Podcasts for GCSE English and English Language
Do your students want to write podcasts for 5EH01 'English Today', 5EH03 'Creative English' or 5EN03 'The Spoken Language'? In this update, a principal moderator advises on how to approach podcasts using exemplar scripts.
In order to ensure that GCSE English and English Language reflect the full range of situations in which English is used, and to engage students, we include digital texts such as podcasts in the reading and writing parts of unit 1 of 5EH01 ‘English Today’; in the reading sections of units 5EH03 ‘Creative English’; and in the writing section of 5EN03 ‘The Spoken Language’. While teachers often report wanting to write podcasts with their students, they sometimes request guidance on the format expected. Below, a principal moderator offers some suggestions about how to approach podcasts.
The moderator writes:
Podcasts are a feature of Unit 1 and 3 controlled assessment tasks and allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of digital texts. A podcast can have audio and video in it and is normally downloaded from the internet onto a computer or mobile device. The word ‘podcast’ comes from ‘broadcast’ and ‘pod,’ as podcasts are often listened to on portable media such as MP3 players.
In Unit 1, podcasts are sometimes chosen as one of the digital reading texts; for example, the Guardian's Rhydian Roberts' podcast for the Talent Television theme, which has two voices and is recorded in an interview style. These can form useful examples for students to model their own responses on. There is no set format for a podcast, although the key feature is audio, as they're intended to be listened to. Students should be assured that they are not being measured against a set format, as one does not exist.
For Unit 1 and Unit 3, the writing tasks take a similar form. All three units for English and English Language contain an element of reading and an element of writing, and for writing the same areas are being assessed whichever unit students are taking. These are: expression of ideas; awareness of the purpose and the audience; control and use of vocabulary and sentence structure; and organisation.
The word ‘organisation’ is often where students start to be concerned, as they confuse organisation with layout and presentation. Students in writing tasks are not assessed on layout and presentation. Organisation refers to the way that a text ‘hangs together’, its structure and coherence.
The text should have a clear opening and close, effective paragraphing and the use of cohesive devices. Students can waste time when writing podcasts with layout and presentation, or including technical terms like ‘fade in’. The key foci for marking are: the ideas included; the text’s suitability for purpose and audience; the use of vocabulary and sentence structure; and the organisation.
In the sample assessment material there are examples of podcasts using only one voice and no presentational features.
In this extract from a podcast on an environmental issue, the student has written about graffiti:
Those who ask ‘when does anti-social behaviour become art?’ haven’t experienced the rush of creativity that you can find in a spraypaint can. As an experienced graffiti artist I shall say that graffiti is not just a tag or a marker or spray can name – it is a way of life. Graffiti is an art and like every good thing in life, if it is used wrongfully only serves to destroy. Many artists are just so creative one just can’t help taking note and spending time to decipher the meanings behind some of the pieces.
Graffiti is not vandalism, but an art form.
For me, graffiti is a form of expression that is becoming more and more misunderstood by the common man. While one person may not consider it art, a spray painted wall is another man's ‘Mona Lisa’ or ‘The Scream’. When it comes to graffiti, beauty is most definitely in the eye of the beholder. When a cave is discovered with ancient drawings on the wall it isn't considered graffiti, it is considered to be artwork and a valuable part of history.
This response has clarity in the ideas presented and fully develops them - for example, the idea that graffiti is non-conventional art and different to vandalism such as tagging. The arguments could be presented in a more accessible way for 11-to 14-year-olds and could be presented more for a listening audience. For example, the student could use more direct address to the listeners, which they do here:
Don’t dismiss graffiti art just because it is not presented framed and placed in a museum or gallery. The location of it on a wall or a subway without permission means that some people call it vandalism - but this does not disqualify it as art.
The information is compelling and clearly presented. There is extensive vocabulary used in the full piece and the sentences are varied, with short sentences used for effect - such as ‘Graffiti is not vandalism, but an art form’ - and some sentences later in the text which reflect the audience listening:
Many of you may be surprised to find that graffiti art is not the sole possession of poor, urban chavs and teenagers with nothing better to do. Many artists are from middle-class families and there are graffitists all over the world. The reasons for producing graffiti are as varied as the artists who produce it. A chief reason is the potential of being the next Banksy and gathering fame and recognition of your artistic talent. Graffiti is also a form of self expression. The art as ‘writing’ is a creative method of communicating with other writers and people like you - the general public - it shares the artist's identity, expression, and ideas with a wider audience. Some artists see themselves as revolutionaries who want to protest about the established art market or gallery system by saying that art is not only whatever the gallery owners want to have hanging in the gallery.
The paragraphing is sustained and develops ideas, moving on to a new paragraph when a new point is made. There are appropriate cohesive devices linking paragraphs and ideas.
In this podcast the student has chosen a single, personal voice, which is fine for this task. Podcasts can, however, have more than one voice, and this can work well also. The advice for students is that the voice should support sustained ideas for Band 4 and above, and sometimes if there are many voices this sustaining of ideas and focus on purpose becomes lost a little in the ‘chat’ between speakers.
This podcast reviews a talent television show. The student uses a variety of voices but starts off with a sustained presenter's voice. The podcast has clarity in the ideas presented and fully develops them. The text is consistently focused on the purpose and confidently presents information in a way that gives the reader the full picture in order to persuade and inform them.
Extensive vocabulary is used, with some sophisticated terms like ‘magnanimous’, ‘poignant’ and ‘juxtaposed’. Pronouns such as ‘you’ are used to identify the reader with the speaker. The sentences are varied, with some questions, some short sentences used for effect - such as ‘You decide’ - and exclamations. Some points are presented in a fluid way: for example, ‘Gary Barlow was uncharacteristically magnanimous and kind in his assessment of most of the group’.
Language choices are made to link with the catchphrases of the show, such as ‘You decide’ and ‘time to face the music’. The structure is sustained and develops ideas. There are appropriate cohesive devices linking ideas, and the text structure is handled confidently and successfully. Overall, this is a Band 5 piece.
The moderator comments on both podcasts are on ideas, purpose and audience, organisation, vocabulary and sentence structure. While the podcasts differ in presentation, they are both Band 5 because of these features. Podcasts should avoid trying to ‘script the unscriptable’ of live chat and phone-ins.
I hope you find this helpful. If you have any comments, please do post them on the English forum. I hope this guidance encourages you to approach podcasts in an informed way, and that your students enjoy experimenting with them.
English Subject Advisor