Instructions, marked

Pretty good, but ...

These two examples of student work came up in discussions with someone who had attended one of my workshops, and had subsequently contacted me, under my usual follow-up arrangement, to check marking standards.

I looked at these scripts, and marked them according to the 'new' Subject Guide Criteria for HL Paper 2 Written Production. As noted below, the question was originally set for SL, but there seems every reason to suspect that such a task could be set for HL - and anyway, the students were doing HL, so it was appropriate.

Both scripts were written and submitted electronically, so they are reproduced below more or less exactly as presented (names and personal details have been changed).

The scripts are available (below) in handout form, so that you can either (a) print them out and mark them before looking at the analysis and marks given further down the page (so no peeking now!); or/and (b) copy them and give them out to the students for them to consider as models, and even mark.

The task

The students were addressing a version of a question set in the November 2010 SL Paper 2. The question - originally set, of course, for a paper written under the 'old' Subject Guide' - had been re-written to fit the 'new' Subject Guide. As you'll see, there's not much difference :-

Actual question ('old' Subject Guide')

Your grandmother has told you that she has great difficulty using the computer that your family gave
to her for her last birthday. You decide to send her clear and simple instructions explaining how to
send an email. Write the instructions.

Revised question ('new' Subject Guide')

Science & technology

Older people sometimes find it hard to adapt to new technologies such as computers. Write clear, helpful instructions to help your grandmother to carry out an operation on her new computer.

Script A

Dear Grandmother.

I got your letter, and I’m sorry that the computer we bought for you isn’t easy enough to understand, and I hope you can understand the instructions that I made. Do you know how to get on the internet? I’ll explain that too, in case the answer to that question is no.

To send an email:

1. Click on the start button.
2. Click on Internet Explorer (this should be on the top left on your start menu).
3. When you look at your internet page, you can see that right underneath the blue top there is a long area where you can type something. Here you have to write the address for your mail (e.g. hotmail.com).
4. Press enter.
5. Now you should be on a page where you can write your username and password. If you don’t have an account already, you click on “sign up” or “create account”. One of those two should be on this page, so just look around on it.
6. When you have logged in, you just have to click on “new”.
7. Write the email address of the person you want to send the email to.
8. Type in what you want to send.
9. Click send.
10. Log off (you don’t want anybody sniffing through your emails, do you?).

Please send me a letter or call me or anything else if you still can’t figure it out, and I’ll try to be clearer. I don’t know about anything other than the hotmail page, so I hope that you can understand my instructions, even if you use another mail in case it is different than what I just explained to you. I would actually like it very much if you could send me an email (as practise) if you managed to follow my instructions. As a prize I can break tradition and send you my list of what I want for Christmas early this year. I hope you are well, and I’m looking forward to see you at Christmas.

Love,
Anna

(344 words – which is perfectly adequate for the requirement of between 250 and 400 words … although you should perhaps advise your students to use the full 400 in order to demonstrate how well and thoroughly they can carry out the task.)

Analysis & marks

HL Paper 2 Section A  (New Criteria)

Criterion A: Language = 9

  • Command of the language is 'very effective' in that it is (a) almost entirely clear, (b) is usually precise in how things are phrased (not always), and ( c ) is quite expressive of affection for Granmother [in final paragraph, see “...would actually like it very much...” = courteous + “As a prize ...” = nice little joke]
  • The range of vocabulary is not that wide … but then the task doesn't perhaps encourage that.
  • There are very few errors, and those that exist are mainly fine details of proper usage – a native-speaker might not say it precisely like that. Anyway, errors never significantly interfere.
  • Sentence structure is mainly pretty simple – but then that is required and appropriate for instructions. There are some signs of complex syntax – e.g. 2nd sentence, final paragraph – which suggest that the student has a capable, but not yet sophisticated, grasp of how to construct a skilful sentence.

Criterion B: Message = 8? 9?

  • The message has certainly been communicated well – the question is, how well?
  • Everything in the script is relevant, and pretty well focused on the task.
  • However, I tend to see the instructions as “coherent and effective”, rather than “coherent and thorough”. For example, consider step 5 – the details given are clear enough for anyone who has some experience of computers, but the point is that Grandmother hasn't … for example, can you take for granted that she knows what 'username' and 'password' mean ? For me, there are key bits of information lacking here – and so the supporting details are not “highly” appropriate.
  • On balance, I would probably give 8/10 – the message is a bit too thin and underdeveloped to deserve the 9-10 band.

Criterion C: Format = 5

  • The original question does not specify clearly what text type is expected, but presumably we're thinking of an informal letter (if Grandmother is having problems with emails, it might not be very useful to send the instructions in an email?!).
  • As such, the text type is “clearly recognisable and appropriate” - the register and tone are correctly friendly and unpretentious, and the basic elements of format (opening and closing formulas) are fine.
  • Two elements of “effective” are (i) the use of the numbered list of steps, and (ii) the little joke about Christmas which creates intimacy and affection.

So – TOTAL = 22/25 … which according to my suggested reckoner of grades would be the bottom of a grade 7. Which is pretty good.


*********************

Script B

Hey Grandma! Seeing you have such difficulties on using the computer we gave you, I thought I could give you a hand. So, you had problems sending an e-mail you said? Well, It’s quite simple if you follow these simple instructions listed below.

The most common way to send e-mails is through a webpage. First, you need a mail account. Open your internet-explorer, and write “www.gmail.com” in the top field. When you’re at the webpage, you will see a clear text in the top right corner, saying; “create account”. So, here you just type in your first and last name in the fields asking for it. On the desired gmail name, I would suggest to just write your first and last name in one word, as this is easy to remember. Now, you can choose a password. Think of something you will remember. Write your desired password in the following field. Repeat your password once again in the field below.

The following field requires you to create a “secret password”. This is something you also need to remember. This can be used to log in, incase you forget your login password (The one we created earlier). Here you can choose different questions which your secret password would answer. I would suggest taking “name of best friend during childhood”, since this is something I bet you remember! Write the answer in the field below. From here it’s relatively simple, your country should be chosen for you beforehand, and you can just write your birth-date in the required field.

Now, in order to finish the registration, you need to write the security code in the bottom field. The code is given above, in the picture. Just write the same letters as in this picture. Now, you can just scroll and read through the terms of agreement, and press “I accept. Create my account”. You will now be automatically logged in to your account. Every time you want to send an e-mail from now on, you just log in on “www.gmail.com” and write your created username and password in the fields asking for it.

Once you are logged in, you can just click “send e-mail”. In the top field, you need to write the mail-receiver’s username. This you can get from asking people what their email address is. Then, you can write your desired message and click send. To see if you have gotten any emails, just press “inbox” on the left side and you can see all your received emails. Click on the details to see the whole message.

Now, let’s see if you can do this! My email address is “Martinxxx1@gmail.com“. How about you write me that strawberry-jam recipe that you know I love!

(462 words – a bit over the required number, but much better to write too much than too little, and anyway, there is no penalty for writing too much.)

Analysis & marks

HL Paper 2 Section A  (New Criteria)

Criterion A: Language = 10

  • Command of the language is 'very effective' in that it is fluent, idiomatic and reads as 'authentic' overall.
  • There is some sense of a rich range – more of phrasing than vocabulary as such, but there are signs that the student has both colloquial and more formal resources.
  • There are very few errors, and what there are never significantly interfere with the communication of meaning. (Although there are points where meaning is not completely clear – but that is an issue of the precise control of ideas, not of language as such.)
  • Sentence structure is mainly pretty simple – but then that goes with his direct and straightforward approach to giving instructions. There are a few signs of complex syntax – e.g. last sentence, final paragraph – suggesting that the student has quite an agile grasp of how to link various ideas together with verying language structures.

Criterion B: Message = 8? 9?

  • The message has certainly been communicated well – the question is, how well?
  • Everything in the script is relevant, and pretty well focused on the task.
  • However, I tend to see the instructions as “coherent and effective”, rather than “coherent and thorough”. For example, see my comments on one of the paragraphs, given below **.
  • However, some sections are better handled – for example paragraph 4 has pretty much everything that can be expected.
  • On balance, I would probably give 8/10 – the message is not methodical enough to deserve the 9-10 band.

Criterion C: Format = 5

  • As noted above, the question given in the Barcelona workbook does not specify clearly what text type is expected – this looks rather more like an email than anything else.
  • As such, the text type is “clearly recognisable and appropriate” - the register and tone are what you would expect in an email – with some rather more sophisticated and complex vocabulary and phrasing used to explain some of the technical bits. Sensible use of bold to separate out phrases to be typed - and the student has also used inverted commas, which would work in handwriting.
  • Nice little closing challenge + joke.

So – TOTAL = 23/25 … which according to my suggested reckoner of grades would be a pretty solid grade 7. But he can and should do better !


** Missing details – in the 2nd paragraph

The second paragraph contains a number of details that Grandma might find puzzling - here are the kind of questions she might ask :-

The most common way to send e-mails is through a webpage. First, you need a mail account. Open your internet-explorer, and write “www.gmail.com” in the top field * What's a 'field'? What does it look like? . When you’re at the webpage, you will see a clear text * What does this mean ? in the top right corner, saying; “create account”. So, here you just type in your first and last name in the fields asking for it. On the desired gmail name * What's a 'gmail name' ?, I would suggest to just write your first and last name in one word, as this is easy to remember. Now, you can choose a password. Think of something you will remember * What sort of thing ? For example ? . Write your desired password in the following field * Following what ? . Repeat your password once again in the field below.
 

Nota bene  -  Well written instructions anticipate possible gaps in the recipient's knowledge.

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