I often find myself reading a literature response that starts off well but then loses focus. In order to write a successful response, pupils need to ensure that their ideas are sustained and relevant and their focus is consistent. However, it is not always easy to reinforce this, especially when pupils are also trying to remember all of the other skills needed when writing about a literature text.
As a way of trying to show pupils that in order to prove the point they are making, they must return back to it throughout their paragraph / essay, I compared this to sewing. Yes, at first, they were equally as puzzled!
I wanted them to imagine that they had tied a knot around the keyword in their point (or introduction) so that it wouldn’t ‘get lost’. In imagining this, they also used highlighters or coloured pencils. Once they were clear on what their keyword was and had identified it either by highlighting or circling it, I asked them to continue to write their response but not to forget that they must continue to pull the ‘thread’ through their paragraph. I modelled this first of all so they could imagine what it looks like when you consistently return to a point or idea as a well of proving and developing ideas. Once we talked through the model, pupils were ready to try this out themselves.
When they had a go themselves, I noticed a huge difference in the quality of responses that I received back. With ‘threading’ as their focus, pupils could easily track their own argument by tracing and pulling through the ‘thread’. Not only did they do this successfully, but when we discussed what this added to their writing, they were all able to see how it added consistency and demonstrated that they were continuing and developing an idea in detail.
We decided to start this process when planning. When brainstorming and making notes, I also asked pupils to draw and connect their thread. If they couldn’t see a thread, then they could add it in at this stage rather than waiting until they wrote it up in neat. This made sure that the planning process was more focused and useful, as well as making sure that their ideas were connected before starting the essay.
This seems like such a simple idea, yet it worked wonders. I initially used this idea in KS4 and then simplified it for KS3 and pupils can now see why it is important to ensure the point they make at the beginning of a paragraph is not just left there and forgotten. And, in some ways it’s even fun and adds a bit of colour to a piece of writing!
I have included the guide and worksheet in this post. It comes in both a printable and electronic version so pupils can either handwrite or type.