‘Personal opinions that are unconsidered and unsupported are not judgements.’ (Ofqual)
‘Students can enjoy the creativity of bringing their own fresh, original ideas to the reading of a text/texts.’ (Examination Board)
How do we reconcile the two?
As always we start with the DFE curriculum orders.
In English Language the section dedicated to critical reading and comprehension states that students should ‘draw inferences and justify these with evidence; support a point of view by referring to evidence within the text…’.
In Assessment Objective AO2 there is the clear injunction: ‘use relevant subject terminology to support their views’. Assessment Objective AO4 asks them to ‘evaluate texts critically’: the questions for this will lead them towards such evaluation.
There is frequent mention of a range of commands: see Edusites English Glossary of Frequently Used English GCSE Terms in Associated Resources but ‘evaluate’ needs clear definition here. The OED gives us ‘appraise’ ‘assess’. In turn we get to ‘estimate the worth of’ and ‘estimate the quality of’. So as far as we are concerned it means to make qualitative judgements about what has been read: with the constant proviso that these are supported by evidence from and reference to the text.
What is blindingly clear in all this is that (as in the Ofqual statement above) there is absolutely no room for assertions or generalisations, unsupported opinions or prejudices (or worse); irrelevance, digression or loss of focus on the text and task. Across both specifications candidates must put, and clearly show that they are putting, knowledge and understanding of the text/s first and commenting/ analysing/ drawing conclusions second.
In particular for reading in English Language candidates are asked to:
Read unseen non-fiction texts from the 19th century and either the 20th or 21st century. One text will always be drawn from the 19th century.
Learners read a wide range of high-quality non-fiction texts drawn from the 19th and either the 20th or 21st century. This may include for example, essays, journalism (both printed and online), travel writing, speeches and biographical writing.
Learners are required to read in different ways for different purposes. They read and analyse texts that are designed, for example, to persuade, inform, instruct or advise.
They explore how effectively texts achieve their purposes by comparing and evaluating the usefulness, relevance and presentation of ideas and information.
Learners engage with texts, developing independent viewpoints and recognising different interpretations.
They develop knowledge and understanding of linguistic and literary terminology to support their analysis of texts.
This supports the development of personal view of what has been read.
Examiner Tip: students don’t necessarily have to show familiarity/competence/expertise in all these areas at once! Remember that the skills the examinations require are built up incrementally as the paper develops.
Establishing an Overview of Shape, Pattern and Purpose
The groundwork for developing a considered and well-supported personal view begins with thorough and rigorous reading of the set text. Whether it is a lengthy novel (Jane Eyre, say or Great Expectations) or one of the three or four reading passages in the English Language Examination, the same principles should apply.
Texts should be read in full (over a period of time with a play or novel, obviously) to establish an overview of what they are about; how they start, develop and conclude and, in the simplest of terms, what happens in between. Only then is it possible to go into finer detail to examine why language has been used in a particular way at a particular point for a particular effect and what judgements might be made about it.
Read the following passage so as to be sure you understand what it is about, how it starts and concludes and how it develops from the former to the latter and how the different sections are linked. You should also note any striking uses of language as you do so.
Examiner Tip: students need to work very hard to understand the pace at which they read: some people read more quickly than others: so students need to practice with these passages to discover and be aware of how long it takes them to thoroughly read, absorb and think about so many hundred words.
Register now for our subject updates and FREE instant access to this article.
Already registered? Login below to continue reading this article.
Join Edusites English for Eduqas English Literature and English Language constantly evolving in collaboration with trusted teachers, specialists and academics, always with your classroom in mind. Edusites is renowned for subject expertise and targeted resources – including support for post-16 and resit teachers.
The ability to compare and contrast is one of the most important and challenging skills to master for the 9 to 1 English Language and English Literature. Previously compare and contrast techniques was tested only by Controlled Assessment in one of the four units of English Literature: now it reaches across both specifications as detailed below. It takes on much greater significance because some reading passages in English Language and English Literature are unseen.
Students having access to responses which exemplify a high grade 8 or 9 response gives a target for which they can aim. In the run up to exam season Edusites ‘Live Scripts’ can form the basis of a number of excellent lessons based on ‘what’ other students have achieved and most importantly how and why.
Edusites Slices show you how to enable students to consider how to ‘use’ quotations in their exam responses. However, the quotations need to be placed in long term memory to be available during the exam. What are some of the best ways of helping students to do this?
Back in 2015, when the first exams of the new spec rolled around, I knew the importance of quotations - it was a closed book exam after all. However, over time, I began to realise that the key wasn’t just in the retention of quotations, but in the knowledge of what to say about them.
So often students don’t speak up and let us know when they don’t understand a piece of vocabulary. Why? Embarrassment. Awkwardness. Indifference. But there are those other times, where there is a word in a sentence that they do not understand the meaning of, but they don’t speak up because they don’t realise themselves.
Videos and images used in the classroom can be huge distractions if used ineffectively. Chris Curtis has spoken about this very problem at the recent Team English National Conference and Rugby ResearchEd, and written about this very problem in his excellent blog here (http://learningfrommymistakesenglish.blogspot.com).
Catching up with your reading? Some expert subject based strategies for you to delve into.