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October 2019 BLOG

Failing to plan? Then you’re planning to fail!

This blog mirrors and outlines the content of the MasterClass that was delivered to ALL Y11 on 16th October 2019.

Starting with the entirely imaginary mathematical formula, that:


where knowledge + planning + time management = success

In The Writing Revolution the complexity of the writing process is explored and it really helps you to understand the cognitive processes (the ‘executive functioning’ that we learnt about in the training on Tuesday 5.11.19) that a student has to go through to be able to get a coherent sentence down on paper:

‘Closely related to executive functions is what cognitive scientists call cognitive memory. Essentially, working memory enables us to manipulate multiple inputs and process them simultaneously drawing on the surrounding environment and drawing on information stored in the long-term memory.

While writing students need to juggle a host of actors at the same time: word choices, spelling, syntax (punctuation), background information, the nature of the audience, and their purpose in writing, among other things. Many mid to low attaining students have not yet achieved automaticity in letter formation, punctuation, capitalisation, and other foundation skills.

An individual’s working memory can hold only a limited number of items simultaneously. This means that the complex task of writing places heavy demands on this aspect of cognition. Yet many writing assignments as students who are struggling with learning English, or with lower level aspects of writing like punctuation, to focus on challenging tasks, such as writing paragraphs, comparing and contrasting, or summarizing text.’

Bearing all this in mind the Master Class in October explored the interlinked skills of selecting and sequencing content and knowledge, time management, …. and above all the necessity of planning in order to achieve success. Collectively, we will all be stronger practitioners, and our students will be stronger performers, if we all build these principles into our teaching. And why should we limit this to just Y11?

We explored the demands of higher tariff questions in particular subjects at GCSE, where, allowing very roughly one minute per mark for time management purposes, extended writing is required to access questions that are more highly rewarded.

For example, in Combined Science, the following appears on the cover of Paper 1:

 ‘You are reminded of the need for good English.  When answering extended questions, you need to make sure that your answer

  • is clear and logically structured;
  • fully meets the requirement of the question;
  • shows that each separate point or step supports the answer.’

This then relates to the following question, worth 6 marks:

Q O.3.3    In coronary heart disease (CHD) layers of fatty material build up inside the coronary arteries. This can cause a heart attack.

Statins and stents can be used to reduce the risk of a heart attack in people with CHD.

Evaluate the use of statins and stents in people with CHD. Remember to include a justified conclusion.    (6)

Similarly, on the cover of ‘History: C1:  Germany in Transition.’ students are told:

‘Question 5 will assess your ability to construct a balanced, reasoned and well substantiated extended response.’

Q 5 then looks like this:

Q5 Read the interpretation provided below and answer the question which follows.

“Visitors to Germany in the 1930s saw a happy, healthy, friendly people united under Hitler.’

[William L. Shirer, an American journalist who worked in Germany 1934 - 1940, writing in his book
‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’, published in 1960.]

To what extent do you agree with this interpretation?     

[In your answer you should refer to how and why interpretations of this issue differ. Use your own knowledge and understanding of the wider historical debate over this issue to reach a well- supported judgement.].

Ironically, the following instruction appears on the cover of the English Literature papers:

‘                                                                                                                                                                               ‘

That’s right. There are no instructions on the cover.  So here’s a sample question from English Literature Component 2:

You are advised to spend about 45 minutes on this question.

You should use the extract provided and your knowledge of the whole novel/play to answer this question.

Write about XXXX and how s/he is presented at different points in the novel/play.

 In your response you should:

• refer to the extract and the novel/play as a whole

• show your understanding of characters and events in the novel/play           [40]

5 of this question’s marks are allocated for accuracy in spelling, punctuation and the use of vocabulary and sentence structures.

If the students do not plan

  • which content to use;
  • the order in which to use it;
  • how to use it terms of the focus of the task;
  • and the conclusion that they are intending to draw, having thought both independently and originally about it…. what’s the point?

So to assist the students in their planning and their time management, they were all given the following Writing Revolution discourse markers or writing signposts, which can be used to sequence and structure ideas towards a conclusion.



First       second                 in addition                           later                       last                         then                      next

also        before                 during



for example                       as an example                   a case in point                   for instance                        specifically

particularly                          as an illustration               namely                                 expressly                             in particular



Initially                  previously                           presently                             later on                at last                    additionally

currently              earlier                                   meanwhile                         ultimately            as soon as            eventually


Especially             in particular                        obviously             above all              most importantly

primarily              particularly                          moreover            notably                 keep in mind

furthermore      undoubtedly



However             although              even though      in contrast           on the other hand            but

yet                       instead                  on the contrary                 an opposing view



in conclusion      in closing              in summary        as a result            consequently    finally

therefore            thus                       clearly                   lastly                      ultimately


Poster sets are available on the S Drive: search for ‘TWR Poster Set’. They print up well on A3 for classroom display. The more they see them, the more that we embed these signposts into our teaching and modelling, the more chance there is that they will think clearly, plan clearly, write clearly…and so clearly succeed.

The November Blog will take this theme of planning further and will focus on the importance of the draft and redraft as well as the importance of the single paragraph outline, which looks at the power of the topic and concluding sentences as a main framework of a plan. Where possible, we will be giving some practical examples to show you of staff doing this well.