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Colo High School

Colo High School

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ALARM – 'A Learning and Responding Matrix’ used in schools across New South Wales shown to assist students' performance in their HSC results.

The matrix is a simple and effective tool which students use throughout junior to senior high school. ALARM becomes second nature in a student's evaluation process, across all their learning areas; ALARM helps them improve their written responses in class, assessments and exams and also confidence in their oral presentations and class discussions.

ALARM works by helping students understand the specific type of question or questions being asked to enable them to answer with greater clarity and depth. This ultimately enables them to achieve greater results in the higher examination bands.

With practice, students' written responses progressively show clear evidence of 'higher order' or 'critical thinking’, thereby demonstrating that they are able to critically evaluate the different components of questions and are able to provide a more refined and relevant answer. For example, instead of simply describing what something does. Students become more adept at evaluating and assessing how well it does it and are thus analysing its impacts and effectiveness.

Once a student's written work demonstrates that they have reached the 'Critically Analyse' and Evaluate' sequence they will be presenting their own views in a thorough and literate style and their results are more likely to reach a Band 5 or Band 6.

HSC examiners will be looking for students who can raise their written responses to these levels of the matrix. Remember, the higher the band a student receives in each of their subjects, the higher their ATAR result. Everyone can do it and it's easy to follow and remember during an exam.

ALARM is now embedded in all Colo High School's lessons and our ALARM team are constantly working to develop and refine ways in which its benefits can be delivered to improve grades across all faculty.

PEEL – A paragraph writing structure

Many faculties at Colo High School use PEEL to help students write a well-organised paragraph. This is a very well-known strategy. It complements ALARM as it helps students with structuring extended responses. The acronym is used as shown below. 

P Sentence 1



E Sentence 2



E Sentence 3, 4 and 5



L Sentence 6


This is the “topic sentence” which shows what the paragraph is about. If the paragraph is in response to a question, the topic sentence should address this question. 


The second sentence explains the point. It may rephrase it using synonyms and add clarification. 


The evidence sentences give specific examples to support the point being made. 



This finishes the paragraph by coming back to the question

See a very simple example 

What is the best season of the year? 

Summer is the best season of the year. This is the time of year that allows us to have the most fun. The water is warm and perfect for swimming. In Sydney we have daylight savings which gives us more time after school to enjoy sport outside. There is also a school holiday which is five weeks, so there is even more time for play. In this way, summer is the most enjoyable time of year.

Please note:

This is a simple Stage 4 example to show the structure. As students become more competent writers, they will manipulate it. Different subjects also modify the structure to suit their needs. The important thing to note is that a paragraph focuses on one point and explains it using examples. It then rounds it off before moving to another point.