Writing the comparison question for OCR A-Level

Reading Time: 2 minutes The OCR English Literature specification is great in lots of ways, but the AO balancing is a little strange. The comparative question, for which I teach Rossetti’s poetry and A Doll’s House, is 50% AO3 – Demonstrate understanding of the significance and influence of the contexts in which literary texts are written and received. Examiner training is explicit that the way to determine a mark is holistically (is it competent, good or excellent) then shade the mark within the band to fine-tune the mark. However, it feels as a teacher that you do need to foreground the dominant assessment objective to meet …

An extract to whole text question – a quick guide

Reading Time: 2 minutes Introduction: What’s the writer’s message or purpose? End with a sentence linking the extract to the major theme of the question. E.g Through the character of Macbeth, Shakespeare explores the corrupting nature of power. In the extract, we see him at a crucial moment as he decides whether to be virtuous – or fulfil his ambition.  Paragraphs: 3-4 depending on time and length Use a writer – technique – theme/purpose structure to stay focused. E.g. Shakespeare uses the motif of seeing to represent the way Macbeth changes across the play. Or Shakespeare shows us Lady Macbeth’s thoughts to explore the way …

A Handmaid’s Tale – abortion laws in context

Reading Time: 2 minutes With fertility and children being at the heart of A Handmaid’s Tale, this article from the BBC is excellent context. It includes the image below, a timeline of pregnancy with information on when states allow abortions to occur, as well as a historical timeline of information – perfect for the OCR A-Level Literature exam. For further context, the NHS states that abortions in England, Scotland and Wales can be carried out up to 24 weeks, with some after that in some circumstances e.g. the mother’s life being at risk or a child being born with a severe disability. In Northern …

How to read a dystopian extract – what to look for

Reading Time: 3 minutes For a while now I’ve used the SCATI approach to dystopian wider reading, which I first read about here: https://jwpblog.com. Like most teaching approaches, I’ve evolved it a bit since then, and have also started to use it as a way to structure the GCSE question 4. As a revision exercise, I created a series of further points of ‘things to look for’ in dystopian fiction. Yes, it’s a checklist, but quite a large and varied one, or at least I think so. Given that close language analysis / writers’ methods is the dominant objective for this question, I think this kind …

Analysis: Compare how poets present changing relationships in Mother, Any Distance and Climbing My Grandfather.

Reading Time: 5 minutes In Mother, Any Distance and Climbing My Grandfather, these modern poets explore the ways that relationships change over time. In Mother, Any Distance, a new relationship is being forged as the child seeks independence by moving out but contemplates the ways that the relationship will stay the same in its love and support. In Climbing My Grandfather, Waterhouse considers the ways that understanding one another can change over time and, particularly, the way that understanding across the generations can develop. Simon Armitage uses an extended metaphor of distance to suggest the potential gulf that can open up between parent and …