Write about a time when you did something just to impress someone which you later regretted. (2020 O-level English Paper 1, Syllabus 1128)

If anyone ever reads a report on a school bully who was struck by a haunting only days before his examinations, with his bag with all his notes and textbooks set on fire without any explanation, please know that I am utterly sorry for what I did. The only defence I have is that nobody […]

Powerful poems #1: Wendell Berry’s “Enemies”

When I talk about poetry with any student whose only exposure to this genre has been the torture of having to sit for exams, I sometimes start with this observation: Poets don’t craft their poems so that they can torture you in an exam room; they write to convey something powerful, something that makes them […]

‘Learning how to respond to making mistakes is an essential part of becoming successful.’ What is your opinion? (2020 O-level English Paper 1, Syllabus 1128)

Pre-reading vocabulary list: Essential: Absolutely necessary; extremely important. Truism: A statement that is obviously true and says nothing new or interesting. Relentless: Harsh or inflexible. Burnout: Physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. Utterance: The action of saying or expressing something aloud. ‘Learning how to respond to making mistakes is an essential part […]

There is no place like home. How true is this for you? (2020 O-level English Paper 1, Q6)

When Dorothy, in the classic movie The Wizard of Oz says to herself “there’s no place like home”, I find myself identifying with her desires. Even if I get the chance to live in some kind of fabled green emerald city where everyone loves me because I saved the day, like Dorothy, I still would […]

How do I start with preparing for the unseen poetry section?

Very occasionally I respond to posts on Reddit, and a few days ago someone asked for notes on unseen poetry. My response: I’ve found Edward Hirsch’s writing helpful in helping my students think about poetry more deeply – https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69955/how-to-read-a-poem For unseen poetry, the band descriptors say that the best answers show a “Sensitive and informed […]

Covid-19, inequality, and student stress

We can’t deal with stressed out students at the national level by merely tinkering with the education system. We have to lower the penalties for those of us who do not do well in school. Covid-19 and its impact on the economy has highlighted for us the inequalities baked into our society. Regardless of the […]

Describe the things that you do to relax after you have been very busy. Explain why you find them enjoyable.

Describe the things that you do to relax after you have been very busy. Explain why you find them enjoyable. (2020 O-level English Paper 1, Q3) If you found yourself running away from a lion, you would not be able to think very deeply about whether the dagger that Macbeth saw was only in his […]

Tackling student sleep issues (Book recommendation!)

For a number of my students every year, one of the first things I have to do is to make sure they are sleeping properly. The signs are easy to recognise: when they are trying to solve a particular problem (let’s say, figuring out how to respond to a question), their eyes sometimes glaze over. […]

An educator’s perspective on “fake news”

I intend to send this in to the Select Committee that has been formed to tackle fake news in a few days. Comments and suggestions are welcome, but I also encourage my readers to send in their views. I am a private tutor who teaches General Paper (GP), and new students sometimes say: “I thought […]

Video games and the factory worker ethic

On Tuesday I had the good fortune of meeting an airline pilot by chance, who told me something that I had suspected but never confirmed: you can learn some of the skills involved in flying a plane with certain flight simulator games (he used Microsoft’s “Flight Simulator X” himself). These games are challenging and fun, and according to […]

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