The Knights Templar School

The Knights Templar School

The Knights Templar School images

Related Pages

How to improve in English in Year 8 and 9

Help for students and parents

We encourage all our students to reflect on their learning in lessons and use feedback from their teachers to help them improve. Below, you will find the ‘statements for improvement’ that summarise the feedback students are given.

These statements are used on termly reports sent to parents. Students and parents are asked to look at the guidance below to help clarify the statements on the reports. Further guidance can be found in the Literacy Guidelines booklet and the Making Good Progress in English inserts in pupils’ English books.


Statements for Improvement: Writing

Plan, organise and develop your ideas before you start to write.

When you write a long piece of writing such as a description, a review or an essay, you must plan your ideas first. This means: gathering ideas to write about, developing detail to make your writing interesting and organising your thoughts into an effective order or sequence to make them easy to follow.

When you plan, focus on the important features of your writing task. What do you know about the subject or topic? How can you develop your ideas by linking them to other points? Do you have to write in a particular style or remember to use any subject specific words? 

Plan your ideas using a spider diagram or a bullet point list. When you have all of your ideas written down, number your points and ideas to organise your writing into a logical sequence or flow. Make sure your paragraphs link together clearly so that your work makes sense when you read it through before handing it in. 

Organise your ideas into a logical sequence of paragraphs which link your points together.

Link your ideas across paragraphs, using a range of cohesive devices.

Paragraphs break up your writing so that it is easy to read. They can be viewed as stepping stones, leading your reader through your writing. Each step should make a clear point and the steps should flow together to create a clear path from beginning to end.

Plan your ideas using a spider diagram or a bullet point list. When you have all of your ideas written down, number your points and ideas to organise your writing into a logical sequence or flow. Make sure your paragraphs link together clearly so that your work makes sense.

You must start a new paragraph to show a change of focus in your writing: this could be a new point, subject or idea, a change in time or place or a change in speaker. Clearly indicate where a new paragraph begins by indenting - leaving a small space between the margin and your writing or by leaving a line between paragraphs.

Cohesive devices are used to link ideas across paragraphs; these could be repeated and developed images, the repetition of words, phrases and key concepts, the use of a consistent and appropriate voice or tone, a sense of purpose at the start and conclusion at the end and appropriate use of form and style throughout the piece of writing.

 

Use accurately punctuated sentences to make clear points.

Use a range of punctuation, including commas, full stops, speech marks and apostrophes.

Use more varied punctuation for effect.

A full stop shows the end of a sentence, breaking up the writing into easy to follow steps for the reader.

Commas show pauses in sentences and separate items in a list, e.g. I like to eat apples, bananas, pears and grapes.

Exclamation marks indicate strong feelings, e.g. That is amazing! You only need to use one exclamation mark to make a point!

Question marks indicate questions, e.g. Did you enjoy the show?

Colons introduce lists, e.g. You will need: a sleeping bag, clean socks and a packed lunch.

Use them also before an explanation or example. When Harry discovers that he is a wizard, he feels excited and confused: ‘Questions exploded inside Harry’s head like fireworks...’.

Semi colons show a pause between two parts of a long sentence; they could be separated by a full stop but the semi colon shows that they are closely linked, e.g. The sun warmed the grass; it was a hot day.

Apostrophes have two functions:

  1. a) to shorten words in informal language and speech. An apostrophe is used to replace missing letters, e.g. don’t, I’ll.
  2. b) to show possession - when something belongs to somebody, e.g. Mary’s dog.

Speech marks are used around direct speech and punctuation is always used before the closing speech marks. Use a comma before speech marks in a sentence, e.g. James said, “Let’s play football.” 


Use a range of different sentence types, using longer and shorter sentences for effect.

Use a range of sentence types to shape meaning and contribute to the overall effect of a text.

Make your writing interesting and lively by using a variety of sentences. Use short sentences to present points and ideas in a more punchy, direct way. Longer sentences should be used to explain or describe things in more detail. You can use different sentence types to increase the pace in a narrative, emphasise key points and ideas, develop explanations, add interest to descriptions; good writing has a wide range of sentence types used to create an impact on the reader.

Simple sentence
A simple sentence contains a subject (the person or thing involved in the action) and a verb (action word). Many simple sentences also contain an object (the person or thing receiving the action). The cat sat on the mat.

 

Complex sentence
A complex sentence contains more detail. Add extra information between two commas: The cat, which was feeling tired, sat on the mat.

Add detail at the beginning or end, using a comma: Feeling tired, the cat sat on the mat.

The cat sat on the mat, feeling tired.

Add detail starting with a subordinating connective: The cat sat on the mat because he was tired.

Compound sentence
A compound sentence is two simple sentences joined by a coordinating connective: and, but, so, or, for, yet, nor. For example, these two simple sentences can be joined: The cat sat on the mat. It purred as it drifted off to sleep. The cat sat on the mat and purred as it drifted off to sleep.   

Developing descriptive sentences
Add detail to a sentence using adjectives and adverbs. The lazy cat, which was feeling tired, sat on the warm, fluffy mat and purred quietly as it drifted off to sleep.

Be more creative by changing the word order and vocabulary. Feeling very sleepy, the lazy cat slumped gently onto the warm, fluffy mat and purred quietly as it drifted into a deep slumber.

Use Standard English in general writing, i.e. language that is formal, polite and avoids slang.

Your writing in school should be formal and polite. This means that you must write in a style that is as accurate and correct as you can make it. In formal writing, you should not use apostrophes to shorten words, such as don’t, isn’t, it’s and you’re. Your writing should not sound like speech - words that are commonly used in casual speech, such as gonna, gotten, cos, ain’t and innit, should be avoided.

Slang terms, such as cool, sick, wicked and lol, should also be avoided when writing in school.

Be creative with structure and your use of language to have an effect on the reader.

Structure and organise your texts for effect.

Use a wide and ambitious vocabulary, including technical language where appropriate.

When planning your writing, think about the structure carefully; in narrative writing you do not have to structure your story chronologically, you can start at the end or use flashbacks to tell the story. You could have more than one narrator, taking it in turns to tell the story from each point of view. When writing in any form try to engage your reader from the start – make your opening and closing paragraphs full of impact.

When thinking about language choices, try to include a range of new words each time you write; use a thesaurus to give you ideas and use words you may have come across in your reading, both in school and at home. Learn technical language – the language the teacher uses when explaining key ideas in lessons – and use it appropriately in your own writing. It does not matter if, at first, you cannot spell some more ambitious words; the important thing is to learn their meaning and try using them to develop the complexity of your work.

Develop the content and style of your writing to suit the audience and purpose of the task.

Before writing, make sure that you are aware of the audience – the intended reader – and the purpose – the reason for your text. This will help you to determine what and how you should write. The complexity of language and structure will depend on the age of your audience; if you are writing a short story for children, for example, you will need to use simple sentences and vocabulary.

If the purpose is to explain, a successful explanation helps the reader to understand an issue, process or idea. Writing to explain means stating clearly why or how something happened and/or why or how you felt a particular way. A clear explanation requires lots of detail. Try to sound like you are knowledgeable and ‘in charge’ - use technical or subject specific language where appropriate but make sure that meanings are clear.

When you write to describe, you must focus on the important features of the thing you are describing. Personal description should also include comments about your feelings and emotions.

We experience the world through our senses, so to describe something well you must put into words everything that your senses experience in that situation - what you see, hear, smell, touch or taste.

Writing to analyse means that, like a detective, you must examine something closely and explain in detail what you discover. When you write to analyse you must show that your understanding of something is clear. Your writing must include lots of references to the details in the text you are analysing; you should include quotations to support the points you are making.

Develop detail in your writing by expanding your ideas and explaining points clearly.

You should aim to include as much detail as possible in all kinds of writing, to show the teacher that you understand key ideas, can make points of your own and can support your ideas. Always explain your ideas fully, using phrases such as ‘this suggests’ or ‘this tells us that…’ when responding to poetry, novels and non-fiction texts. When writing creatively, add descriptive detail to create clear pictures in the mind of the reader. Make sure explanations make sense – get someone at home to read your work to see if they understand what you are trying to explain.

Identify mistakes in your writing and use strategies to learn the spellings of common errors.

Check the accuracy of your writing and make corrections before you show it to the teacher.

Drafting and proof reading are important stages in the creation of any piece of writing and you need to be able to identify errors, correct and improve your own work during the drafting stage. Read each piece carefully – do not skim read but really take notice of what you have written and ask yourself, “Can I make that clearer, more impressive, more detailed?”

Use your Literacy Guidelines booklet and refer to the Making Good Progress in English sheets in the front of your books as well as looking at the Literacy displays in the English corridor. Use a dictionary and thesaurus whenever you are writing and ask someone at home to check your homework to help you identify errors in your work. Make sure you give it a final check before handing in and ask yourself, “Is this the best work I can do?” If the answer is “No,” go back and improve it!


Statements for Improvement: Reading

Use a dictionary to check spellings and support your understanding of more complex vocabulary.

You will find key spellings in your English Skills guidance notes in the front of your English books – read them again and refer to them whenever you are writing. Look at the common errors guidelines in the Literacy Guidelines booklet too. You should make sure you always have a dictionary with you – there are dictionaries in every English classroom to support your learning. Use dictionaries to check the meanings of words you are unsure of; during lessons, write down any words you do not understand in your rough books and use your dictionary at home to find their meaning. Ask your teacher for definitions if they use words you are unfamiliar with and read a lot – this is the best way to improve spelling and widen your vocabulary.


Develop independent reading skills by reading a wide range of fiction and non-fiction texts
.

Wider reading is essential to success in English and you should make sure you always have a reading book in school and at home. Look at KTS Best Books on the school website and the noticeboard in the English corridor for ideas. Ask the librarian and your English teacher for help in choosing books during your library lesson. Chat about books you are reading at home and read as much as you can.

Show understanding by explaining ideas clearly and supporting them with evidence from the text.

Select appropriate supporting quotations when writing about a text.

When writing about texts in English you will need to use quotations to support your points; you may know

this as PEE paragraphs – point, evidence, explanation. You need to make your point clearly; the character is

feeling unhappy and isolated, add your evidence; as ‘he sat miserable and alone in the corner of the

room’, then explain it further; this suggests that he is finding it very difficult to fit in with the other boys as

he does not try to join in and is often very sad when he is surrounded by other people.

 

When writing about non-fiction, the process is the same; point; the writer thinks that rock climbing is

dangerous, evidence; he uses facts such as ‘200 people a year are injured in climbing accidents’,

explanation; this shows that accidents happen a lot and the writer wants to make the reader aware of the

potential hazards of the sport so that people take more precautions when rock climbing.

Develop deeper understanding of texts by using evidence from the text to infer meaning.

Identify themes and analyse meaning within a text.

Writers often develop themes and ideas without explicitly stating what these themes and ideas are – the reader has to work them out from what they are told within a text – they have to infer meaning. For example, a character could be very unhappy but we are not told this, we are told how they behave – they cry, isolate themselves; do not smile, so we can infer that something is making them unhappy. A character could be evil but this may not be stated directly, we have to work it out from what they say or do within the text. When you read a text you will need to ask questions about the characters and their actions; why did they do this? What does that tell us about them as a person? What does the writer want us to realise about the character, the place, the events? When you ask these questions you are gaining a deeper understanding of the text and the writer’s intentions.

Comment on how writers use language and style to have an effect on the reader.

When writing about any text you need to consider the choices made by the writer – the style they have chosen and the language they use, as these will have been selected to have a particular effect on the reader. Consider whether the text is formal or informal, serious or humorous, positive or negative.

Look at the language they have used; is it complex and intellectual or simple and easily understood by all readers? Has the writer used descriptive language to create images in the reader’s mind? The sun gently shimmered on the surface of the sea. Have they used similes and metaphors to help the reader understand their ideas more clearly or to make the writing more vivid and interesting? The waves exploded on the rocks as the storm attacked the coastline. Have they used strong negative language to show their negative attitudes towards their subject? I really loathe cyclists as they sail down the inside lane while I am stuck in horrendous traffic.

Comment on what this makes the reader imagine, feel or realise – this is the effect on the reader.

Comment on how writers use language to present characters, settings and themes.

When responding to texts you will need to consider the language chosen by the writer as it is carefully selected to develop characters, themes and ideas – they do not develop by accident!

When writing about characters look at the words used to present them – their personality may be suggested rather than clearly stated and you will need to think carefully about the way the writer shows you what they are like. Are they described in positive or negative language? He scowled at the smiling young girl next to him. How do they behave and interact with others? John pushed the old man into the room. Consider the imagery used to present the character – are certain colours associated with them; dressed all in black, he hid in the shadows, or are they compared to animals; She moved as stealthily as a fox. Comment on what the reader learns from these language choices; the writer presents the boy as evil because he uses language connected to darkness, such as ‘black’ and ‘shadows’.

When writing about setting, again look at whether the language used is positive or negative and look closely at any similes, metaphors or images used to present the place. The foul smelling alley was full of shadows lurking in the darkness – this creates a dangerous and unpleasant setting and the reader is aware that something bad will happen. The bright sunflowers danced in the gentle breeze and the bees happily buzzed in the bright sunshine – this creates a happy, positive scene, which suggests good things will happen.

Themes are the deeper meaning of the story; they can be about anything from good to evil, friendship, betrayal, love, hatred, overcoming hardship, achieving dreams. Writers may present their themes in a clear and obvious way or you may need to work them out from the events, characterisation and language choices. Look closely at the use of language in all texts because it will tell you a lot about a writer’s attitude towards a particular theme.

Comment on how the meanings of texts are influenced by their cultural and historical backgrounds.

All texts are influenced by the times in which they are written and the particular circumstances of the writer. This influence could be on the topic – Wilfred Owen’s poetry is set in the First World War and is about the lives of soldiers in the trenches as he was a soldier himself so he is influenced by his own situation.

Characterisation is also influenced by the context – consider the characters in a novel by Charles Dickens, such as Oliver Twist. Dickens is influenced by the social conditions he sees in Victorian London and his characters include poor, abandoned children living in terrible circumstances. A modern writer such as David Almond writes about children in the late 20th century and their family problems.

Find out about the context of the text you are studying and consider how it has been influenced by its cultural and historical background – ask yourself how it would be different if it was set in a different time or written in a different time.

Comment on how the meanings of texts are influenced by their form and genre.

Every piece of writing has a form, for example a letter, diary, short story, poem or article. It may also be that the writing is in a particular genre, such as horror, science fiction or fantasy. Knowing these things about a text can help you to understand how and why the writer has crafted it in a particular way. It is important to consider the form and genre of a text when writing about its meaning.