VCOP Community Question: Higher-order expression explained

‘I was hoping you could give me examples of student work demonstrating the use of higher-order expressions. Am I looking for the expression of the author’s feelings, similes, and metaphors?’

The Australian Criterion Scale is a writing assessment document that can be used to assess any text type produced at a Pre-Writer to end Year 10 writing ability (marked as Levels F-7 on the scale). This 13-page document not only includes the complete F-7 scale but also covers a brief overview of ‘How to Assess’.
Developed by assessing over 20,000 pieces of student writing, the document assesses writing ability and has been cross-referenced to align with Australian Curriculums.

Level 2, Criteria 7 asks:

Can use language to demonstrate higher-order expressions (e.g.,’ it was very different than I thought it would be’) or use interesting and ambitious words or phrases at least twice. (These should be words not usually used by a child of that mental age and not a technical word used in a taught context, e.g., ‘volcano’ or ‘evaporate’.)

Here is at we replied to help Tracey and her team:

In this criterion, we are referring to using language choices and phrases to create an author’s voice- a connection to the thoughts and feelings of the author. I would be looking for phrases that might clarify or emphasise: One little girl (8yrs) added ‘and some of the tubes of course to float in the river again’? They are referring to bringing an item with them camping, but it is the way they wrote it- and some of the tubes of course– of course we didn’t forget to pack the tubes this is obvious to us (and now to the reader).

In the example we used on the criterion scale, another 8-year-old girl used the phrase ’ it was very different than I thought it would be’ to share how she felt when she arrived at a holiday destination.

This almost conversational tone gives us extra insight into the author, and we feel like we are getting to know them more personally.

The same could be achieved in narrative texts when writing about characters to create characterisation. We want the audience to connect with the character, to like them or dislike them. We do this by providing background information about the character and by adding internal or external dialogue.

At this level (level 2), the writer probably doesn’t realise its effect on the audience, and we need to teach them the value of it. As they get more mature and have a more comprehensive vocabulary bank, they can use figurative language and phrases to achieve the same result. But we would want to see it as naturally expressed as we do with this beginning conversational tone.

We hope this helped Tracey and her team, but we are sharing it as we hope there are others who may also benefit from this explanation.


For further information about the criterion scale, you may like to consider our Assessing and Data Tracking Writing course.

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