Edexcel Language Paper 2: Q3 and Q6

Here are a few practice papers for Paper 2, focussing on Q3 and Q6.  Some of the texts may look familiar from the *cough* IGCSE papers!  These are for the Edexcel spec.

Travelling Tough – Q3 and Q6

Sea Monster – Q3 and Q6

Outback rescue – Q3 and Q6

Lonely Fisherman – Q3 and Q6

Brian Keenan – Q3 and Q6

Up next will be Q6 and Q7a) and b).





Personal narrative and developing a student’s own narrative voice


Many of us looking at the new GCSE language papers are having to again (or perhaps for the first time) tackle the ‘autobiographical’ writing question.

Write about a time when you felt fear.

Write about your first experience in a new place.

While there is no actual requirement to write in the first person in the mark scheme and I have yet to have an exam board answer the question – if a student wrote in the third person would they get marked down? – we do need to a way forward for autobiographical writing.

Unsurprisingly when teenagers write in the first person about their own experiences they sound like teenagers. They are young, they sound young. Even pupils who read widely don’t always have a strong internal narrative voice. Ask a year 7 boy, who has only ever read Diary of a Wimpy Kid and David Walliams books, to write a personal narrative and they will write about someone having their head flushed down the toilet. There will be lots of SHOUTY capitals and a million !!!!

So where to begin?

I have tried so many different ways to do good autobiographical writing in the last few years and this one has worked consistently. It’s not without danger though.

Write using someone else’s voice for a while, then write yourself.

In year 7 I have a mini-scheme of work looking at the diaries of Darwin and Conan-Doyle (during his adventuring years). One of the reasons I love these two writers is that they diaries are factual. Their writing style mirrors the what I hope for in narrative generally – more Hemingway and less Henry James. We have already taught our students to ‘write like a scientist’ and this gives them a new opportunity to try it out. We take the Darwin style and the Conan-Doyle adventure and have them report on a shark attack at sea, or being accosted by savages, or experiencing an earthquake at sea. We peel back all the emotive language, ignoring subjective commentary and make clear observations as Darwin or Conan-Doyle.

Here’s an example I showed at #TLLeeds of a piece of writing done in this style.

sneak peek 2

While it is not the student’s own history, it is a better example of personal narrative writing than I usually see in KS3. Here is our starting point.

Fast forward to Year 9 and Year 10, how do we do good exam writing preparation? Again we begin with writing personal narrative for others. Here (Personal narratives – blog version) is a series of lessons (I use it very flexibly as a collection of writing prompts) where students write personal narratives for a favourite character from an existing story. It culminates in a short story called The Search, where the character is looking for something.

As with all writing, I work alongside pupils. You can see my plan for Don T’s search for coffee and love at the end. I do have the written up version somewhere which I will dig out.

We had some fabulous examples of this from Year 10:

  1. Mr Utterson, working at a conference as an usher, is looking for a delegate to give her a message.
  2. An aged Draco Malfoy is looking for his 5 metre swimming certificate to take to a job interview.
  3. Tinkerbell, who works as a dental nurse, loses her bag on the tube.

So when we have a plan, we work out how we can withhold the character identity long enough to engage the audiences’ interest. Utterson became simply Gabe. Draco: Drake. Tinkerbell: Belle.

Once students are comfortable with writing personal narratives for other characters. We started writing ourselves. This lead to an uncomfortable few lessons where students were to intensively self-diagnose how the world sees them.

As ever, I am writing alongside them. Often with this one, I model on the whiteboard first so they can see what I mean.


I go through a whole process of step by step developing a sense of self in writing. I model how when I write myself, I exaggerate elements of my identity and my personality. No one will know these are dramatic embellishments but for the purpose of personal narrative writing, it works.

The lessons I have attached here (Writing yourself – blog version) take students through a series of very simple activities where they write themselves focussing on their appearance, their actions, thoughts and dialogue. This gives them an opportunity to write numerous vignettes (which is less terrifying). It also allows them to build a holistic picture of how they can create their own narrative voice in a number of areas. They can be insecure, funny, cynical, upbeat. All of them, none of them. Then I present them with the scenarios at the end which they write, often reinventing some of their earlier writing.

I know I also promised stuff on mentor texts. This will have to be tomorrow now!

Flash fiction not flash bang (my presentation at #TLLeeds)



For those of you who attended my presentation yesterday at Teaching and Learning Leeds, here are the slides: Flash Fiction Not Flash Bang by Louisa Enstone


Before you open it – I need to get a few things off my chest (again)…

The government are controlling our students’ creative voices – this is wrong

DfE legislation has forced creative writing into a technical corner from which it is very hard to escape. I said yesterday that teachers are prisoners of the government legislation and while this metaphor is a tab hyperbolic, the constituent idea is true.  When creative writing is most frequently discussed (and marked) in terms of its technical components, then it is easy to see writing as only a technical exercise.  It is no surprise that these requirements have resulted in checklists, success criteria, targets and marking rubrics have reduced creative writing pieces to another form of gap-fill. This time each sentence has to have a different technique (a simile, prepositions, gerunds – yawn).

Ok – hold your horses. Writing is a technical exercise. Yes, I agree. But… what the DfE have done is take literary techniques stretching across several centuries (not to mention numerous forms and styles of writing) and funnelled them in what is a very modern form of writing: flash fiction. This is why it doesn’t work.

Flash fiction

Flash fiction (a term somewhat unfairly abhorred by academics) is any fiction that does quite make it to short story length. Flash fiction can be anything from 250 words to 7,000. Our students are writing a few pages. They are writing flash fiction. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the term. Call it a very short story. Call it concise narratives.

But don’t mistake it for a novel. It isn’t. It shouldn’t sound or feel like one.

Don’t forget that at GCSE this piece of writing is spontaneous, unplanned (because a 3-minute plan at the beginning of an exam is not a plan) and unedited. While this might mirror ‘real life’ writing scenarios (might), it does not in anyway mirror how writers of fiction (or indeed fact) work.

As part of my presentation I set out the main differences between novels and very short fiction. What we teach explicitly and what we intentionally avoid. I make the case the novels are long enough to absorb great literary flourishes. Short narratives cannot swallow them. The plot and characters become bogged down.

In my session, I also talked a little about developing a strong narrative voice. I didn’t get enough time to talk this through properly.

So here’s a whole new blogpost on developing narrative voice in writing.

Revision madness 2016

revision madness.PNG

“Awww Miss – I don’t know how to revise for English. You can’t just learn stuff can you?”

Funny you should say that sonny-boy because there is a whole lot of “stuff” you can learn.

While you mull over what we have learnt in the last 2 years that you might need to know, here’s some “stuff” to be getting on with.

Just 15 schools days until this year IGCSE exam, my friends. Let’s use ’em.

Here’s the first of my revision resources – it is aimed at the CIE paper 2 but is hopefully general enough that others can use it.

12 Days of Revisions – Extended Reading 2016

Best wishes



Non-fiction texts 2016 #2


I am looking at Question 2 with my CIE iGCSE groups this week.

So here is a new text that can be used for Q1 and Q2.

It’s a mostly-made-up-by-me travel blog about a women travelling in Morocco.

Travelling Tough – text only – this one is just the blog, with no questions.

Travelling Tough – iGCSE Q2 question – here’s a version with the Q2 on it.

Travelling Tough – annotated for teachers – here’s where I’ve annotated it with possible quotes.

If you are using it for Q1 as well.

I would suggest that you might set the following question.

You are Sara Jones. You are being interviewed by a representative from the Moroccan tourist board about your trip.  Write the words of the interview. Start with the first question.

  • What are your most positive memories of your time in Morocco?
  • What did you find most difficult during your trip?
  • What advice would you give to other women travelling to Morocco?

Be careful to use your own words as far as possible. Aim to write between 200 – 250 words.

Here is the source document for the blog, as you can see I changed it extensively.

Non-Fiction texts for 2016

Another term, another set of mocks are upon us.

Whether you are all in with the iGCSE (for the final time), prepping for the legacy non-fiction exam or even getting your head around the new spec non-fiction exam – I hope you can use this text (and the ones I will add over the next few weeks) with your GCSE classes.

Non-fiction next for w/c 11 Jan 2016


CSI Whales:  the dissection of stranded or beached whales (dolphins and porpoises) reveals a variety of reasons for death and starks facts about the threat of human activity to marine life.

3 versions below:

CSI Whale – text only (no questions included)

CSI Whales – text and questions – CIE iGCSE Extended Reading paper Q2 included

If you are a non-UK teacher – this question forces pupils to read for comprehension and implied meaning and then restate the information in the fact on their own words and in a different format.

CSI Whales – annotated for teachers– highlighted for teachers for the above Q2 (not an answer key exactly but at least a guide)

Of course, you can use for Q3 as well for the iGCSE paper.

I will try and post a set for the new GCSE with short answer questions and a transactional writing task as soon as I can!  If my kids write good example answers, I will post those as well…(fingers crossed for this!).

Here is the source document for most of this text.

Have a great rest of your week!




My bleeping research project – part 1

Stop peeing

I have blogged many times about essay writing before, I glowed with righteous indignation about the writing I saw being taught over and over by colleagues (and myself). I decided that essay writing in English needed a reboot and I wanted to get it done.

It’s funny how time, and thought, and reading, and talking to experts can bring sense and maturity.   Here’s a little bit of my journey (also known as “the bleeping research project”).

I have split my summary into 4 parts:

Part 1 – the research project

Part 2 – what I actually taught the control group and the test group

Part 3 – the findings

Part 4 – what I “think” this means.

Here is part 1.

The bleeping research project

Every research project needs a hypothesis. Here’s mine. You can see already how lopsided I am. I wouldn’t cut in the ivory corridors of edu-research.


The plan was to compare the written outcomes of two Year 7 classes, who were learning essay writing for the very first time.  My school were generous enough to let me go for it.


At first I was sure what the relevance of this context would be, but it did ‘feel’ significance at the time. To focus you then, each of the 64 students in the two classes had secured L5 for Reading and Writing in Year 6 and most had achieved a verbal/non-verbal reasoning top band score.  This became relevant later on when I needed to tackle the “how do we write our ideas down” issue. It also then questions the relevance of anything I have to say about essay writing for mid or lower ability students (forgive the “ability” word). More on this in part 3 and 4.

Class 1: PEE/PQE – the control group.

  • Participant students studied a literary text through a series of structured exposition lessons (the same introductory lessons for both classes).
  • Students then used our in-house PEE essay structure and sentence starters to write an analytical response. These responses were compared against responses gathered from the test group.
  • The rationale of the control group is to allow validation of the success and usefulness of simplified essay structures.

Class 2: the test group.

  • Participant students studied the same literary text and participated in the same exposition lessons.
  • Students were then exposed to the essay question and allowed to explore this freely.
  • Students then worked together to discuss how a written response should be organised and written up.

With just one lesson a week I was limited with what could be done, so we worked out that this was possible:

  • Over 3 terms teach 3 bespoke literature units, pupils write 3 separate essays – one per unit.*
  • A short story, a collection of poetry and a play.
  • End of year 7 exam – an unseen poem.
  • Surveys of student experience

These essays were then to analysed and given numeric scores:

  • Length of response
  • Number of analytical words used (pre-defined set)
  • Score out of 20 quality of analysis (pre-defined set – subjective)

We (colleagues, tutors from my MA, various English-types who offered advice) oscillated numerous times on the best way to collect data from these essays.

The length of each response was decided upon because it is a ‘truism’ that pupils who use PQE structures or sentence openers only ever write short analytical paragraphs.  It was also then an expectation that not using a PQE structure should result in a longer response. Were longer responses better – in that you have more opportunity for the quality of analysis.

The number of analytical words used became significant because having discussed “what an essay is” both classes also had to tackle “what analysis is” and this was and could be done without any reference to essay writing, essay structure or essay sentence openers.

The pre-defined set of analytical words had also been part of the very early teaching of all Year 7 students in the very first week of the year before they were placed in sets. They had tackled all of them and practiced using them.  For interest – here’s the list:


The quality of analysis would have perhaps been the most difficult one to tackle if I had been doing all this alone. But my department had last year decided to take on the new Edexcel Language and Literature GCSE and with it came some comprehensive KS3 assessment criteria.  We therefore have our own in-house assessment system for essay writing in English which is detailed in minutiae. A pain as a classroom teacher. Great for my bleeping project.

Before I go any further, I probably also need to be upfront about some of the mitigating factors.

  • Both classes had 2 hours of English a week with another teacher. Although neither classes were ‘taught’ essay writing by their other teacher, they were expected to create analytical writing following which method I had covered with them.
  • Both classes participated in the usual assessed essay responses in line with internal assessment and data collection.
  • The school planners have a PEE frame in them.
  • Some students have parents who are English teachers (well, it could totally be a thing, couldn’t it!).
  • Some students were aware of PEE from primary school.
  • Marking and feedback was given on each essay (more on this later).

I am trying to keep these blog posts as short as possible, so that’s it for now, the next part will be: What I actually taught the control group and the test group.

*At the end of the academic year 14/15 it was agreed to continue the research project into year 8 which the same group of students.

Thanks for reading,


Let whoever is without sin…

Esse Quam Videri

24th December 2015

People as things

A recent blog by Tarjinder Gill really got me thinking. I instinctively dislike the identity politics that is currently so popular with some parts of the left wing and she made me dig deeper into why that was. She argued passionately that we are united by our humanity. I agree that the sort of labels used to define those subject to discrimination and in an effort to correct injustice, can simply make us lose sight of shared humanity. A particular memory from my past stands out when I think about this:

It was a long drive to visit my 88 year old father around the M25 from Reigate to Barnet, especially for a young and frazzled NQT.  I arrived to hear him literally hollering at the home help. The agency used by the council often sent different people but I’d met this this chap before and felt…

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