Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Are You Marking Mad?

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Are You Marking Mad?

Article excerpt

The rattle of the guns grew louder as we galloped inexorably onwards. As a shell exploded, Joey reared in fright but I galvanised him forward. My heart was in my mouth as I watched my friends dying for our country.

Suddenly, the ground erupted all around me. A bullet hit my helmet and ricocheted off. In the distance I saw the thing I had been dreading most - a tangled bush of barbed wire. With a sudden leap, I felt us soaring in the air as Joey leapt over the wire; then we were surrounded. My beloved horse was led off into the horizon until I could see him no more...

I read on with a surge of delight - this was what I went into teaching for. The author was 10 years old, the writing was inspired by a lesson on Michael Morpurgo's War Horse and the timing was perfect. I was about to head into a writing moderating meeting and for once I had a secret weapon - something to cut through the endless debate about semicolons and level thresholds. I proudly placed my ace on the table.

"Hmm," said one teacher, scanning the first few paragraphs. "Good vocabulary but I don't think she's punctuating at level 5."

"And I can only spot two types of complex sentences in the first three paragraphs," added another. "I think for a level 5 you really should be using a wider variety of clauses."

"But what about the way she engages the reader?" I said, my hopes evaporating. "There's tension and excitement here. It makes you want to read on and it makes grammatical sense. Isn't that good enough for a level 5? …

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