Planning to teach a poetry cluster: Christina Rossetti

Reading Time: 3 minutes When we’ve been teaching Rossetti this year, we’ve been preparing for the AS-level. We’re not doing that next year (switching to linear now every other spec has caught up and reformed!) but I think it’ll probably take a similar approach: Identify the poems that work well together in comparison and teach them alongside one another (in the new Y12, teaching them at key moments in their comparison text) Each ‘mini-unit’ of poems ends with a written assessment in timed conditions, in the class room. In a single lesson, I use a question/answer format, which usually guides students through a discussion …

5 tips for the week before the Hamlet/Rossetti exam (OCR)

Reading Time: 2 minutes There’s no doubt about it – revising can be stressful. But there’s some crucial things to do in the week before the exam. School-run revision sessions can be helpful but think: why are you really going? Many students turn up to mine for reassurance – nice to have, but not the best use of their time. If there’s a question you really need answering, is it possible to get an email or message without adding the journey time? think about how you’re spending your time at this crucial stage. Here’s my suggestions for a top revision week: Monday: Re-read your past essays. …

Revising poetry collections: comparison

Reading Time: 4 minutes I always prefer to have ideas-based comparisons for my analytical work. Trying to get a very features-driven comparison only, in my experience, leads to muddled answers. Either you’re trying to force a comparison and identify a technique that’s not really of any use, or you end up trying to say more about it than you actually can.  It’s far, far more effective to have a comparison based on what the writer is trying to do. So when it comes to poetry revision for GCSE and A-Level, isolating some lines and really focusing on the ideas behind them is what we’e …

Great essays: The killer introduction is a must

Reading Time: 2 minutes Just a VERY quick one – most of a musing, really. Having spent the day moderating coursework – aka reading All The Essays – it is so clear that the great introduction is so important. It creates an argument, it sets the tone – it proves that you know what you’re doing. It doesn’t make up for an essay that doesn’t deliver on the introduction’s promise. But it sets the expectations – and then it’s up to you to prove them. What about the difference between these: “In Soeur Louise, Rossetti explores the role of desire in relationships using language and structure. She …

How to stop worrying about quotations: Getting form, structure and language right without memorising the whole text

Reading Time: 5 minutes When exams are closed book, it’s easy for students to panic and worry more about memorising quotes than anything else. The assessment objective for analysing language always includes the selective/judicious use of quotation, but it does also include close reference. While I will do some on how to learn quotes, as we’re coming into the final half-term before AS exams, I’m starting to spend more time on how to get that detailed, precise understanding of FSL (form, structure and language) without necessarily remembering whole poems or soliloquies. As someone who’s not great at remembering quotes themselves (from literature, anyway – apparently I …

Revision tips: ten ways to revise a poetry collection

Reading Time: 6 minutes At AS-level, comparison often needs you to think about the whole collection, which can feel a bit overwhelming when you’ve got fifteen poems and a closed-book exam facing you!

1. Read sample answers
The reality is: you’ll be taking an exam. That exam has a mark-scheme, and you need to know what the balance of the question is focused on. Is it the themes and ideas of the poems? Is it analysis of form, language and structure? Is it comparison across the whole collection? Is it exploring literary and social context? Reading sample answers will show you what that feels like. As you read, think about how the balance works. Does it use a lot of literary terminology? How much does it explore each point? How many other poems or ideas does it refer to? The answer can’t be boiled down to “refer to three other poems”, but you can get a sense of proportion across an answer.

2. Mind-map ideas across the poems
Throw everything you know down on paper! A great one if you’ve got access to an empty classroom and a board pen, or get some cheap wall lining paper from B&Q for a fiver!