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Developing Writing Skills: Essays and Analytical Writing

Beth Kemp | Monday June 13, 2011

Categories: Hot Entries, Writing, Analytical Writing, Essays, Teaching Ideas & Skills Development

This is arguably the key skill in English A Level specifications, and it’s often one that is difficult to develop.  Students, after having been successful enough in their GCSEs to progress to AS Level, often feel they know how to write essays and are offended when bad habits are pointed out or corrected, especially when these are bad habits which derive from ‘frames’ used at GCSE level.

It can be helpful to approach essay development with an insistence on the academic nature of A Level writing, to emphasise how advanced it is in relation to GCSE, and to stress the need for such skills in Higher Education.

Do also check out the ‘sequencing’ activity in the suggested ways of using exemplar essays, for a focus on structure and making links throughout an essay.  The ‘comparing exemplars with students’ own work’ activity can also be used to focus on style and the construction of an argument, and many of the highlighting tasks are helpful for showing students how to achieve things that they may find difficult in their own work.

The activities ‘Pause first’, ‘Writing as a class’ and ‘Mini self-evaluation’ from the ideas for productive, creative, original, transformative and editorial writing are also useful for analytical and essay writing.  It’s also worth looking at the sets of ideas for analysing linguistic texts and literary extracts in class for work to improve analysis skills.

Pre-submission checklists

Resources required:

  • Checklist of requirements

Suitable for all analytical tasks – may need different lists for different units / tasks.

  • Students have a checklist to work through before handing in work, to help them focus on what is required.
  • Aspects of content can be included, e.g. some version of PEE; ‘do all paragraphs include a technical term?’ etc.
  • Structural aspects can be a useful focus, e.g. links between paragraphs, main thrust of argument clear from the introduction etc.
  • Stylistic concerns...

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