Every Friday i’m going to be posting a (hopefully) helpful post on an element of the VCE English course. These will be primarily focused at Year 12 students, though that’s not to say that Year 11 and below will not also benefit from these pointers. So, look out for them, share them with your friends and family, and if you have any requests for a topic you want covered; let me know and I’ll see what I can do.
You’re a student. It’s a new year and with a new year comes a new year level and with that, a new set of subjects, assignments, SACs, teachers, memories, friendship groups, school events and sadly, exams.
While you may think that these summer holidays are a time to relax and completely forget about school, I must inform you that you are sadly mistaken.
While you should be taking some time to relax and refresh yourself, you also need to be preparing for the year ahead. If you’re in younger year levels this should involve reading your set texts, for anyone above year 10, you probably have some holiday homework to engage with as well as reading through the novels, plays, poetry etc that you will be studying in the year to come.
One piece of homework which the school I used to teach at always gave the incoming year 11 and 12s was:
Prepare for the oral presentation
It was a piece of advice that was oft- ignored and all too often I would see students who could have done very well in this important area of study cobble together a rushed piece of writing the night before their presentation, clearly not having time to rehearse or become confident with what they were talking about. It was always very clear who took our advice seriously and who thought they could “wing it”.
If I were you, I’d be placing the oral at the top of my to do list this holiday as it isn’t overly strenuous, it’s interesting and to do it really well takes time. The oral is also an excellent opportunity to increase your SAC scores as it is easier to do well in this SAC than it is in a written SAC and being Unit 4 (for year 12s), it’s worth quite a lot. It’s also easier to do very poorly, hence why early preparation is key.
For the next few weeks, I’ll be detailing what the oral requires of you and how I would be approaching the task. Today, we’ll be looking at the study design (available here: http://www.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Documents/vce/english/EnglishEAL-SD-2016.pdf) and what it actually means in terms of your presentation- what they, and therefore your teachers, want from you.
The study design sets out that in Unit 4 (second half of year 12) students must complete an oral presentation designed to influence an audience in response to their chosen issue. However, before we look at what VCAA has laid out for the SAC itself, let us look at the rationale and skills they want you to display throughout the entire 4 units, remembering that you, in Unit 4 should be at your most competent in these areas. Let’s see how the oral will test these things
The focus of the VCE English course is ensuring that students understand how language is used to create meaning- that is that language isn’t just a string of letters and sounds but that it has power and worth. In your oral presentation, you will be demonstrating the power of the spoken word and the way it influences those who listen.
The course is designed to increase your critical thinking. In your oral, you will demonstrate that you’ve considered an multifaceted issue, coming to your own conclusion after looking at evidence on both sides.
The course asks you to create and analyse texts, to improve your critical analysis, reflection and interpretation. In this SAC, you will need to analyse the evidence you read critically- not taking everything at face value. You will also need to analyse and reflect upon your own writing. This will be evidenced in your Statement of Intention accompanying your spoken piece, but also in the development of your piece as you refine it.
The course wants to produce students who are confident, articulate and critically aware of their sense of self, their world and their place within it. You will demonstrate that you have engaged in this world, critically and intellectually, through this oral.
Finally, VCAA desires to equip students to participate in democratic society and global community. Obviously, engaging in a real life issue will help you feel able to do this.
More specifically, the outline for Unit 4, Area of Study 2, Outcome 2: Presenting Argument also sets some very clear expectations which you should be aware of when preparing for this SAC.
The oral is designed to build your understanding of the analysis and construction of texts which attempt to influence an audience. In order to show this understanding, you will use your knowledge of how argument and persuasive language work in unison to create persuasive texts.
This means that you can’t just rely on passionate, emotive speaking or amazing use of appeals; it forces you to consider how you are presenting your argument, what sub arguments you are using to support it and the language in which you encasing it in.
The oral is designed to show that you understand that persuasive texts are specifically designed and shaped with a clear audience, purpose and context in mind- one which the argument and language is targeted directly to.
This means that you know why you’re speaking and your audience. It means you know their social, cultural and historical context and what arguments will and will not work for them. It means knowing what language will be effective and what language choices will miss the point.
The content of your oral will be formed through discussion and research. Your viewpoint, arguments and supporting evidence will be gathered deliberately and considered in relation to your audience purpose and context.
It’s a process. It’s discovering new ideas and potentially changing your mind about old ones. It’s certainly not overnight. It’s DELIBERATE and DECISIVE.
The oral will show that you have considered the conventions of speaking, appropriate approaches in your language, presentation and arguments for both your issue and your audience and that you can critically reflect on these elements of your presentation.
The oral isn’t just a static written piece. You need to show that you can speak confidently. This comes through practice. It’s not something that happens overnight. That’s why you’ve been doing oral presentations for years. It also means that you need to consider what is appropriate for your piece and style. What will work for your best friend may not necessarily work for you. The generic advice you read on the internet about How to Write a Good Speech will not necessarily be appropriate… please don’t start with a joke in a speech about rape or deaths in custody.
This is also looking at your Statement of Intention and if you’re aware of and can articulate the power and significance of your language and argument in relation to your audience, purpose and context.
So, it’s big task. Bigger than you may think. And you need to start it now if you’re going to be like this meme-tastic baby (how old is this kid now and do you think he knows how famous he is?).
Next Friday, I’ll be going over the process I’d go through to choose my issue (if your school lets you choose- some schools have set issues) and start to develop my speech.
Your homework is to start watching or reading the news- especially the opinion pages. Find out what the issues in your world are and which ones you care about. What makes you mad or sad or jubilant?
Ensure you remember what an issue is: A topic of importance which has two debatable sides which has been in the media. Your issue needs to have been covered in the Australian media and needs to be relatively recent (in the news since Sept 1st, 2016). Don’t decide to do your speech on whether murder should be legalised or if cats are better than dogs (they’re not).
That will do us for this week. Go outside, enjoy the sunshine and read the letters to the editor. I promise it’s not that hard, and it’ll pay off in the long run. See you next Friday!!