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.
‘We build our houses squat’
The opening line of Heaney’s ‘Storm on the Island’ and one we have analysed in detail. I always assumed they understood squat. I may have even breezily defined it on our very first reading, but never checking in that their understanding of the word was the correct one.
When I used the vocabulary check list for the poems, it quickly became apparent that not one of my students understood the meaning of that word. Their definitions varied from ‘strong’ to ‘sturdy’ to ‘many’. It wasn’t until I explicitly pulled the word out that I realised they didn’t understand.
To start the page is stuck over two pages in their books, leaving lots of space to annotate. I instruct the students to highlight all of the words they don’t feel sure about. They have their anthologies so they can check it in the context of the poem to help. Then we go through every single word and I define even the ones they think they know.
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Of all the challenges in the English Language exam, question one fades into the background when compared to the complexities of question four, or the mental gymnastics for the analysis in questions two and three. Question one sits there. Unobtrusive. Inoffensive. Nonchalant. A little dream of a question, really. “Find four things…”. Can’t go wrong, right?
The language analysis in question two is a tricky little gem of a question. Most students feel pretty confident attacking this one, and usually even weaker students can pick up one or two marks. I’m going to split this into advice for those who are aiming for each separate ‘level’, because the advice I would give is quite different.
And now question three. You little tricky brute. It should be so simple! Teach structural devices, and how to analyse them, chuck in a couple of nice sounding technical terms to boost their confidence, and voila! Eight out of eight? NO.
What is the problem with question four? It should be as simple as teaching the difference between analysis and evaluation, point them in the right direction, and watch them go. But it isn’t.
AQA Love and Relationships Over the past 2 exam cycles, I have observed that the students who worked the hardest, who committed a vast about of subject knowledge to memory, were able to achieve grades far higher than targeted. They learn them and quote them but do they really know what ‘to do’ with them? As Amy Forrester stated ‘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’.
Allusions in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Picture the scene: last July I see my 2018/19 timetable in my pigeonhole. It has all my new classes, including AS Level Literature. I’m nervous – we split classes, 1 teacher teaches Othello and love poetry, the other Tess of the D’Urbervilles and unseen prose. Othello and poetry? That’s my jam. I’d feel happy there. Hardy and his endless ramblings about pastoral Wessex? Not so much… So, obviously, I end up teaching Tess.
As an idea, Language and Power is so closely allied to Language and Gender, that it would make sense to teach this unit second as a grounding in ‘Power’ will provide a solid grounding in ‘Gender’. Equally, language-mediated via any form of technology, too, is frequently a site where power (and gender) relations are important and so dealing with Language and Technology last of all can work well.
Edusites and A Level English Language...Many of you will be looking to cover the topic of Child Language Acquisition (CLA) with Year 13 now, perhaps with an eye to providing it as a possible Investigation topic. On the Edusites English, we have 24 page printable booklet which contains a comprehensive guide to the topic, covering key concepts in a range of frameworks and the central theories in some detail.
NEA Investigation Basics Thinking about getting your year 13s started on Investigations? If so, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. There’s a great guide here on Edusites, written with the AQA specification’s NEA in mind, but it should help you out too if you’re an Eduqas or OCR English Language teacher. The guide fits the requirements of the current specification, and has an example of a nice approachable music-themed project that you could easily show to a class and work through with them, to help them get their heads around what an investigation is.
Autumn – and our minds turn to tackling the grittier of ‘language methods’ (or approaches, frameworks, or whatever they’re known as in your department). It’s grammar time! Having built up some confidence with ideas like lexis and semantics, it’s about this point in the term when things start to get a lot more technical and we want to really nail that terminology.
Precise responses Grainne Hallahan AQA Paper 1 English Language Memorising Quotes with Amy Forrester GCSE English Literature Slices Taxi Tales from @heymrshallahan
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.
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).