Is Offred too passive to be satisfactory? (part 1)

The recent television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale has been striking in its success. Critically acclaimed, it’s benefited from Margaret Atwood’s input in a way that the over-eroticised, over-dramatised, heavy-handed 1990s film didn’t. Contains details of plot, both novel and series. The washed-out grey of a dystopian colour palette The colours, a slightly washed-out palette, capture the grim reality of Gilead and provide an easy symbolism of the differences between before, and now. The adaptation is faithful in style, tone, and idea if not always in plotline. Some events, and even dialogue, are echoed from the original novel. But the …

Women through the ages – a new scheme of work

Like many teachers I’m currently in the middle of planning for next year, with a bit more space to rethink the curriculum, and a comment from one of my Year 13 students has stayed with me. I think I’d written some feedback about avoiding generalisation regarding the representation of women  not treating Renaissance and Victorian women the same in her context-heavy essay – and she said that she didn’t really know the difference. She knew there was one, that women’ rights couldn’t have been completely stagnant until the early twentieth century, but didn’t have a strong grasp of what the …

How to write comparison essays in an exam

When you start writing essays this seems really complicated, but breaking it down can help. Remember these two simple facts: 1. Comparison means similarities and differences 2. Comparison means there has to be some link or connection The similarity, specifically literature and English Language, can be either technical – looking at a way of writing, for example a specific use of metaphor – or thematic – the way a similar idea is represented. Ideally the comparison is knitted together, so interwoven that you can’t pull one text apart from the other. That’s the ideal, but there are some ways to …

Planning comparison essays for GCSE and A Level

One of the most difficult skills to do well is, I think, comparison, and it’s often what distinguishes really good writers – the ability to hold both texts together and weigh them against one another. This post explores some ways to plan a comparative answer – before you’re in the exam hall! I actually think the A-Level style of questions works better to prompt good, focused comparison – so let’s compare the two: GCSE: Explore the way Browning presents painful relationships in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and one other poem from the Relationships cluster. A-Level: Dystopian writing often portrays a bleak future …

Learning quotations for English: is it really necessary?

Quotation or close reference? With closed book exams at GCSE and A-Level it’s easy to think that memorising lots of quotations is the way to go. It’s something concrete, solid to learn, and feels like you know a lot. But can you use them? I’ve written elsewhere about how and what to revise, and it’s also worth remembering that the assessment objective for analysis includes close reference, as well as form and structure – not just language. During the revision season, it’s a good idea to focus on detailed understanding of form, structure and micro-quotations, rather than trying to memorise whole poems …

How do I revise for English? Where to start, and a revision schedule.

As a teacher, I’m asked this almost constantly in the run-up to exams. There is a perception that English is a “skills subject” and therefore much more difficult to revise for compared to, say Biology or History. Although there’s a great deal of skill involved, there is a lot of knowledge needed for English exams; the “skill section” is in putting it all into practice.  I’m not sure if the question is a misunderstanding of this, or a sense of being overwhelmed with where to begin. I think it’s sometimes the latter, and so in this post I’ll look at a …