Teacher blog: Using model answers
Updated: Jul 21, 2019
Sadly, most students aren't really receptive to model answers until after the Trials. Most Year 12s will try to use what they already have to answer the Trial. Only after this hasn’t worked well are they really receptive to model answers.
Strong students will use a model answer well: they'll see the strong argumentation, clear expression, coherence of thought, and propriety of analysis. Weak students will hit it like Sir Galahad of the Blazing Highlighter and crib good-sounding phrases which pop up in their own pick 'n mix essay.
When to use model answers
There's a limited window in which to use a model answer effectively. Try to do this BEFORE you return their assessment tasks - once they have their own answer in their hands, you've lost their attention.
Here's one way to go about it.
Step by step lesson
1. Before you hand out the model answer, write up the question on the board.
Analyse it together and ask students to write their own thesis statment (i.e. answer to the question), which should be the first sentence of the introduction.
2. Ask them to write (bullet-points are fine) the three points they would use to support their answer.
3. Ask them to provide ONE quote or example, and a sentence of analysis for this example which answers the question.
4. NOW HAND OUT THE SAMPLE ANSWER. Let them read the introduction in silence - give them at least 2-3 mins for this.
5. Then tell them to turn the paper over so that they can't see the introduction. Ask them to summarize the argument in their own words in a sentence. If they can't do this without looking back at the essay, it's doubtful that they understood what they read. It shows that they're not paying close enough attention when they read complex writing.
6. Turn back to the essay. Reinforce how the thesis statement and the summary of the three points of argument directly answer THIS question: they're not pre-written points which have been retrofitted to the question.
7. Give students time to read the body of the essay.
Find one student who has highlighted or underlined the model answer very heavily and ask them to turn their paper over (i.e. so that they can't see their marking) and ask:
(i) What was the point in ONE paragraph?
(ii) What was ONE piece of supporting evidence?
(iii) How did the model answer analyse the evidence in a way relevant to the question?
Strong students recall how the technical elements of a quote or example are relevant to the essay's overall argument. Weak students won't remember, or have grasped that the analysis MUST be relevant.
8. WITH STRONGER GROUPS, ask:
(i) What was the model essay's overall interpretation of the work . Don't let them cop out with the terms 'positive' or 'negative'! These show an inability to articulate ideas! Direct them to the conclusion, where writers usually signal their general understanding of a text's meaning.
9. WITH WEAKER GROUPS, ask:
(ii) Can they match up each part of the sample answer to the essay plan provided.
Reinforce that although content can't be memorized and prepared beforehand, a good orderly structure underpins all answers - and this structure is often very similar from answer to answer.
10. The way students handle a sample answer reflects their process: if they just highlight and underline (and claim they'll read it carefully later) then they probably have a rather 'cut-and-fill' production line approach to writing, which is likely behind their disappointing results.
Look at one of our sample answers for the resource to use in this activity.