Model Answers: A Recipe for Success

By Nicola Stevens, Head of Spanish.

Remember the last mouth-watering meal you enjoyed in a Michelin star restaurant? You devoured the entire mouth-watering plate, but could you recreate it at home? Would you know the ingredients? The measurements? Would you be able to guess the recipe? Do you have the culinary skills to produce the dish yourself?  Probably not. Hold that thought….

With the move away from controlled assessments, has come the need to prepare our pupils thoroughly to produce spontaneously accurate and clear written prose. Whilst as teachers we initially may have felt fearful of letting go of the reins of control afforded us with coursework, we now have a superb opportunity to teach our pupils real and purposeful writing skills which will prepare them not only for the exam, but for life beyond GCSE as they venture out alone into the real world. Whilst we undoubtedly embrace the shift towards independence and creativity, at the same time we need to facilitate our pupils in their quest to flourish.

Many teachers use exemplary texts to model for pupils the ideal answer to an exam question. These model answers show off appropriate content, essay structures, key vocabulary and sophisticated writing. As subject specialists, we’ve seen the recipe: we know the ingredients, the measurements, the timing, the method. Add a dash of creative flair, and we can produce the goods! However, just as we couldn’t be expected to recreate a Michelin starred dish purely by tasting it, we cannot simply expect our pupils to read a model answer and magically know how to write their own! We need to provide the recipe and empower our pupils with the skills to recreate independently their own model answer which will have the examiners drooling..!

With this in mind, I have created list of ideas of how to use and abuse model answers, and how to help pupils deconstruct model answers before reconstructing their own.

  1. Pick out key vocabulary
  2. Pick out sentence starters
  3. Find synonyms/antonyms
  4. Remove the content and highlight the essay structure
  5. Make changes, eg change the vocab, the person, the tense
  6. Produce a sentence or headline to summarise each paragraph
  7. Fill in the gaps (eg key vocab, verbs, key structures)
  8. Mark the model answer using a mark scheme re written in pupil language. Highlight the good bits
  9. Deconstruct the model answer and produce a mind map for it
  10. Improve the model answer from a grade 3-4 / 5-7 / 7-9
  11. Correct common errors deliberately included in the model answer
  12. Add the punctuation (deliberately missed in the model answer)
  13. Complete a model answer using bullet point prompts
  14. Speed date writing: timed writing exercise, each pupil contributing one piece in a carousel activity
  15. Picture prompts – timed writing, moving on to exam style questions

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