Task: The class had been discussing non-chronological reports and were given a writing frame for support. The task was a provide a ‘balanced report’ on a brand of trainers they would create.
CHILD A (Primary)(Year 6)
Salomon running trainers have [both] their ups and downs, I will write a short report on them.
They have a lot of padding, this is very good for running on any terrain. It is very helpful to have lots of grip, especially when running on slipy, wet surfaces, this shoe provides a lot of traction giving you a more relaxed run.
Furthermore at the back of the shoe there is a very hard section this provides your heel with a stirdy strong [section] feel that holds it in place.
However the shoe is made from a weak mesh, this means that water can get in very easily, this means that if you are on a wet long run, your feet may get very wet and cold.
In addition to that, there are no laces on this trainer, there is a tightening mechanism that is not quite as good as laces. They ofen let the front end of your foot roll forward. As well as that these don’t come cheaply at one hundred pounds, they are very pricey.
In conclusion, the trainers have strong and weak points, many people really like these shoes, however, it is all down to the runner.
JW Let’s look at the same child’s (Child A) trainers one. And this was writing a balanced non-chronological report.
UC For what purpose?
LF That’s weird. I’m struggling to follow the chronology of the running shoes.
JW Presumably they were given the chance to invent some running shoes. There was no drawing alongside.
These are Claire’s comments (sent by email).
CA Purpose: the task specification is misleading, a balanced report. It seems appropriate but is not well developed.
Staging: the writer has not really identified an issue, just that the trainers have positive and negative attributes and there is no pre-view of arguments. There are for and against stages but the resolution does not make a recommendation. It’s up to the reader to decide.
Phases: there are three different points for and against but no discussion phases such as evidence, etc. but this is probably adequate for Yr6.
Field: some key issues in the field are discussed such as: padding, grip, traction, strength, water resistance, fit, support and price, along with justifications for and against each issue raised.
Tenor: while the text evaluates it lacks the authority of a report and the objectivity of a discussion.
Mode: quite ‘spoken like’ you, your, the writer speaks directly to the reader, rather than more objectively about an issue.
Lexis: there is some relevant (nominalised) technical lexis to build the field.
Appraisal; everyday appraisals: ups and downs, helpful, a lot of, very, quite as good as, cheaply, pricey, many, really like, it’s all down to.
Conjunction: clear internal reasoning and logical relations: furthermore, however, in addition, as well as, in conclusion. Adequate for Y6.
Reference: the writer keeps track of everything in the text: they, this shoe, the shoe, they.
Grammar: no particular grammar problems with this kind of ‘spoken-like’ language.
Spelling: a couple of errors but not such ambitious vocabulary for Y6.
Punctuation: some commas lacking.
Presentation: paragraphing is adequate.
MB There’s obviously a class-based classification of genres. There are chronological ones and non-chronological ones. And Child B who’s done the same exercise – in this discussion text – which is obviously referring to a classroom genre which is different from the genre in which they are meant to be writing in.
LF This one thinks they’re writing a report. There is evidence of classification of text types but not any sense that either the teacher or the students have understood them in the same way or that they’ll be connected to the actual way that they’ll be assessed or that they’re connected to the actual task in hand. My issue with this one was more that, if you asked me to create a brand of trainers and to report on them, I can do that but why? And there are whys. I can see why I might do that. There’re lots of great opportunities for more integrated learning, opportunities that aren’t being exploited. So, you could do that, but I don’t get where the chronology fits in and I might just be missing something. So, if I would report this chronologically, I would say, I first did this, then I did this. I designed the soles, I tested them out. I then did this and now I’m going to do the same thing in a non-chronological way.
MB I don’t think that’s what’s implied, no. I think the teacher has got a classification system of chronological and non-chronological genres and is trying to make sure that the children have examples of one and examples of the other. The story one was a chronological genre. So teacher says, right let’s now do something that isn’t chronological But it’s not suggesting that the trainers thing can be done chronologically.
LF Well, my point there is probably that chronology has nothing to do with the description or evaluation of a trainer that has been designed, whereas the story isn’t necessarily chronological it could have been done in a retrospective way, have an unusual chronology. Yes, but it’s not linearly chronological
UC I would like to know what writing frame they were given for support. The class had been discussing non-chronological reports and were given a writing frame for support.
MG You can see it in those discourse markers there, can’t you. It’s the furthermore, however, in addition, in conclusion
LF We now can predict the feedback that the writers will get. It will be a tick box exercise whether the paragraphs are structured, whether the right connectors were used
MG Each paragraph has one at the beginning. I mean, this is a review isn’t it. That’s my feeling. It’s not a report.
JM If I created some trainers they’d be awesome. The only thing that you would have something rubbish about them is that you’ve got something to balance it off against
UC What do you want to write a balanced report for?
MG It’s a problem with the term, report. It’s not a report, is it? I thought that this is the sort of thing you get in running magazines or something.
LF But you could at least have them review something that they did in fact make. Or they would be reviewing their process of what they would do differently if they had done it again. But why this elaborate scenario for getting them to do a piece of writing? It’s a struggle and I think it’s setting students up to fail.
SJ It reminds me very vaguely of when I was doing biology. You had to have sections like what you did wrong and what you would do differently next time. You would end up with these crazy contrived scenarios, like doing something wrong so that you could write something in that section. I mean I get the rationale of why you want to see two sides of an argument. which strikes me what it’s actually trying to get at, appreciating multiple viewpoints
MG But it distorts the balance metaphor because you wouldn’t… Presumably this idea of this new technology of trainers not having laces is a really positive thing and the way he writes about it is there are no laces, there is a tying mechanism that is not quite as good as laces they often let the end of your foot roll forward. So, the whole point of this new technology that makes these trainers very different is couched in terms which shows it as being negative.
UC And then the balance is in sitting on the fence. In conclusion, the trainers have strong and weak points, many people really like these shoes however it is all down to the runner.
LF That’s a very common ending. It’s up to you to decide. I imagine that the teacher would have had reasons for wanting to get them to do a piece of writing and grab something that they could manage somehow. It’s just that what’s missing is the connection between really having thought about the purpose of the writing and what is it actually we’re trying to create. So, we sort of haven’t seen the frame but we’ve got evidence of it.
MG What’s missing is the understanding that, just because you use however, furthermore and in conclusion, it doesn’t mean that the arguments you’re putting after that actually cohere.
UG But Child B isn’t using the same frame
JW But there’s although and overall.
LF Actually, just to come back to the previous one, there’s something in this last sentence just before the conclusion that strikes me that actually belongs somewhere else. This is list mode right. So, there’s this, there’s this, these don’t come cheaply. Now that’s quite ambiguous, as that these could either be the laces or the trainers. I think they’re actually the trainers because I don’t believe that the laces alone cost £100. The way it’s written, there’re two potential previous references being referred to. But in the paragraph talking about laces versus a tightening mechanism, that last sentence is out of place, but it’s got a conjunction of sorts at the beginning and probably scored a point for that, even though the paragraph itself is not coherent.
JW How do you feel about Child A and Child B’s handling of the text? Particularly in the light of what you’ve seen about Child A with the story.
LF Child A didn’t cope very well with this task. It wouldn’t have made any sense to this person and they would have had no personal experience on which to draw, whereas they did totally get into the story. They got that, they didn’t get this one. Child B has got, at least at the beginning: Tip Top Trainers are designed for long distance running. That could be copied from some trainers’ advert somewhere. That sentence is quite … And then there’s this bizarre thing, they both do that: I will write a short report.
UC That’s something teachers must teach them. The number of times I’ve struck out in students’ essays: in this essay I am going to discuss. It’s show and tell, show us, don’t tell us. It seems to be something that’s really unsophisticated in undergraduate essays I just cross out the whole paragraph.
LF This student isn’t using the conjunctions but you get a nice flow: the leather upper half of the shoe; the sole of the trainers. This means that the actual logical connections are nicely expressed at the beginning. Even though it’s done through subject reference; and then, ok, some interesting variation in the sentences following. And then a good use of Although signalling a contrast.
MB Yes it’s a nice transition point.
LF And there are positives and negatives. But it must have been so difficult to do this, given that you were asked to design this shoe. So, they’ve imagined this perfect shoe and then they had to find fault with it. Anyway you’ve got no evidence of paragraph structure here but it’s there in the language. You’ve got some evidence that they’re managing this kind of talk, this kind of writing rather, a bit better than Child B. So I’m the Child B kind of student, I would struggle with the fiction writing. That would be the worst thing you could ask me to do: give me a blank page and ask me to write a story. At least with Child A, you said he loved the author, I think that shows through, he knows how this works. I don’t think either of these two students knows how this kind of writing works. Child A was able to do the pros and cons better.
JM I think they’ve been told what order to talk about the different features of the shoes in, because it’s comfort first, there’s stuff to do with the heel, and then there’s some sort of innovation: tightening mechanism; solar powered lights. And then the thing about the price.
UC And then they both end identically. This is a plus point; this is a negative point.
JW So this is something you would get in, say, a computer magazine, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of something and giving it a star rating. Is that the reality?
MG Well they’re reviews, aren’t they?
JM It reminds me of something you would see in Which magazine.
UC They are reviews, designed to inform a potential purchaser. Now these don’t help me make up my mind.
JW They don’t push you in any direction, do they? If it was one star out of five, you’d know.
MB It seems to me that both teacher and students are confusing classroom genres with real world genres.
UC Absolutely, Margaret.
MB Discussion text gives it away. A discussion text is a classroom genre; it’s not a real-world genre at all.
UC That is exactly it. English teachers have these classroom genres, which don’t exist anywhere else beyond the English classroom.