12 February 2024

Writing Descriptive Paragraphs for GCSE English

What follows the opening lines of a story? Frequently, the writer shifts focus to describe the setting. This collection of ten picture prompts (tailored for GCSE English but adaptable for any level) serves as a visual cue for students.

Their task is to craft a setting description suitable for a second paragraph in a story, while also incorporating key elements that would enhance their chances of scoring well in an exam.  I have used these in class in a number of ways. I have found them very useful in persuading more relucatant writers to create something small but perfectly formed - they are not overwhelmed by the enormity of writing a complete text.

This exercise encourages students to consider the overall structure of a text. In many GCSE English paper 1 exams (AQA), the second paragraph often features descriptive language, allowing candidates to address the "language question." Moreover, vivid descriptions of the setting aid in immersive "world building."

These ten picture prompts could form the basis of a full lesson, though they were initially designed for use as starters—a "do now" activity. Given the demand for only a single paragraph, this could be completed in around ten minutes, with time allotted for some learners to share their work aloud. Alternatively, it could be adapted into an engaging activity on a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

It's great to hear what students come up with - and this can be incorporated at the end of the "do now". Not only that, I try to incorporate these finished pieces inside longer writing projects.

In a class, these prompts could be displayed on a smartboard sequentially, or students could be assigned a random picture to describe. The versatility of this set of picture prompts allows for various implementation methods—choose the one that best suits your teaching style!