High expectations dominate my entire pedagogical approach. In most lessons I push students to think deeply about topics and make connections to the bigger picture of the course. No matter the class, I explicitly teach high level vocabulary, and no matter the student, use questioning to delve deeper into their current thoughts about what I am teaching them.
Differentiation is done mostly through directed questioning, with higher level inquiry directed to students who have moved closer to expert status with the particular topic, and challenging verbal feedback as I move around the room and observe responses. Some students are closer to mastery, and to be frank, for GCSE level, are at mastery level, and require more stimulating conversations and explorations into texts. These students are able to produce higher level, sophisticated responses to essays by weaving judicious quotes together, making links across texts and contexts, and generally writing with precision, concision, and perspicacity.
It is these students that indeed enjoy reading other texts that are of the highest calibre for GCSE, because they serve as inspiration to think, and invariably, as inspiration to produce. Sometimes it is the other way round, with the writing process their initial indulgence. But underlying either approach is the strong desire to see and absorb writing of high quality, writing that demands thinking and takes students into matrices intricate, new worlds of thought that propagate, swell, and change the soul for the better.
This is why I have set up a space on my revision/resource website called Cloud9Writing, which has now been taken over by Cheryl Quine and renamed as Cloud9EnglishClub. Students need to submit an adroit and accomplished response for their work to be added to the site. The categories are essays and creative pieces. To boost the quantity, I have also added essays I have written as well as other teachers’ submissions for students to read, as a further stimulus for students to push their thinking. It is nice for these students to see their teachers write with passion, to see him or her similarly fascinated by the texts taught, and wanting to explore themes as a source of enjoyment; as a compulsion.
The space is open to all nations. Students being able to read high quality essays from across the country, and where relevant, across the world, exposes them to a wide, diverse range of viewpoints and thinking, thinking influenced by culture, location, and gender.
As an added bonus, after some time, students’ work will remain, for posterity; how many times have you read a student’s work, been blown away by it, but end up never seeing it again? Cloud 9 Writing eliminates this frustration.
There are things to consider with such an ambition, including stipulations regarding GDPR, and who will moderate submissions. Measures in place include:
- Having moderators who are examiners to ensure the quality of uploads is maintained.
- A submission form satisfying all GDPR requirements for teachers to submit pieces from their students they believe are of an outstanding level.
- Promotion of teh site to build the quantity of submissions and promote the site’s efficacy.
If you believe you have a student who has written something of exceptional quality, and the student is willing for their work to be placed on the site (anonymously of course), leave a message below.
The platform has had over 35,000 views, and I have received lots of encouragement from teachers about the benefits for students in being able to read and indeed submit high quality essays. Please help spread the word, and even better, submit an essay.
I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more educational and English teaching resources.