For some years now I have been using what I call The Grade Ladder with students to help them understand the skills required to perform at different grades. This isn’t particularly original and has been around for quite while. I first encountered the terms ‘evaluate’, ‘analyse’, ‘explore’, ‘explain’ and ‘identify’ in GCSE English specifications but it’s obvious at even a cursory glance that these skills are underpinned by Bloom’s Taxonomy.  grade ladder

So, to IDENTIFY, students had to be able to give an opinion and support it with textual evidence; to EXPLAIN they had to show they understood the relationship between their point and their evidence. It is important to specifically teach the use of the word ‘because’ to ensure this happens. Students could demonstrate their ability to EXPLORE by giving alternative explanations – tentative language becomes important here (it could mean this, but it might also suggest this…) In order to ANALYSE students have to make links and connections with specific details. I encourage them to focus on a word or phrase and try to show what it makes them think about or feel. Finally, to EVALUATE students have to say how and why a particular technique is effective.

Easy enough, I thought and gamely plodded on with the trusty grade ladder for next year or so feeling very pleased with myself. However, after conducting some student voice on its effectiveness I was dismayed to discover that students complained that they still didn’t fully understand some of the terms: analyse and evaluate in particular.

Calamity! What to do? In my gropings for some way to shore up a crumbling edifice I came up with ZOOMING IN & OUT. I asked students to think about camera shots and how films are put together. They easily grasped that analysing was like using an extreme close up and that evaluating was like using a wide or establishing shot. When film makers zoom in they get us to focus on tiny details and when they zoom out they reveal the big picture. Hey presto! Everyone’s confidence (not least mine) is buoyed up and everyone’s happy.

The presentation below on using Zooming In and Out to write about Of Mice and Men might help illustrate anything which seems unclear.

View more presentations from didau.
Here’s the updated Reading Skills Ladder:

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