A-Level

The Perfect Essay 2

I have written a few blogs on essay writing and now it is time to reflect again. After a summer of results I wanted to share some thoughts on how to write the Perfect Essay.

I am not sure that there is a Perfect Essay? I have read a couple from the summer exams and I am yet to find many that received 30 marks. What I have found though is that there are clearly some areas that students can focus on. Here are some of the ideas I have been sharing with my students since the summer.

Tips for writing Perfect Essays
  1. Introductions need to be of such a length that they don’t take over but they do paint a picture. This is nothing new, but I think that some students fall into the trap of not addressing the essay at hand or the context. I have asked my students to ensure they include the date of composition, line of argument and a clear statement of intention and….
  2. Wider Listening in the introduction. I have read a couple of high mark essays and they have all included Wider Listening in the introduction. This was a new revelation to me and I am already finding that it is really helping my students. Not only does it thoroughly embed Wider Listening in the essay, but it also help students to focus:

    In this essay I am going to consider how Hermann used Melody, Harmony & Instrumentation to create a sense of horror in his music. In order to support this argument I am going to also consider the music from Vertigo and the music of Hans Zimmer & Danny Elfman.”

     

    Something along those lines would be a good way of rounding of an introduction. Wider Listening could be referred to before that final sentence. However I think it is good to have it in the introduction itself.

  3. It appears that a high mark essay is one that is structured clearly. I have therefore been asking my students to do two paragraphs per element as an initial starting point. The first paragraph clearly looks at the element and its role & use in the music. The next “partner paragraph” consider the Wider Listening that links to that element.
  4. Wider Listening needs to actually support the argument. Having a paragraph on Wider listening immediately after, or embedded within, the element paragraph, helps to ensure the it is relevant and well utilised. Wider Listening is here to stay and students need to benefit from it by using it appropriately manner.
  5. One phrase that I picked up from the June 2018 Edexcel mark scheme was “explanation of the effect of the element”. I thought this was an interesting phrase that maybe I had missed in the past. Explaining the effect of an element is quite a good angle to take and a helpful teaching approaching. I have subsequently given students a list of key terms from a set work and asked them to discuss what effect they have. What effect does a entirely string dominated orchestra have? What effect does a prepared piano have? This a great way of teaching the set works and a useful thought process for the essay.
Conclusion

These are just a few thoughts and I hope that they are useful. Do have a look at my previous blogs on essay writing to get an idea of some of the other approaches I have used. They do help, and these points above have been very prominent in my teaching since September. You can help students to structure their work, focus more on key elements and embed Wider Listening from the introduction down.

The Perfect Essay is still the holy grail for us music teachers, all the best in your quest.

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