Now that we have explored various different strategies for developing student answers, it’s time to use our own ‘rehearsal’ strategy and plan exactly how we are going to help students make the leap between one-sentence spoken responses and the complex, detailed written answers expected of them as they progress through their courses.
Here is a 5-10 minute resource you can use as a teacher to help map out how you are going to help your students develop their responses:
Column 1: Where do they need to go?
Start in the first box by identifying a complex question that you know your students will need to answerer in an assessment or later in their course. Ask them this question verbally in your lesson and take a note of their responses in the second box.
Then, think about what you would ideally want them to say in order for them to succeed in answering this question, putting their point across accurately and succinctly. Write this in box 3. This may take some time to write, but it is worth doing – sometimes only by writing it ourselves do we realise the complexity of the writing we expect our students to produce. Now you can see where they need to go and the leap that needs to be made between their spoken and written responses.
Column 2: How am I going to get them there?
Now, you need to plan how you are going to help them to close this gap. Using probing questions in the lesson might be a good place to start. Look at the answers that students gave you the first time you asked the question, and think about what questions will help to draw out more information or encourage deeper engagement with the topic.
Next, look at the ideal answer that you have written yourself. What vocabulary would they need to master in order to make the leap to writing that answer? Have you structured it in a certain way that you might need to break down and explain to students? Think about what elements you would need to add to their answer to bring it closer to yours and ask students to use these elements to restate their original responses. You might want to scaffold their responses with vocabulary menus or model answers.
Once you have helped students make some progress towards a more developed answer, it’s time for them to rehearse their writing through ‘talk for writing’ activities. Choose ones that fit the task well and which are structured in a similar way to the structure of the answer you want them to produce. There are lots of ideas in our blog about rehearsing.
Here is a completed map I might use as an English teacher preparing my students to answer a question about Shakespeare’s use of language in Macbeth:
You might even want to share this map with your students to show them where you want them to get to and the path that you plan to take. When students can see a purpose to a task and can see their own progress, this can be a great motivator for success.
We have designed our platform around this very idea: we have mapped out each of our subjects completely, breaking them into units, topics, subtopics, and concepts so that students have a map of the course they are taking. We also let them know what percentage of the course they’ve covered as they progress, as well as how they are performing on each concept in relation to their target grade. Check out our example content here. If you are a tutor and you would like a 7-day free trial of our platform to see how it can help automatically track your students, you can sign up here.