language, it works brilliantly for the "how" of presentation. Show them an advert or poster written in a foreign language, preferably Russian or Greek - something completely indecipherable so that they have no option but to concentrate on the "how" of presentation - colours, pictures, logos, fonts etc. They absolutely cannot even try comment on what it says! Of course, you have to move to getting them to link the choice of presentational devices to the content so they do need to read the text at some point, but this is a good starting point. In my experience, many students confuse presentational and linguistic devices, so this is also a way of cementing the difference between the visual and the written aspects of a text.
  10. encouraging as always...
  11. DalekTeacher

    DalekTeacher New commenter

    Its not that I don't know how to analyse language or do what the question has asked but I wanted to make sure that I was approaching it right.

  12. regentsreject

    regentsreject Occasional commenter

    Care to elaborate medina79?
  13. thequillguy

    thequillguy New commenter

    Of interest, I've blogged some of my principles for how I teach the style of answering Paper 1 Section A. Much kudos should go to the irrepressible chap that is Keith Brindle for inspiring the teaching of these principles.

    I'm sure, and indeed I hope, that these principles will change with the more students I teach. In the meantime though, check out: http://www.thequillguy.com/?p=371

    What does anyone else think of the methods I'm espousing to my students (as I blogged before?) While I've some success with it so far (95% FFT minimum past two cohorts) it always remain to be seen whether that'll be the case this year!
  14. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    How/What: there can be a kind of overlap. If a question goes: "How does the article show....? In your answer, you should write about (A) the PRESENTATION of the article; (B) the INFORMATION given; (C) some of the WORDS AND PHRASES chosen -
    Then, yes, it's on A and C that canidates can show their ability to analyse effects and how they are achieved and, yes, C is often the main discriminator but B is not just an invitation to "tell the story". The author will have selected the detail to include.
    What happens a lot these days is that exam candidates are really keen to show all they have learned about use of headlines and "strap lines" etc plus what the know about alliteration and similes and "rule of three" and so on and they then get credit for A and C points but they ignore the "easier" B material and so don't give a balanced response.
  15. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    If you have a big, bold,"punny" headline - Usain Bolts into History - then, obviously it's both Presentation and Language. How could people waste time saying it has to be one or the other? (It's actually "Information" as well.)
  16. regentsreject

    regentsreject Occasional commenter

    I wouldn't argue with that. The "presentation" question on AQA's Unit 1 H Tier to which I referred asks students to comment on the link between the headline, picture and what the text is about. So clearly, commenting on the pun in your quoted headline and linking it to the article being about a record-breaking sprint is exactly what the examiner wants the students to do. What they don't want them to do is analyse the language in the text itself - that comes in a different question.
  17. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Right you are. That makes sense.
    But what if they're clever enough (but not caring for the structure of the questioning) to put in the "presentation" section a link to wordplay elsewhere in the text with good comment and example?
    No credit, I guess. They're showing what you're looking for but it's in the wrong place.
    I'm wondering if the "Code of Practice" would allow you to credit good answering even if it's "out of order", as you might say.
  18. regentsreject

    regentsreject Occasional commenter

    Sadly not. Students are never penalised for doing something wrong, but they cannot be given credit for a response, however good, which is answering another question. Imagine the can of worms which would be opened if a great answer on "Of Mice and Men" were put in the GCSE Unit 1 paper which was asking them to analyse language in a source from Steinbeck's biography? An extreme example, but I'm sure you can see the point. Questions are written to target the AOs in the spec and answers can only be marked if they are answering that AO. Teachers have a responsibility to teach their students exam techniques, part of which is making sure they know what the question is asking and that they answer that question.
  19. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    Take your point. We have to allow unexpected but valid responses to a question but things would go haywire if we allowed answers that would have been valid if the question had been different!

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