Wednesday 21 April 2021
In Paper 1 Writing, in May, students will have to decide which text type is ‘appropriate’ for the task they choose. But what does ‘appropriate’ mean… and how will students recognize which is the most ‘appropriate’ text type? This matters, because if they choose an option which the examiners consider to be ‘generally inappropriate’, they will end up earning only one or two marks for Criterion C, instead of the five or six if they choose the ‘appropriate’ option.
So, how does one choose the ‘appropriate’ option for a given task?
I have just addressed this problem by adding a section to all of the pages included in the section Text type expectations . Each text type has a page devoted to explaining how students are supposed to handle the writing of the text type in order to earn the highest marks. To each page, I have now added a box headed ‘Appropriate?’, in red – which goes on to describe how a student might decide that the text type might be appropriate for a certain task.
You might put it to your students that, basically, deciding on the most appropriate text type is largely a matter of common sense… that is, informed common sense, because students need to be informed about the essential use and usage of each of the text types. And that is what I have tried to summarise in the ‘Appropriate?’ sections that I have added.
The term ‘common sense’, in this context, breaks down to considering sensible answers to simple questions about the nature of the task:-
1. How public or private is the text supposed to be, as required by the task?
To illustrate, if the task requires you to explain some personal opinions about the subject to a wide public, you’re not going to choose the ‘diary’ text type because this is fundamentally private – you’re going to choose ‘blog’ because this is fundamentally public.
2. How efficiently will the text type reach the required audience?
To illustrate, if the task is to circulate important information to the whole local community, which are you going to choose between ‘speech’ or ‘brochure, leaflet’? Clearly, a brochure will be better, because you can ensure that everyone receives a brochure, whereas you can’t be sure that everyone will turn up to hear the speech.
3. How objective or subjective does the task require the text to be?
To illustrate, if the task requires you to describe the facts of a situation in your school which has caused discussion, you are likely to choose the option ‘report (official)’ … but if the task is to convince people what you think should be done about that situation, you are likely to choose the option ‘opinion column’.
In the end, such common sense depends on what exactly the task requires, but students can apply the suggested questions as a means of getting to grips with deciding which option is most appropriate. Of course, it is also worth pointing out to them that, of the three text type options provided for each Paper 1 question, one will most likely be obviously unsuitable – and this can then be eliminated, leaving you with just a choice between two options. And that is precisely when the questions given above can be most helpfully applied.
Finally, in the sections labelled ‘Appropriate?’ that I have added to each text type page, I have included a sub-section titled “Not to be confused with…” This considers briefly types of text which might be confused with the text type that is the subject of the page, and explains how the former are different from the latter – for instance, how an ‘article’ or an ‘opinion column’ or an ‘essay’ are different from a ‘blog'.
So, you might think of having a class running through the ‘Text type expectations’ section’ – you could project the new ‘Appropriate?’ sections, using Presentation mode, and discuss the ideas with the students to make sure that they really do understand.