Tag Archives: Working with Mark

Working with Mark to Be A Better Writer – Year 12 Essay Writing

Working with Mark is an absolute pleasure.  Mark is doing Year 12 Philosophy within his Year 11 program. He’s a very able student who has struggled to get his thoughts on paper. Last year he made great progress with his writing using Steve Peha’s Be A Better Writer.

One of Mark’s big issues is ORGANISATION! Today we got organised. Mark printed off a calendar and we put it up on the wall and started recording important dates e.g. tests, due dates and  Common Assessment Tasks. When asking Mark when something is due, a couple of weeks is probably not the best answer. The beauty of this wall is he can’t miss it. My advice is place it near the kitchen or better still, the fridge!

Calendar .jpg

Mark needs a visual timetable/calendar clearly displaying key dates and we’re using different coloured highlighters for each subject. We use these in primary classrooms but they just look different. Next week we’ll put all assessments on the calendar for this term and then it will his responsibility to keep it up to date.

Today we revisited the structure of a philosophy essay and looked at a possible essay topic around what he has been learning. We pulled a topic apart and placed each part of the topic on sticky notes using the prescribed structure.

essay structure

Possible essay based on classroom learning:

essay .jpg

be-a-better-writer-2Teaching genre is crucial for all ages. Structure helps the writer keep on track. We also revised Steve’s chapter on better sentences or what we have covered so far and listed three key points to keep in mind while writing.

organisation .jpg

Mark’s task was to independently write an introduction paragraph on the topic Mark chose. Next week we will build on this. Mark will be working on his handwriting with me but I can see enormous growth in his writing. He wrote quickly because we are looking at timing in preparation for exams. Structure has given Mark the confidence to start immediately. We will also be looking at a narrative letter response for Year 11 English.

essay start

This is a snippet but I’m very pleased with this.

Cheers Nina

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Part 6: Working with Mark (Year 10) to Be a Better Writer (BABW): Preparing Mark for his Year 11-VCE (Victoria-Australia) Philosophy Exam.

Mark is in Year 10, Victoria, Australia which he will complete in a few weeks. It’s common for students to start their Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) in Year 10 by completing one or two Year 11 subjects. Students completing a VCE Year 11 subject are exposed to the rigor and examination process involved. Mark has completed Year 11 Philosophy which he intends to study as a Year 12 subject in Year 11, which commences in late January in Australia. Year 12 subjects receive a ranking grade.

Using Be A Better Writer (BABW) by Steve Peha has provided Mark with the tools and explanations to focus on the critical issues in his writing.

Our focus has been on Chapter 8: Creating a Logical Answer to an Essay Question using the What-Why-How? strategy, Chapter 7: Better Sentences and Chapter 8: Better Punctuation.

For example Steve’s chapter Better Punctuation takes the writer through:

Do Rules Rule?be-a-better-writer-2

Practical Punctuation

When Sentences Go Wrong

The Muddle in the Middle

The Importance of Capitalization

Grouping Related Ideas into Paragraphs

Punctuating Dialog

Unruly Rules

So Who Really Rules the Rules?

mark-criteriaMark and I reviewed the rubric for a Philosophy essay, particularly the language section. What does ‘Language is appropriate’ mean?

We reviewed the genre structure required. Structures assist Mark to keep his responses logical. Initial structure.jpgUsing Steve’s What-Why-How? strategy has helped Mark to look closely at the question and answer the actual question. When students don’t read the question carefully and continue to write an essay on a different topic, there is a problem. The What-Why-How? helps to eliminate this.

Criteria – Rubric

Students should be able to review and assess their writing when provided with a rubric. Rubrics require unpacking with students so they understand what each standard means. So what does ‘Language is appropriate’ mean? Mark and I have unpacked this to include vocabulary choice, sentence structure, spelling and grammar. We reviewed the expectations linked to each of these.


Mark has limited time before his exam. Having key vocabulary spelt correctly is important. Mark has key vocabulary he must learn to spell written on sticky notes stuck on the walls in his home. His job is to revise, revise, revise and remove when he can confidently spell each words. Mark and I discussed the spelling rules we have reviewed. We’ve only looked at the basics to date. Rules don’t always work when spelling, but at this stage its better than relying on sight alone.

Steve’s chapter Better Sentences takes the writer through:

Sentence Sensemark-sentence

Start Different, Stay Different

Short, Medium and Long

The Secret of Well-Structured Sentences

The Sound of Music

Listen Up

Every Writer Serves a Sentence

Mark’s sentence above has ‘better’ structure. He is able to combine what he has learnt with the actual writing task at the time of writing. This is critical, particularly in an examination situations.


Above is a section from Mark’s practice essay completed as part of his exam preparation. This is a first draft. Mark and I discussed his letter formation and his use of capital letters. Overall, improvement is evident. Mark is now thinking whilst writing, re-reading quickly and making corrections as he writes. He is also writing using structure and a ‘better’ sense of grammar.

Cheers Nina

P.S Mark has completed his exam! He felt confident and pleased with his efforts. Mark’s goal this year is to achieve a satisfactory. His subject knowledge appears to be good and he really enjoys Philosophy. As I will be continuing to work with Mark into the future, I will be using BABW to plan his next level of learning.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized