Feeling the SOLO levels

Once you begin to explore the SOLO levels, you soon begin to define the differences between different level answers. It can be easy to provide pupils with examples of what different levels look like. Below are examples that I provided my A Level Literature class with, to teach them what SOLO looked like. The following are statements based on the Letters of Frankenstein:


The letters are about Frankenstein going on a journey. Because of the letters, we don’t like Frankenstein. The monster is horrible because it has been made up of lots of humans and so it eats other humans.

This is not true of the content and is the type of response that you might expect someone who knows of Frankenstein but has never read the novel to produce.


The letters are about Walton’s journey of discovery. He wants to discover new things. He is an adventurer on his way to the North Pole. He writes his letters to his sister who is not on the journey with him. 

This is a very basic overview of the content of the letters with no real description or depth.


The letters are about Walton’s journey of discovery. The book was written in a time when many discoveries were being made. Shelley was a woman writing a book which would have shocked many men. Shelly was brought up by William Godwin; he was a famous writer who believed that social expectation was wrong and that you could live far happier without the rules of society.

This contains information about the text, the author and the time it was written but they are not linked together.


The letters lead us through Walton’s journey of discovery and mirror the journey of discovery that we later see Frankenstein undertaking. This book was written during a time of great scientific discovery so it is only natural that Shelley’s creations would mirror what society was yielding.

This relates understanding of the rest of the novel as well as an understanding of the context to the content of the letters.

Extended Abstract

The letters lead us through Walton’s journey of discovery and mirror the journey of discovery that we later see Frankenstein undertaking. I believe that the underlying journey within the novel is not only that of the explorers (Walton) or the great scientific researchers (Frankenstein) but actually of Shelley herself. I believe that she was attempting to discover the true Mary. Can you imagine the confusion of a child of Godwinian ideals living in a staunchly aristocratic society? 

This answer relates their excellent knowledge of the text, author and context to an abstract concept which they have created as a result of their reflections on the letters.

Feeling the Difference

I am a very visual person and often need to see something to make sense of it. As soon as an idea appears in my mind’s eye, I know that I can make it a reality because it already exists to me. I am aware that I need to connect with other ways of making sense of concepts. I am always looking for new ways to play with pupils’ understanding and so I began playing with ways to help pupils feel the difference between levels.

My Year ten pupils are in the process of exploring the play An Inspector Calls. By the end of act one, we have an excellent multistructural understanding of the character Sheila. We have explored how she might link to the play’s context, her relationship with her family and connection to Eva Smith; we have watched her grow from an immature child to a sense of awareness about her position in society and the pupils are very confident with this character. However, Gerald is more of an enigma at this point in the play; we know what he is and who he is but not a great deal more.

I asked pupils to answer the question “What was the writer’s intention when creating the character of…?” They were asked to respond by writing about Sheila first, followed by Gerald.  They were given the same amount of time and access to notes for both responses.

The picture across the whole class was unanimous. The responses for Sheila were filled full of ideas, leaving Gerald empty with very few notes. I questioned the class on the difference between their answers and they said that they didn’t feel like they could answer the question about Gerald.


At this point, I brought the focus of the session away from Gerald and Sheila and back to the pupils’ gut feelings about their responses. I told pupils to stop and think about how they felt about their knowledge of each character. They said that when they thought of the character Sheila, lots of connections were immediately evident. They felt confident that they could discuss in depth, whereas they could only describe Gerald.

I explained that the confident feeling that came alongside their understanding of the character Sheila was because they had that strong multistructural base. However, as they were feeling unistructural about Gerald, the same connections could not be made about this character. Without the foundations of the multistructural, their ideas could only ever be weak.

This exercise helped to highlight the importance of having an excellent multistructural base before attempting a relational question. A strong multistructural base felt confident for the pupils.  Ideas quickly formed and connections between areas of knowledge came easily. Whereas being unistructural felt unsure and unprepared.


One thought on “Feeling the SOLO levels

  1. Pingback: Feeling the SOLO levels | Reflections of a Learning Geek

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