To PEAKLE, PISS or PEA? Developing Individual Writing Styles

Let me first say that there is a lot of value in providing students with a structure from which to write, however for higher ability students this is potentially restricting…
A course I recently attended did not encourage teachers to use acronyms to help students structure their responses; instead, they simply ask students to think about and include the Assessment Objectives. There is no doubt that our PEAs and PEEKLEs and a hundred other variations can help students to remember, however, could we perhaps just ask them to remember the AOs, rather than adding an extra layer of potential confusion? It seems with these various structures, students are indeed remembering and following them, but are they actively engaging with what each should represent in detail or just following a pattern – after all, what doe ‘Point’ even really mean?

There are three things that I do to try and encourage more fluent ‘academic writing’:

Firstly, in my experience, asking a student to write their point in response to the question is usually followed with, “How do I start?”

Naturally, students should initially begin by engaging with the question, but there is no reason why this can’t be interesting!

How does Shakespeare present ideas about romantic love in Romeo and Juliet?

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare presents ideas about love by…

Ideas about love are shown in Romeo and Juliet by…

Not particularly inspiring…

Some different approaches to consider and encourage:

  • Writing a statement about your chosen topic

The powerful nature of love can be considered…

  • Express a revelation about the text as the anchor to the argument

Traditional ideas about romantic love imply it can conquer all, however…

  • Explaining a contextual element to guide the reader into the argument

Shakespeare did not invent the story of Romeo and Juliet…

 Secondly, the most success I’ve found when teaching students how to begin an answer is to identify the HINGE WORD in the question. This works particularly well with A-Level students, but also GCSE.

How does Priestley explore responsibility in An Inspector Calls? 

The hinge word becomes the foundation of their essay from which they should build their house of knowledge (pictured below!) – each further room they explore, the more in depth their piece becomes.


“In every society, responsibility is arguably the foundation of success and happiness for all. Being responsible for family, friends and your own behaviour and conduct contributes to a wider picture of success; in neglecting these, Priestley’s characters descend into the misery of the consequences.”

Thirdly, the main body of any essay, much like the house’s rooms, should have the hinge word as the foundation for each paragraph. At present (!), the exam boards seem particularly keen on ‘mini-quotations’ which make sticking to a rigid structure like PEA or PEEKLE ever more difficult. Students become confused about how long their quotes should be, how many in each paragraph, how many key words to pick out etc. Mini quotations are something I constantly encourage my students to use as it means they never run out of things to write. Small quotations may serve simply as a ‘textual reference’ or as a vehicle for deeper analysis.



This can be aided with a simple word bank. Here’s one I use: 


Author: myenglisheffects

Sharing ideas and resources for English secondary school and sixth form teaching.

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