Product review - GCSE English Language Writing Workshops

  • Product review - GCSE English Language Writing Workshops

For some, the author’s craft is no real mystery. From across the pond Stephen King reckons, “If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” It’s unpretentious advice and he’s not wrong - but for many students, including those who are reading maniacs, writing isn’t a piece of cake unless they have been actively taught to do it. Young people need to be shown the process and how to write for a variety of purposes. They need to be set specific goals and given daily time to write. They need inspiring; and I think I have found a set of resources that can help with all these aims.

Writing Workshops has been written specially for the GCSE English Language qualifications for first teaching from 2015 to help improve skills across different types of writing. It is suitable for all specifications and it’s the sort of resource that you won’t want to let go once your hands are on it. The Student Book is a splash of colour and offers a practice-based approach to developing writing, made up of 17 units. The pages are full of thinking power and exude creativity, insight and challenge – not to mention engaging, real world content covering a huge range of genres. Students get the opportunity to write everything from reviews and first-person monologues to journalistic articles, screenplays, speeches and new product pitches. This is life-skill writing with a real purpose.

The Student Book has been expertly crafted offering very clear objectives, well considered discussion points, and writing opportunities galore. There is a writing improvement focus flagged up at the start of each unit, which leads into concise introductions and activities that trigger rivers of thinking about communication, organisation, SpaG and so on. The layout of the workshops is very clear - and amongst the best I’ve seen for getting students to really consider their writing craft in terms of vocabulary, sentence structure and text structure. They also offer plenty of room for spontaneity.

The Student Book will empower learners, and give them the confidence they need to write. As they progress through the workshops they will star to see things as writers and not just readers, encouraging them to experiment, take risks and be creative themselves.

The accompanying Teacher’s Resource offers the finer detail and gets under the bonnet of each workshop offering guidance on aims and outcomes, notes and extensions. This is where you will find routes through the workshops, the answers to specific questions, and suggestions for further exploration. Unsurprisingly the quality of this resource mirrors the high standards found in the Student Book; it’s both reassuringly astute and inspiring. Each unit is also concise and doesn’t overload you. It gives you exactly what you need.

The printed resources are, however, just the tip of the iceberg. They are part of a blended learning approach and so combine traditional and modern in one package through traditional books, e-books and digital video. Cambridge Elevate is the star of the show offering rich digital content of the books and additional digital resources to engage and motivate students. It includes a wide range of video resources such as interviews with authors and working professionals. It offers annotation tools to highlight text, bookmark key passages and add notes. There are additional tools too for creating specific groups to manage learners and groups as well as messaging between teachers and students, tracking, assessment, worksheets and editable documents. This is a power-house of a resource and offers an elegant solution to the challenges of English teaching and tailoring learning to the needs of individuals in the 21st century.

Do you need buckets of cash to buy this resource? Actually, no – the books are very reasonably priced at £6 with free teacher’s resources. The Cambridge Elevate-enhanced edition is available as a standalone product or free with the printed resource. Overall, the English resources on offer here are slick, practical, accessible and engaging. They feel fresh, lively and full of character and I’d highly recommend them.