Thursday, 28 February 2019

Dreaming Spires Revision is Expanding - Now Offering Edexcel Crammers!

I'm really happy to announce that Yvonne Mason, my colleague at Dreaming Spires Home Learning, is joining the revision team for offering short courses over Easter to help hone a student's skills for their English Language IGCSE.

Meeting up in Autumn

Just like the CAIE course that I've run for almost a decade, Yvonne's course will go through past papers and suggest best practice, sharing tips, giving warnings of places where students often trip up.

She won't, however, mark any mocks like I do for the CAIE due to time constraints this year. We can make suggestions as to someone who will mark mocks for you instead if you so wish.

Both courses - my CAIE and her Edexcel - will run live, online daily during the Easter holidays starting the 15th of April. Hers will meet at 6 pm and mine at 7 pm.

If this is something you want for your teen, then don't delay: we have a limited number of spaces and they're likely to fill up fast.

To register for the CAIE crammer, click here:

To register for the Edexcel crammer, click here:

(I also have some space to offer one-on-one tutorials for CAIE English Literature: use the contact form for info)

Friday, 27 July 2018

English Language (0500) Crammer Date Change!

Students wanted a longer holiday, so we've compromised: we're now starting the crammer on the 4th of September and will run it for just four days, from 2-4 pm daily.

I blame it on CIE for scheduling the exam so early this Autumn, but it is the last one of the current spec, so probably safest exam to take in the foreseeable future in terms of track record of past papers and examiners knowing how to mark it.

Let me show you the way to go!
(PS This isn't me in the photo, but it is my son and my dog)

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Breaking News! Crammers Announced for August - NEW English Literature!

We're excited to announce that, starting August this year, Dreaming Spires Revision is offering daily crammers for not just CIE English Language exams (0500), but now the CIE English Literature exam (0486), too!

Both courses will be offered on a daily basis during the fortnight of 13th-24th August, and registration is now open, so grab your place before we're full.

Check out the "Upcoming Courses in English Language" tab for days and times for the 0500 crammer.

Check out the "New Courses in English Literature" tab for days and times for the 0486 crammer.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to get in touch via the contact form in the right-hand menu (PC), or email me at dreamingspiresrevision<at>gmail<dot>com

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Another last-minute point about the Question 3 List

Students are making a hash of this question, probably over-thinking it.

They can also under-think it ... by not reading the question!

Almost every time, Question 3 on Paper 2 wants a list based off the insert that has been GENERALISED from the specific example in the insert.

Many years ago, candidates were asked to read the insert and pick out points about characteristics of fictional detectives. Another one was about difficulties and obstacles to building the Panama Canal. Another one was about declining bee populations, and still another about Houdini.

I've just been marking mock exams where the insert was about Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, but the question wanted to know what was the allure of Wild West shows in general.

So where students were saying who Buffalo Bill was, and that his show once played for Queen Victoria, they weren't answering the question about how these shows in general were capturing imaginations of the populace: details like theatrical stage hold-ups, races, re-enacted battles, huge entourages, shooting exhibitions, etc, were all the focus of the 15 points.

While we're talking about 15 points, remember that you can't put more than one point or detail on the same line - if you were to put races, hold-ups, and rodeos on the same line, guess what? You just wasted your line because you got no points while losing the chance to get three points had you separated them on a line each.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

A Plea about Descriptive Writing

Please, please, please, please, please ...

Are you listening??? 

Good. I'm going to say this just one more time.

So even if the exam task for descriptive writing asks you to include thoughts and feelings, it doesn't mean to digress into interior monologue about how you felt about something, about your thoughts, your flashbacks, your back story, what you hope to find in the future.

In order to REVEAL your thoughts and feelings in a DESCRIPTION, you overlay value to the objects you choose to focus on, you add atmosphere to the moment.

How about an example? A long time ago, there was a descriptive task about being on a cable car that suddenly stopped.

Here's how you DON"T show your thoughts and feelings for a description:

We were stuck sky-high on a cable car and I was hoping that someone would come get us soon. My phone's battery was dead, though, and the lady next to me seemed to be about a hundred-thousand years old and probably didn't have one of her own. I thought about shouting down to people to call the police, but they were whizzing past so fast on their skis that it didn't seem like I could have a hope of catching anyone's attention.

This is a story. There's very little in here that would count as description even if it is revealing your thoughts and feelings, so you'd be in the mark scheme band that talks about "some relevant descriptive content" and "tendency toward narration".

Instead, you want to DESCRIBE the scene you are viewing from your stopped cable car, and if you're feeling scared, include details with an atmosphere of fear or being uncertain.

The cable car swayed side-to-side, and bounced up and down in a rhythm that was like my heartbeat - not a duh-DUMP, but a feooowwwr-RUMP, feooowwwr-RUMP. It was as though we were slicing through the frigid air in slow motion, and the effect on the horizon line - a pale, grey fog of the Tupperware sky meeting a pale-white fog of the snowy slopes - was both unsettling and disorientating.

Or what if this temporarily disabled cable car was suspended above a theme park like Alton Towers, and maybe it's a fun adventure. Then your images and atmosphere will be carry with them a different atmosphere.

The cable car stopped right over the Lazy River in the kiddie part. The ribbon of bright, clean turquoise water stretched away and around a little island of soft turf dotted with miniature palm trees. In the middle of the island, in a thick tuft of grass, a mother duck - white, yellow beak - marshalled her little peeping troops down to the bank of their morning bath. She led from the front. Her broad breast swelled as though proud of her seven soldiers that followed behind, their waddling march somewhat suggesting a drunken state. Occasionally, they would stumble into each other, peeps changing into something that approximated a real quack, but once they slipped into the river, their clumsiness was gone. Sheer grace, like ice skating on glass.

Do you see that the cable car is JUST A CONSTRUCT to get you in place where you have time to observe your surroundings, to respond to them, to dwell on them? I don't have to talk that much about the cable car because the task is just created as a way to let me look around from my vantage point of a non-moving cable car.

The same is true about waiting for someone. Whether in a cafe or a kitchen or in front of a building at lunchtime, the backstory about the person you're waiting on is completely irrelevant! It's just a CONSTRUCT to get you sitting on your own, still, watching.

It's such a cliche in writing circles to emphasise the difference between showing (good) and telling (bad), but it's true, and never so true when it comes to descriptive writing.

Focus on the snapshot of the moment, the focus of a scene, and imbue it with an atmosphere from your objects and what they do or how they emit qualities like darkness, lightness, haziness, quirkiness, jerkiness, waddling, etc.

This is how you show your thoughts and feelings in description.

Friday, 27 October 2017

A Pair of 2018 Crammers Now Accepting Registrations

We're just two days away from the Autumn sittings for the CIE English Language IGCSE exam, and I'm already looking ahead to Spring by opening up registrations for the LIVE AND ONLINE weekly January course as well as the daily Easter crammer to help students prepare for their exams for the summer of 2018.

Dreaming Spires Revision time??? I'm so excited!!!!

We'll be looking at the summer exams from last year, and taking advantage of my years of experience with this exam and what examiners are looking for. 

So why slog through reinventing the wheel when I can point your teens to exactly the way to focus on each question, AND mark a mock for them to help them see where they can revise more efficiently?

This course is delivered live and online, and is open to students from all over the world. We regularly have people attend from New Zealand, India, Singapore, and throughout Europe. If the weekly course doesn't suit your time zone, then let me know that you're signing up for the Easter crammer, and I'll choose the 7 pm time slot instead of 2 pm.

DAILY CRAMMER STARTS 26 MAR, 7 pm to accommodate New Zealand students. 

If there is demand, then I may also offer the daily crammer at 2 pm.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

It's that time of year again: FREE giveaway of a copy of my revision guide

Come enter the Rafflecopter giveaway of a FREE paperback copy of my exam revision guide for the CIE 0500 English Language IGCSE exam.

This guide will walk your student through each question on the higher-tier papers, giving tips, tricks, short-cuts, and advice, while also warning of pitfalls to avoid.

Enter as often as you like - no string attached!

Use this link: