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Helping step son with English GCSE -advice please

(7 Posts)
lucielooo Thu 04-Nov-10 17:17:23

Hi
I'm hoping someone can help SS is getting D's and lower for his English work at the moment and could do with some help to improve his grades. He showed me his work yesterday and I'd like to be able to help if I can, but don't want to contradict his teacher and confuse things even more so want to look at some really simple stuff that might help him.

His teacher has commented several times in his book to make use of PEE (point, example, explain) to structure his essays etc and to help analyse rather than retell the story but he's having trouble understanding what his teacher means.

I've tried to explain the best I can using common sense and what I remember from school but just wondered if anyone more involved in education could give me a bit of advice, I don't want to confuse things more so really want to make sure I am explaining it properly!

I understand it's 'point' as in make your point (or is it point to the bit of the book your talking about?), examples i.e quotations and then explain (this is the bit he's missing out) but any guidance would be a great help.

In terms of other things I thought going over a simple essay structure and trying to help him work from this might improve his marks just something like

para 1 - intro

para 2 - point 1 PEE
para 3 - point 2 PEE
para 4 - point 3 PEE

para 5 - conclusion (to relate back to intro)

Is this in line with what is still taught (I know it's very simple so unlikely to have changed but even though it's only 11 years since I did my A levels seems very different already!)

Also thought about getting him the GCSE guidebooks so he can get his head around the sort of thing he should be thinking about in terms of analysis. He understands the story very well in that he can recite it in great detail off the top of his head but needs a bit of encouragement to look at it in a more analytical way.

Sorry for long post - any help gratefully received!

missldi Thu 04-Nov-10 19:23:34

To help your SS, he can check out www.sparknotes.com for critical notes on most major texts.It will give him ideas about key themes, characters etc.
With regards to essay structures, I teach my students a PBL approach.

P-point to be made

B-back up in the form of a quote/reference

L-link;referring back to question.
If a link can't be made, then the student has gone off topic.

For a student starting out, I generally provide a basic structure which can be added to as they get more confident.

Para 1 Intro- should contain text title, author and rephrase the question to show angle.
Main Body (Four paragraphs for the beginner)
P
B
L
P
B
L
P
B
L
P
B
L
Conclusion-brief reiteration of angle taken in introduction.
Finally, most boys (in my experience) need to follow a blueprint like the one above. Once he gets the hang of it, it gets easier!!
Good luck.

needafootmassage Thu 04-Nov-10 19:49:36

Find some models of what this looks like - his teacher might be able to provide some sample answers - and go over them with him using 3 different highlighters to identify the PBL/PEE.

Look at the sentences used and the phrases that make it a piece of academic analysis e.g. The impact of this is... This has the effect of... By using this phrase, the author is... Get him to use them verbally to explain to you his analysis, this rehearses him for using them in writing. It feels a bit artificial at the start but it really does help them make that step into writing confidently. It's not an easy thing to do when you're 14/15.

freerangeeggs Thu 04-Nov-10 19:55:08

The highlighter idea is a good one. You can find short model answers on BBC Bitesize that might work until he gets some from his teacher.

Ask him questions to get him thinking analytically. Once you've written a point and given an example, ask him questions like, 'how does that metaphor work? How can thing A be compared to thing B?' 'How do you think this would make the reader feel? Why would the reader feel that way?' and get him to write down what he says.

If it's any consolation kids find the analysis step of the process incredibly difficult. Tell him, as a rough guide, that his explanation should always be longer than his point and example.

IHeartKingThistle Fri 05-Nov-10 19:05:05

Yep, what everyone else said!

The key word in the marking criteria for a C grade is 'insight'. So the analysis side really is important.

He needs to get used to referring to the writer's intentions throughout. So yes, this character behaves like this, here is an example - but WHY has the writer made this character behave like this? What is the reader supposed to think about them? How does this help the writer get the overall meaning or moral of the text across?

It might help him to remind him that everything in a text is a decision made by the writer - they didn't have to make things happen or even put certain characters in, so why did they?

The D/C boundary is a tough one to cross but it is doable, especially with helpful parents like you!

Sorry for rambling, HTH. smile

freerangeeggs Fri 05-Nov-10 19:34:25

Yes, I meant to mention - I wish all my kids had parents as concerned and involved as you!

lucielooo Sun 07-Nov-10 22:50:17

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply - it's a great help and much appreciated

Thanks missld hopefully if I try to explain along these lines another way of looking at the same thing might help him understand.

Great ideas needafootmassage will get his dad to see if his teacher has examples we can use - and will get on bbc bitesize in the meantime.

Thanks freerangeeggs especially think that if he bears in mind the explanation should be longer than the point this will be a great help to him. He does admit that he doesn't really explain himself - and have said that he has to spell out what he means in his essays, if he doesn't physically put it down on paper he can't be given the marks (even if he thinks it's obvious)

Iheartkingthistle - I was thinking about this - DSS is very good at retelling the story but I don't think he views it as something that has been deliberately created by an author - hence focusing on what happens, rather than why thy author has that happen so hopefully thinking about this will hopefully help him to look at the story more objectively/analytically if you see what I mean! We've also got him the GCSE guide to give him some examples of the kind of thing he should be thinking about too.

Thanks again for all your help and suggestions and sorry for long post! It's tricky because he's a bit of a reluctant learner and so really want to help him as much as possible as if he can see results he might be a bit more motivated instead of giving up on himself.

On the plus side he's been moved up a maths paper!

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