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Suggestions to aid low ability GCSE class please

Discussion in 'Religious Education' started by Jenny100, Jan 2, 2012.

  1. Happy New Year to you! I would appreciate suggestions that might help my (very!) low ability Year 11 class who are taking the AQA short course. At the moment the majority are achieving Gs on the Mock Papers, though I would like to move them up to as much as possible.

    The issue is that most students only achieve one or two marks for each question that they answer, regardless of the amount that they write. I want to help them structure their thoughts but as their literacy is so low, I?ve actually found that the students find traditional writing frames restricting rather than helpful. I would really appreciate ideas on ?creative? writing frames as well as any other ideas / suggestions / classroom / homework activities that works for your class.

    Thanks :0)
  2. I don't teach this spec so I don't know how it is structured or what the content is but I can give some general ideas..
    Don't teach them everything - Many people struggle with this one. Knowing and applying everything is an A*. They don't need that. Figure out what is core. If they know, understand and can apply 'Love thy neighbour' will that cover lots of areas, for example? Work out maybe 5 core things, then spend several lessons on ONE thing but embedding it in a variety of ways including active learning and presenting them with some example answers for them to mark using the mark scheme. Show how this one thing links to all the topics through a mindmap.
    Teach basic technique - On the spec I use there are a few basic techniques that will give them marks if they remember it. For example we use 'PEE PEE in a B'. Get them to make a rap or a poster or something that reminds them of the technique. Again spend time approaching this in a number of ways.
    Repetition repetition repetition - Low ability (in fact all students) really benefit from repeating things, within a lesson and over a period of lessons. Say something out loud, get them to repeat. Pick on individuals. get them to repeat. Do this spontaneously thorughout the lesson and when you see them in the corridor! 'Test' them on it at the start of the next lesson. Mention it as much as possible.
    Memory hooks - use acronyms ( Max 2-3 with low ability) to remind them of key info/technique e.g PEE PEE in a B. If it rhymes all the better. If there is a picture or action even better.
    Exam dispensations - My trump card! Last year I decided to stop a boy writing in RE. He has a scribe in the exam so I didn't want him to write I wanted him to learn how to speak his answer. I got him to use his fingers to remember different things. If I hadn't done this he would have almost certainly failed got a G. He achieved far beyond I ever would have dreamed.
    So check, do they have large text, coloured paper, a reader, extra time, a scribe? If so, you should always provide this (as much as possible) whilst in lesson.

    If you can give me an idea of the types of questions they are asked I might be able to share some specific techniques.
    By the way, what are their FFT estimates?

  3. Thank you for this. Yes, it is a good idea to prioritise certain pieces of information , it is reassuring to hear that this is necessary! I have two students targeted Cs who are on track, and the rest are targeted between Ds and Gs. 70% of the class are on the SEN register and I know that two will have a scribe. I will find out if AQA Students can bullet point their answers as this might be useful for some of the boys who really hate writing.

    An example of a question:

    "People who take illegal drugs should be punished". Do you agree? Give reasons for you answer, showing you have thought about more than one point of view. Refer to religious arguments in your answer (6marks)

  4. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    See if you can get Sue Phillips to give a workshop at your school - she is expert at engaging and inspiring all abilities with her role-play and actively engaging approach to all topics.

    I went to her workshop in Rochdale in early December and the outline I remember is that our students need to see, to do, to experience, to reflect on and to talk about any topic before writing anything.

    If you would like me to come in and explore some topics with them I would be happy to do so, using a similar approach.(I am still offering workshops free, as long as I can get travel expenses etc.

    If you can engage their emotions and connect with their experiences then they will remember much more.

    When structuring answers for questions I like to give groups of three or four some cards with information required in the answer in an envelope. The group has to separate the information into 1) background information to be included in the introduction, 2) one argument which can go into the first paragraph.3) another argument that can go into another paragraph and 4) information to go into the conclusion. That works quite well with all abilities.
  5. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    "People who take illegal drugs should be punished". Do you agree? Give reasons for you answer, showing you have thought about more than one point of view. Refer to religious arguments in your answer (6marks)

    Here are a few ideas just off the top of my head that you may like to try regarding this question.

    At Sue Philip's workshop in Rochdale (Dec 5th) she mentioned the power of story. She suggested that we invent our own stories to enable our pupils to engage with different people and experiences.

    The story she gave as an example was of a family in a Brazillian village. They had 7 children and the father died. The mother couldn't support the children, they were all on the verge of starvation, so she decided that at least the eldest could have the chance to make a better life for himself. She scrimped and saved and bought him a bus ticket to go to the city where he could find work and perhaps get rich enough to send some money home. (There were others in her village who had done that. I guess she gave him their names and perhaps a contact address.)

    She hugged him before leaving him in the city, tears in her eyes. He new she loved him. He set out full of hopes and excitement as well as fears, for he had never been away from home before. I think he was 12.

    In the city he could not find anyone from his village. He could not find any work. He fell into the company of a gang of street children who 'serviced tourists' at night and begged or stole in the day time ? just to stay alive.

    Most of the children took drugs because it took away some of the pain of their existence. He remembered his mother warning him against drugs. He remembered their priest telling all the children how bad drugs are, how they take over your life and make you their slave. But he sometimes felt very lonely and he needed something to help him forget what he had to do at night, with the tourists, which made him feel sick. So he started to take drugs, too.

    After hearing this story (you will get the proper version from Sue Philips ? but since she urged us all to create our own stories, I don't think she will mind me giving you my own version here) the pupils have 'traffic-light' cards ? red orange and green. Red card meant disagree, green agree and orange not sure.
    Then you ask them questions such as -

    Was it the mother's fault that this boy found himself in such trouble?

    Was the boy wrong to take drugs


    There were lots of great questions and people didn't agree about the answers.

    This can stimulate great discussion and debate. She said that in her classes they blamed the mother for having so many children which opened up more questions about education, knowledge of birth control methods, access to health care and birth control etc.

    You may like to ask your pupils to discuss drug-taking and come up with their own stories and scenarios about why someone might take legal and illegal drugs.

    One student I knew used to get very bad headaches. One of his mates said that if you smoke cannabis it is a healing drug, it will stop your headaches. So he tried it and it did help in reducing his headaches. But then, after a short while, he became addicted and could tell it was 'addling his brain.' He was also getting into debt with bad drug-dealers. His life was spiralling downwards and he was really frightened and depressed. As far as I know he did eventually get free from it, but many youngsters don't realise that Cannabis can be very addictive.

    Tap into their own experiences.

    Then bring in some statistics and information about drugs from different 'interested parties' including medical info on alcohol and tobacco as well as 'illegal drugs.'

    Then bring in some religious viewpoints.

    I would include the incident of the woman caught in the act of adultery. The law stated she should be stoned to death. Jesus did two things. One was to forgive the woman. The other was to say 'go and sin no more. - and to give her the inner power and inspiration to change her life.

    Reflecting on this re drug-taking would be no, don't punish them, but do help them to get free from the addiction.

    Again, as before, get the class to discuss this action. Did they agree that she was doing wrong? (Adultery is so common in our society that they may think it's something normal.) The more they can get inside the emotions of any religious examples you use, the better they will remember it.

    Use Sue Philips sequence of see, do, experience, reflect, discuss, and say before writing anything. That way they should have at least one thing to say about the difference between legal and illegal drugs, a couple of different reasons why someone might take illegal drugs, a couple of different responses to taking illegal drugs, their own view point and a religious argument.

    Hope this helps.
  6. Hi
    There are some creative ideas on how to split this up into manageable activities at my website - www.teacherresources.co.uk These should help liven it up a little. (as seen on Spartacus Educational) Many thanks

  7. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    This is the whole point of using story to make the situation come alive so that they can think about the statement in a clear way. Weak students are often weak in writing and logic but not in understanding. Story and scenario enable them to get to grips with the issues and think about different responses. Emotional engagement is one of the best ways of making temporary memory permanent,

    Sue developed her approach in response to her student's needs. She took the GCS results from about 25% to over 80% A - C's and her approach works as well with low ability as with higher ability students. Just give it a try and see for yourselves,

    I agree that this is crucial. Which religious arguments would you choose for the drug question? I like the woman caught in adultery because it has the two requirements - --forgiveness and change in behaviour. Also I find that this age-group can relate to the incident as they are becoming sexually aware so it often gives rise to some good discussion.- and emotion - which again is good for long-term memory.

    I fully agree that assessing their own and each other's work is a great strategy for Assessment For Learning - but have found lower ability classes (which often include some of the more disaffected students-) can find this tedious and not put in the effort required. If the aim is to get them scoring more than one mark for the question and heading for a C rather than a G I think the thing to focus on is emotional engagement and some real understanding of the issue.

    This is splitting hairs as I fully agree that what you suggest is excellent advice. However, I think it comes later - perhaps at a revision stage - when the students have really engaged with the topic using roleplay, story or any other experiential and emotionally engaging strategy. This will motivate them as well as give insight into the different arguments, for and against punishment.
  8. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    lots and lots of worksheets here but I didn't find the creative ideas you mention, Can you give a more specific link, It is so interesting to see how other teachers approach a question.
  9. pete14

    pete14 New commenter

    I have no argument with this, indeed I wish that more people realised that poor literacy skills do not necessarily mean pupils lack understanding, reflection etc or do not excel in discussion. However, in this case, the OP asked for help with a 6 mark evaluation question from the 2011 paper. With the best will in the world, I don't think it is realistic or a good use of what is for many, greatly limited time to cover the syllabus, to spend so long on what is effectively using what they have learnt to evaluate a statement and promoting exam technique. If the sort of 'creative' learning that you and Sue Philips seem to promote is of value, it should have been done earlier in the topic to promote learning and not towards the end to use what has been learnt and to practice technique.
    I also like the story of the woman caught in adultery and find it very meaningful. However, I definitely would not use it in this answer. Justifying it's usage because pupils are becoming sexually aware thereby promoting discussion is not a good one and could be seen as rather patronising towards them.
    In my experience of answers to this and similar questions, many pupils believe that if someone does something wrong, all they need to do is to be forgiven by a Christian and this is a replacement for punishment i.e you break the law, get forgiven and nothing else happens. This story in the eyes of many 15-16 year olds perpetuates this myth because they see that someone has done wrong, is forgiven by Jesus and walks away free from punishment. They conveniently forget the instruction not to sin again although in practice, many offenders today would happily promise not to offend again in order to avoid punishment. This line of thinking has been commented on by the principal examiner in his report on response to the examination as an example of bad practice and a common misunderstanding and the markscheme for this question includes 'forgiveness does not preclude punishment'.
    Examples of religious arguments from the markscheme are religions insist law is obeyed, punishment should provide rehabilitation which is in line with religious thought, religious people should help those in need e.g 'love your neighbour' (this makes helping a positive which could perhaps be achieved through punishment or rehab).
    There are some perhaps who introduce such a question in the early stages of studying the topic and maybe base learning around it. I can see some merit in doing things this way but I suggest that for most, such 'exam practice' is built into the topic nearer the end so pupils can use what they have learnt. Of course it is a good revision tool but I firmly believe that it should not just be left until revision - answering past questions is a good teaching tool and should be done (preferably with peer and self assessment) throughout the course.
  10. durgamata

    durgamata Occasional commenter

    We can definitely both say 'amen' to that!
  11. On the TES resources section, there is a good writing frame for use with OCR - it's very simple and bright (based around Simpsons characters). I adapted it for use with AQA, though I haven't uploaded it as I've never asked the original poster's permission.

    I've also tried to teach my students to use what I call the Jesus COMPASS, to try to get them to think about a piece of relevant religious teaching they can apply to a 6 mark A02 question and (hopefully) move them from 3 to 4 out of 6- It stands for JESUS' Teachings, Church, Obey conscience, Ministers and priests, Prayer, Agape, Scripture, Saints (i.e. famous Christians)

    For home learning I use lots of 1x6 and 2x2 mark questions to make up 10 mark HL assignments which are fairly quick for students to complete) and always get students to peer assess each other's work. I do lots of planning and peer assessing 6 mark essay questions in class. I also use lots of paired discussion work, as I find it makes my students more confident about expressing their opinions and I can use the time to go round and talk to individual pairs and help them shape their discussions to an AQA style (are they thinking about both sides, relating their views to Christian views etc).

    My students are fairly bright, so not sure if that will all be relevant but hopefully some of those ideas will help!

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