Happy Monday everyone! This week’s timely topic is intervention.

It’s that time of year when the pressure for us to get our entire Year 11 cohort top grades “gently increases” (intensifies to the point of threatening to crush and kill us all). With this mildly stressful point in mind, here are four intervention strategies which can be used:


The walk-and-talk mock

I’ve been a GCSE examiner for many, many years and I know for a fact that poor exam technique is one of the most significant factors in students not achieving the good pass. A well-structured walk and talk mock can help students with their confidence as it increases familiarity with the requirements of the exam.

  1. Make sure you are clear about the areas that your students usually struggle with and why.
  2. Underline key words in each question.
  3. Annotate each question with some key things that they need to remember.
  4. Hand out copies of the annotated paper and ask students to work through it. You may want to give further verbal instructions and the start of each question. If you can project the paper that’s really useful too.
  5. Make sure you give timing reminders throughout.

Ideally you need to complete the whole exam in one session, but even splitting it down into questions can be massively beneficial in increasing the confidence of the students. It is a good idea to get some feedback after the process too – just ask students to tick a column to show whether they found that it increased their confidence or not.

I’m a big fan of the walk and talk mock. I’ve been doing them for a couple of years and I have seen a positive difference. Any technique which helps with issues such as exam rubric, decoding questions and identifying key words gets my vote! Keep the focus on the process and your students will reap the rewards in the summer.


Mock exam certificates

Visualisation is a powerful thing. Once the walk and talk mocks (or any “normal” mock is marked), create a certificate award ceremony. Ideally this should be done in an assembly, but it can also work in class. Allowing students to feel what it will be like to be successful (or not) even on a small scale can be a powerful motivator. I’ve had a very reluctant student ask me for extra help after failing to achieve on the mock certificate awards. In case you are wondering; he passed the real thing. Hurrah!


Teaching Revision Strategies

Earlier this year I was really shocked by the negative response from my excellent A-level group when I asked them if they knew how to revise. They had been extremely successful at GCSE and AS and they are excellent and hardworking students but they told me they did not know how to revise for English. If they are unsure I’m convinced that most, if not all of my struggling GCSE students who don’t even like English feel the same. Students need to be explicitly taught how to revise and I feel this is often overlooked. One of the most effective intervention strategies which can be adopted is to hold extra sessions on how to revise. Teach them how to organise themselves, where and how they should be working, how to complete (and stick to!) a revision timetable which addresses their weaknesses, how to revise independently and how to approach the exam. I promise that a few of these sessions will make all of the difference.


Home contact

I’m sure most of you do this. I must confess that building relationships with parents or carers is one of my weaknesses and I really have to prioritise it to make sure I make that call at the end of a long day. But never underestimate the power of a five minute phone call home to praise a students for their effort and to encourage home support by offering targeted tips and strategies. Sadly we live in the real world and this won’t always have a positive impact, but for those it does this is a brilliant (and quick) intervention strategy. I’ve also sent a group e-mail to the parents of my whole class before detailing what they should be revising and suggesting various approaches. The response was overwhelmingly positive so this is also time well spent.


If exam pressure is wearing you do you have my sympathy. I genuinely hope that you find some of these strategies useful. Keep on fighting the good fight!


Intervention Strategies for GCSE English

5 thoughts on “Intervention Strategies for GCSE English

  • February 1, 2017 at 8:09 am

    I this a walking talking mock is a great way for students to visualise what the teacher has said when they are in the real thing. Especially if you can run them in the real exam venue students face in the summer.

    We definitely need more purposeful contact with home.

    • February 1, 2017 at 10:30 pm

      You have highlighted some really important issues. Your students are really lucky to have such a thorough & caring teacher.

      • February 1, 2017 at 10:52 pm

        What a wonderfully kind thing to say! Thank you.

    • February 2, 2017 at 9:52 am

      Absolutely. I think if mocks can be organised in the exam space it really helps to take some of the fear of the unknown away.


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