Juggling that complex task in our memory is the stuff of a successful English student. Rhetoric and Power Examiners have complained that students are going to town with literary terms, with very little understanding of their purpose or effect.
The study of rhetoric, of course, is much more than a series of fancy labels that our students learn to emblazon their essays with limited understanding (a great handbook of those devices can be found HERE).
Students like Natalie are adept at code-switching to the more formal style of essay writing, whereas Daniella writes a lot like how she speaks.
The subtle nuances of nominalisation, the use of the active and passive voice, and a judicious use of discourse markers, becomes a formula for success.
It is the modelling the really matters for Daniella in her writing – the labels less so.
In the English Language exam, we see a test of rhetorical writing (much with a flush of ‘purple prose’), but it can be meaningfully taught. Excellent Essay Writing Teenagers are, shall we say, ‘reluctant’ to plan.It will require our understanding the salient differences in knowledge and skills between students like Natalie and Daniella.We are then faced with the dual challenge of developing a two year programme that gets students exam-ready (Short2), with a five year programme (Long5) that truly develops highly skilled readers and writers who can flourish undertaking the new, harder qualifications.In year 11, though it performs no direct route into a singular exam question, we should ask ‘what connects the texts we have studied?’ For example, how does ‘ of genre and text structure. Even the simple narrative elements of a ‘beginning, middle and end’ can be taken for granted in our teaching.A child like Natalie may use rhetoric devices intuitively, given she has read an array of non-fiction, discussed and debated around the dinner table, and much more.For Natalie, naming the rhetorical devices gives a sequence of labels to better describe how she has written for years.Short-term Wins and Long-term Stratagems Defining the key aspects of knowledge, understanding and skill required to flourish in the new GCSEs, just like Natalie, then comes down to artful planning.In an ideal world, every student would have a five-year run up to the new qualifications. Instead then, we need to convert the five key principles into strategies to use in the short-term, right up to the eve of the exams, as well as strategies that we can develop and sustain throughout KS3 and KS4.We need to help our students first understand the ‘big picture’ of texts and genre, before then seeing that in microcosm in extracts. We know that the KS2 reading examination is predominantly a test of how well children make inferences from words and phrases within a text.Once we begin to make explicit the choices a writer is making, within the common parameters of genre and reader expectations, we help students write about a writers methods with something like the confidence of Natalie. By the time our students reach year 11, they have to recall a hoard of quotations at will, whilst making multiple inferences from individual words, phrases, symbols and more (see my blog on ‘Teaching A Christmas Carol‘ for an exploration of ‘word consciousness‘).