Rationale: students tend to superficially answer transactional writing questions, because they often miss opportunities to explore the audience’s perspective, as well as expand their own thoughts on topics. Transactional writing exams really want to test to see if students can produce a sustained argument that is logical, and is presented in a way that satisfies the rules of writing, and this scheme aims at developing the knowledge required to satisfy such a context.

Main features

DEPTH OF RESPONSE: This scheme serves to help students develop points of argument before any writing takes place, to help them gain automaticity in thinking more deeply about a topic before having to engage cognitive load in writing their thoughts down. Hence, the scheme should be interleaved inside another unit of work to provide that developmental time. This idea of verbally engaging before writing is inspired by Sarah Barker. Once secure, the scheme takes students through developing written responses, structuring it via explicit modelling and providing multiple opportunities for practice. There are lots of sample questions here to practise on.

CONVERSATION FIRST, STYLE LATER: the teaching of form (letter layouts etc) is left to the end, after depth of response is strong. This also applies to using language techniques to assist arguments. More advanced writers will quickly get to this point, but for those struggling around the 3 or 4 grade, I am convinced the approach of developing arguments before style is effective. In fact, unless the argument is strong, bolt-on techniques, such as statistics and rhetorical questions etc, appear as immature and ineffectual.

VOCABULARY: It also focuses on simultaneously developing vocabulary to help describe the polemic mood, and to strengthen the sophistication of the response. There are many blogs out there discussing vocab that has utility. I would appreciate it if you could add a link for me in the comments that deals explicitly with transactional writing. I have some in the scheme, like this, and this, but they may not be suitable for struggling writers, and/or are not as specific as I would like.

PUNCTUATION: There are of course multiple issues students present in terms of punctuation, but perhaps the most common and debilitating is incorrect comma use, resulting from a lack of understanding of the grammar associated with what makes up a sentence. Many students even at GCSE level still writing incomplete sentences regularly. This scheme, in its vein of developing depth and from the ground up, works parallel with strengthening the understanding of basic grammar. The link to this is here.

Who is it for?

The scheme is more suited to

  • argumentative writing, however it still can apply for persuasive writing, but with less emphasis on as much polemic.
  • students needing structures to assist writing. This is an important distinction, as some student writers closer to the expert won’t require and in fact may feel restricted by the structured approach offered here. The building of writing stamina is also a factor, and again suits the interleaved possibilities of this scheme.

The scheme has lots of links to activities, and can be dowloaded here

I would very much like to hear your thoughts on this if you can see places for improvement. It is certainly a work in motion. The next post will explore the most crucial element of argumentative writing: polemic argument, and how the contrasting subordinator, HOWEVER, is key.

I’m Paul Moss. Follow me on Twitter @edmerger, and follow this blog for more English teaching and general educational posts.

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