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 …

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 …

Identity and belonging: the importance of names in The Handmaid’s Tale

Reading Time: 10 minutes   If you’re studying this text for A-Level, you can pretty much write about the significance of names for any topic – gender, class, rebellion, politics, personal identity, relationships – even the use of humour can get a good paragraph on the politics of naming. Names are one of the main ways we signify our identities to other. In The Handmaid’s Tale, like so much other dystopian fiction, characters lose, change or adapt their names as they’re subjugated to the will of others or trying to represent themselves in different ways. Places are renamed too, to fit the new regime …

Revising for mocks – making the most of exam week

Reading Time: 5 minutes In this series, I’m looking at the ways get the most from mock exams, with practical steps to help you dial back the stress. Know your goals. Create a revision timetable 10 revision tips A good revision space  What to do during mocks (this post) Review, reflect, repeat Mock exams are there to help you. It’s a chance to practice in timed conditions – and often you don’t get much of that – and to see how you can do at that moment so you know what to work on. But exam weeks can be difficult; exams are close together, they …

The point of mocks – review, reflect, repeat

Reading Time: 4 minutes In this series, I’m looking at the ways get the most from mock exams, with practical steps to help you dial back the stress. Know your goals. Create a revision timetable 10 revision tips A good revision space What to do during mocks Review, reflect, repeat (this post) In this goal-setting post, I talked a bit about making sure you knew what you wanted to achieve. Now, when the mocks are done and you’ve had a week or two (hopefully!) you’ll be getting the results and finding out how well your strategies worked. You should go over papers and strategies …