Engb2 Coursework Define

Associated Resources

  • Component 4 Coursework Marking Grid.docx
  • Component 4 Senses Grid.docx
  • Nighthawks Writing Frame.docx

Component 4 Coursework Portfolio - Assignment 2

If you follow 0500, the Coursework Portfolio is worth 50% of the final mark. It is 40% for 0522.

Students will produce 3 pieces of work for their Coursework Portfolio: this guide composes three lessons that should help support pupils through the process of producing a piece of coursework for Assignment 2. This guide also includes examples of Exemplar work from pupils produced following these lessons. These are provided for the teachers us only.

How is this Assessed?

As with the other assignments, Assignment 2: descriptive and/or narrative should be anything around 500–800 words. It is marked out of 40 and tests the following writing assessment objectives:

  • W1 articulate experience and express what is thought, felt and imagined
  • W2 sequence facts, ideas and opinions
  • W3 use a range of appropriate vocabulary
  • W4 use register appropriate to audience and context
  • W5 make accurate use of spelling, punctuation and grammar

You can find the Coursework Marking Grid in Associated Resources (at the start of this resource).

Lesson One: Constructing Descriptive Sentences

Learning Objectives

By the end of the lesson students will be able to:

  • To be able to make use of the five senses
  • To be able to develop the opening of a descriptive piece

Starter Activity

Display Edward Hopper’s Night Hawks to the class.

Students have a few minutes to come up with as many adjectives that describe this scene as possible. Take feedback on the board - highlighting particularly effective choices. Explain that describing a picture is going to be the focus of our Assignment 2 Coursework.

First Activity

Hand out the Senses Grid in Associated Resources (at the start of this resource) explaining how the use of these features is one of the most powerful ways of making descriptive writing work. The students should create some sentences about ‘Nighthawks’ using the five senses. Draw attention to how the adjectives on the board could be used in filling in the sentences in this grid. This may take between 15 and 20 minutes.

It is worth noting, purely for your own piece of mind, that unlike other examination boards, CIE is perfectly happy with a purely descriptive task. Indeed, the idea for this lesson came from a consideration of their Syllabus where they note a good task would be: “a detailed description of the people who frequent a local shop, and the atmosphere of the shop.”

Second Activity

Explain the nature of the coursework for Assignment 2 - to create a 500-800 word description of a picture. We are going to use ‘Nighthawks’ as a starting point, but that students can choose their own picture if they so wish. This piece can be written in either the first or third person - but today we are going to practise first person.

Pupils use the Nighthawks Writing Frame in Associated Resources to create the opening 100 words of a description of ‘Nighthawks’. You should imagine walking down the street, smelling the smells and seeing the sights. The final sentence should be noticing the people inside the shop. Allow between 15 and 20 mins for this activity.

When this is completed, they should pass their scaffold to a peer. The peer should copy out the description, correcting any errors they see and making improvements to the quality of description. Again, you should make use of the descriptive words on the board the sample paragraphs in their ‘senses’ sheets to help scaffold this activity for the less able..

Third Activity

It may be appropriate to hear a few examples of strong work here. Pupils should reflect on the comments on their own work, and the work of their peers that they have read and heard. They should now write-up a fair copy of their first 100 words. Allow 10 minutes for this to happen.


Take feedback from the class of the key features of descriptive writing that they have discovered are important - pay especial attention to the five senses. Perhaps encourage each pupil to supply their ‘favourite’ sensory detail about themselves to leave the classroom.

Lesson Two: Developing a Response

Learning Objective

By the end of the lesson students will be able to:

  • To be able to fully describe a figure
  • To be able to develop their description to conclusion

Starter Activity

Display Edward Hopper’s Night Hawks to the class - zoom in on the lady in red.

Pupils have 1 minute to come up with as many words and phrases they can think of to describe her. You may wish to highlight how much older this figure looks close-up than they might have assumed from the original image.

First Activity

In pairs, invite students to think of themselves as the man sat to the left of woman. Why are you there? What is your relationship with this woman? How does she look? How does she smell? Invite some thoughts that can be scaffolded on the board. You may choose to repeat the exercise for the woman’s views of the man. Try to ensure pairs generate a wealth of descriptive words and phrases about the other person. If there was time, this could develop into a role-play.

Second Activity

Return to the opening that was written last lesson - it ended when the first-person speaker saw the people inside the coffee shop. Begin today’s writing with the prompt: ‘I put my hand on the door and pushed it open . . .” and ask pupils to sketch out:

  1. sitting down at the counter
  2. ordering a cup of coffee
  3. tasting it and then
  4. looking at one other patron

You should encourage weaker students to make use of the descriptive material from the first activity.

If desired, you can repeat the exercise from yesterday: students writing 200 words and then swapping with a partner to review. On the other hand, you may wish for this to be a more independent activity - especially as you have strongly scaffolded the order of events. You should allow 15 to 20 minutes for this activity - again, draw attention to the sensory detail sheets from last lesson.

Third Activity

Students should now have an opening 100 words and a middle 200 words to their description. They should have been focused to embed sensory description in each of these pieces. As a final activity here, ask students to swap with a peer, read their description, and then complete it for them in the most appropriate way they can. They may simply pull in their chair, stand, and leave the shop, or something more dramatic may happen. Allow 10 minutes for this activity - and then swap back. Length is not a key feature.


Ask for examples of the most interesting stories - read from start to end. Ask pupils to identify the most successful aspects of them. For homework, they should source, and bring with them next lesson, ‘A Picture that Tells a Story’. Try not to give any more direction than that if possible.

Lesson Three: Creating a Description

Lesson Objective

By the end of the lesson students will be able to:

  • To be able to make use of all the skills developed in previous two lessons
  • To be able to construct a coherent 500 word description

Starter Activity

Show the following TED Talk.

Following this, discuss the images that pupils have brought with them. What story do they tell? What is the message they have to share? Invite students to explain the rationale behind their choice - what spoke to them about the picture they selected.

First Activity

Individually, ask pupils to reconsider how they wrote the opening to their ‘Nighthawks’ description. Is there a similar way they can open the description into their own image? Encourage them to explore different ways of writing a 100 word opening on their own picture. Allow 10 minutes for this activity and then get students into pairs and discuss how effective they have been. Repeat the activity from lesson one focusing on the openings.

Second Activity

At this stage, it is now appropriate to ask students to complete a piece of extended writing in class. They have a variety of structures available to them, along with some useful scaffolding activities. Weaker students should seek to use the same structure to the Opening, the Middle and the Exit that they used for their ‘Nighthawks’ piece. More able pupils could, perhaps, range more widely. Allow 30 minutes for this writing.


Collect these pieces in - to be returned to pupils with feedback on how to improve - using the Coursework Marking Grid as a structure for discussion. Discuss with the pupils how they found developing this 500 word description - was it easier or harder than the construction of their ‘Nighthawks’ piece? If so, why? It may be appropriate that, for the weaker pupils, you decide that it is better for them to focus on developing that piece for the portfolio piece, rather than their own image.

Exemplar Work

Please note: These are high ability exemplars that are for the teacher’s reference only to avoid influence from secondary sources.

The first of these pieces was a final piece submitted by a student who felt they wanted to develop their ‘Nighthawks’ piece. The following two were ones that developed their writing from their own image. All three of these candidates achieved high A*s for English Language at the end of Year 11.

Number #1

It was dull; it was boring; I had nothing to do.

As I stood, somewhat directionless on the street corner, a young woman in a tightly-buttoned up coat, strolled passed me. I gazed at her for a moment, watching her saunter along without a care in the world.

I hated her and her happiness: her smile; her joy; her confidence. Her eyes shone with energy, like the stars twinkling above in the moonless sky. I could imagine what she was thinking as she made her way towards the centre of the town; nothing could possibly happen to disturb her sense of satisfaction.

I sighed. I was not a lot of fun at the moment.

Walking on a dimly lit street like this was making me feel the same old emotions again. The emotion that seemed to constantly plague me at the moment: what was the point of it all?

It was dark. It was dark and I was sad. It was dark and I was trapped in the middle of an endless, empty desert with no oasis in sight.


A beam of transient light caught on my face. A lighthouse in a storm.

And – perhaps more importantly - with the light came a smell: an overwhelming aroma of coffee pulling me out of my despair and, almost against my will, along the street. I was enchanted following that smell. It was as if some mystical coffee maker had waved his wand, slowly pouring fairy dust into a black liquid.

I approached the coffee shop with caution and glanced through the window at the people inside. I could see a couple smiling at each other; their eyes glittering like they’d woken up and found that they had entered heaven. I stepped back and looked around the street once more. This place was the only light around.

It was the only joy in my world.

I paused and then with an effort, a sigh, a shrug, I decided to enter that joy. As I pressed against the door, its breaking voice seemed to recall that of a little old haunted house: a shriek that, oddly, seemed out of place with the joy.

The creak set my teeth on edge, and I felt the happiness that had momentarily swelled inside me, start to fade.

Carefully, with a renewed sense of disquiet, I walked step-by-step into the coffee shop; the lights on the ceiling shone so brightly it was as if there were ten suns in the sky. Looking around, I noticed that my shadow was cast high on the white walls.

It is oddly intimidating to see yourself so huge . . .

I shut my eyes to hide the shadows and took a deep breath. Smoky fumes blended with the smell of fresh coffee. I could hear the clinking and clattering of coffee cups which added a little decoration into my life. I felt more secure so opened my eyes: the white-coated attendant (and yet his clothes stained like a mechanic’s overall) gazed at me, then turned to pour from his coffee pot. Soon, I would have a cup.

For the first time in far, far too long, I felt oddly peaceful.

But this peace was halted by a sour tobacco smell escaping from the solitary old man sat opposite. I frowned and stared at him: his presence was ruining the lovely...

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I’m going to level with you, the Edexcel IGCSE English Literature examination paper makes me very nervous indeed. We’ve been preparing students to undertake this examination for several years now – using the full range of available texts to try to see if there are any patterns to achievement – and, as every member of my department would testify to, we still do not feel especially confident we can predict how individual students will do.

As an example, our most recent cohort achieved almost 20% better A*-B compared to the year before – despite our prediction they would do slightly worse. Now, we’ve happily lapped up the plaudits for our excellent practice, but when we’ve sat and considered a variety of recalled papers, we’re not quite sure we can see why Student A in 2013 achieved 25/30 whereas Student B in 2012, with a very similar response, achieved 15/20. Hence our sense of trepidation every time May rolls along.

To try to mitigate this worry, we therefore seek to work very hard indeed on ensuring our pupils produce the most effective coursework pieces possible. This is not as easy as it sounds: a casual reading of the specification and the examiner’s reports makes clear that there is a distinct lack of clarity as to what a good coursework should look like.

What I will attempt to do across this guide is to outline my department’s practice – alongside a range of exemplar material – to show how we interpret the marking criteria and how we go about ensuring our pupils gain access to the highest marks of which they are able. It is worth noting that we have been highly commended in all of our moderator’s reports for the approach of our pupils in this coursework.

What Does the Edexcel Specification Say?

So, if you are choosing Paper 3, it means that you have decided your pupils will do better on a coursework unit, rather than undertaking Paper 2. By inclination, I think I would probably prefer my pupils to take wholly examined courses, but as mentioned above, I just do not think that there is enough consistency in performance in the examination for me to feel confident advocating this. Therefore, we made the decision, annually reviewed, to push ahead with the coursework unit.

This coursework is worth 40% of your pupils’ mark (but is marked out of 30 – don’t get me started on this unnecessary oddity) and is based on the study of all of the poems from Section C of the Edexcel Anthology. You can see the mark scheme for this coursework here.

I very much like the range of theme and meaning that is explored across this poetry collection and I think there is huge scope for pupils to find texts that really speak to them.

  • If Rudyard Kipling
  • Prayer Before Birth Louis Macneice
  • Half-past Two U.A Fanthorpe
  • Piano D H Lawrence
  • Hide and Seek Vernon Scannell
  • Sonnet 116 (‘Let me not to the marriage ...’) William Shakespeare
  • La Belle Dame Sans Merci John Keats
  • Poem at Thirty-Nine Alice Walker
  • Telephone Conversation Wole Soyinka
  • Once Upon a Time Gabriel Okara
  • War Photographer Carol Ann Duffy
  • The Tyger William Blake
  • My Last Duchess Robert Browning
  • A Mother in a Refugee Camp Chinua Achebe
  • Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night Dylan Thomas
  • Remember Christina Rossetti

Once all of these poems have been studied, pupils are required to submit one assignment that is based on a selection of “at least three poems” in depth and must “make reference to at least three further poems.” I will return to a discussion of this rubric in due course, but for the moment it is worth highlighting that this one assignment needs to be making reference to “at least” six poems.

The suggestion in the specification is that this coursework should be “between 1000 and 1500” words. It’s worth pausing and reflecting upon that for a moment. A coursework, worth 40% of the final mark, which analyses six poems in 1000 words. I’m not really sure what that would look like if I was to attempt it, let alone a fifteen year old.

Fortunately, Edexcel note that there is “no penalty for exceeding this guidance” – thus, I very much encourage my pupils to consider 1500-2000 to be the norm and this seems to have worked well. It is worth remembering that it is not really worth allowing your pupils to produce thousands and thousands. If they should be able to gain access to the top band with 1000 words, it seems pointless to produce reams and reams. Likewise, if your pupils are going to go on to study English at A Level, you will actively be doing them a disservice if you allow them to produce pieces of insane lengths – there may not be penalties for being overlong at GCSE and iGCSE but there certainly are at GCE.

Usefully, there are several example question put forward within the specification which can help you formulate your own ideas:

  • Several poems in the anthology explore different forms of possessiveness. Explore this theme, referring to three poems in detail and to at least three other poems from your wider reading.
  • Explore how different poets treat the subject of coping with loss, referring to three poems in detail and at least three other poems from your wider reading.
  • Rejection takes many forms. Explore this idea, referring to three poems in detail and to at least three other poems drawn from your wider reading.

What I quite like in the range of poems that are supplied in Section C is that this coursework does not automatically mean that GCSE coursework becomes a study in bleakness. Too many courses I have taught in the past have required pupils to study texts that seem almost wholly concerned with death, murder, violence and despair – there are actually a couple of fairly jolly pieces here! However, returning for a moment to the rubric which talks about “at least three”. Is the suggestion here that six poems is not optimal? That actually, the most able pupils are expected to take the initiative to consider more widely? I have been unable to really get clarity on this – all I can note is that we have not yet entered a coursework piece where more than six poems have been considered and it has never been fed back to us that there has been a lack in our more able pupils.

What are the Pitfalls?

For my department, it very quickly became clear that there were quite a number of problems arising when preparing pupils to write this coursework. First of all, this is an essay in which a minimum of six poems are mentioned. If we look at an examiner’s report – we see that this requirement is utterly key:

Compliance with the new requirement for the reference to three wider reading poems in addition to those for detailed study was uneven in some centres. Candidates varied between referring to 3 to 6 poems in total.  Some, but not all, centres had taken account of this in their marking.

So, that is three poems from the anthology poems that you have taught them, and then three others from wider reading. So, what status do these ‘wider reading’ poems have? Should you explicitly teach them to your pupils? Should you suggest possibilities to them? Should you wholly leave it up to their independence to seek out appropriate works? In my department, we all tried a mix of these techniques – trying to ensure that we were in the spirit of a specification that seemed to want us to encourage wider reading, but also – naturally – nervous that this is somewhat a challenge for some of our pupils. One colleague produced a very interesting ‘Wider Reading’ booklet in which the works chosen echoed across the concerns of the Anthology works. Personally, I specifically taught – very briefly – a further seven or eight poems that I thought appropriately echoed the themes.

This did mean that the first time we did this, the term became very poetry-heavy. We seemed to have weeks and weeks where we just ploughed through a different poem every few days. This was not a lot of fun for anyone – pupils or staff. Of late, I’ve encouraged that we drop in the ‘wider reading’ poems holistically across the life of the specification. Last year, I had a ‘Poetry Wednesday’ whereby we looked at a poem – regardless of what else we were doing – on a Wednesday: meaning pupils had quite a large bank of poems from which to draw by the time we reached the stage of completing the Literature coursework. As my own poetic tastes tend to run to the Modernist, this did become a bit “weirdo-of-the-week” but I felt it increased the engagement with a wide range of different writers to which pupils might not otherwise have access.

It is worth noting that Edexcel would like copies of the ‘wider reading’ poems that are mentioned in candidates work included in the sample. However, how should pupils write about these ‘wider reading’ poems? Edexcel offer some very vague parameters:

The treatment of these wider reading poems varied greatly. Though the specification only asks for 3 poems to be studied in depth and reference to 3 further poems, some candidates treated all 6 poems in equal detail. There is no penalty for this but in many cases it was done at the expense of real in-depth analysis of the anthology poems or of clear focus on the topic. At the other extreme some references were extremely cursory – no more than, for example, “Another poem about childhood is Roger McGough’s ‘First Day at School’” or “’Digging’ also has a lot of metaphors”.

So, if we try to come to terms with that advice, it appears that pupils should not write too much about the ‘wider reading’ poems – i.e. not in equal depth as they write about the three anthology poems- but they should write more than just cursory comments. I’ll show the approach we took to not falling into either of these two traps later on in this guide – but it is somewhat stressful for the teacher to have to work out how to judge what is ‘too much’ and what is ‘cursory’ in an essay where the suggested length is 1000 words.

Secondly, with this number of poems in play in one response, should the pupils be making comparisons between them in order to construct their essay successfully? When looking at the mark grid, it is very clear there are no marks available for making any such comparisons. Again, take a moment to let that sink in. Pupils are to write on quite a large range of texts, but are not explicitly expected to draw any comparisons or contrasts between these six poems. I hope I’m not the only one that finds this somewhat counter-intuitive.

To muddy the waters further, the 2011 examiner’s reports make clear:

Most candidates structured their work to draw comparisons between the wider reading poems and the anthology poems. This is not a requirement of the specification; it did, however, make it easier for candidates to integrate the wider reading.

So, a measure of comparison seems to be the way in which Edexcel envisages the piece developing. However, they are not going to have marks for those comparisons specifically rewarded. Although they acknowledge this makes it ‘easier’ to integrate wider reading. Again, I’ll show how we go about trying to untangle all of this ‘advice’ later on in this guide.

Finally, in terms of pitfalls to avoid, the key aspect for access to the top mark bands is for candidates to display “detailed knowledge of the poems” – including the ‘wider reading’ poems. So, there is an explicit need – within 1000 words, remember – for candidates to analyse all 6 poems in such a way that demonstrates ‘detailed knowledge’. The anthology poems should have the most said about them, but it is to:

- be expected that those in the higher bands would draw out and analyse one or two points of the [wider reading] poem and explain the choice; those in the middle would develop some idea of the poem and why it was chosen, and only those at the lowest levels would have nothing more to say than naming the poem and theme. 

Again, let me draw your attention to a suggested length of 1000 words. Reading back over this guide so far, I feel perhaps I have been unfairly critical of the exam board: I do actually greatly enjoy teaching this coursework, feel the pupils get an awful lot from it and I very much enjoy reading what they...

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