AQA · English · Teaching Ideas

Using the layered writing technique for persuasive writing

This idea of layered writing comes from here: https://classteaching.wordpress.com/2014/01/30/layered-writing/

The layered writing grid that Gav McCusker used was structured for descriptive writing (which I’ve also adapted and will blog about later). This is the original grid:

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 19.50.29

Excited by trying this out, I adapted it for some paper 2 q5 type writing that we’re doing with year 10s at the minute. Here’s the adapted grid:

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I kept the top rows of verb/adjective/adverb there but added in some other categories (modal verbs and speculation for example – and this gives an opportunity to reinforce the identification of techniques). We’ve been looking at texts to do with prisons (see here) and so we set this question:

‘Prisons are a place of confinement, rigour and authority. They do not reform criminals’

Write a letter to your local newspaper in which you argue for or against this statement.

    (24 marks for content and organisation;  16 marks for technical accuracy)    [40 marks]

I tried getting the students to write without the grid at first – they’re good writers, so I didn’t want to restrict them too much. Once they ‘d written their first paragraph, I handed out the grid and asked them to do some peer marking (the layered writing blog explains this clearly). Again – reinforcing terminology as well as assessment for learning. The students ticked off the elements they’d used and we were surprised at how few examples of adjectives and adverbs they used. Here is a first attempt (this includes some of the later amendments)

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 20.04.15

“I believe that people who go to prison should be kept in prison and shouldn’t be allowed to socialize with the outside world. This is because prisoners who are talking to people outside of prison could brainwash them into committing the same crime as the prisoner.” (ideas are the students’ own!)

As you can see, after looking at the layered writing map (as we’re calling it), two adverbs (firmly, ruthlessly) and a few adjectives (dangerous, lengthy) have been added to make the writing a little more engaging/effective (if  not convincing yet).

The same boy returned to the layered writing map and revised them again – here are the two re-writes:

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 20.04.22

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 20.04.28

Here’s the original again – “I believe that people who go to prison should be kept in prison and shouldn’t be allowed to socialize with the outside world. This is because prisoners who are talking to people outside of prison could brainwash them into committing the same crime as the prisoner.”

And here is the third draft:

“I firmly believe that these extreme, poisonous and deadly people who are in prison should stay there for a lengthy duration of their short life…” 

We talked about the extremity of the views here and changed ‘short’ to ‘unfortunate’ to modify some of these views a little! However, if you look closely, the student is now adding in the ‘speculation’ and ‘modal’ boxes:

“I suppose that some of the crimes which are committed could be accidental, however this doesn’t make it any better..”

Also interesting is that by adding in the speculative and modal words, it tones down some of the vehemence of the writing – you might not agree with this, but I think that this at least shows the writer is prepared to moderate their initially quite strong views.

Here’s another example from the other side of the argument. This is the first piece, before handing out the map.

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 20.04.34

This is an accurate if functional sentence, although I like the use of the adverb (Captain Kirk inaccuracies understood). And here’s the redraft:

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 20.04.43

I reckon this works – it needs a little tweaking, but the evidence is clear. Look at the list of three (‘educate, reform and rehabilitate’) as well as the adjective ‘young’ to modify ‘first time criminals’. Encouraged by her layered writing map, the student added further sentences which were clearly better than the first attempt:

“Just imagine being trapped, confined in a cold, dark cell for days, months or years on end.”

Taking time in the lesson to just write and redraft is important and something that I think we need to do more of, away from the ‘soundbite writing’ that we sometimes do to ensure ‘progress evidence’ etc.

I tried this with my more able group who obviously were able to use some of the more complex features straight away; but even here, they recognised that adjectives and adverbs add more depth to their writing. Needless to say, they spotted a couple of omissions – rhetorical question (obviously), inclusive pronouns, imperatives and, ‘of course’, anaphora – can’t please ’em all!

 

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