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The Essay Tree: Planning GCSE Exam Answers

Scott Thomas

30th May 2017

It was in my planning for my Y10 GCSE group in the final week before the half term that the Essay Tree grew from an idea on paper to one which I found resonated with my Y10s, taking some of the bore out of essay planning.

We had just completed the unit of work on poverty in Elizabethan England as part of the Edexcel 9-1 GCSE and needed a way to improve their essay structures. On the Edexcel paper, there is a 12 mark question with the question stem 'Explain why'. I settled on the question 'Explain why poverty increased in Elizabethan England'. This would require students to write 3 paragraphs two from the stimulus and one from their own knowledge.

Setting up the Planning Tree:

Pupils got into pairs with an A3 sheet. On the sheet, they drew a tree with three branches, one for each paragraph they would write. They then wrote the question on the trunk and the key point of each paragraph in the branches. Next came the evidence, this formed the leaves of the tree, they identified the evidence for poverty increasing. Finally, they added the explanation in the form of fruit. These were the explanations for the evidence they had given as leaves. By the end, they had an essay question planned in tree form which they then went on to write. 

An essay tree: 'Explain why poverty increased in Elizabethan England 1558-1588'

In essence, they were planning three PEE paragraphs that they could use in their exam. The branches become the points, the leaves the evidence and the fruit the explanation. 

Scott Thomas

Scott is Subject Lead for History at Tutor2u, and works full time as a teacher of History. He has examined for Edexcel and holds a joint degree in History and Politics from Newcastle University

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