I want to outline how we can reverse some of writing techniques found within The Writing Revolution to get students to reflect, review and improve on writing they have produced. I’ve seen some great work on writing in reverse by Andrew Davis and Dan Warner-Meanwell.
Why is it important to develop writing in reverse?
Before Easter, our Year 10s completed a set of GCSE style questions on Christianity Practices. This was their second attempt at answering a set of GCSE style questions. The 12 mark question of the AQA RE GCSE requires students to evaluate a statement. This involves:
- Providing a range of arguments in response to the statement
- References to scripture and tier 3 vocabulary
- Logical chain of reasoning
- A clear, justified conclusion
In preparing for their previous attempt at answer a 12 mark question, we spent a lesson planning for the 12 mark question. The resources I used for this are outlined here. For this second attempt at answering a 12 mark question, we didn’t do a planning lesson other than offering some sentence starters or phrases to develop points. We wanted to see how students would get on with the removal of scaffolds which have been put in place.
From marking the 12 markers, a few trends appeared:
- Students not writing enough
- Not enough references to scripture
- Misreading of the question
- Lack of a range of arguments
- Missing tier 3 vocabularly
As a result, I wanted to do something that would allow students to recognise these trends in their own work, remind students of key features of writing within a 12 mark answer and give them opportunity to improve at the skills necessary to write.
Here is an outline of some strategies which I used to get students writing in reverse:
Step one: What is the question asking?
The first stage is to remind students what the question is asking of them. There is little point getting students to reflect on their own writing if they are not clear what they should be writing about. With this stage, it’s important to explain what the key parts of the question are and why. For me, the key parts of the question are highlighted in red. I use the prompt questions around the highlighted parts to get students to recognise what the question is really about, recap tier 3 vocabulary and start to formulate some ideas which could be referenced in their writing.
Step two: What are the key ingredients in a successful paragraph?
After breaking down the key parts of the question, the next stage was to remind students of the key ingredients within a successful paragraph:
The construction of topic sentences, supporting details and closing sentences is something I have talked about in this blog post. For 12 mark questions at GCSE, I change the wording of the success critiera slightly to make it more specific to what is expected in this style of question. For me, the key ingredients of a successful paragraph in this 12 mark question are the following:
Argument – what is their argument either agreeing or disagreement with the statement?
Evidence – what pieces of scripture or Biblical examples have been used?
Explanation – how does this argument and evidence show Christians should spend time helping others?
Key words – what tier 3 vocabulary has been used?
Closing sentence – how have they used a closing sentence to link back to their line of argument and their question?
After reminding the students of these key ingredients, it’s important to demonstrate to students how this is reflected in a paragraph. I could do this in the following ways:
- Write a paragraph live with them and highlight how it meets the success criteria
- Use a paragraph I have pre-written and highlight how it meets the success criteria
- Get students to read through their paragraphs and highlight how it meets the success criteria
Step three: Do you paragraphs show the key ingredients?
I decided to go for a mix of option 2 and 3 in order to reverse the writing process. To reverse the writing process and deconstruct it, I put a sample piece of work under my visualiser and highlighted where it included the key ingredients. After highlighting certain sections, I asked the student to explain why they chose to include certain tier 3 vocabulary or why it was important to explain this idea. This allowed the student to develop their meta cognition – to reflect and think about the decisions they made in their writing. Once I had modelled the process with the sample work, students completed the process themselves. students to read through their own paragraph and highlight where their paragraphs show the key ingredients.
Here is a sample of student work having completed the process:
I think this stage of reversing the writing is really important as it enables students to see where the gaps are in their writing:
- Have they provided a clear argument?
- Have they used scripture?
- Have they explained key ideas?
- Have they ensured there is a closing sentence which links back to their line of argument?
Step four: Reversing the writing onto a Multi-Paragraph Outline (M.P.O)
The M.P.O allows students to produce a clear plan of the arguments and supporting details which they will be including in their extended writing. I use a slightly adapted M.P.O at KS4 which is more focused on the style of writing needed for a 12 mark question.
In preparation for answering their previous 12 mark answer, students completed an M.P.O which looks like this:
This time, I wanted to reverse the writing and get students to map their answer back onto the M.P.O. The purpose of this was for students to deconstruct their own writing, identify any gaps in their paragraph and have a visual of how well formed their answer is.
Using their own work, here is what their M.P.O looked like.
By working in reverse, the student was able to recognise the gaps in their work. These included lacking explanation of arguments, scripture to support the importance of attending Holy Communion services and a justified conclusion. The next step for the student would be to use their class notes to finalise their M.P.O.
I think that practice of writing in reverse can be really helpful in developing student confidence in writing because:
Encourages a focus and reflection on their own work
Provides opportunities to revisit key ideas or skills which have been misunderstood
Helps to develop students meta cognition
Enables students to revise and edit work