I'm marking, marking, marking at the moment which was a bloody marvellous idea when the bairn slept for four or five blissful hours a day but not so wonderful now that he's a semi-crawling dervish with sweet potato in his hair.
The sweet potato thing doesn't actually impede my marking as such, but you get my drift. He moves a lot. He doesn't sleep so much. It's a bit of a mare.
ALL HAIL THE MOTHERSHIP who came out to Belgy last week to Get Him Sorted (big believer in getting kids 'sorted', my mother) and he's been straitjacketed into the cast iron trademark Annie Mc routine. It involves an hour and a half of nap time in the morning during which time I MARK AND MARK AND MARK and anywhere between forty minutes and an hour and a half of nap time in the afternoon during which time - you got it! - I MARK AND MARK AND MARK.
So far it's going well. I haven't showered yet today but 16 PAPERS AND COUNTING BABY WOOOOYEEEAH.
So, Cambridge iGCSE English Paper 2, what do I need to remember about you in September when I meet my Year 11 class?
I'll put a link up to the paper once it becomes available but the first passage was all about a community meeting where Rufus Carmichael and local Anuja battled it out over what should happen to an area of local common land - should it be developed into a depot for a food company or left as it is, full of historical value to the people and an ideal habitat for rare species? The second passage was all about ospreys. There were some amusing tweets about it proving that Young People Today haven't been entirely beaten down by the system just yet - see here and scrooooooll.
Thoughts on Question 1
1) Integrate lots of detail. Do it skilfully, not 'mechanically' (they don't like that, no siree). If one of the bullet points asks about the atmosphere, GUESS WHAT? You're going to get credit for every point about the atmosphere that you include. So go to town! Tell the examiner that it was tense, it was hot, that it began calmly but the intensity of the debate escalated quickly, that a short break for drinks and snacks eased the pressure for a few minutes, that it ended in chaos with a cacophony of jeers and boos...You're going to get even more credit if you DEVELOP those points, too. Say what? Well, take the fact that 'it was hot', for example. If you suggest that the atmosphere was stuffy and the audience uncomfortable, you're going to get even more credit! Crazy, I know.
2) Still on Question 1 - be careful that you just say things once, though. The number of answers I've read where a candidate has written a variation on 'the atmosphere was tense' about a gajillion times. 'The atmosphere was tense....some people were eager....some were less excited....everyone had different views....you could cut the atmosphere with a knife...' Move along, nothing to see here, YOU'RE MAKING THE SAME POINT OVER AND OVER AGAIN IN DIFFERENT WORDS STOP NOW YOU'VE GOT YOUR MARK ALREADY!
3) Also while we're on the topic, no self-respecting journalist under the sun is going to use the phrase 'You could cut the atmosphere with a knife.' It's a cliche. Please try to sound like a journalist or whatever 'type' of person you're trying to imitate. Don't break conventions ('But I was writing as if I was an online news blogger! Text speak is totes acceptable!' Nah. Go with the stereotype). It's an exam, ergo formality ALWAYS WINS.
4) Also, please paragraph, unless you're desperate for 2/5 for writing ('structure is weak') mmkay?
5) PAY ATTENTION TO THE BULLETS. If you want to stay stranded in Band 3 (that's 7-9 marks out of a juicy 15), feel free to tag on a couple of sentences at the end to cover the third bullet. If you want more marks, ensure you devote a roughly equal amount of time and writing to all three.
6) Oh, and language. Don't play it safe. Use a few wow words otherwise you're going to get a 3/5 ('language is clear but plain', a.k.a. just about readable but MY GOD it was dull). Just make sure you use them in the correct context, otherwise you'll slip to a 2.
I've seen a LOT of Band 3 (7-9 out of 15 for reading and 3/5 for writing, can you tell?
Thoughts on Question 2
1) Umm, well it would seem that Question 2 is a sod. It really is. It's the classic stylistic one - here's a couple of paragraphs, pick out four powerful words and phrases from each and explain what makes them so effective. Kids, hear me - if you pick out eight good phrases and explain the meanings of words - even if you explain them really, really well with fancy vocal and everything - you're getting 6/10 tops.
2) You need a double-printed attack here. Pick out your quotation and explain the hell out of those words. Be really, really precise about meaning.
'Noxious weeds choke...' Noxious means poisonous or dangerous. This is perhaps Carmichael using exaggeration, or hyperbole.
'Noxious weeds choke...' This presents a negative view of the weeds.
And yes, that's right, naming the technique also counts as explanation!
3) But you're not done yet! THEN tell the examiner what the effect is.
This creates the effect of a sense of pollution or danger. Rufus is trying to manipulate his audience into agreeing with his plans by presenting the common land as negatively as possible.
Some good practice I've seen is where the candidate does a little summation at the end of their quotation analysis concluding what the overall effect of the paragraph is - but remember you also need to refer to the specific effect of specific words and phrases within your answer!
Thoughts on Question 3
Part a - 15 adaptations of ospreys and threats they face - man, these should be some easy marks. But they're not. Why? Because they are SERIOUSLY FUSSY about the wording.
The good news is, though, you're allowed to copy directly - so do it! COPY, COPY, COPY! I marked 330 papers and awarded 15/15 ONCE. Surprise surprise it was a candidate who COPIED!
Don't try to be too clever - often, the examiner is told that a key word has to be present in order to award a mark. If you write 'Toes that are retractable' when the answer is actually 'reversible toes' you're not going to get the mark.
Also, be specific - it's TOES (plural) not 'toe'. Seriously, this is how fussy the mark scheme is. Be precise!
Remember what the question is asking you for. Adaptations and threats? OK. 'Birds are disturbed during egg-laying and chick-incubation periods.' Err, you haven't told us who's doing the disturbing, ergo you haven't told us the specific threat. Tourists, you say? WRITE IT.
Don't separate points across two lines (e.g. point 13: They can get caught in fishing lines. Point 14: They can get fishing hooks caught in their throats. You won't get either mark).
And don't add points at the end. There are 15 lines and the examiner stops reading at line 15. Sooo many candidates added a 16, 17, 18....
Part b - It's a summary. That means NO COMMENT. NO EXPLANATION.
What are the threats facing ospreys? A chemical called DDT and other pollutants? Great. Mark awarded. Oh, hang on, they cause terrible problems such as thin eggshells and personally you think it's a disgrace that humans have such little respect for their environments? Ah. I see. Well, that's all well and good but you've just got 2 out of a potential 5 because you're waffling.
(the mark scheme doesn't use the word 'waffling' but they might as well do)
And use your own words. But it's a thin line. A significant % of the answers I read were unclear as a result of laborious attempts to avoid the wording of the original, and therefore only got 2/5. 'The birds have ends of their feet (original word: toes) which are specially designed by evolution (original word: reversible) to grab their difficult to catch (original word: slippery) food from the sea (original word: fish). As a result, answer are opaque and super-long. Baaaaad. So don't go crazy. A good rule of thumb is to keep the key words (reversible toes, sharply-curved beak etc) and change everything else.
Also, LOTS got 3/5. Why? They were list-like. Examiners HATE list-like. How to avoid that? Umm, in short, you need to write well. Use connectives. Groups things differently to how they are in the original. What do I mean? Well, if writing about threats facing ospreys, group environmental threats together, human threats together and animal threats together (just an example).
BABY AWAKE. A bientot!