Effective Analysis – The Waffle Files

Just a short post here to follow up on my recent one: ‘The problem with techniques’.

Having just finished marking English Language Paper 1, I’m convinced that there are three main reasons why students have lost marks on the reading section, and these are areas that I will be working hard with my department next year to address:

  1. Using waffle, particularly around techniques

  2. Not sharply identifying the meaning/effect of a quote

  3. Not covering enough quotes as analysis needs to be more succinct

I used to run a challenge in Year 12 that encouraged students to see if they could offer 200 words of analysis based on one quote. I showed them an example I had written as a model, exploring almost every individual word and technique, and alternative interpretation possible, patting myself on the back for my analysis wizardry. I realise now that even at A-level, this is not something to aspire to, and it is incredibly dangerous indeed to promote long examination of a single quote at GCSE level.

Succinctness of analysis of a quote, then swiftly moving on to the next, is fundamental to success.

I believe this extends beyond English Language reading sections, into Literature: Anthology analysis, Extract analysis, Unseen Poetry, and probably further. Can I emphasise again just how many clearly top end students have scored significantly lower than they should have, as they dwell on 3 or 4 quotes for too long, making labored points about techniques, rather than covering 7 or 8 briefly in the time provided.

I think there needs to be a move towards succinctness from Year 7 upwards.

Here is my model for ‘Effective Analysis’ which I’ve come up with. The closer to the centre, the more important it is. Any analysis missing the yellow and red band is worthless in my view. Green and Blue bands will help push for the very top grades, but should be carefully taught alongside an awareness of the dangers of waffle, which I’ve mentioned before. Hope you like the way I have symbolised the waffle as menacing shadows!

Effective Analysis pic

Click here for the picture slide   Effective Analysis

In the resource below, I offer two activities for teachers to use to get students to explicitly identify which examples of analysis are ‘waffle’ and why; which one is ‘good’ (sharply analysing the quote’s meaning/effect), and which one is ‘excellent’ (including technique focus). Here’s a snippet:

AN example 1

AN Example 2

The third sheet in the resource offers students the chance to become examiners, and spot where the tick would come, putting a line through all the unnecessary waffle.

AN Example 3

AN Example 4

Click here for the resource document above  Establishing effective analysis – The Waffle Files Sheet 1

There are notes for teachers alongside.

I hope this is helpful. I am convinced that results will significantly increase for us all if we can make analysis succinct, and remove the ‘waffle’ from students’ analysis.

Thanks for reading.



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