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 …

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 …

How to write comparison essays in an exam

Reading Time: 7 minutes 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

Reading Time: 3 minutes 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

Reading Time: 4 minutes 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 …