Planning your non-fiction writing

One of the challenges that my students face is developing their ideas so that they are not just skimming the surface. Asking them to ‘develop further’ usually leaves them unsure how they can extend their writing to give it the requisite depth.

Teachers often encourage students to mind map their ideas but I know I don’t always make it explicit why this technique (and using spider diagrams in particular) helps to train students to brainstorm ideas and turn them into honed, structured points.

Let’s take the following debate question as a starting point:

Is social media a good thing?

I am sure that this will bring out ideas on both sides of the debate. But how do we start to extend the initial thoughts into a meaningful argument?

First, a simple pro/con list (for and against):


As a user social media myself, I would naturally want to argue FOR it but looking at this list, I can already see that it is the AGAINST side that carries a more weighty argument.

So now I need to develop each of those points further. I do this using a slide diagram:


Within each main point, there are subpoints to be made to help strengthen the viewpoint.

Not only will this provide a great reference for writing under pressure in the exam but it also naturally organises the ideas into a sensible, cohesive essay which would work for an article, a speech, a letter or whatever form is expected in the exam question.

If you work with me, you can learn more about how to structure your writing here.

Revision Guides

With so much to remember on the new syllabus, it is definitely worth investing in some revision guides (you can also check them out of a library although they are in high demand the closer you get to Easter/exam times so get in there now). I often buy these myself as they make useful when planning lessons or revision session.

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My favourite guides for Literature are York Notes – they do a Study Guide and a Workbook for each of the GCSE set texts and they are both good although I would start with the Study Guide. Make sure you pick up a ‘New for GCSE (9-1)’ version so it has guidance for the new specification.

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CGP also produce material for revision and study – their style is somewhat irreverent and I suppose may appeal to students. I personally find them a bit cringy – like they are trying too hard – and not as in depth as I would like.

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I also recently invested in some Oxford AQA books – they cover developing skills and going over the new assessment. These are very useful but also quite expensive. I have only just bought these so I have yet to delve into them in any depth but so far, I like what I have seen!