Revising for the HSC trial examination

This session recording is designed for teachers who are looking for a range of ways to support HSC students in their preparation for examinations.

This workshop models strategies for revision of concepts and texts for the Common Module. It also provides teachers with a framework to apply what is learnt to the other modules. Teachers consider practical strategies for lifting student responses drawn from research and evidence-based pedagogy. Throughout the session, the English Curriculum team spotlight resources already available on the NSW Department of Education website in the English 7 to 12 pages.

Audience: Stage 6 teachers and leaders.

Watch 'Revising for the English HSC trial examinations' (1:31:57).

This session recording is designed for teachers who are looking for a range of ways to support HSC students in their preparation for the HSC Trial examinations.

Mark McDonald

Tom and Lauren are going to keep their cameras on as presenters. If at any point my audio cuts out Tom and Lauren are going to take over on my behalf.

Okay. Have we got the screen share happening? Has that just disappeared?

Lauren Parsons

It's been shared.

Zenna Diab

I can't see it, Lauren.

Lauren Parsons


Mark McDonald

I can't see it, Lauren. It's disappeared.

Lauren Parsons

Hmm. That might have kicked out when we started recording.

[Title slide appears: Revising for the HSC trial examinations, English 7-12 Team, Curriculum Secondary Learners, Curriculum and Reform Directorate, Mark McDonalds – Relieving English Curriculum Support Adviser 7-12, Tom Gyenes – English Curriculum Implementation Officer 7-12, Lauren Parsons – English Curriculum Officer 7-12]

Mark McDonald

Okay. Perfect. Okay. All right.

Hello State-wide Staffroom and colleagues, I'm Mark McDonald, and I'm joined by my colleagues, Tom Gyenes, and Lauren Parsons. We are part of the English curriculum team in the Department of Education's Curriculum Secondary Learners, which in itself sits within the curriculum and Reform Directorate. We thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to join us this afternoon.

This session is being recorded and the recording and the chat will stay within the message board channel of the State-wide Staffroom for you to access after this session.

We would like to begin by acknowledging the many diverse Aboriginal nations of New South Wales and pay respect to the lands and waters of these nations and to the many ancestors who have shaped and nurtured Country. We honour the elders, the custodians of Country, and the future generations who have a responsibility to continue the legacy of elders and ancestors. This painting is titled ‘Our Country’ by Gary Purchase and depicts the diverse landscapes and wildlife of Australia during both the day and the night.

I am presenting from the lands of the Wiradjuri nation today. The Wiradjuri nation is bordered by the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee, sorry, Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers. and the name Wiradjuri itself means people of the 3 rivers. Please feel free to pop into the chat from which lands you are joining us today.

On screen now is an outline of what we will be presenting today. We'll begin by looking at ways to reengage and reconnect with the module description and prescribed text, followed by looking at ways to utilize HSC marking and then how to incorporate academic writing strategies into student revision. The final sections cover ways students can approach planning and how you can structure feedback and conferencing effectively. To close today's session, we will also spotlight a number of NESA and department resources available to support you and your students in this final revision period of the HSC course.

Please feel free to use the chat throughout the presentation to ask the team any clarifying questions and we will do our best to respond to them throughout the presentation. If we are unable to provide an immediate answer, we will reply after the session through the chat that will remain in our message board space.

There will also be times where we will ask you to contribute examples of your current practice to the chat if you feel comfortable doing so. We will curate and collate those responses and include them in a final version of the booklet that will be published on the English curriculum website, and I'd just like to thank Sharon, who is our chat monitor for today's session.

In terms of today's learning intentions, today you will develop awareness of engaging ways to support HSC students in their preparation for trial HSC exams by implementing a range of practical strategies and various resources available. We hope that today's session allows you to reflect on your existing practice and how this can be further strengthened to develop ongoing practices for future HSC students and classes.

The HSC trial examinations are largely a given, in the landscape of the HSC year, but what actually is their role? Yes, in the contemporary context of assessment rules, for some students, it may be their only formal exam practice before the HSC.

So, it's a rehearsal, but for many students it's a high stakes assessment task that will impact significantly on their rank.

So, it's a rehearsal for a paying audience. So, it's a rehearsal for a paying audience with very high demands. We wouldn't ask this of athletes, performers or artists, but our students during an already stressful year? Of course. So, what is an apt simile for the trials? What sums up this mixture of complexity, stress and absurdity? We'd like you to enter your possible simile ideas into the chat at any time during the session, and at the end we will celebrate a few of the best.

I'm now going to hand over to Lauren, who will discuss approaches to reengage with the module description.


You’re on mute Lauren.

Lauren Parsons

Thank you, Sharon, thank you, Mark.

As Mark just mentioned, the first part of today's presentation is a very common revision practice that I'm sure we are all very familiar with, and that is revisiting the module description. Now before we begin, I do want to clarify some terminology that may cause confusion for some people today.

The term 'module description' is the correct NESA terminology for what is sometimes referred to by teachers and students as the rubric. We do encourage you to use the term module description in your teaching as it can cause confusion for students if they independently engage with NESA advice and information and cannot find the term rubric anywhere.

Now, for this section, and also a large part of today's presentation as a whole, we'll be using examples from the Texts and Human Experiences Module. However, all of these activities can be translated to any of the modules across all of the English courses.

Now, reengaging with the module description is the foundation of many revision practices that we all do. However, in doing this, we want to offer more to students than simply a refresher of the content. What we can offer by purposefully engaging with the module description is a few things.

Firstly, we can offer them a reminder of what they have learned in previous modules that they might have studied a few terms ago, and what they have learned here refers to both the content they have learned and also the skills that they have learned. It's probably very common that students can recognize their progress in understanding a text and the plot of it that was once unfamiliar. But it's less likely that they are going to be aware of the skills-based progress that they have hopefully made throughout their HSC year.

This process can also offer them an excellent way to build confidence as they make connections with their previous learning. So, by becoming refamiliarised with ideas and confidence and concepts, students hopefully have an experience similar to multiple light bulbs going off. They remember words and phrases; they remember translating those ideas to their prescribed text or to their assessments and if this re-engagement is built on very strong, original engagement, it can be a real confidence booster to allow students to think to themselves, “I do understand this and I do know this.”

And finally, it also offers a roadmap of what they might expect in the trial HSC exams and by extension a checklist of sorts to ensure that they can understand and address every aspect of the module descriptions.

Now, at the point of revision, we want students to actively reengage with the module description rather than simply passively receiving the information through rereading the description and not doing anything else with it. We want to facilitate revision strategies that allow students to grapple with a description in a way that is active and moving them towards the point of being self-sufficient in their revision.

Through this active reengagement, a process of reflection occurs on 2 levels. Students not only reflect on the ideas of the module and the text studied, but they reflect on the skills that the module requires they possess and when reengaging with from this position of having finished studying the module, it's hoped that students are able to make more meaningful connections between their texts and the ideas in the description.

Now, the first activity in your participant booklet is the common module closed passage, which can be found on page 7. This is a very non-threatening way to start reengaging with the module, particularly if you have students that are perhaps not so confident with English. Now, the point of this closed passage, though, is not solely to test their memory or have students pick the correct words, the missing words are not even provided. We want students, as they are completing the closed passage, to think, “What could this missing word be?”, not, “What is the missing word?” Once students have worked through the passage their answers then create many prompts for discussion.

For example, this first sentence could generate these possible answers where students need to choose 2 different verbs. If you ask students to consider the difference between establishing or developing their understanding, and deepening their understanding, this would reinforce the importance of having an understanding that is already deep and becomes deeper through their study of the common module.

For students who are formulating thesis statements that are quite surface level, this distinction would reinforce to them that the first sentence of the module descriptions requires that their understanding is at a deepened level, and they want their thesis threads to show evidence of reaching such a level. Similarly, comparing the difference between if a text reflects or represents experiences reinforces that representation is a concept students need to ensure they are explicitly addressing in their responses.

Now, as is often the case with revision, it can sometimes be a little dry for students, particularly if they are doing the same thing across all of their HSC subjects. You can use this activity as some light relief if you have a few spare minutes at the end of a lesson and had a few spare cloze passages on hand. You can challenge students by giving them one letter that every word needs to start with, and this helps to expand their vocabulary, particularly if there's a bit of a competitive spirit in the room. You could also ask them to choose words which reflect the opposite of what they should be doing. So, a “What not to do” module description.

This position students to firstly think what should it be? Because without this they can't think of the opposite. Now, while this activity is not particularly academically rigorous, it does facilitate an active reengagement with the module, and it gives students an accessible platform to engage and feel confident that they know the module description through continually thinking and responding to it in different ways.

Another way to reengage with the module description is through creating word clouds like the one on the screen. This one was made through a website called ‘Monkey Learn’ and there are plenty of free options to generate word clouds. Once you've generated a word cloud or have students generate one. There's a lot that can be done with this image as a revision activity.

The first and the most obvious prompt would be to have a discussion with a whole class or in small groups about the dominance of each word. When you generate a word cloud for any module, “students” is always a very dominant word, which is a great way to highlight to students that their personal response to text is at the heart of all modules.

Word clouds also allows you to point out the words which are somewhat hidden, and these are often not the immediate focus of students when they read the module description as well. For example, many students will latch onto words such as anomalies, paradoxes or emotions and create their own frame for the module just based through these ideas. Whereas a word cloud allows you to visually show that these key words appear just as frequently as words such as wider word, metalanguage, or figurative language, reminding students to consider all aspects of the module descriptions.

If the students are generating the work themselves, they can manipulate the image to reflect certain things. You can ask them to colour code the contents and skills of the module. Or they could colour code what they think they know well and what they feel they need to revise more. You can also display the word cloud as a daily revision prompt. Every lesson can begin with someone choosing one word or phrase and having students respond in quick writing task or talking in pairs, explaining their understanding to mimic the experience of responding to an exam question on the spot. And finally, you can challenge students to rewrite the module description using each phrase of the word cloud only once.

This process of writing will highlight to the students what words they wish they were able to use more frequently, and which words they really had to think about to include in their paragraph and doing so will reveal their areas of confidence and uncertainty across the module.

[‘Deconstructing the module description’, Table 1 and 2, page 7 of the resource booklet.]

Now, in this activity, you can engage your students in a purposeful deconstruction of the module description. Students organize the module description content into content and skills. Students use the stem, “students will understand why”, to write statements about the content and “students will know how to”, to write statement about the skills.

You can approach this task differently depending on your class. In the resource booklet, we have provided the table on page 8, which models the students suggested answers drawn from the paragraph of the module statement so that they can continue to write their own statements. But underneath this, we have also provided the full answer key.

If your students require more support to complete this task, you could make this a tactile activity by cutting out the answers and having students reorganize them under each column heading. And this activity helps students reinforce the skills required for each module and the connection between the skills and the content that they have learned.

Building on the previous activity, students then complete a self-assessment of their own knowledge and skills. The image on your screen now is found on page 10 of your resource booklet, where students are asked to respond to each content item and self-assess their knowledge. Students then repeat this process by self-assessing their knowledge of skills, which is found on the next page of the booklet.

This process requires reflection from students and helps to reinforce the module description as they make these connections. It also provides you with informative data about your class that can be used in multiple ways, such as finding areas that the whole class needs assistance in or making strategic groupings where students can teach each other their respective strengths and weaknesses.

So, I'm going to hand over to Tom now. He's going to explore how to build on these re-engagement strategies with the module description to reconnecting with the prescribed text.

Tom Gyenes

Thanks, Lauren and hi everyone.

So, when you begin your revision for the trial exams, it's possible 6 to 7 months since your students last connected with your prescribed text for the common module in the life span of most of your students, that's a that's an eternity, let's face it.

So, given the limited time you have to revise, in this section we're going to explore some best practice approaches to reengaging with the prescribed texts after such a significant gap.

So, the approach should firstly be guided by advice from the marking centre about what students do well, and not so well in relation to prescribed texts. Have a look at these 2 points from the 2019 advice. Students should evaluate the ways that prescribed texts can invite a reconsideration of the human experience, and they should consider how the textual form, features and language of the prescribed texts contribute to the representation of the human experience and how this meaning is shaped. So, a focus on human experience and form, unsurprisingly. No mention of plot retell, however, and what do better responses do?

Better responses evaluate to what extent texts invite a reconsideration of the specified human experience. They develop their argument to reveal a strong understanding of the text. How? Well, they demonstrate a strong sense of the audience, or how that audience is positioned by the text. They show awareness of textual purpose, and the text as a whole. They select apt and detailed textual evidence. So, notice the awareness of the text as a whole, but apt textual evidence.

So, these following 4 snapshots sum up the salient points:

  1. What does the prescribed text invite the responder to do?
  2. The focus on representation
  3. An evaluation of the extent to which the text fulfills the composer’s purpose.
  4. That impact on the audience.

Everything points to assessing the text as a kind of case study for the approach the composer has used in the representation of human experiences. And while our focus today is on the common module, as you've heard, make sure you go through this process of checking the markers’ feedback for every module to make sure that your revision is focused in the best ways. So, if we're going to use time wisely to focus on what matters, then the first step is to clarify our aims for each stage of revision and align our strategies accordingly. So, if we're primarily trying to remind our class about the text so that they have an awareness of the text as a whole, are we trying to expand or strengthen their content knowledge? Are we working on those key module related conceptual elements, such as the impact on the reader that are highlighted in the marking feedback? Or are we working on preparing the students to write?

Have a think for a moment about what percentage of your precious time say in that one or 2 weeks that you might spend on the common module next term, typically. What proportion of your precious time would you spend on each if these 4 types of activity?

Take a moment now and in the coming minutes, even as I move on, to just share your thoughts, maybe just as a percentage in the chat, how do you sort of divide up your time between those 4 elements of revising the prescribed text? I'll give you a moment to think, but feel free to keep putting in your thoughts in the chat.


So, let's take each of these 4 stages, one by one, and see where we can intervene meaningfully. First, re-encountering and reminding students about the novel. So, of course, your main challenge is the teenage brain, let's face it, especially under stress, trying to remember something from 7 months ago.

So, I'm wondering, which of these you have experienced as a teacher? My personal favourite and I probably get this at least once a year is the “But we've done the assessment task, so I gave that back to the book room. I didn't know we were going to do anything with it again.”

So, in this kind of reminding stage, back one, I think, sorry Lauren. Back to the short and energetic.

So, in this reminding stage the key principles that should guide the choice of activities are really around energy and active engagement. We're looking at short, fun, transformative activities that also allow the students to feel like they do actually remember something about the text, even though it seems like a lifetime ago.

So, we've got 3 popular games you could use to achieve this. First is Articulate, the students are given a list of words from the prescribed text from something like Feed, as you see, it could be words like bannering, Quendy, lesions, feed or consumerism. Students have to get the other student to say the word by articulating a description of the word from within the text.

Then you've got the Goose Chase app. Please let us know if you're familiar with this, but it's very easy to use, you can find it online. It allows you to create a sort of scavenger hunt around the texts, and students could be locating particular pieces of information in the text to complete each task, and then if, like me and my family, we would probably watch this just about every night. If you're a Jeopardy fan, that's very easy to create a Jeopardy style quiz. You've got the categories, they're perfect for, you know, context themes, language features, textual features. If you're not familiar with Jeopardy, it’s sort of inverted. students are almost given the answer and have to sort of come up with a question.

This there's an example there from Gwen Harwood's poetry.

[Example on slide: “Pumpkins are said to symbolise this in Harwood’s Poem. Answer – What is…?”]

It works really, really well. as that sort of quick, energetic activity for reminding students about the text.

Others that you might not have thought of here are things like Kahoot and then 21 words, which for Billy Elliot would be something like a bildungsroman film about, brave Billy Elliot, who defies gender stereotypes to dance instead of fight, his way to ballet school. So, that's summing up your text in 28 words.

Now, the other kind of type of short, an energetic activity that we're really interested in, with a light touch, remember, we're just trying to remind students, is asking them to do something transformative with their text. So, look at the ways in with the different kinds of forms and the different types of transformation. So, for example, creating a photo essay of the novel, reordering the lines or standards from a poem that's been cut up recategorizing the scenes from a film into chapters. You might need to show them, you know, the way the DVD format used to have those chapters. Imitating a poem, so actually line by line, language feature by language feature, so that they create their own version of the poem. It's really fun, it's really energetic, and they're really surprised by the fact that they've actually written a poem at the end of it.

The key principle, whatever you’re doing is a really heavily research-backed idea that the active engagement in revision depends on some kind of transfer, some kind of transformation, rewriting or reconstructing of their knowledge into a new form.

So, now we're going to want to focus for some time – remember the marker feedback though – on refining content knowledge. The 2 ideas you're about to see draw students into identifying, then working with key scenes as specific examples of module focus. Examples of these activities in table form are in the participant booklet [Table 5 and Table 6, page 17-18], the key principle is using tables as a guide to thinking facilitated by quality pair work.

So, after the initial table filling stage pairs, take one of the rows and apply it to a key scene or extract. They might develop a mind map or a poster or presentation back to class. The idea is that you can stack each pair's work through something like classroom displays so the class as a whole sees these key scenes within the frame of the text as a whole. For each of those activities, there's a potential for substantive communication as a whole class that's really strong.

For that first activity above where students are reflecting on the human experiences and they create a table making connections between the human experience, a key scene from the prescribed text, and how it expands our knowledge of the human experience. They might, you might ask them, “how is your understanding of the human experience of X, for example, different after the scene? How did the composer achieve that shift?” So, we're beginning to build the intensity and the cognitive load, the level of analysis a little bit, while reminding them of the details of the text.

For that second activity you might ask them about how the characterization of one particular character or the symbolism involved in the setting or the resolution of one of the complications in the novel, that particular scene, how did that allow the composer to reinforce, to challenge, to criticize?

Once key scenes are established and the focus of analytical work is firmly on the aspects of the module, in this case, the representation of human experiences and form, you're ready for activities on the close analysis of scenes or extracts. Remember, this stage is still essentially focused on building appropriate content for use in exam extended writing.

So, you've got something like an ‘on the wall’ activity, which I know a lot of teachers use. Key excerpts from the texts on A3 sheets around the wall, accompanied by 3-5 prompt questions each. Students wander around the classroom and leave responses with sticky notes at each of those A3 sheets. Once they've gone around to all of them, at the end, you ask them to choose one that they're particularly connected to.

They re-form a group there and then they read all the comments that every student has left, reformulate it, and present it back to the class and there's a discussion. If you've used this, you'll know how wonderfully it works. I know it sounds like a lot of time and it is probably a whole lesson, but it is worth it.

What you get from students reading each other's ideas and then being able to contribute, once they’re inspired by those ideas and give their ideas back in a in a context, it's a little safer for them than a typical sort of classroom discussion. It's a little bit active as well they’re wandering around, they get to do it in whatever order, there's choice involved, they choose a scene or an extract they feel something strongly about, they get to work with each other, they get to present back to the class and then you can level that up too, in the types of challenging discussion that comes from that. I've never done that without it being an enormous success in terms of strengthening their content knowledge of that text.

There are a number of examples there about working with quotes. ‘Quotable quotes’, teachers and students provide quotes, and then they have to identify the context of the quote. There's a great quote game there, given to us by Sharon who is doing this the chat today around moving from good quotes, a really common or overused one, to challenge the student to find a better quote, and then even the best quote.

And then finally there's a, you know, I put “juicy” in inverted commas because there are a lot of students in my experience who don't feel comfortable with that word. But I really like the idea of a quote being juicy, because you can really get a lot out of it.

And so that's the way of starting with the typical long chunk of quote that some students often put in, followed by, “This shows”, which we're trying to move them away from, of course, narrowing it down to the best, juiciest part of that quote, and then explicitly teaching students how to construct an analytical sentence that includes all 3 elements – the quote, the language feature and their analysis of that quote in one.

Something to at least start in class is some form of key scene analysis template.

Use this one or one like it or better still, co-construct it with your class.

[See page 16 of the resource booklet, “Key Scene Template”.]

Use it as the basis for short, targeted, and analytical writing from each branch. For elements of characterization, for example, and this is back to Past the Shallows. The composer, there, Parrett, is using the characterization of one of the characters, Harry, in this first meeting with an older character called George in order to do what? In each arrow we build out from there and use it as the basis for analysis.

Use this to practice the idea of developing of ideas, perhaps a topic sentence focused on representation, then supporting detail, then further analysis linked to the question. For example, how does a particular scene position the audience to feel about the character? So, its leading us towards analysis, there are some key principles for using this kind of template. Why co construct it with your students? Now I'll leave you to think about that and maybe put your thoughts into the chat if you feel strongly about it.

It's really powerful in terms of their ownership of the whole exercise. It also promotes a constant cycling between kind of big picture thinking and discussion and then the textual detail that the markers are looking for. It also allows you to hone in on how much textual detail is necessary. Not that much, as you know, but students often don't.

Thinking about the branches as a way to develop microwriting, more on more on that in a second. And then all the way to paragraphs, and then asking questions like, how much time did you spend thinking about writing? This is a type of preparing to write activity, just keep going until the students are bursting to put pen to paper and then give them the chance to put pen to paper.

This can also be used as a basis for home revision, so start in class and let them finish it at home and then what do you do with these when they're finished? Well, I know many teachers who put them up around the classroom. I challenge you if you haven't done this before, if you put things like this up around the classroom, when your students are doing their exam in the exam room, watch them glance up at the virtual spot where they remember that diagram in the classroom. And there's actually quite a bit of research to show that that helps with their memory. So, never be afraid to put these things up in your classroom.

Now that they’re firmly embedded once again in the content of the text, time to turn back to module engagement. Remember the marker advice, this is where students get to bands 5 and 6, not on the basis of how much they know about the text. They should be able to complete tables like this fairly quickly using the content they've been working on.

[Slide content: See “Deepening text-module conceptual engagement”, Table 5 and 6, page 17 of the resource booklet.]

So, work quickly through column one, the human experience in this case is the fear of torture in 1984.

Quickly again through column 2, the supporting detail, in this case, a quote and then concentrate on the third column and introduce the kinds of evaluative language or personal response, reader response, understanding that they will need.

For example, now we understand and there's more, more of this in our presentation today later, notice that the analysis in this column focuses on the relationship between the composer and the responders, not what happens in the text.

[Column 3: What does the responder now understand about the human experience?]

The second table is firmly focused on the final 2 columns again, and these highlight the composer's purpose and the impact on the responder. So, we’ve moved from the left from the feature, this time. the language feature and we're really working on that awareness of form, again an example this time from The Merchant of Venice. But most of the work is again focused on what is the composer trying to do, their purpose, to reveal the character's thoughts via the aside, and then back on to us as responders. What do we now understand about the human experience because of the way Shakespeare has constructed that text?

When you have the 2 tables full of analysis and critical engagement, the movement is now towards extended writing. First, personal response, a letter to the English teachers at the school, a review, something that prioritizes the students informed personal response, but also, don't be afraid to lighten it up with meaningful play as well. So, games like Connect 4 allow for substantive conversation and the testing out of ideas developed in those tables and through their personal responses before you get to that sort of typical essay practice.

Demand evidence and analysis of a higher level compared to those initial reminding games, and you can point that out to the students, look at where we've got to from that first sort of remembering what happened in the text. Look at the sorts of things we're talking about now. So, this is about refining conceptual engagement and it must be in line with the demands of the module description. You can level this up by asking students to challenge the other team's ideas and by then asking students to write paragraphs using evidence as a team or individually.

Finally, the focus turns to the style of exam writing that they will need, each module and prescribe text combinations should have an accompanying list of what we're calling here, ‘big ideas’, but you might have another word for it. These are co-constructed with the class and function as both efficient subgroups and scaffolds for developing thesis statements in response to exam style questions.

For the novel Past the Shallows, these 5 were developed with a class and they include experiences of traumatic vs caring family, perspectives on identity, whether that's community, friendship, masculinity, representations of how we experience and are shaped by the environment, perspectives on the pressures of growing up, and then how this particular genre deals with the impacts of emotions like, loss, grief, hope and fear.

Notice the English textual concepts all the way through that perspectives representation genre. These big 5 ideas cover all the discussion scenes and module ideas. Students are taught how to develop a single page of Cornell University style notes for each as home revision activities and then they arrange all the ideas from all their mind maps, tables and analytical writing over the past week or 2 into one well-organized space. Remember the principle of transforming and rewriting and reorganizing constantly. It's a constant process of engaging actively with the text and then notes about the text.

As a final step before they write practice extended responses use those big ideas to practice developing an argument in relation to an essay question. Here is the 2021 common module exam question, “Analyse how your prescribed text represents the ways individuals respond to the challenges they face”, 2021 HSC. The aim is purely at this stage to practice writing the first 2 sentences of the introduction as a way of embedding, understanding about those big ideas and making them the focus of your writing, and refining the structure of an introduction. So, students will do this for each of the big ideas, and then for several essay questions, the more the merrier.

Here are the first 2 sentences of a suggestion from a suggested introduction. The first sentence is about engaging and orientating the reader to the module. The second sentence, the purpose is narrowing down to the particular text and the particular big idea you want to focus on. Here's an example. “One of the most powerful characteristics of prose fiction is the way it entices the reader to share in the emotional journeys of its characters in Favel Parrett’s 2011 bildungsroman Past the Shallows, we sympathize with the ways the young brothers cope with their experiences of a traumatic and abusive father.”

Now, this might not be the way you typically teach an introduction to that extended response, but I really want you to think about what you notice here. Firstly, there's no boring and pointless simple restatement of the essay question to start off with. That first sentence actually says something interesting about the form and about representation and about the concerns of the module straight away. It's very general, but that's okay it's a first sentence, it’s an orientating, engaging sentence.

There's a staged narrowing of the idea from sentence one, an emotional journey, to sentence 2 a traumatic and abusive father from “the reader to share”, to “we sympathize.”

There's explicit reference to the module, concept, form, and representation of human experiences. The full details of the text are given in the second sentence, and there's a flagging, just a little signposting, of the big idea, the experiences of traumatic family as a direction that this extended response is going to take. It's not going to tell us everything about the module and not everything about the texts, but now it's got a direction based on one of those big ideas.

So, of course, this kind of short, snappy practice writing in preparation for extended response under exam conditions sounds a lot like our state-wide staff room session from 2 weeks ago, microwriting for imaginative texts. So, this kind of rapid-fire writing is also useful for developing fluency, confidence, nimbleness and as a way of thinking through these modes, analytical, discursive, persuasive writing.

So, finally, in this section set up microwriting opportunities so you say you can spend time conferencing with the students, and more on that later. Make sure you set up a specific focus for skill development in each microwriting session.

Let's now turn to using HSC marker feedback as a revision tool over to you, Mark.

Mark McDonald

Okay. So, thank you Tom.

In this section we're going to be exploring ways to use the HSC marking feedback. Tom has already touched on HSC marking feedback a little bit in his section. This section will drill down a little bit further into some strategy. But before I move into giving suggested revision strategies, I'd like to give you a moment to share what you already do as part of your classroom practice. Using the chat function can you please share an example of how you may use one of the resources listed on the presentation with your classes as part of trial or HSC revision? There's also space in the attendance booklet in Table 7 for you to note down some of the suggestions provided if you would like to.

So, the different things that we've got up on the previous screen there that you may want to make reference to include syllabus documents, sample examination materials, HSC exam packs, standards materials, performance band descriptors.

Well, feel free to continue adding ideas to the chat as I talk through this slide.

So, when we look at HSC exam questions, a useful approach often taken is to consider sample responses against the marking criteria and ask students to use the criteria to award marks to their own work, to their peers, or to sample scripts based on the wording of the criteria dot points.

This can be a valuable activity which supports students to gain and understanding of the success criteria they are required to meet. However, while marking criteria are necessarily broad, the marking feedback published by NESA each year provides explicit detail regarding what students did well and areas that they can improve. When considering past papers, the marking feedback is a useful tool for explicit annotation of sample responses and provides explicit detail regarding what students should include in their responses. The feedback itself can be found as part of the exam pack published on NESA’s respective syllabus websites for each course.

I saw standards materials being referenced multiple times in the chat, which is fantastic because I'm about to move on to talking about those in a little bit more detail. So, for the purpose of today's presentation, I will be using an example from the 2019 HSC paper. I'm doing this for 2 reasons. Firstly, none of the short answer texts are awaiting copyright, and the paper is therefore available in its entirety online. Secondly, the HSC standard materials come from the 2019 paper, and we'll be using a sample from here in conjunction with the marking feedback to inform this section of the presentation.

If you haven't encountered the standards package before, there is a link in the booklet, and one will be put in the chat for you. On screen now is the marking feedback and sample scripts from a short answer question from the 2019 HSC paper one. This was question one in the Advanced paper and question 4 in the Standard paper.

The student sample presented on this slide is sample one from the band 5-6 category of the standards package. Both the marking feedback and the standards package are hyper-linked in the resources booklet. I’m using this question and sample as an example because of the time constraints today, but this activity could be easily adapted or used just as easily for the Texts and Human Experiences essay or any of the sections from paper 2.

So, for each question, the HSC marking feedback provides a summary of what stronger responses are able to do and areas that students can improve. When considering exemplar scripts using both of these sets of feedback can be valuable. For this activity, students should be provided with the marking feedback and the related response, and they will be highlighting and annotating the response based on the features detailed in the marking feedback.

Again, for the sake of time, I've only included this activity for one dot point, each from the better responses and area for improvement sections but there are suggestions for all of the criteria dot points in the resource booklet in Table 7.

The resource booklet also contains tables that could be used to complete this activity with the Texts and Human Experiences section II, the essay question via tables 8, 9 and 10. In relation to the first marking feedback dot point, what this response has done well in particular is signpost where they are answering the question by using the words of the question.

When identifying where this response identifies the nature of the intense moment students could provide an intense moment in the lives of the uncle and nephew or the intense love the characters for throwing boomerangs as possible pieces of evidence.

This could be a good opportunity to point out the specificity in this answer where the responses explicitly identify who the intense moment belongs to and what the intense moment is.

The “Areas for students to improve include” [see Table 11 in resource booklet], also provides a valuable opportunity for students to identify where this script does what it suggested. With this response, students could annotate exactly where the writer has gone beyond the literal interpretation of the poem. Possible parts they could identify include, the intense moment in the lives of the uncle and the nephew, which suggests that this is about more than just throwing boomerangs and thus moves beyond the literal, the reference to the pathetic fallacy, which shows that the student has considered a figurative interpretation, and the references to human emotions, which help to demonstrate an inferential awareness of the impact of the moment of the protagonist.

Quite often as teachers, when we are rushing through marking large numbers of students work, our feedback becomes quite broad by necessity. Comments such as add more detail or be more specific or more analysis provided, are commonly provided to students, and I've provided that sort of feedback myself when I've been short of time. But there is no guarantee that students know how to address these comments.

By getting students to identify where a strong script has demonstrated the areas for improvement, it provides a tangible example of an improved response and a tangible example of a response that aligns with feedback that they have likely received themselves in various formative and summative tasks.

Okay, sorry I'm just finding my next slide. Here we go. Okay. Moving on to a second strategy.

I use the term ‘write now’, Tom used the term ‘quick write’. They're the same strategy getting students to write a response to a question in a short period of time. I'm sure we all use them to a great extent or to great effect in the lead up to the trials and HSC and Zenna and Ashley ran a great session here 2 weeks ago outlining a range of microwriting strategies aligned to Module C, The Craft of Writing.

For those of you who are unable to make that session in Week 7, after the session, or at some stage when you've got some time, you'll be able to scroll back up in the message board in our State-wide Staffroom and find the recording for that session, along with the participant booklet that went with that session. If you weren't here for that, I highly recommend tapping into those resources because the strategies that Zenna and Ashley provided were fantastic.

Writing under timed conditions for the purpose of practicing writing quickly is limited in its effect if there isn't an opportunity for students to critically reflect or receive feedback on what they have produced. One activity that could be done after completing a ‘write now’ or a ‘quick write’ activity is getting students to create their own marking criteria after reading a range of responses.

This could be done in response to a short answer question or part of an essay such as an introduction like Tom suggested in his section, or a short Module C writing prompt. So, the first step in getting students to become marking feedback creators would be to have students compose a response based on a stimulus provided.

Step 2 would be students read a minimum of 10 to 15 scripts as part of this process to see a range of responses. There is no need for student names to be attached to the responses or for a mark to be awarded to the script, this step is simply about reading a large number of responses.

For step 3, instruct students to individually create a list of strengths and areas for improvement that they were able to identify across all of the scripts that they read rather than in an individual script. Getting students to identify these trends across a range of scripts helps to depersonalize the feedback, and it may encourage students to participate more willingly in a peer marking activity. You may want to use a marking criteria here to help support students in identifying their strengths and areas for improvement, but again, there's no need for them to allocate a mark.

Step 4, using a thinking routine such as ‘think-pair-share’ collate a class list of overall strengths and areas for improvement. This will support students in thinking critically about what constitutes a quality response for the pose question by identifying common features across multiple responses.

And then the final step, once refined as a class the marking feedback that's been designed collaboratively can be used by students to annotate either their own work or a peer’s work in the same fashion outlined in the previous activity. This activity could also be done using student samples from previous years or from the samples published on the HSC Standards website, the standards materials. Although this would limit students’ opportunity for self-reflection, the activity could also be used with an extended or polished response that students have completed at home.

This is just one approach to extending upon a ‘write now’ or a ‘quick write’ activity, but it is one that allows students to experience a range of responses and reflect upon their own writing in a controlled and supportive environment, and it's one that doesn't involve a significant amount of teacher time dedicated towards providing individual feedback.

Another use of marking feedback is to look for the patterns that exist across multiple sections or across different years and use these to drive your revision tasks. In the table displayed on screen, you'll see some of the common areas for improvement identified across marking feedback, and some recommended activities, many of which we have or will still cover in this presentation.

If the font on this slide is a little small for you, this table can also be found in the resource booklet [Table 12, page 25]. The common pitfalls that are identified on this slide though that come up with the marking feedback year upon year, upon year, are that students may not address the whole question, they may not establish a clear thesis statement at the beginning of the response, they may not demonstrate detailed knowledge of the module, they may not analyse effectively, instead producing recount and explanation, they may not provide evaluative statements, they may not produce clear and coherent paragraphs, and they may not use the metalanguage or form.

As you’re reading through the strategies that are on this slide, I'm going to highlight one in particular that our team member Bron suggested when we were compiling ideas for this presentation. Her strategy has to do with the fifth item on the list, using evaluative language. The strategy is to use a physical Likert scale for “to what extent” questions, although these could also be done with pen and paper.

For this strategy pose students with a question for the sake of this example, I will use the 2019 Texts and Human Experiences question, “to what extent does the exploration of human experience in The Crucible invite you to reconsider your understanding of love?” Have students positioned themselves across the classroom on an imaginative Likert scale with one side of the room, representing to a significant extent, and the other side of the room representing to an insignificant extent.

Once students have placed along this imaginary Likert scale, engage them in a discussion where they explain why they have placed themselves, where they have on the line. This can engender a useful conversation around what sort of evaluative language can be used in an essay to respond to ‘to what extent’ questions in a nuanced way, rather than using blanket statement such as ‘to a significant extent’ or ‘strongly agree’.

If you have any additional strategies for using marking feedback that you think may be useful to your colleagues online today, please feel free to add them into the chat.

Otherwise, that concludes this part of the presentation. I'll hand back to Lauren, who will be leading part 4, feedforward through academic writing.

Lauren Parsons

Thank you, Mark. We're now going to look more closely at features of academic writing and ways that students can engage with these features as part of their revision. As mentioned earlier, when students deconstruct the module statement and the text, they should develop a clear distinction between the content and the skills that they are learning. In this section, we're going to outline a few of the features of writing that you can focus on with your students and ways that they can assess their own writing skills as part of HSC revision.

So, before we begin looking at individual writing features, it is important to note that a quality extended response which is written under exam conditions, needs to clearly demonstrate the student's confidence and skills to engage with the prescribed text and to think critically. To achieve this, students must self-regulate and establish a routine that includes frequent opportunities to self-assess if their response has these qualities:

  • A thesis which skilfully engages with all parts of the question
  • Purposeful use of examples from the prescribed text
  • An insightful understanding of representation
  • A coherent and sustained personal response and
  • Control of language, including purposeful word choices, which is what we're going to look at today.

So, by using ‘feedforward’ through examining different features of academic writing, students can apply this knowledge as a self-audit rather than continually relying on their teacher to offer feedback through drafts.

So, before we look closely at the features of a quality extended response, we want students to understand how these features correlate with an HSC marking criteria as a way of creating a roadmap for assessing their own essay drafts.

This can be done by comparing the criteria across the A to D range. Table 13 on page 23 shows this table in more detail. Now the criteria for the common module extended response that you can see, has different elements that have been coded as follows, in bold are the verbs or the critical thinking skills underlined other adjectives and the adverbs, reflecting the degree or measure of skill and italicized are the noun groups indicating the content or the concepts students have been asked to discuss.

Now, depending on your class again, you might like to present them with the completed coded table in your book or ask them to complete the coding themselves using highlighters. Once this is completed, students have a clear picture of what is a dominant feature of each grade range. For example, as you can see on the screen, responses in the A range are written in ways that would be consistently considered skilful, insightful, coherent and sustained across years.

Students can apply this coded knowledge to create a characteristics checklist seen in more detail on page 25. This activity leads students to reconstruct the marking criteria under 3 categories, firstly, the concept or how well the questions being answered, secondly, the text, or how well a student uses these purposeful examples, and finally, the response, or how well the argument is organized and expressed. Throughout this process, which can seem a little tedious for students to really interrogate marking criteria like this, it is hoped that they can start to see the connections between their own learning and their own skills and then apply it to their own writing.

Now, the table on your screen at the moment is hopefully what the students can extract from reconstructing the marking criteria. What we want to do is ensure students recognize these differences, but not only understand, sorry, recognize, but then understand what those differences look like in a written response.

So, for most students, the difference between what is skilful or effective evaluation, or what is insightful or thoughtful responses are nuances that they do not have the knowledge of without being explicitly taught. Quite often these differences are reflected in the organization and the written expression of the response, which is where looking at features of academic writing, can help students move into higher mark ranges.

Now, one way this can be done is through using explicit and direct instruction to support students to lift the quality of their extended responses. As we know a modelled, guided but independent activity helps students to do this. We can track how response can be lifted through demonstrating the inclusion of quality writing features. This is completed with clear and structured examples that show the students step by step how to improve their writing.

In the example on the slide, we have provided a sample paragraph that is limited by one of the most common reasons student responses are capped at a C range, descriptive writing.

We don't have the time to read this response in its entirety, and it is included in the work booklet. But when you engage in a closer read, you will notice that the student has described what the character Winston Smith does and feels, with no references to Orwell or the reader. Rather than simply telling students though, that this style of writing or plot retell is not helpful, we want to show them instead, this will help them through looking at concrete examples.

Now, these concrete examples take the form of guided, modelled and independent approaches. On the screen is the same descriptive paragraph from the previous slide that has gone through a three-step process to build the student's response.

For the purposes of time the paragraph here shown is the final product in which all the steps have been completed together but the resource booklet has them as 4 separate steps [page 30].

Now you can complete this process with students in a methodical and purposeful way. The first thing you do is you guide students to ensure they are discussing representation by rewriting their paragraph to include references to the composer, metalanguage and form as seen in the words bolded read.

Once students have done this, they add an additional layer of reader response as shown in light blue and a final rewrite of this paragraph would guide students to add the evaluative language shown here in dark blue, to bring together the analysis while creating a personal voice. After this closely guided process, students can repeat this with a paragraph of their own writing or in peer auditing.

Now, while this example that we've just discussed can be found in the resource booklet and may seem a little bit rushed, there is a link to our HSC hub resource where students can view a more detailed video explanation of each of these quality features.

Now I'm going to focus on a number of smaller activities you can do to also isolate academic writing skills. The first of these is ensuring that students are using strong and purposeful diction. This can be done by isolating particular sentences from your student's work and demonstrating how strengthening their diction also strengthens the overall critical voice of their response. If we consider the first example, ‘shows’ is a rather neutral word, whereas ‘exposes’ holds connotations of Miller offering a critique through his work. Through changing the verbs in a sentence to more powerful choices, students can convey their understanding of the composer's purpose and the impact of the representation.

One way to build strong diction is through creating a word bank of strong verbs and also strong adjectives. This table can be found on page 28 and provides students with a strong list of verbs and space to add their own examples. Students are also given a list of adjectives, each with a metalanguage feature beside it to show how it was used by a student in previous years.

Students can use this resource in multiple ways, they can audit a piece of their own writing and determine their own strengths, and they can also audit a peer’s work with a particular focus to reinforce the power that comes from strong diction. Like with the module description cloze passage as well, this activity allows students to experiment with language to reinforce how effective, strong academic expression is to a reader and they can do so by trying to achieve the opposite and perhaps weakening a response just to experiment.

If we take these previous sentences as an example, we have the existing strong verbs in bold, and we've added a strong adjective in red. If we continue with our Crucible example, the word ‘unbridled’ has connotations of a lack of control and would be a suitable choice if a student were arguing about the chaotic environment of the play. However, if the adjective was ‘orchestrated’, this would strengthen an argument about manipulation through the connotations of something being orchestrated and organized.

So, looking at the different uses of strong language such as this, allows students to see how these features contribute to not only a response that has strong academic expression, but allows for their own critical evaluation through language choice.

Another feature of academic writing is the decisive use of modality, which is a feature of personal and evaluative language. The higher the modality, the more certain or persuasive students are about their points and their arguments in an extended response. Students can utilize modality to modify their own paragraphs and improve their expression. Page 29 includes reference guides of modality, qualifiers and intensifiers that students can refer to.

And finally, quality academic responses are shaped by features of writing, such as nominalisation. Highly nominalised writing turns processes from actions to concepts and is a characteristic of a strong personal voice. A more detailed table of these examples can be found on page 30, and it's a resource that students can either use as a reference guide or you can issue to them without the answers to allow them to practice nominalising words themselves. Nominalisation is particularly important for students in creating their thesis and sustaining this throughout their response through strong topic sentences.

The examples on your screen now all come from the 2021 HSC Exam Workbook.

As you can see in each of these topic sentences, nominalised words feature heavily and contribute towards building a thesis that drives a conceptual argument. While we often only share with students the exemplar responses for the texts they have studied, you can ask students to flick through the workbooks and read multiple introductions or skim topic sentences to identify instances of normalisation, to emphasize how important it is to creating a conceptual argument.

And as part of their revision, students can use this knowledge to complete a self-audit. The activity on your screen now can also be found in the booklet on page 37, and it allows students to audit their own work and to demonstrate what they have learned by identifying the verbs and replacing them with nouns. On the left-hand side is a paragraph where they've highlighted the words that could be modified to lift their expression and on the right-hand side is how they have done that.

So, now I'm going to head back to Mark, who's going to look at how students can implement some of these writing skills through different ways of planning their writing.

Mark McDonald

Thank you, Lauren.

Section 5 of this presentation will focus on support structures that teachers can give to students as a way of organising their thoughts and notes. We know that one strategy that students often take is to memorize an essay for each module, which they then regurgitate in the HSC. What this often leads to is a response that does not necessarily respond to or reflect the demands of the question asked.

So, the first strategy that we want to highlight is the use of visual or graphic organizers. Planning an extended response at the beginning of an exam has many benefits. The students can map the approach they will use to support their thesis, and this planning will likely result in the apt selection of examples to build the argument. However, planning can be a time-consuming process and students should have rehearsed how to plan so this does not take up too much of the writing time when in an exam.

Showing students a number of strategies for planning will allow them to find out which one suits their learning style. It will benefit the students, so this can be done purposefully in an examination. When selecting concept maps to use with the students, consider how they allow the students to plan. For example, the concept map shown here will allow students to plan a paragraph.

[Part 5, page 39 of the resource booklet.]

The topic sentence would be placed in the centre, the other bubbles could be filled in with examples from the text, which then stem off into techniques or other pieces of information that the students could discuss in relation to the example. On the other hand, using the concept map labelled “single concept map” is suitable for planning the development of ideas in relation to a thesis which is placed in the centre bubble.

Planning for body paragraphs would then be developing the bubbles, branching out from the thesis. And the third example, Spider map is effective if the planning is in response to a specific question and the development of a thesis.

Another effective type of visual organizer is the affinity diagram. The example shown here on this slide are all examples of this planning tool. Three examples are shown here, and each one serves a different purpose. In example one the diagram focuses on planning in relation to a question and allows students to organize their ideas in relation to the key characteristics of a quality response.

The diagram, in example 2 on the other hand, allows students to plan in a more precise way, focusing in particular on their thesis. Here, students will have the opportunity to really think about the ideas they will use to support the thesis and then beyond this, the evidence they can draw out of the text to substantiate their argument.

The diagram, in example 3 is fairly self-explanatory and can be used to support students in planning out an analytical paragraph. The visual organizers on this slide can be used to encourage conceptual thinking. During the revision phase, students will often rely on revising quotes and examples which only skim the surface of what they actually need to perform well.

Part of the 2021 marking feedback for the Texts and Human Experiences Section II is that students should compose an organized response with a logical sequence of arguments. Similar feedback has been provided consistently for essay responses in marking feedback for all sections, and I'm sure your own marking of student work. Concept maps such as these help to support students in thinking about the concepts or themes that their texts create, which help to provide a clearer structure for the argument they can pose in their essays. We've included some of these templates into the resources booklet for you.

The second strategy we want to focus on is note making and I'll take a moment here just to thank Julie, who I saw earlier in the chat, popped a link to a Cornell template. Note making is a process that can be used throughout all years of schooling but is particularly relevant and useful for HSC students in preparing themselves for exams.

Note making is one of the strategies identified in the High Leverage Strategies paper by Emeritus Professor Wayne Sawyer, that underpins the HSC professional learning offered by the DoE. If you haven't attended this professional learning, we highly recommend it.

The Cornell method is often recommended and used by university lecturers and students to take and make notes. Ideally, these should be created based on coursework materials as content is being studied but can be used during the revising for the HSC trials period of Year 12 to condense notes or summarize the key points of essays or summative tasks that have been completed over the course of the year.

The way you would suggest your students structure these notes would be dependent on your text. If doing a suite of poems, for instance, you could focus on one sheet per poem or one sheet per theme with notes drawn from multiple poems. This could be used to summarize characters or chapters or themes in a prose fiction text, or to divide a multimodal text such as film into different modal elements.

The template involves 4 sections:

  • The title which determines the focus of the notes
  • The notes section is where students could include information such as direct examples, quotes, techniques, contextual influences, features of form, etc. dependent on what the focus of the note taking activity is.
  • The cue section, which is directly influenced by the notes, should be completed after the notes. This is a narrower column and should be filled with key words, phrases and questions. It could be where students make note of language features or thematic links.
  • The summary section, and then there's the summary section, which students could use to make thesis-like statements, evaluative and analytical statements, and so on, based on the notes taken.

There is an alternate template to the one shown on your screen in the resource booklet labelled as Table 20. This table is different in order to satisfy accessibility requirements in the word document, both serve the same purpose.

The last thing we want to draw your attention to in this section is the DoE’s Digital Learning Selector, and I thank Sharon, who's popped a link for this in the chat for you. This website contains an extensive list of tools that are freely accessible to the DoE staff and students. They can be used all year round with any group, but we will highlight a couple here that may be particularly useful in supporting student revision in the lead up to the trials.

Pear Deck is a live slides presentation tool that incorporates things such as questions, polls and quizzes so it can be a useful tool for introductory recall style revision. Socrative and Mentimeter are 2 tools that can be used to create online quizzes and whole class activities with students responding in real time. This could serve as a discussion starter to see what shared memory and knowledge exists at the beginning of a revision period. Jamboard is a tool that is part of the Google Suite and is a digital brainstorming post-it noting tool.

I have personally used Jamboards to great effect as a collaborative study tool as it provides a space for students to collate and share notes and ideas. For those familiar with the Microsoft Suite, I'm sure you can all attest to the collaborative benefits of OneNote. It again creates a shared place for students to collate revision notes. Padlet is a collaborative tool which teachers and students can use to share content and brainstorm online.

Loom is a tool that teachers can use to record themselves and their screens to create videos. This could be useful in creating lecture style revision materials for students to view in their own time.

And finally, Peer Grade is a tool that can be used in conjunction with Google Docs for students to provide anonymized feedback on their peer’s works and then use feedback they receive to improve their own writing.

These are just some of the tools available through the Digital Learning Selector, and all of these tools have been hyperlinked in your booklet. If you have any other digital tools that you use to engage and support students in revision practices, please feel free to put them in the chat.

While you are doing that, I'm going to hand back over to Tom, who will talk us through Part 6 Effective Feedback and conferencing.

Lauren Parsons

Tom might be experiencing some technical difficulties. Are you there, Tom? I think that might be the case. He is coming from Coffs Harbor and the internet is a little bit spotty. So, if you are listening, Tom I'm just going to take over and if you come back, please feel free to jump in and kick me out, I won't be offended.

Okay, so, as we know, effective feedback is one of the 8 evidence-based practices that CESE (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation) has highlighted as having the greatest impact on student performance. No doubt you've been giving your students feedback all way through this journey, so what works best in this context? A precious few weeks where the focus is firmly on exam performance.

The lead up to the trial HSC examinations as well as the period between the trials and the final HSC examinations, are opportunities for students to focus on refining aspects of their writing. Teachers can assist students with this through providing, thorough, individualized support during one-on-one conferences. But in a time-poor context with multiple priorities what are the best ways of doing this? In this section, we're going to take a quick look at some of the useful processes for conferencing and some effective practices for feedback to underline those one-to-one sessions between teacher and student or student and student.

Firstly, feedback. You will more than likely be familiar with these 2 models. In the context of revision, however, the series of questions can be focused in on specific areas of identified need.

So, for example, thesis statements. Firstly, where am I going to go? What am I wanting to get to with regards to my thesis statements? And secondly, how am I going? Can we identify patterns in my thesis statement at the moment? And finally, how to get there? What do I need to try in order to develop my thesis statements to where I want them to be?

Perhaps, students could identify 3 to 6 specific areas of need, then develop a plan for each based on these models. Many schools have students develop their plans in interactive tables that are housed on Google Classrooms or the class OneNote. Students mark in milestones and refer to these as they are conferencing with the teacher.

The CESE document provides a good general overview, though it is crucial to tie these ideas down to specific classroom practices, especially on a tight timeframe with a large class. Feedback that focuses on tasks, processes and students’ self-regulation is most effective, and this feedback should focus on students performances in specific tasks, clearly identifying where and why mistakes have been made and emphasizing opportunities to learn and improve.

So, ticks are not so useful, and neither is general praise rather. We want to focus on their progress on the identified areas from the previous activity as well as using a feedback code as we'll see on the next screen, which is very effective.

[See Table 22, page 44 in the resource booklet.]

Here is an example of a feedback code the specific categories, the codes and the left, right margin idea area, none of these are critical in and of themselves. It is the process, the thinking and the conversations they lead to. Students receive a draft mark in this way when they work with a partner in some of these possible ways. They can find someone who, by walking around the class and pairing up with someone, who has a TS for example in the right margin, and what they have done to make this an effective topic sentence. Can the 2 students workshop one of their topic sentences that had a TS in the left margin to improve it?

They can also prioritize areas of needs. They can't work on everything for the coming trials individually, but together they could focus on 3 to 4 key ideas, and they can rewrite a paragraph which might have lots of marks in the left margin. As you will see in a moment, when we talk about conferencing as well as providing good feedback, you are also trying to set the class up for meaningful work while you conference and set the students up for specific work they can share with you during the conference. Working with this code helps achieve these aims.

Now a few more practical strategies and before we have a look, we want to keep in mind the core principle ‘feedback when done well’ is one of the most effective tools for improving student practices. It cannot be compromised. It is worth the time and the effort, but only if it is done well and this depends to a large degree on the mindset with which students approach feedback. Is it something they can be actively involved in?

Here is an example of a simple peer review check sheet that is organized to focus on the introduction, the paragraph and the supporting detail as well as the conclusion.

Notice the 2 columns for self and peer checking. The main gleanings from the research in this area, are that students need to be explicitly taught how to do this well. Also, students err to focus on lower, cognitively challenging areas such as spelling. So, giving specific roles in groups for example, student one is going to focus on the set up and the development of the line of argument only, and more complex areas such as whether or not an argument is sustained, have to be scaffolded.

And what a wonderful opportunity this is for co-construction. How are you going to judge whether a fellow student has sustained their argument? What are the markers that you will look for in their response? Students also err on the positive feedback side, which is nice, but they also need scaffolding to be constructively critical. Even sentence starters such as “I noticed you've used this quote here to support this idea.

Do you think this other one might have been more effective?” Give students the confidence to be critical of their peers, and students also take ownership if the check sheet is co-constructed, and they can map it to the outcomes and HSC marking criteria like we discussed earlier.

The teacher-student writing conference is one of the most celebrated elements of the process that has been one of the cornerstones of our subject for years. Real writers collaborate with an editor to refine their work, so that chance for students to work intensively with a teacher who has been guiding their progress for a year and a half is potentially critical growth to a student.

To make this truly successful, think firstly about both organization, creating the time and space, by having specific work for the rest of the class to be doing and also think about ways to structure the work of those 15 minutes.

We want students to be able to see a specific sample of writing that they would like to improve, and we would like them to keep a record as well as take responsibility for that focus through a discursive discussion. And the final aspect to consider when planning the teacher student conferences is, in fact record keeping. What method of recording your discussion with your students is going to work best for you and also for them in their context?

This process doesn't need to be laborious, for the teacher it could be a photograph of students notes from the conference or a summary that's sufficient to remind you of their suggested progress and the suggested strategies rather, and it could be completed simply during the conference. But most importantly for the student they need to take responsibility for record keeping and an online format can be a key part of doing that through the feedback and conferencing.

And finally, the conferencing process could be part of your evaluation of teaching. Perhaps take a moment to note how collective strengths and areas of need, so that you can plan revision and conferencing around that for your next cohort. With your record of conferences and access to students’ accounts, keeping them in drafts and trial essays, you will be able to reflect on and evaluate your own processes of both teaching and revising.

Now, I am conscious that we are coming towards the end of the presentation we have just one section left and that is looking at the resources that are available to support you and your students in revision. So, it’s just a very quick spotlight and we've chosen the resources that are available at no cost. So, we are aware there are others out there, but these are all free to access. Some resources are for you to use in your class well as others are also for your professional development. We have a combination of resources developed by NESA and also resources that are developed by the department itself.

Now, the first, which I'm sure everyone is aware of, is the HSC exam papers which are stored by NESA and the NESA website has a yearly exam pack. Now this pack contains not just the exam papers but also a range of support materials. Often students are not aware that they can access these materials. They think they are special secret teacher business, and it's important we let them know exactly where to find them.

Of particular use for them is what you can see of the screenshot on the screen is the marking feedback. Now it is not there for every text, but it is there for every section.

Now, in addition to the previous HSC papers, you can also access sample papers that were published by NESA in 2017 for the new syllabus. These sample papers provide a range of different question types that can be asked in both the trial HSC and the final exam. It is important that students are aware of what to possibly expect, so they aren't surprised when they enter the exam, as has happened in the last few years.

This is particularly important for sections of the paper that have variable mark structures, which is paper one, section one. So, did you know that the English studies, for example, could a multiple-choice question? There hasn't been one in the past 3 years of the syllabus, but there is scope for one to be provided through the sample paper. There is also scope for questions with a mark range of up to 7 marks for each course. Although the highest mark allocated in the HSC exams over the past 3 years has been 6.

Now the possible question types and mark breakdowns for the Craft of Writing Module should also be explicitly shared with your classes, and these are found in the sample papers. The 2020 HSC question was a 20-mark imaginative response, and yet several students, based on the markers feedback, included a reflection in their response and this prompted the feedback to give very specific comments that students should be aware that the style and the format of questions may vary from year to year.

Also available by the syllabus page for each course is this video which outlines the exam advice for NESA. It is a 12-minute video and it covers all the HSC courses. So, if you do direct students to this video or show it in class, you will need to ensure you are selecting the sections that are most relevant to the course the students are studying. As has been previously mentioned by many people, and also in the chat, NESA have published standard materials for all of the English courses. These are available on the HSC Standard Materials page and also at the bottom of every syllabus page under the Support Materials tab.

Shown on the screen now are the standard materials provided for the common module. Unfortunately, across all the modules there are not examples for every prescribed text. However, these can still be very useful if you want to focus on crafting strong introductions or comparing how responses from each band engage with the question. They can also be used to examine the different levels of academic writing typical of each band range.

Now moving to spotlight a few department-specific resources, the HSC Hub page contains high quality on demand resources developed by the English curriculum team that you can share with your students to help prepare them for their exams.

There are 43 videos relating to HSC English and many of them have accompanying student resource booklets. We do caution you though to please just be aware as the hub was created in 2020. So, there are some references to conditions, notably COVID and also dates which would not be relevant for the current cohort of students.

And the teaching equivalent of the HSC hub is the department's HSC Professional Learning Bites Page. This page guides teachers to assist, investigate, review and reassess responses to determine what has specifically answered well and what could be improved in line with HSC marking guidelines. Each bite focuses on just one question from the 2019 HSC exam, and it includes a range of actual responses and corresponding mark annotations from the marking centre.

On the department's website and also within our State-wide Staffroom, you will find resources created by our team to use to support revision, including sample papers, revision support and overviews of exam specifications. Listed here are the documents that are available, and these links are also in the chat and the resource booklet.

Now, if you do want to access these resources via the State-wide Staffroom, you simply click on the files tab at the top when you are in the channel, at the top of each channel stream. And if you do use any of our resources, we would really appreciate your feedback, both positive and constructive. There is a survey linked in the resource booklet and it takes no more than 2-3 minutes to complete. We use this feedback to refine our existing resources and influence the creation of our future resources. And if you are interested in becoming a critical friend who reviews and provides feedback on our content, please also reach out to us and let us know.

As has been mentioned many times and I've seen a lot of requests for it in the chat, there is a recording available of our most recent State-wide Staffroom event on microwriting. This session explored ways to embed microwriting activities in Stage 6 and would be excellent revision for The Craft of Writing. It has been shared many times, but just very quickly, if you do want to access the past recording, you can access that full microwriting and all the previous sessions in the message board channel.

Simply click on the previous check-ins tab up the top and as you can see here, you will see all the recordings ready to view and this is a little snapshot of our most recently recorded events. And that brings our presentation to a close today, but before we finish, we just wanted to respond to a couple of questions that were posed in the enrolment survey that we may not have otherwise covered.

One question that was asked by quite a few people was about the availability of the necessary HSC exam workbooks and if any 2021 workbooks would be made available. On your screen now is what is currently available to purchase through the NESA shop and NESA have confirmed that they will not be publishing workbooks for any of the English courses in 2021 due to the impact of COVID on last year's cohort.

Now, if you do have colleagues in other faculties who might be wondering when the 2021 workbooks are coming for their subjects, we can also share that the only workbooks being published this year by NESA are Maths Advanced, French written exam and also Modern History.

And another question asked was about the trends seen in the marking of papers, which is a little bit of a tricky one to answer because with only 3 years of exams for the current syllabus, 2 of those years being impacted by COVID, there isn't really scope for notable trends to be observed.

What we do advise, though, is that it's the information that's made available by NESA, including those sample exams from 2017 that are what you should be looking at to guide yourself and your students in terms of HSC marking. All of that information comes directly from the marking centres and is the best source of insight to that process.

So, we can see many questions and comments coming through the chat and as mentioned earlier, we apologize if we have missed them. The chat is stored in the message board channel of the State-wide Staffroom. As an example, on the screen here, this is the post for our Week 7 event and those 205 replies that you see are actually the contents of the chat from that day. So, you can continue to post comments and questions, and you can also tag colleagues in posts after this meeting, or any meeting has ended and if we did not get to your question today, rest assured we will read through the chat tomorrow and respond to you there.

So, thank you all for joining us this afternoon, I think it's one of the great strengths of public education that we're able to come together this afternoon right across New South Wales and interact and enrich our professional knowledge through this collaboration.

A reminder that our State-wide Staffroom channels are always there if you would like to ask any questions or view the many resources shared by both our team and teachers across the state. And you might also like to consider elaborating on one of the exam revision strategies you've shared in the chat today for our ‘Voices from the Classroom’ section of the newsletter. This is always a very popular received section by our subscribers. Our newsletter is on pause at the moment due to a department communications freeze, but we do hope to be able to bring that to you as soon as we are able to do so. So, please get in touch if you are interested.

So, I'm now going to hand over to Mark to officially conclude and also let you know all about our next State-wide Staffroom event.

Mark McDonald

OK I think it's safe to turn my camera back on now for those who weren't here at the start, I've been having issues with internet connectivity. I just want to draw attention to 3 resources that Jacqui dropped into the chat, they're hot off the presses, they are examinations support booklets for Advanced, Standard and Studies and we've been working really hard on getting those ready for you. So, please feel free to download them and use them. What we would ask if you do use them is if you've got time at the end of each booklet there is a quick survey, it will take no more than 2 minutes and that helps us to refine our resources.

But otherwise, that brings us to the end of our session. We would also like you if you can't take the time to fill out our evaluation survey, which is found in myPL. We also want to take this opportunity to remind you all of our upcoming State-wide Staffroom session preparing for curriculum change in English 7-10. This will be held on Monday, the 18 July, which is the Term 3 school development day.

The session will be running 9:30 till 10:30 am in the morning we recognize that this timing may not work with everybody’s staff development day schedule. But just like this meeting, we will be recording this session if you are unable to attend on the day and you'll be able to access that in the message board. It could be a good session to watch with your entire faculty. If you do choose to watch the session with your entire faculty, we would really appreciate if each member of the faculty could register individually through myPL, because that gives us accurate data in regards to engagement with the teachers that are that are out there at the coalface.

So, yeah, thank you, thank you one last time for joining us all this afternoon, especially as we near the end of a long term, as mentioned earlier, we will collate and share ideas that we shared in the chat in the coming days by posting a link to the message board thread at the State-wide Staffroom.

We appreciate your company and collegiality and if there is any way that we can be a further assistance, please do not hesitate to reach out. In the chat now you will find our email address [] and also the direct link to our State-wide Staffroom. If you know of any other colleagues who have not yet joined the State-wide Staffroom, please feel free to forward the link to them, or if you go to the members tab of the State-wide Staffroom, you can add them directly and it will come through to us as a member request to approve.

And that's it, just one last big thank you as well for Lauren and Tom for the fantastic work that you have done in putting this presentation together and we hope to see you next time.

Thank you.

Tom Gyenes

Thanks, everyone. Not sure if you can hear me.

Lauren Parsons

Thanks all.

[End of transcript.]

The session is part of a suite of conversations between the English Curriculum Team and teachers and school leaders from across the NSW Department of Education. These recorded sessions draw upon research and experience in subject English and present a range of evidence-based strategies for improving writing.


The following structure guides the session:

  • Understanding – the requirements of the HSC examinations.
  • Applying – knowledge of support materials and how to modify and adapt for specific school contexts.
  • Teaching and learning – strategies to improve student revision and performance under examination conditions.

Related resources


This accredited professional learning is connected to the domains:

  • Professional engagement – Standard 6 – Engage in professional learning
    • 6.2 – engage in professional learning and practice.


Syllabus outcomes from English Stage 6 syllabuses © NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales, 2021.


  • Stage 6

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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