How Extended Writing Helps Students Express Themselves
Not a single teacher wants to teach to the exam. Still, it is certain that by following a specific approach to a specific question, students perform much better. And for some questions, a logical, carefully thought-out approach yields a much better answer. One way a teacher can help students formulate their thoughts in a clear and logical way is by providing them with a simple structure to follow.
Most mark schemes for extended writing questions have some (often unclear) criteria that must be met by a student for moving into the next band. Actually, such a vagueness often translates to answers with different levels of content and cohesion. Content relies more on how student knows and understands the topic, while cohesion relies much more on the way student can articulate it. Often, students with rich knowledge on the topic who are not able to articulate their understanding get lower grades than those who have less knowledge but can express themselves clearly.
Benefits of Extended Writing
It is a great solution to teach students a system to answer questions. The main reason is that it gives them a reference point to measure their successes. These successes can be built upon, step by step, and, over time, complexity can be added in order to stretch answers to become more sophisticated. Furthermore, when a student learns to respond to questions in smaller steps, cognitive load is significantly reduced, and the probability of success rises.
Also, using a system for extended writing gives students a chance to understand their own weak points within a question and improve their self-awareness. Such an approach changes the idea, “I cannot do question A” to “I have difficulties with an element of question A” — such a problem is much more manageable.
From a teacher’s perspective, adding a level of logic to extended writing also upgrades teaching and gives many opportunities for addressing specific misconceptions that arise.
By breaking answers into smaller elements, a teacher can look out for points that students face difficulties with individually, and where classes get stuck collectively.
Furthermore, by teaching extended answers, teachers get an opportunity to embed talk and literacy skills that can be directly applied in context. Additionally, by using a system, teachers can model more efficiently. Simply put, students get an understanding of how to formulate answers clearly, which reduces the necessity for lengthy explanations from the teacher.
Sure, there are potential flaws. If a teacher chooses using a system for extended questions, he/she has to ensure he/she gets it right. Because if the teacher gets it wrong, it can have very negative effects on the students, especially after they have been taught this way for several years.
Also, teaching systematically risks the loss of creativity and individualism. To eliminate such a problem, a teacher has to make sure that his/her teaching gives space to the diversity and phrasing that lets students express their ideas. This requires thorough management of expectations and the way a teacher teaches a system.
By teaching students a logical system, the teacher enables them to learn skills that give them access to the highest bands and allows himself/herself a streamlined approach to teaching.