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GCSE English under performing

(14 Posts)
RomanyRoots Sun 28-Oct-18 19:47:58

Hi, I'm not sure if that's the best description, just been to parents evening.
Teacher said that dd was capable of achieving an 8 in Eng Lit, but is only writing 3 lines when 3 sides is expected.
When faced with the question she becomes paralysed (teachers wording)
This was also noted by her Maths teacher, the same word.

Her time at home is limited (boarder), so I can't supervise on a daily basis, but have an hour or so spare at weekends.

I'm looking for suggestions as to what I can suggest in addition to hr recording the lesson, and would this work for Maths, the same as English?

OP’s posts: |
TeenTimesTwo Sun 28-Oct-18 20:08:32

We had something similar with DD1 which turned out to be dyspraxia which we had long suspected but not got assessed and hadn't realised it impacted written skills until she got to the GCSE years.

i.e. she couldn't structure and recall desired information to answer any particular question.

If it isn't a SpLD would Mind maps help for English Lit before she starts to write, so there is a specific plan infront of her? How is she with other written subjects such as History/Geography?

Don't understand how this is the same with maths though?

Unless there is 'fear of doing it wrong' leading to 'do nothing'?

I used to say to my DDs that if you leave it blank you definitely get zero, so you might as well put something...

TheFirstOHN Mon 29-Oct-18 10:57:47

DS1 used to do this. It turned out to be mostly exam anxiety, although he does also have dyspraxic traits. For one essay in his GCSE mock he wrote three lines!

Thankfully, in the actual GCSE he was able to write something coherent, went on to get a B in English Literature A-level and is now studying an essay-based subject at university.

TheFirstOHN Mon 29-Oct-18 11:02:24

I think practice helps. Give her a question she has never seen before, and then demonstrate a strategy for how she can approach structuring an answer. I found it helpful to write a mini essay plan (and then cross it out so they know not to mark it).

AlexanderHamilton Mon 29-Oct-18 11:05:14

Ds has exactly this problem. Using a laptop helps along with memorising stock answers/structures.

But the most we are hoping for is a 4/5 even though his innate ability means he shoudl get a 6.

RomanyRoots Mon 29-Oct-18 12:53:24


Thank you for your response. I do think in Maths there could be a fear of trying, she has just moved on from "Can't do it" to trying really hard.
I think she may be pushing some harder concepts to one side. I think mind maps are a good way to go, would they be able to do this in the exam?

I will try with some questions and break them down, I'm not sure if she sees the title or question and then just panics, I does seem this way.
I'm so pleased your ds got it together and it fills me with hope.

To hear your child is capable of doing so much better when they are trying their best is frustrating. Mine isn't expected to do well at all in the core subjects, so when her teacher told us about Eng lit, we obviously thought it was something to support.

Thank you, I'll try to find something similar to what she'll find in the exam.

OP’s posts: |
AlexanderHamilton Mon 29-Oct-18 12:56:37

What exam board is she doing?

TeenTimesTwo Mon 29-Oct-18 13:08:16

Mind maps can definitely be used in an exam.
You just put a line through them if you don't want them marked.
(I wouldn't be surprised if you got some marks for info in a mindmap if you ran out of time to write the answer, but don't know this for sure.)

Maths questions can be scary if you can't see how to do the whole thing. With word questions just seeing what you can work out can lead you on to the next bit. Similarly with algebra I advise DD to 'get rid of the most scary bit' first. (e.g. if there is a fraction then multiply that out, and go on from there).

For DD1 we had some success of doing English Lang by steps as described by TheFirst I defined (with input from various teachers) a step by step method for each question type and DD practiced over and over.

booellesmum Mon 29-Oct-18 13:13:35

It may help to do practice papers which are on the exam boards websites. The mark schemes are there too so she can see where she can gain extra marks.
The Mr Bruff guides are great if you haven't got those yet.
For Maths it helped my DD to look at the mark scheme and realise you can get a good grade even if you don't do all the paper/get it all right.
DD1 got a 7 in maths last year - edexcel. There are maths concepts she never got and can't begin to explain to DD2 in year 10, but she did the things s he could do well.

MaisyPops Mon 29-Oct-18 13:21:08

For English I would make sure she is secure in her knowledge first. Low or shaky knowledge makes writing an essay more difficult.

Get her to annotate the questions carefully and make notes around it on what she has to do.
Do lots of mock essay plans for key themes and characters so she's used to making lots of links for the texts.
Get her to do single sections of analysis to make sure she can analyse up to the grade 7+ standard.

To be honest, (and please don't shoot me) I think the teacher is wrong or misguided saying someone has it in them to get an 8 when they're writing 3 lines. If a student can't generate a sophisticated argument for an answer and doesn't know what to write then the teacher should be focusing on teaching them how to get to a 6 with specific techniques and then building upwards from there. 'Could get an 8' to me sounds like the teacher is hoping that by throwing a high grade in there you'll not ask any questions.

RomanyRoots Mon 29-Oct-18 17:59:38


I do get your point, but honestly I believe the English teacher does want to help.
He was the only one that came up with a solution, the other teachers have never done this, although the SENCO has.
He meant the critical thinking part was well developed, she was exactly the same with History, which she dropped. We have studied some texts together over the summer holidays and she always comprehends well and is able to discuss and assess vocally, it's just actually writing the answer/ essay.
She was a level 8 old ks3 when she was in Y7, (History) but come to put it on paper and she was the same.
I'm not saying the teacher is necessarily right, that's why I posted, but I believe he has her best interests at heart.

It's Cambridge igcse, together with First Language iirc.

Thank you, I do tell her to look at the exam questions, but I fear she doesn't. I think it's a matter of very little free time, so can only do bare min ito extra work, maybe 30 mins per week for core subjects.
This is on top of completing all prep as well though.
I could download some for sunday though, she might not like me for this grin

OP’s posts: |
daisybank2 Mon 29-Oct-18 18:32:49

Same with my dd.
Very bright, target of 8 but achieved a 6 (just) in both her English GCSEs.
A history of never writing enough in exams. She found writing itself tiring. Everyone thought (including me!) that she was lazy and couldn't be bothered!
New school for 6th form tested everyone for dyslexia on entry and has highlighted very high IQ, and very slow processing and very very slow handwriting speed. Full dyslexia assessment coming up soon and already been agreed she can use a laptop in A levels. Her old school never even suggested there could be an issue, and I never realised that high IQ / slow processing was even 'a thing'. Push to get her assessed / tested - schools rarely pick up on these things.

MaisyPops Mon 29-Oct-18 19:43:33

I don't doubt their good intentions but it still seems hugely misguided and wrong to me to starr throwing grade 8s around when a child isn't writing enough to score a 2. Hand on heart there is no way to reasonably say a child is capable of any grade (let alone a high one) with such little exam work. They're plucking numbers out the sky, maybe with good intentions but it's fanciful.

Personally, they'd be better off saying 'the major barrier seems to be getting enough written. We'll try x y z strategies with a view to assessing the quality of what's written. Then we can take it from there'.

I'd ask the teacher for set strategies to help improve writing (not in timed conditions).
Then see if the teacher can speak to the SENDCo or you speak to SENDCo directly to see if an assessment for specific learning difficulties flags anything up.

Please don't think I'm being negative, I'm only trying to advise on practical ways forward.

TeenTimesTwo Mon 29-Oct-18 21:48:16

One thing I have used to good effect with my DDs on occasion was to get them to dictate answers. So if your DD can dictate a good answer you know it is the process of handwriting whilst thinking which is holding her back. Whereas if she can't get started even with this then you know it is more formulating the answers.

The other thing that sometimes worked with DD1, was asking 'what might the answer be, sort of?' Then she was eg able to say stuff like 'well, Macbeth was ambitious so …..' (However, she then needed prompting on showing how she knew he was ambitious. Never did get PEE.)

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