AQA English Language

On matchstick lamp posts

narrative question

Every so often, a student writes something which moves me. Last week my year 10s completed their final mock papers ahead of their English Language exam this Summer and one piece of writing in particular caught my attention.

With my student’s permission, I’m sharing the story she crafted in exam conditions. I’m not sharing it as an example representative of a particular mark, it’s not perfect, but I’m sharing it because I think it’s lovely. I’m sharing it because it shows how imaginatively  a student can respond to a task in exam conditions. I’m sharing it because it shows how our work on vocabulary and narrative structure is having a real impact on how our students are crafting their narrative writing. I’m sharing it because I think you might quite enjoy it too.


planning image megan
My student’s planning using the Narrative Arc


Lamp posts begin to flicker on, like struck matchsticks, as the suburban street is cloaked in darkness. A cat made from midnight slinks down the granite pavement rubbing its bottle brush tail against them.

Turning into a darkened alley, the ebony cat noticed a moving lump under a thick ragged blanket and immediately launched at it. The lump revealed itself to be a small boy as he jumped up hastily. Trying to mollify the hissing cat, he reached out to stroke it but the cat tore off into the darkness.

The boy shot off after it, ensnared by the idea of keeping the cat as a companion. The lamp posts pointed the boy in the right direction by showing the cat cowering beneath a bench. The boy industriously made tutting noises and rubbed his finger and thumb together as he endeavoured to beckon the cat. Eventually, the cat strutted over and entwined its tail around the boy’s legs.

It then slinked off again, the boy close at is heels as if he were being charmed by the Pied Piper. He followed the cat through a plethora of darkened streets even as raindrops danced through the night sky and as a gust of wind stole his hat.

Eventually, they stopped outside of a Victorian building which the boy knew was an orphanage.

‘What are we doing here?’ the boy asked.

In reply the cat stared transfixed at the door of the aging building. The boy waited and waited for what felt like a decade with the midnight sky changing from orange to pink and finally to blue.

The boy went to sleep again the next night, not under a ragged blanket in a dark alley but underneath a soft duvet in his new home. As sleep took over his dreams were filled with a cat made of midnight and matchstick lamp posts.

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