Writing Skills: English Language Paper 2 Question 5

You can skip the boring bits if you want and use the slides here: https://1drv.ms/p/s!AnpvBTL12aDNijdfIacMS01HHAfB

Here’s a series of slides that might be of some use if you’re teaching writing skills for Language paper 2. I delivered this remotely to a whole cohort of Year 11s. The question is based on experiences of lockdown and certainly elicited some enthusiastic, varied, and passionate responses from the children. The simple structure of ‘because – but -so’ is, of course, stolen completely from Judith C. Hochman and Natalie Wexler’s book, The Writing Revolution.

The reason I adopted this framework is to move children towards a form of dialectical thinking. Often, as an examiner on this paper, I encounter responses which are dominated by one opinion (thus becoming a bit of a rant); on other occasions I find that responses offer a ‘pro-con’ approach which make an effective argument for both sides but also tend to obscure the writer’s position. Whilst there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this form of ‘discussion writing’ (see Extending Literacy, Wray and Lewis, 1997), the mark scheme and exemplar material for the writing question on paper 2 call for a nuanced approach which adopts a clear point of view (at least to get into level 3). Thus, the ‘because-but-so structure encourages writers to think around the provocative statements that characterise this question. Now, like any framework, the ‘because-but-so’ structure is not a universal elixir which resolves the challenge of children’s writing, in fact you could argue that it is more of a cognitive stimulus that draws on classical models of dialectical thought (Socrates), filtered through Hegel before landing here for my reductive approach (sorry, all you classical thinkers). Indeed, I find the ‘but’ and the ‘so’ a bit constraining at times (you will see from the slides that I offer alternative conjunctions and connectives to the children). Anyway, here are the slides:

The above grid provides an ‘at a glance’ assessment model. The levels refer to AQA levels and, of course, level 3 is often perceived as the ‘holy grail’. I’ve adapted some of the mark scheme statements here. The important thing here is that a ‘mark-scheme clear’ is achieved through an essay that offers an identifiable point-of-view (hence the title of the lesson, ‘Taking a Stand’). It requires writers to take a step back from the provocative statement and consider their own opinions. This has been variously described as the ‘thesis statement’ or the ‘big idea’. The notion of a thesis is, of course, part of the dialectical process.

In the above slide, you can see how I’m adapting the ‘BBS’ model to provoke wider, more considered and more original responses from children. I was running this session with over 90 children at a time, so individual responses were at a premium, but the children who did engage in the ‘chat’ were able to express some strong opinions using these sentence stems (and, of course, how wonderful it will be when we can get them in a room together and use these stems to reinforce children’s oracy skills).

I used the above slide to signpost the rest of the lesson and to illustrate how the BBS structure will be used.

Taking one section at a time, I asked pupils to complete the sentence stems (see above) and modelled a response (see the slide below).

Here I demonstrated how the BBS connectives can be replaced by others that might be more appropriate to the tone or shift in ideas.

10 thoughts on “Writing Skills: English Language Paper 2 Question 5

  1. This looks great and I’d really like to use it. Are the slides available/shared anywhere as a PowerPoint file? Thanks


  2. Dear Mr Hanson,

    This is really useful. If you are happy for me to use your power point with my GCSE classes, please could you send the ppt as an attachment?

    With thanks,

    Alison Rawle
    English teacher and Professional Tutor


  3. Dear Mr Hanson,

    A couple of other points too. I notice that you do not include many AFOREST ingredients in your argument. Is this because what you have provided is just the “bare bones” of your argument, or have we moved away from rewarding these rhetorical devices for the variety they provide?

    Secondly, I would normally discourage the use of “I” in my students’ writing, preferring a direct appeal to the reader “Have you…Could you…”. Is this unnecessary? Could you get a grade 9 while using I repeatedly?

    Thanks for your enlightening resources and thoughts so far – I always enjoy and benefit from your insights.

    Alison Rawle


  4. Hi Alison. I focused solely on the structure of ‘because-but-so’; I think I address some of those other points in other blogs. When I delivered the lessons, I talked with children about ‘levelling up’ our language, using rhetorical features, and adopting a style that is suitable to the argument, and I would expect English teachers would do the same. This is merely a structural framework, so please use, change, and adapt as you wish. Happy to help!


  5. This website has not helped me in any way possible, it is too worded and does not give you a straight answer. I could not recommend anyone here in a million years.


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