Dual Coding the EDUQAS Poetry Anthology

I’ve talked about the usefulness of and science behind dual coding here, which includes an example of the process on the novella A Christmas Carol. Now I’ve created a resource for the Eduqas Poetry Anthology.

The images – a rationale

The file containing all the images can be downloaded here. The images are a mixture of quite explicit connections to the quote, whereas others are more metaphoric of the quote. The rationale here is to take advanatage of the understanding of elaboration in encoding. The dual channels of information processing, the auditory concurrent with the visual, may be assisted by symbolic representation within the visual pathway. When the image is recalled, multiple triggers are initiated, providing students with a deeper level of encoding. This also improves the retrieval of the information significantly, as explained here. I am really only learning about this and am open to these ideas being challenged, but for now it seems logical.

Where an image is abstract, an explantion is offered. Of course, your interpretation may be different, and you may want to include a different quote. There are only 5 images per poem, and this is designed with cognitive load in mind. Of course, this would, or maybe even should, serve simply as a baseline depending on your context. My choices are based on several elements: the contexts of the poems and what possibly drove the poet to write their poem, here, and here, the pragmatic approach to revising them, here, and my own writings that helped me flesh out a firm understanding of the key aspects of each poem, here (rationale found here).

My fabulous colleague Rebecca Walker assisted in designing the slides.


You may have other ways of designing your own. You may want to add an image to reinforce structure, or context.

You may use them as retrieval practice. Activities to vary retrieval could include:

  1. having 2 poems (10 images) on a single slide jumbled, and asking students to reorder
  2. presenting an image on a slide and asking for information related to it
  3. presenting 2 images on one slide from different poems and asking for links
  4. removing the quotes and asking students to fill them in
  5. Creating flashcards of the dual coding – may be best done with predesigned templates (here)
  6. getting students to find their own images – the idea here is that the longer they spend trying to find the images the stronger the memory of the content is likely to be.

There are many other possibilities, and I would love you to add your own thoughts in the comments if you have strategies that you’ve found worked. 

Here are the images.

Image 2: brainwashed. Image 5 : throwing marriage rings away
IMage 1: making the most of a bad situation. IMage 3: identity.
Image 1: balance of good thing passing and a bad thing passing
Image 1: connection. IMage 4: shallowness of relationships. Image 5: superficial expectations of love aren’t fair
Image 1: the rubric(expectations) doesn’t work. IMage 3: possessive, holding on very tightly. IMage 4: love is reduced to a small thing (the wedding ring)
IMage 1: lack of clarity in teh society. Image 4: even less certainty in direction. IMage 5: missed opportunity
IMage 4: world changes
IMage 3: arrogance. Image 5: refusal to listen to another perspective
Image 4: focus on the beauty of now rather than the future
Image 2: robotic lives. Image 4: generational – issue will recur. IMage 5: identities are gone
Image 4: careless disposal of body (flung). IMage 5: propaganda
Image 4: futility
Iamge 1: tragedy. Image 5: stories finally heard
Image 5: growing older and becoing aware

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources.

Context discussions for EDUQAS Poems


  3. WAR 


The era is characterised not by romance, but by a desire to return to the ideals of Roman times, where creativity and nature were highly regarded. The era is mostly a reaction to the dominance of the industrial revolution at the end of the 1700’s, a revolution that introduced mechanisation and mass machinery. The advantages to society were abundant, however there was great exploitation of people at the time as laws were not in place; there was no precedent. Pollution, enormous wealth disparity, and a bowing down to all things science characterised the time, and poets and other artists at the time were concerned about this, and produced art to counter.     

‘London’ by William Blake 

Written in 1792 

The poem describes a journey around London, offering a glimpse of what the speaker sees as the terrible conditions faced by the inhabitants of the city. Child labour, the ‘corrupt’ Church and prostitution are all explored in the poem. It ends with a vision of the terrible consequences to be faced as a result of sexually transmitted disease. As a man and poet, Blake was highly critical of what he described as society’s disassociation with itself. He saw life being compromised by trivialities. He was self-educated and believed the educated class that dominated philosophy at the time was pretentious. He studied art throughout his life and drew images for all his works.  

The poem is the first we study from the Romantic era, and it’s the perfect example that Romantic era poems are not about romance; more so they are about the love of nature, creativity, and the human spirit. London explores the demise of these things in the height of the industrial revolution. The poem was written in 1792, shortly after the French Revolution, a revolution that gave hope to citizens tired of political corruption. ‘London’ is such a strong critique of the city and what it has become that the poem could be seen as Blake almost provoking action by the people. The hapless soldier reference is also a link to George III’s stubbornness in leaving the American War of Independence battle when everyone knew it was futile to continue. 

Blake is considered to be one of the fathers of the Romantic era, alongside Wordsworth and Colleridge.  

Excerpt from The Prelude by William Wordsworth 

Written in 1799 and published in 1804 (but revised several times as Wordsworth aged). 

The prelude is a long, autobiographical poem, showing the spiritual growth of the speaker and how he comes to terms with who he is, and his place in nature and the world. Wordsworth was inspired by memories of events and visits to different places, explaining how they affected him. He described The Prelude as ”a poem on the growth of my own mind” with ”contrasting views of Man, Nature, and Society”. 

In the poem, Wordsworth recounts his childhood experience of skating on a frozen lake at night.  Being alone with nature had a great effect on him. Essentially, the poem explores the moment when he realises that the world doesn’t revolve around himself, that he is a small cog in a much larger wheel. In fact, the sense of melancholy at the end relates to us all as we all feel a sense of loss when moving from childhood to adulthood; having to go out in the world on your own is daunting, and the poem acknowledges this. It’s in one long stanza to possibly suggest the blending of the memories and also that passing of time is short.  

‘She Walks in Beauty’ by George Gordon Lord Byron 

Written in 1813 

Byron is believed to have been inspired to write the poem after seeing a woman with very good looks at a fashionable London party. It has been claimed that the lady was in mourning and dressed in a black gown. 

Byron had many stormy personal relationships. He was famously described as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ and had a reputation for being lascivious, after his first affair with the older, married, high society socialite Caroline Lamb. He then had an affair with his stepsister Augusta, a relationship which produced a child named Medora who died at just five years of age. To escape these scandals, he married Anne Milbanke, a marriage that produced Ada Lovelace, one of the first ever computer scientists and good friend and associate of Michael Faraday and Charles Darwin (brilliant links to the Science course), the great Charles Dickens (obvious links), and Charles Babbage (went to school in Totnes), the man closely associated with inventing the calculator, and the concept of the computer. But the marriage failed, and Anne hated Byron, and she refused to allow Byron any connection to Ada; this forced his departure from England to Italy, but it was at the height of his fame in London in 1814 when he saw the character in his poem at a party. The character in the poem is Anne Willmott, Byron’s cousin’s wife. But when we read the poem we realise there is no sexuality at all in its content, and when we realise that Byron was supposedly sexually abused on two occasions in his childhood, we develop a greater understanding of his issues with relationships and the poem’s content takes on a deeper significance. We have a sense of empathy for Byron, knowing that having led an obviously difficult and troubled existence, he was still able to produce a poem of such incredible purity 

Ozymandias by Percy Shelley 

Written in 1817 

The poem explores the question of what happens to tyrant kings when they die. 

Ramesses (the Greeks called him Ozymandias) lived to be ninety-six years old, ruled as Pharoah for 66 years, had over 200 wives, ninety-six sons and sixty daughters, most of whom he outlived. He was a ruthless egomaniac. The poem is metaphorical, with Ozymandias potentially being England’s King George III. However, Shelley was careful not to be so direct in criticising him, because he was previously kicked out of Oxford for atheism, and so was reluctant to get into further trouble in this poem that mocks the king. King George III was considered to be a tyrant, warmonger and egomaniac himself; this is why the poem is written in a 3rd person perspective.  

Shelley eloped with Mary Godwin, daughter of the famous writer William Godwin, when she was just 16. This relationship was undoubtedly happening when Shelley was married to his wife. It may have been the cause of the wife’s suicide. Percy and Mary moved to Italy, where they spent a summer with Byron, and where the now Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Shelley died from drowning when he was 30, and a book of poems by Keats was found on him.  

‘To Autumn’ by John Keats 

Written in 1819 

The poem reflects on mankind’s relationship with a particular time of year. He wrote the poem inspired by a walk he had taken through the countryside; it is, therefore, a highly personal response. 

Keats initially trained as a surgeon but gave it up to write poetry. Six months after completing To Autumn, he experienced the first signs of the tuberculosis that would end his life. In the poem it is almost as though the medically-trained poet has understood that his life would soon end, and he is preparing himself for death. Keats died in 1821 aged just 25. The poem is almost an acceptance of death, with lots of references to positive things about the season of Autumn (season of death).   

Keats’ father died when he was 9, and his mother remarried and sent the children to live with their grandmother. The mother died 6 years later of consumption (tuberculosis). This detachment effectively made him the parent to his 2 brothers and his sister. This fact is important because he became very close to his siblings, and the death of Tom, his brother to consumption (tuberculosis) affected him deeply. The exhortation of living in the moment is then quite cool. 


The era is represented by 2 women, both of whom suffered immensely at the hands of a male dominated society. They both became recluses as a result.  

Sonnet 43 by Elizabeth Browning 

Written in 1850 

Browning was raised by her wealthy highly religious yet tyrannical father who was a slave owner in The Caribbean. She became averse to such a trade, and she distanced herself from him. She lost her inheritance from this separation. She was very close to her brother whom became ill. She travelled to Torquay to help him recuperate, but he drowned whilst swimming. All of these events caused a great depression to overcome Elizabeth, and she became a recluse.  

Whilst a recluse, she began to write, and her letters were seen by Robert Browning, himself a famous poet. A friendship formed, and turned into love. The poem is a feel good story: from immense woe to love. Elizabeth married Robert, and they lived happily until their deaths.   

Imperceptibly as Grief by Emily Dickinson 

Written in @1850 

Dickinson was brought up in a very strict Calvinist family (religion). She had to frequent people’s homes all the time when she was young to help her father preach. She grew tired of this and as an adult denounced religion, which infuriated her father, and led to the end of their relationship. She may also have been in love with her brother’s wife, Susan, but unable to do anything about her feelings. Both of these factors may have led her to become a recluse. It is in this context that she learns to accept the way things turn out, setting a mood of acquiescence in the poem. When one good thing ends, a bad thing takes its place, and vice versa – balance is the meaning of life.  

WAR – poems from 1900 to modern day 

‘A Wife in London’ by Thomas Hardy 

Written in 1900 

The poem describes a wife receiving news of her husband who has died in fighting in the Boer War (1899-1902). The war was the reaction by the Afrikaans to the British Empire’s push into yet another colony to exploit its resources. 

Hardy wrote much of his poetry about death and war and the lives of soldiers in the 19th Century, and in particular the effects of war on the men and their families at home. The poem then is anti-war, but goes about it a unique and creative way, focusing on the effects on others as opposed to the soldiers. 

Hardy was a famous prose writer before he became a famous poet. Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Jude the Obscure are his most popular titles. Because most of his poems centre on the theme of death, he was, considered to be a very pessimistic man.  

‘The Soldier’ by Rupert Brooke 

Written in 1914.  

At the beginning of the war, many were still quite naïve about warfare—dying in battle was seen as a noble, heroic thing. At the time they weren’t concerned with machine guns, mustard gas or disease. Nearly 20 million died in World War 1, and 20 million went missing. The poem could either be propaganda, or an attempt to appease the grief of families who would inevitably lose a loved one, to make their deaths not seem like a waste. Brooke’s poems were well received by the mainstream media at the time, a media that had most definitely pushed propaganda onto the public, propaganda that unfairly distorted the realities and truths of the war, its causes, and its results. Brooke was from a very wealthy family, connected to high-ranking officers in the war, many of whom never saw real battle, but sent men to their deaths, and so his writings were likely motivated to assist the distorted vision of war. His poems are still used to this day by Royal Navy.  

Brooke himself died while serving in the Royal Navy in 1915, but it was from a mosquito bite that became infected, and he died of sepsis in April of 1915. 

Prior to the first moon landing in 1969, William Safire prepared a speech for U.S. PresidentRichard Nixon to give in case of disaster.[1] The last line of the prepared address intentionally echoes a similar line from the poem.[2] (“For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.”) 

‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen 

Written in 1917 

Owen is recounting his fist hand experiences of fighting in Word War 1 in this poem. He describes the dreadful conditions of the battlefront and the death of a fellow soldier from a mustard gas attack. It is an honest portrayal of war, opposite to pro-war, patriotic ideas of the time. The poem is totally anti-war, and makes war a very inglorious business. Owen was injured in the war and was sent home to recover. It is during this time that he wrote some of his most critical war poems, and became well known for them alongside other poets such as Sassoon. Once recovered, he was reassigned to battle. 

Owen was ironically killed in action, when the war was practically over. His mother received news of his death just as the end of the war was announced. He ironically dedicated the poem to a poet called Jessie Pope, who wrote poetry at the time encouraging the enlisting of soldiers to the war effort. Owen hated her.  

‘The Manhunt’ by Simon Armitage 

Written in the 1990’s.  

The poem was written after having a discussion with Eddie Beddoes’ wife Laura regarding her husbands’ physical and mental injuries endured after serving as a peace-keeper in Bosnia. It describes her experience of her husbands’ return and the effect his injuries have had on their relationship. It’s one of the 1st poems ever to discuss PTSD. The poem is anti-war, but goes about it in a less direct way compared to Dulce for example.  

It was a part of a Channel 4 documentary, ‘Forgotten Heroes: The Not Dead’, where the lives of soldiers were examined. In the programme, this poem is read by Laura, to highlight the truth war can bring. The causes of the Bosnian war are disputed, with NATO claiming that ethnic cleansing was carried out by the Serbian forces resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. However, an independent commission into the war found there to be no mass deaths. This led to speculation that the war was not as noble as first purported, but propaganda and an excuse for the dismantling of Yugoslavia for economic reasons. This has significance as the soldiers were essentially fighting for a lie, a situation that could have psychologically affected them; a situation analogous to the Vietnam war. 

Mametz Wood’ by Owen Sheers 

Written in 2005 

Mametz Wood was the scene of fierce fighting during the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of World War 1. The battle lasted 10 months. There were 300,000 casualties. The poem describes the battle field in modern times, with soldier’s bodies being uncovered by farmers tending the land.  

The poem explores how war swallows up the lives of men, effectively making them anonymous. The poem tells us how the men’s lives are finally honoured. Sheers was involved in a documentary film project about two Welsh writers, David Jones and Wyn Griffiths. They served with the 38th Welsh Division and both fought at Mametz Wood. While Sheers was in France, a previously unknown grave was uncovered. It contained the bodies of 20 Allied soldiers, hastily buried but with arms interlinked as described in the poem. Sheers has said that when he saw the photograph of the grave, he knew it was an image that would stay with him and that it was a subject he would want to write about. This poem is the result, surfacing some time later, just as, he says, ‘elements of the battle are still surfacing… years later.’ 

Another contextual discussion can be based around the idea that the men were told to walk and not run as they emerged onto the battlefield. This absurd command is indicative of some of the ridiculous decisions that military officers made at the time (Gallipoli is another example), and this coupled with the fact that 300,000 soldiers died to gain only 100m of territory make the whole situation seem futile and shockingly wasteful.   


‘Afternoons’ by Philip Larkin 

Written in 1959 

Time, death, chance, and choice have been identified by critics as the leading themes in Larkin’s poetry. He focused on disappointments in life, the pressures of society, the desire to escape pressures together, the fear of isolation and aging. 

‘Afternoons’, like a number of Philip Larkin’s other poems, treats the theme of the passing of youth and the setting-in of middle age. But rather than focusing on his own middle age (Larkin was in his mid-thirties when he wrote the poem, in 1959), Larkin examines the lives of others, analysing the existence of a group of young mothers. He warns us that becoming domesticated leads to a loss of spirit, and loss of identity. The advent of TV in this time exacerbated Larkin’s worries. Living in cold, Hull may also have influenced some of the tone of his work.  

‘Hawk Roosting’ 

Written in 1960 

Hughes’s earlier poetic work is rooted in nature and, in particular, the innocent savagery of animals, an interest from an early age. The poem is written from the first person narrative of a hawk, who is at the top of the food chain in his wood. It discusses power. We could interpret the poem as literally being about a hawk, or the hawk could be a metaphor for a person in absolute power– a dictator. The Nazi party’s emblem was a hawk type figure. It could ironically be about Hughes himself as he is believed to have beaten his wife on several occasions.  

‘Death of a Naturalist’ by Seamus Heaney 

Written in 1966 

Heaney is a poet fascinated with nature and how humans react within it. He was apolitical (non-political), but his poems still contain valuable messages in them.  

The poem is both a description of Heaney’s experience with nature as a boy, and a metaphor for the loss of his childhood innocence, as he looks back at his youthful naivety. He is fascinated by the frogspawn and tadpoles of the flax-dam’, but becomes repulsed by a horde of croaking frogs in their maturity. It could also be a poem about change, and a warning to not be so adamant (sure) about things because you could change your mind as you get older. The sudden tearing away from youthful innocence could also be metaphoric of Heaney having to grow up very quickly with the death of his brother, and also potentially because of the violence happening with the IRA in Ireland.  

‘Valentine’ by Carol Anne Duffy 

Written in 1993 

Carol Ann Duffy wrote Valentine after a radio producer asked her to write an original poem for St. Valentine’s Day. She is a fierce feminist. She became the 1st British female poet laureate in 2009.   

Duffy’s poem is reminiscent of a poem by 16th century poet John Donne, who approached ordinary objects in original and surprising ways. The multi-layered complexity of the onion represents a real relationship and is used as an extended metaphor throughout. The poet seems to be uninterested by the usual ‘superficial’ representations of love, and instead tries to portray a more realistic symbol, because love can be painful and hurtful. In that way, the poem serves as a type of warning. 

‘Living Space’ by Imtiaz Dharker 

Written in 1997. 

Imtiaz Dharker was born in Pakistan and grew up in Scotland. Her poetry deals with themes of identity, the role of women in contemporary society and the search for meaning. She draws on her multi-cultural experience in her work. She works to raise awareness of issues in other countries. Dharker’s intimate knowledge of Mumbai is evident in this poem. The slums of Mumbai are where people migrate from all over India in the hope of a better life, and the poem explores the idea that optimism can thrive in adversity. The poem then is really about 1st world pettiness not really being worth wasting too much time over: there are more important things going on in the world.  

‘I don’t want to have to define myself in terms of location or religion. In a world that seems to be splitting itself into narrower national and religious groups, sects, castes, subcastes, we can go on excluding others until we come down to a minority of one’.   

Cozy Apologia’ by Rita Dove 

Written in 1999. 

Waiting for a storm to hit, the speaker thinks about her partner. She pictures him as a knight in shining armour, protecting her. He’s a vivid contrast, she thinks, to the ‘worthless’ boys she used to date. She’s embarrassed by how content their cosy, ordinary lives have made them.   

Rita Dove is married to fellow-writer Fred Viebahn and the poem is a tribute to him. It is set against the arrival of Hurricane Floyd, a powerful storm which hit the east coast of the USA in 1999. This factual, real-life context supports the idea this is an autobiographical poem. The poem mostly explores the idea that society has unrealistic expectations of what love actually is: it’s not Romeo and Juliet style, full of unrealistic passion and intensity, all ideas perpetuated (driven) by the media and superficial culture. It’s ok to be just content.  

Rita Dove was the first African American to be awarded the Poet Laureate in America. She also won a Pulitzer Prize in 1987. 

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me o Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources.

My ResearchED talk from Rugby

Having the opportunity to speak at ResearchED Rugby was a real honour, and the event was simply a wonderful occasion. I met lots of incredibly friendly people, and I was incredibly inspired by their passion and willingness to improve the educational landscape, a passion I certainly share. A huge thanks goes to Jude Hunton for asking me to speak, and organising a superb event.

The rough transcript of my talk is below, and a link to the slideshow here. Please let me know if you can’t access it.

Teaching English is simply wondrous. But it’s hard too. There’s so much at stake, so much to do. Getting the pedagogical balance between the art of teaching and the science of teaching is difficult, imperative, but also EXCITING.  

In my practice, I was too heavy on the art – and not enough on the science, which ironically obstructed and even obfuscated the curriculum from shining through. 

We know what the art of teaching English includes: the purposeful curation and presentation of incredible texts, texts that become windows to the soul, texts that teach us so much about the word, but perhaps more poignantly, teach us about ourselves. We know how powerful the art of expression can be, to be able to express oneself with clarity, precision and insight. And we know how useful it can be to become artful in connecting with students as much as possible, to know the best way to keep them motivated, to become a part of their learning journey, and become inspiration that they never forget. But when I don’t consider the processes that enable students to learn or consider how to make the delivery of content as efficient as possible to assist understanding and retainment of that content, I create an imbalance. 

I know that this imbalance between the art of teaching and the science leads to learning gaps – leads to the Matthew effect taking over. The Matthew effect is exacerbated when students with culturally rich background knowledge are able to absorb and withstand poor instruction whereas those without the background can’t. This is because the culturally rich background allows students to feed off the reserves of cultural fat, whereas those without it emaciate with insipid instruction.  

We know this is a blight in modern schooling – which we must address in the limited time our students spend in front of us.  

So, in today’s session, I want to go through what I believe have been barriers to better teaching and thus better learning by my students, with the largest, and one I’ll spend the most time on, incremental design, taking up much of the focus.  

One of the first significant barriers was a lack of understanding about cognition. Fortunately, research has provided us with what could only be referred to as a game changer – by Sweller – and I’m not only saying that because he’s a fellow Australian. Understanding cognitive load in designing sequences of learning is crucial. Awareness of working memory and its function and poignantly its limitations in learning should ultimately be driving all curriculum decisions. 

This leads onto the next game changer – memory. Prehension of how to assist students retaining information has guided my lessons, with quizzing prevalent in most lessons, and me consciously interweaving concepts and using elaborative retrieval to help students make connections and strengthen memory. I’ve written about various strategies to assist the retainment of content, from creating a story around the curriculum to allow or greater connections between texts and themes, as well as varying retrieval exercises, and finally, utilising the notion of elaborative retrieval, which again , via making connections through storytelling facilitates the triggering of multiple neural paths to arrive at a desired memory.  

The learning scientists are the go to people for discussing memory, with good explanations offered for students themselves to assist their metacognition. 

The 3rd aspect of cognition is dual coding. I would recommend you see Oliver Cavliogli talk about this, but… he is speaking next door right now, so I guess I have to tell you. Well actually let me use another of the greats to explain it: the brain has 2 channels for learning: auditory (listening and reading) and visual (images). What Chris has done here is to help students remember the entire story of Romeo and Juliet, almost using images as a trigger for retrieval – it essentially becomes an elaboration method, where there is now another possible neural path for the memory to travel.  

This is most definitely the next wave of teaching and learning. 

So now I have a better understanding of these, I remove a barrier to learning. 

The next hurdle was a pandemic plague on education – the obsession with observation and progress. Bjork points out that learning can’t really be measured or observed in a single session – and it’s because of again the understanding of cognition – retrieval strength vs storage – if information was just delivered, it’s going to be fresh, and able to be recalled easily – seeing progress then in a lesson is a false claim. Better off coming back a few days later. I discuss this here in this post about smashing observation – if you have to go through it – show off what your students have been learning over time – deliver lessons that demonstrate learning over time.  

Another one bites the dust! 

Teaching to the test. A pernicious beast! Understandable with accountability. Daisy Christodoulou obliterates the notion, explaining that it actually doesn’t make any logical sense anyway. What is assessed is taken from a domain, and we if assume a certain section, and another comes up in the exam, then we’ve done a huge disservice to our students. A better idea is to teach the domain. 

A concomitant to this is understanding the domain. Taking the time to work it out is crucial – but also being pragmatic. You can’t teach everything, and I think this is a trap for teachers, wanting, with good intention, to teach the world. For example, it’s probably better to teach KS3 story writing as a 45 minute story – to match the GCSE task – this is because it takes a long time to develop writing skills, and narrowing the scope of style will help ensure mastery, or allow us to get closer to it at least. Of course, this tends to run counter to the ideal of English, the romance of it all, freedom of expression and open ended creativity, but it’s not practical – we can’t have it all, and if we try, we might end up with nothing.   

Adapting teaching based on progress of students is a seminal idea by Dylan Wiliam. Far be it for me to add anything to it, but I wander if teachers would be better advised in ensuring delivery of content is incremental so as to avoid moments where pivoting is needed? 

Again, we get closer to where we want to be. 

The final, rather large barrier, is poorly designed curriculum that either isn’t progressive, or doesn’t have the precision to ensure mastery is possible.  

I want to discuss this in 3 contexts: a pragmatic approach, with teachers walking into lessons tomorrow, designing a unit of work, and designing a whole curriculum.  

For teachers considering adapting practice tomorrow, which of course is all of us at some point, I’m going to zoom in on these 3 ideas: 

Modelling: I’ve learnt a great deal from these 3 educators, with Andy Tharby illustrating the usefulness of the I, We, You approach – an apprenticeship approach very much in line with Rosenshine’s principles of Instruction.  

I have added to this concept with the notion of the 4th dimension: the student model – based on the idea that a good student model may be of more use to other students than my model – the curse of knowledge playing a part, but also the register and vernacular may be better suited –especially for struggling students.  

Sarah Barker’s assiduous approach is brilliant – not even allowing any writing to happen until students have absorbed multiple views of the process.  

And tom Needham’s worked example approach, enormously beneficial in reducing cognitive load and in assisting strengthening of writing.   

I’ve been working on the design of a creative writing unit with a very pragmatic approach incorporating the strategies above.  

My view is that at GCSE level, students must know how to write for the 45 minutes. As a base, I have students follow a structure design – with no exceptions. I want to avoid common complaints of lack of creativity = no writing. The structure helps build connections to the main character, and provides a relatively simple plan to develop a decent story. There are 4 sections: which you can read here: a part of a portfolio type assessment, with 2 stories needed to be written before the closed book assessment.  

*Go through sections and comprehension activity and individual sentence design. 

The findings of this approach have been very positive: Very weak students copied model – which is fine, because now they at least have an embedded structure to work from, whereas previsously they would have ended the unit with nothing. Some made minor adjustments to plot; Some were able to use prompts to write an alternative story; Those who chose different structure for second story could evaluate. It led to the development of exam length stories for students to read and become inspired by stories, and to see models of what is required/possible. 

The second consideration to improve teaching overnight is loosely linked to modelling: direct instruction – Tom’s blog again is worth a read in learning about this, based on work by Engelmann. 

Follow through project: monitored the progress of at risk students using multiple models of learning. What the results showed was that for basic skills like reading and maths and language, direct instruction outperformed compared to most other models. Interesting, and poignantly, DI outperformed other models in cognitive abilities: higher order thinking particularly, including against models that explicitly try to develop these skills: open education, discovery learning.  

I’ll allow you to read this: 

And this: 

As you can see, it’s all about mastery before the next stage is introduced. 

It’s certainly going to dominate things from here I believe.  

The 3rd immediate improvement I have made is to write. Stemming from a request by a high-level student for some reading on particular topic, I observed that learners really didn’t have anything to read – there wasn’t anything bespoke for GCSE length.  

So, I started the ball rolling – having a blast along the way, and gaining valuable insight into how themes etc can be discussed, in timed conditions, and developing points in a response. It’s also been amazing fun. It led to developing CLOUD 9 WRITING, where students from around the globe could submit essays of high quality – to read, to learn. Please help me by adding submissions to the platform. 

The second context for avoiding incremental design flaws is in planning a unit of work. I want to approach this from an assessment angle.  

Let’s take a poetry unit in KS3. What I want to demonstrate here is that each assessed component is an individual thing, a component that can be isolated when giving feedback. As soon as you start adding multiple assessable aspects it makes it harder to isolate issues and intervene.  

*go through each phase of the assessment cycle. 

The final element is designing a whole curriculum, and I want to focus on what is an intrinsic part of what we do: grammar.  

Originally, this arose from a state of apoplexy with the pervasive crime of comma splicing.  

I used Daisy Christodoulou’s thinking from the seminal Making good Progress and considered that issues need to be unravelled, and the key components taught in isolation.  

But I realised that it’s not as simple as it seems. There are huge barriers to students becoming really comfortable with components of a main clause, critical knowledge in deciding how to punctuate clauses.  

The 2 main issues are a lack of sequenced schemes of learning in working from the basics. Of course, there are immeasurable numbers of grammar lessons online and in books, but nothing that suitably goes through bit by bit, and written for a secondary level student. So, I have decided to design it:  

*play animation of design 

What it needs of course is for students to master each stage before moving on – another aspect severely lacking in current offerings. This means taking each section and providing activities that ensure mastery, with each new section building and consolidating. 

Here, I’ve designed the sequence of activities. Notice that the activity is carefully planned so as not to include other word classes that could confuse this section – for example, including gerunds or anomalies. There is a mix of correct and incorrect examples to ensure guessing isn’t a successful strategy, and each type of word class has a summative section that tests each specific type in combination.  

Mastery of each is crucial, as the next stage builds on this one.  

So I have a plan – I have the scheme designed already, and lots of activities. I want to include videos to enhance the learning of specific knowledge (dual coding) AND I WANT TO UTILISE ADAPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES TO help students achieve mastery –this can then be done as intervention, in tutoring, at home etc.  

There might be other ways of teaching grammar, but for me it has helped students with punctuation, because I can discuss with them why the comma shouldn’t be there.  

It’s also opened up the opportunity for me to deliver much more precise feedback in writing. It’s allowed me to discuss language much more in class, with comfort. It’s empowered students, helping them gain confidence in understanding more about the language they use every day, and opens their abilities in using language for effect.  

So when attention is paid to incremental design flaws, in fact, when we pay attention to all of these barriers to learning, we eliminate them, and we restore the balance – we provide opportunity for the art of what we do to flourish. 

So, in summary,  

  1. English teaching can become more of a science 
  1. We can eliminate learning gaps by considering research 

Thank you 

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me @edmerger and follow this blog for more English teaching resources.


I’ve written a number of essays on texts:




  • There are other HIGH QUALITY essays on Cloud 9 Writing, a platform for high quality writing. 

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources.

DEATH OF A NATURALIST – an interpretation

The title of Death of a Naturalist is not accidental, the ostensible drama and hyperbole apt metonymy for the unnatural quickening and capricious nature of a modern childhood transition to adulthood. The young boy, implied to be Heaney himself with the use of first person pronouns, is initially oblivious to the oppressive semantic field. The punishing sun and the festering dam anaemic to the will of the adventurer, the synaesthesia in ‘wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell’ powerless to distract from the superlative in ‘But best of all’. The warm thick slobber, the ‘heart’ of his life experience, dominates his every spring. The parochial fixation is manifested in the shrine-like attention to the ‘jampotfuls of the jellied specks’, the word ‘ranging’ on the windowsill exemplifying the boy’s specious comprehension of competent care for the natural phenomena, but equally demonstrating his impressive patience, the alliterative ‘wait and watch’ emphasised by the preceding caesura. The continuous enjambment, metaphoric of the boy’s inexorable enthusiasm, is juxtaposed with his guileless immaturity in describing the knowledge he’s learnt from Miss Walls regarding the workings of the cycle, and its fatuous associations to the weather. Poignantly however, the caesura abruptly ending the first stanza forebodes change.

The single moment in time emphasised in stanza two, the ‘one day’, the sounds he ‘had not heard before’, signals an awakening, a realisation, a life changing juncture. The negative semantic field now turns militant, the angry frogs ascribed as grenades, invading his thoughts and threatening obscenely. Sound imagery is used to evoke the nascent torment, the plosive ‘thick’ highlighting the depth of this new but blurred intelligence, and ‘chorus’, positioning the sound as overwhelming, unrelenting. The adult spawn is seeking vengeance. The boy is ripped out of his world in an instant, with the short sentence, ‘I sickened, turned, and ran’, but Heaney, with the child’s hypothesis of the ‘great slime kings’ as antagonists, is keen to impress that his immaturity still abounds, and is thus indubitably not ready for the transition. Here Heaney laments his own impressions of the world he has known, with his younger brother’s untimely death, and the increasing violence in Ireland prematurely wrenching young souls from their natural life progression and stages. In such context, the naturalist doesn’t stand a chance. In this vein, Death of a Naturalist is as much a political poem as anything else, surreptitiously designed and seemingly innocuous in its tale of a naïve rural boy, yet damning of a society that expedites the growth of the child for selfish insensitive adult purposes. It is the loss of innocence in Death of a Naturalist that Heaney draws our attention to, but it is not just the loss of the singular childhood of the poem: it is a collective loss, a loss that attenuates us all. 


This analysis is a part of a series of expositions into texts I’ve been teaching GCSE students. Other poetry essays include: As Imperceptibly as GriefOzymandiasExcerpt fromThe Prelude vs To Autumn, Mametz Wood vs Excerpt from The Prelude, Excerpt from The Prelude vs To Autumn. There are other poetry essays on Cloud 9 Writing, a platform for high quality writing. 

Other essays include expositions into Macbeth: here, and here, and Lord of the Flies

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources.


Previously, I presented a possible approach to assist students in their revision of revising for the poetry exam. The post, here, suggested students learn 5 of the poems in great detail and creatively design arguments that would allow the poem to be used regardless of the theme in the essay question. As suggested by the title, the approach is particularly designed for students who may not have the time or capacity to be able to revise all of the poems in the anthology. Despite my best of intentions, sadly this is the case for a certain number of my students.

In this post I will present another revision strategy, designed with the understanding of cognitive load (see Adam Boxer’s excellent explanation of cognitive load here), and utilising the notion of incremental design. I believe, similar to the way we present information to students, cognitive load should be considered when we present revision strategies to students. Struggling students often become overwhelmed with revision, throwing their hands in the air ( = ignoring it) because they don’t know where to start; there’s literally hundreds of things to revise. What might benefit them would be a broken down approach, instructing students to incrementally build their revision, which should begin by providing a baseline.

Presently, as an example, I would expect students to revise straight from their poetry anthologies. However, I have realised this may not be the most effective strategy for novice learners. There is a lot of information on this page, and for the novice learner, a learner who doesn’t have a good secure level of understanding, an overwhelming amount of knowledge in terms of using it as a revision tool.

So, as a baseline revision tool, I have given my students blank copies of the anthology, and gone through each poem with them in class, annotating just 5 or 6 aspects of each poem. Visually, it looks lots easier to cope with, the premise being that in a 25 minute writing adventure, lower level students would realistically only be able to write about 5 or 6 aspects of the poem, having described WHAT the poem is about and its MESSAGE (often included context) in the intro.

From this base, I would employ students in several revision activities in their class books or alternative place, but in the following sequence:

  • Write down what the poem is about
  • Write down the message of the poem
  • Write down what each of the 5 or 6 annotated sections has to do with the poem.

Students would use retrieval strategies to complete the activities above, but would refer to their actual anthologies if knowledge is lacking. They may reduce the number of flashcards to ensure they have the baseline understanding secure for each poem first, and then begin writing responses to possible essay questions. Just for a moment consider the enormity of this task, with 15 – 18 poems to be discussed. For struggling students, reducing the cognitive load to a minimalistic baseline is imperative.

It is my hope that students will use the minimalistic revision anthology to ensure they have at least a sound level of understanding of each poem, considering that they could be asked to write about any of them in section A of the poetry exam. The minimal visual highlighting too, assists the memory, so when the poem is actually presented to them in the exam, I hope this strategy helps them to recognise in their memories where the highlighted sections were, quickly highlight on the exam, and begin to write with confidence about the poem.

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for other English teaching resources.

An approach to CONTEXT

Like all great art, poetry can be transformative. Poetry has the ability to reach into the soul, to stir around in there and thrash its way to the surface, to change the heart irrevocably, and to invigorate each new breath from thereon as a consequence. The world is never the same once a poem has been added to it according to Dylan Thomas, it is emotion in measure says Hardy, it is just the evidence of your life burning well, poetry being the ash, as suggested by Leonard Cohen. Poetry is all these things because that is why the art form exists: it desperately wants to serve as a window to the soul. Incontrovertibly, poets want us to feel something when we’ve finished reading their endeavour. They want us to consider the world around us as a result of their work. They want us to learn something about ourselves. 

How poets get these feelings across to us has changed over time. Early poetry form was centred heavily on sound, as a means of aiding memorisation and recital of ancient important traditional and prehistoric stories. Homer’s the Illiad and Odyssey, and Virgil’s Aeneid are cases in point. The themes evoke aspirations of heroism, but also, crucially, succeed in exciting a range of emotions that the reader vicariously endures. The invention of the printing press meant that modern poetry did not only have to rely on sound, but could also employ visual form on the page. Poets had more ways to get their emotions across, but regardless of form, emotion remained everything.

What the reader does with these emotions is, of course, highly subjective. Keats characterises his poetry as reaction against what he felt was the stifling intentions of Colleridge’s philosophical quest for truth. He preferred Shakespeare’s ambiguity in this realm, stating in a letter to brothers George and Thomas, 1817, that ‘man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’ It is these states, and more, that we are offered by the poems in our GCSE anthologies, states that needn’t lead to a conclusion or goal, but states that set off the soul on a journey of inner exploration, and ultimately, growth.

Here’s the journey that I get taken on with each of the poems from my board’s anthology:

As a society people need to wake up – they’ve lost their way. They are being let down by the institutions, and ironically, the much praised notion of progress actually opens more doors for exploitation, and moves us further away from what’s real and important. The industrial revolution is now the technological revolution; both eat away at the soul, but we are blindly letting it happen.  
Excerpt from The Prelude
Nature can teach us a lot about humility, and that there are bigger things than us in the world. Also, that we naturally feel a sense of loss when we realise this, as we transition into adulthood, but that this is ok. 
To Autumn
We shouldn’t look too far ahead in life, but to make the most of the moment. Look for the joy in everything around you, because it is there. Take nothing for granted, because it can be lost at any time. 
The hubris of men and institutions that impose themselves on society is immature and laughable. Time always wins, and art records your impact, permanently: what will it be, good or bad? In other words, don’t be arrogant; the only legacy worthwhile is a positive one. The best way to fight oppression is through education and art.
Sonnet 43
Things can change for the better if you hang in there. Perseverance pays off, and life has a tendency to set itself right if you can battle through the tough times. Love is good, and powerful!
A Wife in London
War affects not just the soldiers, but family and society in general. The depths of despair are great, and we should be angered by this fact, and want greater awareness of the collateral damage/ consequences of decisions made in going to war. 
The Soldier
Brooke’s attempt to provide a reprieve for the inevitability of death in the war is probably the wrong tact. His suggestion that it is worth the sacrifice, and that it shall be rewarded in the after life is unfair as he hasn’t seen the realities of war. But, he may also be providing solace to those who will lose loved ones: their deaths won’t be for nothing. In this regard, it is a noble poem.
Dulce et Decorum Est
Owen is horrified by the extensive propaganda promoting war as glorious. He wants people in England to understand the reality, and to be more responsible in advertsising it to young impressionable patriotic boys.
Mametz Wood
Sheers wants us to never forget the sacrifices made by soldiers of the past. He wants to remind us of the brutality of war, and its senseless violence. It reminds us in modern times to ask more questions before we accept war. 
Hawk Roosting
The nature of a despotic leader is worrying, and how we should very much be wary of giving them power. In light of the world’s political in/stability, people should not just be afraid, but take lots and lots of care when deciding on a leader, because the wrong choice can be devastating. Also, this type of domineering attitude can be seen in relationships, and it is also something to be careful of.
Death of a Naturalist
A selfish existence is not sustainable. We can’t always just take and satisfy personal impulse. Also, the transition into adulthood can be confusing, and overwhelming, and awkward, but it is a natural process, and we have to accept it.  
Living Space
We should be more aware of what we actually have in our lives, and inevitably, to be lots more grateful for those things. Also, even if we don’t have what we want, we can still get lots out of life because we have an inner spirit that wants to shine.
Love and relationships can be more intense and difficult than what is presented in the fairy-tale illusion promoted in social media and film. We should be more aware before we jump in. Also, the hype is not only often an unachievable lie, but seriously damaging if we fall for it. 
Letting life just slip by, and losing control of it, like lots of people do in suburbia and beyond is an easy trap to fall into, but one that should be avoided at all costs. 
She Walks in Beauty
A chequered past undoubtedly is because of some sort of trauma, which can be overcome by focusing on inner strength and beauty. Everyone has it within themselves to be able to change. The poem teaches us that the environment is a large contributor to how people behave, so it’s important not to judge a book by its cover. 
Cozy Apologia
We shouldn’t be subsumed by superficial materialistic needs and unobtainable ideals of love and relationships. Being content is good; relationships don’t always have to be dramatic and intense like promoted incessantly on social media and film, and in fact, are shallow when they are. 
The Manhunt
There are extensive consequences of war, and that psychological damage can be just as bad as the physical. Trauma changes a person, and we must learn to understand it before we make conclusions about behaviour.  
As Imperceptibly as Grief
Life is about balance: when things go bad, often it is countered by something good happening. The sooner we accept this natural flow, the more content we will be. Even death is a part of the cycle of life, and we waste time by fighting it. 

This type of expression of the journey the poems are taking me on is more than just an expression of AO1, and what is happening in the poem. It’s very much moving closer to the WHY of the overall poem. In this way, as to avoid confusion with the excellent advice offered by Becky Wood in getting students to find the ‘why’ of language choices in a text, I will refer to the overall why as the poem’s PURPOSE. Importantly, this is MY understanding of the poem’s intention. It is what I learn from the poem. It is how I see the poem fitting into my world.


The AQA spec states that ‘Context, where relevant, may also apply to literary context such as genre and also the context in which texts are engaged with by different audiences at different times. In the exam, in all cases, the question being asked will lead the student to write about context, so a student shouldn’t have to worry about hitting the AOs. In answering the question asked, they will be writing about context.’ The EDUQAS spec states something similar. Therefore, discussions about the effect on the reader themselves are valid context discussions.

The process of composing the speculations in the above table has two significant benefits: it not only satisfies the context component of the essay, avoiding ineffectual maundering by students in bolting on context conversations, but more importantly, it helps the students to engage in a deeper way with the poem, searching for the connections and links to their own world that ultimately help them make sense of it. The poems then do what they are supposed to do: affect the student.

Here’s how it looks in an essay comparing Mametz Wood with Excerpt from The Prelude. The introduction follows the advice offered here, and the section in bold is the possible PURPOSE of the poem.

Another poem that has nature as its dominant theme is Mametz Wood. In the poem Owen Sheers uses the idea of the earth purging itself of the physical remains of the 4000 Welsh soldiers who died in the Battle of the Somme, but also the memories of the battle too. This process however, ironically provides the men with a voice for their absent tongues, as their anonymous sacrifice is finally honoured.  Sheers ostensibly implores us to ruminate on the brutality of war, its senseless violence and destruction, and the unnaturalness of youth dying. This bifurcation of the theme of nature: its power with the unnaturalness of war separates it from the presentation of nature as simply a powerful force in Excerpt from The Prelude (EFTP), an idea previously discussed. 

The full response above is here. A similar essay in terms of style, based on comparing To Autumn with Excerpt from The prelude is here.


I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources


This is an example of comparing poems, a component of the EDUQAS Literature component. It utilises a specific approach incorporating a discussions of the WHAT, WHY and HOW of the poem, and also about context as explained here.

Another poem that has nature as its dominant theme is Mametz Wood. In the poem Owen Sheers uses the idea of the earth purging itself of the physical remains of the 4000 Welsh soldiers who died in the Battle of the Somme, but also the memories of the battle too. This process however, ironically provides the men with a voice for their absent tongues, as their anonymous sacrifice is finally honoured.  Sheers ostensibly implores us to ruminate on the brutality of war, its senseless violence and destruction, and the unnaturalness of youth dying. This bifurcation of the theme of nature: its power with the unnaturalness of war separates it from the presentation of nature as simply a powerful force in Excerpt from The Prelude (EFTP), an idea previously discussed. 

The beginning of the poem is greatly contrasted to the pleasant opening of EFTP, as discussed earlier. In Mametz Wood (MW), the poet focuses on the farmers finding the bodies for ‘years afterwards’, shocking the reader with the amount of bodies in the ground. The term ‘wasted young’ highlights this further, indicating that the men have died way too young, and that this is highly unnatural. The waste is further emphasised by using nature imagery in the alliterative metaphor ‘broken bird’s egg of a skull’, suggesting the young soldiers’ lives are fragile, but also connecting them to potential, as new life grows in an egg. The anger generated from this knowledge of them losing their future is accelerated with reference to nesting machine guns, highlighting the evil of the situation as the men are lured into a trap. This feeling is exacerbated when we are told the men ‘were told to walk, not run’, the caesura emphasising the ridiculousness of the order, and increasing our disbelief. All of the events seem shockingly unnatural. 

The moods at the end of the two poems however, are reversed. EFTP ends in a sombre tone, the boy realising that nature is a bigger force than first thought, and that there’s more to life than just his own needs. The ending of MW though is more optimistic, suggesting that the men’s voices are now finally being heard. Nature has allowed this to happen. The natural process that people go through after a death can finally eventuate for the families now that the men are being recognised. 

 The two poems are also structured very differently in presenting the theme of nature, with EFTP written in one stanza to represent the blending of the memories of nature, as discussed earlier, whereas MW is in 7 equal length stanzas, perhaps suggesting that on the surface the earth seems quite even and consistent, but has hidden beneath it the horrors of war that it is trying to unearth. This ironic structure highlights the unnatural consequences of war, adding to the poem’s overall suggestion that disrupting the natural order is heart breaking. This combined with the way nature finally provides an avenue for the soldiers’ voices to be heard is acknowledgement of the multiple ways nature presents its power, a theme of the Romantic movement, of which Wordsworth was instrumental.

Other poetry essays include: As Imperceptibly as Grief, Ozymandias, Excerpt fromThe Prelude vs To Autumn. There are other poetry essays on Cloud 9 Writing, a platform for high quality writing.

Other essays include expositions into Macbeth: here, and here, and Lord of the Flies

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources.


This is part 3 of a focus on precision in curriculum design. The first part is here. The second part, focusing on pragmatic examples for next day teaching is here.

As previously discussed in the last post, the best way to avoid gaps emerging in student knowledge is to build curriculum incrementally and then assess those incremental stages. This strategy provides you with precise feedback where an issue lies, as there should really be only one thing that could have gone wrong, which can then be addressed before the next part of the curriculum is introduced.

In this post, I’ll discuss a possible approach to designing the sequence for a unit of work, which of course inextricably must involve assessment design too.


Imagine you want to teach a poetry unit. Leading on from having already developed students’ confidence in structuring a response here, now we want to add content to the writing mix. Crucially, the thing I want to assess should be the main focus of the assessment, and in order to achieve that, I MUST eliminate as much extraneous load as possible so students can build and strengthen their knowledge in the area of focus. This essentially involves adding one new piece of knowledge to master at a time.

To begin, I would assess on a single poem, but have it open book with a known question, which will allow me to check for the way students are structuring their thoughts. I don’t make it closed book because if I do that, errors can stem from two sources: not just lack of structure knowledge, but also content knowledge too. I also don’t want to place time limits as performance could be a factor in poor responses. I would continue this piece of writing until I have a strong success rate, as moving on from here without security would be inhibitive to future success if many students still couldn’t master this stage.

Single poemStructure of thoughts (inc. context)Open book, Known question, ample time

Once I am confident that the articulation of responses is fortified, next, I add more content, but still keep the assessment open book. The difference this time though is that I won’t reveal the question beforehand. Now I want to check for performance under added pressure. Performance entails the ability to structure thoughts under pressure. I’ve written about this type of performance, essentially exam preparation, here.

Single poemStructure of thoughts (inc. context)Open book, Known question, ample time
3 poemsStructure of thoughts (inc. context), performanceOpen book, Unknown question, ample time

Now I want to test revision, so the assessment is closed book, but with set time, to again test performance, but this time, a different aspect of it. The question will be known however, so students can revise. This allows me to see if performance is the result of specific revision or lack thereof.

Single poemStructure of thoughts (inc. context)Open book, Known question, ample time
3 poemsStructure of thoughts (inc. context), performanceOpen book, Unknown question, ample time
5 poemsRevision,performanceClosed book, known question, set time

Finally, I want to assess the domain, and so all possible error sources are exposed.

Single poemStructure of thoughts (inc. context)Open book, Known question, ample time
3 poemsStructure of thoughts (inc. context), performanceOpen book, Unknown question, ample time
5 poemsRevision,performanceClosed book, known question, set time
5 poemsDomainClosed book, unknown question, set time

This process would be repeated until all the required poems in the anthology are studied. The incremental design of this unit ensures that students can master the individual components that are intrinsically necessary to be able to move on to a more complex stage of the unit. It is this that helps avoid gaps in student knowledge, and allows teachers to be more precise with understanding what an issue may be for a student who presents with errors.

In the next post, I’ll suggest strategies to plan and design curriculum that allows knowledge to be built fundamentally, from the ground up.

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources.


For lots of teachers, knowing what the appropriate balance is for answering the comparative poetry section has remained an inscrutable affair. Below is some guidance from the wonderfully kind and informative Eduqas subject officer for Literature, Julia Harrison.

My initial question centred around the ratio of discussion, and whether repeating comments made in part A was required.

To double check my understanding of this I submitted a short example:

To which Julia replied:

So, with this in mind, I have been instructing my students to very much focus more of their discussions on the second text, using the expression ‘as previously discussed’ to refer back to analysis explanations of the first text in the response, as can be seen in this developmental model here, and in a real comparison of To Autumn with Excerpt from The Prelude here. This significantly allows for more discussion on the 2nd poem. A strategy to help revise for what poems would be worth revising assiduously is here.

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching resources.