Represents / Characterises / Symbolises literary analysis

Recently, I’ve been working on ways to improve students’ analysis of language.  For me, it’s always the weakest assessment objective and is difficult to achieve a balance. You risk moving into the plodding “write three things about this word” approach, or tortured variations of PEA. On the other hand, neglect language analysis and you end up with a fluffy high-level essay that floats somewhere above the text without ever really pinning it down. My students often have a real flair for the interpretation of ideas, themes and characters, but the issue is that close analysis of how writers create meaning. …

GCSE – a more chaotic approach to medium term planning

This term, I’ve approached my Y10 English class slightly differently. Traditionally, we’ve done what the majority of English departments (I think) do: half-termly unit blocks on Shakespeare / modern novel / poetry etc. An assessment at the end of each half-term. Teaching the old spec, we interspersed the language paper simply because we found it so dull we couldn’t face a full half-term of it. Reading a lot in the last year about memory, interleaving learning and so on, I decided to take a slightly different experimental approach. I’d teach it all at once. Essentially, returning to learning regularly is …

How to memorise quotes for English Literature exams

Download this post as a pdf Go through your exercise book and gather quotes It’s the best revision resource you have! Look back through your notes and essays. Make a list of the quotes you’ve used often – there’s a reason you keep coming back to them. Little and often Choose five or six at a time to work on. Trying to memorize too many will be difficult and you’re likely to get them mixed up. You won’t be able to learn 100 quotes in an afternoon – so start early, choose your list, and work through them gradually. Keep …

GCSE Revision: comparing texts

We did this lesson this morning. Fuelled by last-day tiredness, meaning I was searching for something more creative, and also because that class is feeling a little burned about the amount of revision ahead (particularly as they have just complete d revision essay based on last year’s text, and feel like they don’t remember much!) It was so simple, fun, and awesome. They wrote the name of every character they’ve studied on a piece of paper. From Jane Eyre, Lord of the Flies, Much Ado About Nothing, and the Love and Relationships poetry cluster – a recall exercise which had …

Ten tips for A-Level Literature students

Read the set texts Ok, so this is THE most obvious statement. But it’s also the absolutely most important thing. First time through, read it quickly. If it’s a novel, try to get it read in a week or so. Read it as a reader. Then, when you’ve finished, write a quick response to it. Don’t worry about being academic here, but think about what you remember about it, your first impressions on finishing, the characters and ideas of it. Read all the set texts. Get the list in advance and read all of them – a large part of …

The symbolism of clothing and colour in The Handmaid’s Tale

One of the texts I’m teaching this coming year is Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, as part of the dystopian topic for OCR A-Level literature. Re-reading it (again!) it’s striking how much the colours play a part in the makeup of this novel. Clothing in dystopian fiction is an important signifier. The totalitarian dystopias – The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984 and so on – use clothing as a method of control, ensuring that divisions (often power hierarchies) are respected, and that people are in their appropriate places. In 1984, the Party members wear black or blue overalls (a working man’s clothing, removing …