Tag Archives: Writing

Assessment for learning

Recent talks with colleagues working in the public education sector in the UK about SATs (Suite of Assessments), and my own experiences tutoring on pre-sessional courses, have given me a first-hand insight into the exhaustive measures some institutions employ to ‘promote’ learning through continuous formative assessment. The term they have coined is ‘assessment for learning’. Experience has demonstrated to me that the learning gains are limited compared with the time taken to prepare for the testing, the testing process, and of course the marking and feedback sessions.

A typical writing test could include learners being given several extracts from source texts to read and make notes on a week prior to the actual test. On test day, these notes are not permitted into the classroom and a new set of notes is given with a question to analyse. In my humble opinion, while learners will have read the texts and have a deeper understanding than seeing them for the first time, the test is in fact an evaluation of memory where they are desperately digging deep in their brains to retrieve the information about the points they deemed worthy of remembering. The question is analysed in groups, a draft plan is drawn up individually, and finally a 90-minute test is undertaken. Learners are notably exhausted after a testing process, which has essentially been drawn out over an entire week.

As an experiment, I tried an alternative approach where I gave learners 4 short extracts. In pairs each learner read 2 different texts and made notes. The notes were swapped with their partners who used them as a springboard to understand the 2 texts they did not read. Each learner proceeded to read the texts to accompany their partners’ notes to discover if they had identified all the key themes. A group discussion was held, a question was given, and learners wrote a short piece of discourse with a 40-minute time limit, to answer the question referring to the key themes identified previously, and citing as necessary. When the writing was completed, learners exchanged their scripts with a peer, and it was reviewed for content, accuracy of answering the question given, coherence, cohesion, stance, and argumentation. Another group discussion was held, and at this point I also participated with language support and academic guidance. This ‘think tank’ approach appeared to be effective and the feedback I received from the class this was tested with was positive. Including comments such as ”I learnt from my friends so it helped me feel confident to write”, “she was able to notice some additional points I didn’t see”

Nao (Softbank robotics) – Robots that write

After spending time with Nao (Softbank robotics) in February I am not in the slightest bit surprised at one of his many skills is the ability to write any word asked, and spell the word as he writes. Through speech recognition programming, the robot is able to perform many tasks, but the one of writing is a profound tool that can help those with literacy skill deficiencies, and of course those wanting to learn a language. Another interesting feature that will support my current research.

“I think he’s gonna eat Gary” M&M Eat the hostage Commercial Script writing activity

When I saw this M&M Eat the hostage Commercial on YouTube before my selected song came on, I couldn’t resist using it in class for a fun script writing activity. Here are the steps I followed for my M&M Eat the hostage Commercial Script writing activity:

  1. Write hostage on the board, elicit its meaning meaning, other forms and synonyms: To take hostage, To hold hostage, Prisoner, Victim, Captive.
  2. In groups students discuss any hostage situations they have seen on films, and the motivations for them.
  3. Feedback open class and board any emergent language.
  4. Tell students they are going to watch a 30 second hostage situation clip without the sound, and ask them to concentrate on the events so they are able to recount together what happened.
  5. Play the M&M Eat the hostage Commercial without the sound.
  6. In groups the students discuss what happened in the advert.
  7. Open class students share their ideas to ensure all students have the information and the stages of the hostage situation can be boarded.
  8. Play the YouTube clip again without sound, for students to check back their ideas.
  9. In groups students write the script for the M&M Eat the hostage Commercial, and rehearse together.
  10. Students perform their hostage commercials with their own script in turn open class.
  11. Non performing groups and teacher enjoy the viewing!
  12. Play the original M&M Eat the hostage Commercial for students to hear the original script.


Clever ways of using mobile phones for learning