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 to teach a poetry cluster: Christina Rossetti

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 …

Revising poetry collections: comparison

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 …

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

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

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!

Christina Rossetti – AS and A Level analysis revision guide

I am so excited about this! I LOVE writing analysis – as you can probably tell from the rest of my blog, I’m a total English geek and proud of it! So I’ve been working on this a while now, and have decided to put it all together. It’s absolutely detailed notes on every poem in the OCR selection, with some additional goodies like how to use context well and how to meet the assessment objectives. Check out the sample pages here The first fifteen to use the code RossettiRocks will get a 25% discount too! …