Developing context in the pre-1900 question – Rossetti and A Doll’s House

Reading Time: 5 minutes Sometimes my students probably think I’m either a sadistic, a bit loopy, or both. I LOVE this question from the OCR comparative pre-1900 paper: Endings are always, in some sense, artificial.’ In the light of this view, consider ways in which writers conclude their work. And the reason I love it is because it’s SO GOOD for teaching them how to address the balance of assessment objectives. It’s so easy with this question to ignore the fact that it’s 50% context. There’s an OCR blog that explores what context actually is in more detail, including some examples and this nifty …

Manageable revision – Rossetti and A Doll’s House

Reading Time: 3 minutes Been thinking about a few different strategies for A-Level recently, but one lesson I think is really valuable in prepping revision techniques is this one. Here’s a list of 60 comparative questions (OCR, pre-1900 drama and poetry) Put them on separate cards (or get students to cut them up first) Get them to categorise into themes e.g. love, death, power, gender Discuss. It’s great. It’s the only ‘card sort’ type thing I ever do, but why it works so well is it really crystallises their exam preparation. This isn’t a teaching the texts and concepts lesson; it’s pure exam/revision technique. It’s …

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 …

Unpicking language in literature: why the blue curtains do matter

Reading Time: 3 minutes As a teacher, the thing I find myself saying over and over again to students is, “develop your language analysis”. Every year, every student, almost every piece. It’s not that they’re bad at it – far from it, mostly! But it’s always the thing that makes their explanations more precise and, in the exams they do, will get them better marks. The thing is, we’re trying to make the implicit become explicit. The feeling that you get when you read gets unpicked, understood, and stitched back together again. I usually get shown this meme at some point in the year too: …