A good essay always begins with a good introduction – here one English teacher shares her tips in the TES, for helping GCSE students to get off to a great start
Say what you’re going to say. Say it. Say what you’ve said.
Three sentences. That was all the instruction I was given on essay technique back when I was sitting my GCSEs. These were three sentences that stood me in good stead throughout GCSE, A level, degree and postgraduate study. Nice and simple, I thought.
Despite all of the planning we did in class, the students were still incapable of saying what they were going to say, and I was inundated with a stream of snore-worthy introductions that were all just a waste of ink and paper.
Thinking beyond the text
While these introductions technically introduced the focus of the students’ essays, they were frequently little more than a rephrasing of the essay question. And for my top set class, this was just not going to cut the band 6 mustard.
For high-ability students, the challenge of the new English literature GCSE is getting them to think beyond the confines of the text, while also developing conceptualised, coherent, critical responses. Not asking for much, then.
Brevity is key
To support this development, I taught the students that their introductions would consist of two sentences for the prose and drama texts. Concision and brevity were key in the teaching here.
By reducing the introduction to two critical sentences, my students were able to write a focused start to their essay, which also provided a shape and a direction that they could follow for the rest of their analysis, helping them to access the higher mark bands.
Have you got any other tips? What about for the ‘Conclusion’? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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