If I were you… tackling the social, historical and cultural context. [VCE English]

Ah, the old “understanding of the social, historical and cultural context” criterion. Everyone’s favourite. I think I’ve received more questions about this point and how to include it in essays than questions about anything else in my teaching career.

And that’s because it is tricky. It’s a fine line to walk between showing you know the social, historical and cultural context of a text and accidentally changing your wonderful English essay into a historical or sociological exposition. Despite being a history teacher, I also never really enjoyed teaching this bit because I often found that I wasn’t able to go into enough depth and students would rarely do their own extra research to come to a thorough understanding of the time of place that the text was both set and produced in.

Thankfully, VCAA seems to agree and have since REMOVED this pesky requirement from the VCE English and EAL curriculum.

*cue celebration*

HOWEVER…!

Even though it’s no longer explicit part of the criteria it’s still 100% necessary to think about the time and place the text is set and produced in because of a new part of the KEY KNOWLEDGE and SKILLS for the Reading and Creating AOS and the Reading and Comparing AOS.

In these two AOS’s you are required to show an understanding of the audience, purpose and context of different texts and how these three things influence an author.

To address these aspects of the criteria and show an understanding of how they are affected by each other, and how they affect other components of the text, you still need to know those historical, social and cultural components of the text itself and when it was released.

Why?

For the following reasons:

  • To address how the audience comprehends and understands the purpose of a text, you must first know the context of that audience.
  • If a film was written/released during the Cold War, it will have very different influences to a remake of the same film filmed today. This results in different themes coming through to the audience and also, the different author/director will have a different purpose, in part, because their audience is different.

It may have similar ideas or themes, it may have similar character, quotes, shots etc but it WILL be responding to a different audience and have a different purpose. Consider the horrific remake Guess Who with Ashton Kutcher in comparison with the original Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Same basic story, vastly different purposes, vastly different audiences, vastly different worlds.

BUT, the fact remains that you need to know how to include this stuff in your essays and the KEY word in this whole messy equation is

PURPOSE.

As I’ve said many times before, you need to be aware of the authorial intent and this needs to shape your piece of work. Authorial intent should be an element of your contention and THIS is where your understanding of the audience, purpose and context can come into play.

So, if we’re wanting to be able to develop contentions with true authorial intent in mind, we need to know the context they’re writing in and for and why they’ve chosen the context they’ve set their work in to achieve their purpose.

It’s also important to know this so we can develop alternate perspectives. To a 1950s housewife, All About Eve is probably extremely feminist and counter cultural. To our eyes now, while it has feminist points and some extremely strong female leads, the final outcome for Margo suggests that the intent of Mankiewicz is not as “girl power” as we may originally think.

BUT AMY, HOW DO I ACTUALLY INCLUDE THIS STUFF IN MY ESSAYS?

Well, lovely student, you will pleased to know that if you go with the idea of the context informing the authorial intent which you are already including in your content, you’re already doing it.

Every time you infer that Perkins is presenting Mabo as a flawed by powerful leader who needs the support of those around him, in order not to glorify the man but instead, the movement you are acknowledging that in her context of 2012, Rachel Perkins is encouraging her audience to step up and be a part of said movement. You’re recognising that this film could be as much about her own father as it is about Eddie Mabo. You’re acknowledging that while Mabo is an Indigenous hero, this film is for a mainly white, middle class, reasonably well educated audience who has the power to change.

And you could include this contextual information explicitly in your introduction as the starting point (instead of starting with something that makes me want to die like “In Rachel Perkins’ 2012 biopic Mabo…”) or as a way to enter into that deeper interpretation. You should also be able to incorporate into your conclusion as you finalise your answer and broaden it out to wider significance.

Throughout your body paragraphs consider using language which leads to contextual inclusion. “Despite audience expectations of women…” “Although the film is set in the 18th century, the authorial context of Cold War paranoia…” “The original audience of the film…” “The contrast between the ancient setting and the modern audience…” “The text, while unfamiliar to a modern audience, explores universal themes- a fact made more obvious through the directors use of modern music and shooting techniques.” This technique will also help you tick the metalanguage box. Two in one! Yessss.

Remember that your essay is ultimately an answer to a question and to truly answer that question, you need to know what has shaped your evidence and answer. If you don’t, it would be like using a scientific study to prove your point about hair removal creams being ineffective without knowing that this scientific study was performed using gorillas as test subjects.

Remember, those who forget their history are doomed to repeat VCE!

Or something like that.

Happy writing!

Amy xx

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If I were you… What to do when watching or reading a text for the first time.

 

So, we come into a new term and with that, a new area of study. This one should be relatively familiar to everyone as it is the essay which has been retained from the old study design. It is the one which you’ve been preparing for throughout your education. It is what was once known as Text Response and is now a part of Reading and Creating.

The task is relatively simple:

“Students prepare sustained analytical interpretations of selected texts, discussing how features of the texts create meaning and using textual evidence to support their responses. They use planning and drafting to test and clarify their ideas, and editing to produce clear and coherent expression. They craft their writing for convincing and effective presentation.”

It’s about careful and considered interpretation, clear analysis and insightful comments on a piece of literature or film which has been specifically crafted to affect its audience in various ways. Your interpretation needs to be based around the authorial intent regarding the themes and ideas the author deals with in the text. It must be confident. It must be supported by textual evidence (quotes, structural features, film/poetic/language techniques etc). It DOES NOT have to be the same conclusion that your teacher comes to but it has to be VALID- and you should be aware that other interpretations exist and are as equally valid as yours. Showing this depth of thought in your essay is a great way to enhance your writing and therefore, your score.

Now, I said it’s relatively simple, I know… and then I laid down a whole lot of components and thinking and writing and pretty complex levels of thought. Sorry. Let’s start at the very beginning. (Which if I’m being honest, you should have done over your summer holidays- now, it’s almost too late. But hey, do it anyway.)

To do everything I mentioned above, you need to know the text like the back of your hand. You know how you know everything about your favourite book, movie, series, reality tv star, k-drama… whatever, well- double that level of intensity. You need to be so on top of this text that NO question could stump you.

My best friend has a copy of Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit which has the most obscure questions about the 3rd Best Boy and how he broke his toe on WHAT day precisely of filming The Two Towers.

She knows the answer.

Image result for lord of the rings nerd

She knew this too. As anyone SHOULD.

THAT is the level of knowledge you should have.

Because VCE is a competition and there will be someone else who does. Why not be that guy?

So. How do we get there?

Step One

  • Read/watch the text.
  • Repeat

Ok, it’s not that simple, but this step (including the repetition) is the MOST IMPORTANT THING you can do to gain a thorough knowledge of the text. And I’m not talking about skim reading or skim watching, though these have their place later on in the process, I’m talking about the sort of watching and reading you do where you are 100% dedicated to the plot and everything which propels it. The sort of watching where you will pause it if your family are talking too loudly. The sort of reading where people need to call your name twice before you respond. You need to invest in the text— even and ESPECIALLY if you don’t like it.

For your first viewing/reading, I would recommend just reading. Don’t take notes or highlight, just absorb it. That said, if you notice a trend or something which you think “I see what he/she’s doing there” then OF COURSE, write it down. But generally, speaking, just enjoy the read, get to know the characters, keep tabs on the plot, be impacted by the power of language, images, sound, music, ART… etc.

After you’ve read it, jot down a list of themes/ideas the text covered. DON’T READ A TEXT GUIDE yet- just use your BRAIN. What stood out to you as being a main focus of the author? Don’t try and get fancy either- the biggest inhibitor to success, in my opinion, is having the expectation that your first go will be perfect. It doesn’t need to be DEEP (at this stage), it doesn’t have to be specific (at this stage), it can be obvious (at this stage). In All About Eve– SURPRISE, one of the themes is WOMEN. Clearly, this shouldn’t be your end point by any stretch of the imagination but it can be the starting point. Aim for a list of approx. 10 themes which you think the text covers. After you’ve created this list, I recommend developing an interpretation about each of these broad themes. Ask yourself, “What is Mankiewicz saying about WOMEN in his film?” This is likely to help you narrow your theme to the ideas and insights contained within the text. If you are able, refine your list by adding these sub themes and broad interpretative statements to it. Remember, these are based on first impressions so they’re likely to be relatively basic- but also based on gut reaction which is not a bad thing. Just don’t stop there.

Image result for all about eve women

Another thing you can do after your initial read through is start building a character bank. List all the characters you can remember which had some influence on the plot, major or minor. Next to each, write their key characteristics, what their role in the text is, their relationships, their motivations- as much as you can glean from your first read/watch. These first impressions are important because authors know that most of their audience aren’t going to be studying their text intently. They want their message to get out to Average Reader- so as long as you’re at least vaguely switched on, you should pick up their message.

After each read, discussion, class you should be able to add to this. Start including what themes they are used to explore. Start developing interpretations about their purpose in the text. Start listing quotes which embody them or which explain and deepen their character.

This theme list and character list will help you gather your thoughts and ideas as you finish your initial reading of the text, but like I said, it should in no way be where you end your study. As you read and repeat and learn and discuss and debate and repeat, you will add to this initial information and refine it, eventually developing that insightful analytical writing you need to produce in your SAC and exam.

Hope this is helpful!

Happy reading!

Amy xx

If I were you… | Easter Holidays!

It’s been building… slowly but surely, you’ve seen it. Hot Cross Buns are becoming more and more prominent, the ads on TV have started to feature terrifying, man size rabbits, and suddenly, eggs are no longer the health foods they were two months ago.

It’s Easter.

And with Easter, comes school holidays!! GLORIOUS. 2 weeks of freedom from the school yard and 2 weeks of being the independent young adults you are soon to become.

You may notice that I have not said that these holidays bring 2 weeks of freedom from school full stop. There should be elements of school in your life for these two weeks. You’re in year 12- there are no total breaks until November. Sorry. But I hardly think I’m the first to say that, so you should be used to it by now.

THAT BEING SAID, I do not expect you to be working like you do at school for the next two weeks. It would be unhealthy, unwise, unproductive and could seriously impact your chances of doing well throughout the year. You need to have a balance. Which is what this blog post is all about. So without further ado, this is what I would be doing if I were you.

5 Things To Do in the Easter Break

  1. Revisit every text on you syllabus (minus the creative text, unless you’re expected to be able to write on it for the exam- many schools are focusing on one text and one text only for the Reading and Creating section of the exam- in my opinion, a wise choice.)
    This means rereading novels, plays, short stories etc and rewatching your film texts. Also, don’t just reread them- reread them with purpose. Go through and highlight the aspects you think will be important. Look for commonalities in the text. Look for language features which are unique or different. Annotate in the margins regarding the authorial intent and how certain passages fit in with the text as a whole. Make quote lists, create character bios, create author bios, create time period bios…
    Or at least just reread each text.
    And for the love of all that is good, if you haven’t read the texts, read them now. Stop reading this and read the texts.
  2. Meet up with friends and discuss the next text you’re studying/last text you studied. Go out for brunch- Melbourne does this well- and discuss quality literature- Melbourne does this better. You don’t have to talk about your text the whole time, but at least engage in what each of you think the text is about and how you came to that opinion. Ask each other what you liked or didn’t about the book and what bits were your favourites and which ones forced you to read page 85 ten times before you understood. By discussing your texts, you’re reinforcing your knowledge and you can enrich each other’s understandings of the text as a whole. Plus, brunch! What can be better?
  3. Write the first draft of your oral presentation AND perform it to a friend. Get them to perform theirs in return and see what you learn from one another and how you can improve. Bonus points if your friend disagrees with your contention. For EXTRA bonus points, write an analysis of the language your friend uses in their oral- sneaky LA practice. See my blog series on the oral here
  4. Maintain a good sleeping pattern. I’m not suggesting you wake up when you would for school- calm down. I am suggesting that you don’t go crazy. Don’t start sleeping at 3am and waking up at 2pm. It will wreak havoc on your body clock and frankly, you don’t have time to adjust to that when school goes back. Wake up before 9-10 each day and don’t go to sleep too late.
  5. Have a day each week where you don’t do anything related to school at all. Consider it a detox day. Go see a movie and have dinner with friends, go up to the mountains and do a bush walk. Go to Bounce and injure yourself so badly you can’t finish your schooling. Go to a museum in the city and learn for the fun of it.

AND ONE MORE THING:

I didn’t count this because you should be doing it every damn day, but

  • WATCH and READ the NEWS. (proper news.)
  • Choose one article to analyse every day.
  • Analyse it. Even if you don’t write an analysis on it, still analyse it.

I hope that was helpful! Have a wonderful break and don’t make yourself sick on all the Easter chocolate you buy on Easter Monday when everything is half price!

 

If I were you… | Where to begin?

Looking back at both my years of teaching and my years as a student, the question I either got asked the most, asked the most myself or heard the most from my peers was the question of “how do you start?”.

It’s tricky, because everyone writes in a different style, everyone has a different approach and what works brilliantly for one person could be a dismal failure for another.

That said, there are some tips which should help everyone as they come to start any essay, oral, reflective piece, short story… whatever it is that you’re writing.

The first tip is the one most people ignore and the one which makes the biggest difference between the people who do ignore it and those who don’t. You all know what it is:

PLANNING

When you go on a holiday, you don’t just jump in your car and drive aimlessly until you run out of petrol- and if you do, you’re an idiot and will one day wind up on Highway Patrol or worse still, the news when some John Jarrett lookalike finds and kills your dehydrated, petrol-less, plan-less self.

Even the most relaxed/disorganised travellers know their destination- even if it’s vague. They may not know exactly where they will sleep but they know that they want to end up in Byron Bay by the end of the week. And so, they know what roads they’ll travel down, they know what exits they will take, they know how far they should travel in day. They know they’ll get there and they know how they’ll get there. And so they will- because they have a plan.

Just like Mr Relaxed, you also need to have a plan. It doesn’t have to be immensely detailed (although this may be helpful the first few times you do it and is especially useful and I would argue essential for any creative piece) but it should include the following:

  • Starting point
  • Destination
  • Pathways
    • Important landmarks

Let’s unpack this extended metaphor, shall we?

Starting Point

Your starting point is the task at hand- the question which you’re answering or the idea you’re addressing. It might be the essay question or it might be the stimulus for the story you’re writing. If the starting point is not clear in your mind then you can’t be sure you’re actually addressing and developing it as you go about getting to your destination.

I would recommend deconstructing your starting point before doing anything else. Read the question through at least 3 times, taking note of the

  • instructive words (analyse, discuss, compare, outline, create, etc)
  • key terms (words which will form the basis of your response. Contentious descriptors which could be up for debate or discussion. Words which suggest the author’s intent about plot, character, theme, etc)
  • Characters, titles, quotes, key themes (if you don’t discuss these textual aspects in your response, you’re likely to be missing the fundamental point of the question)

and annotating said components, what they mean and what they mean for your upcoming writing.

Destination

Your destination will differ according to your form. If you’re writing a creative piece, it should be your ending and how you want your audience to feel by then. If you’re writing a persuasive piece, it should be what response you want your audience to have when they’ve finished reading your piece and what you want to persuade them of.

If it’s an analytical piece (which is the focus of this post), your destination should be your answer to the question (with a potential “and why?” added onto it)- that is, your contention.

It’s especially important that you know your contention before you start planning your points because if you don’t know your contention- your overall argument, your ultimate interpretation of the author’s purpose in writing this piece- then it may happen that your just write a list of relevant but unrelated topic sentences which all answer the question in slightly different ways- which makes your conclusion a massive pain to write.

The fact that you know your contention will mean that you will be able to ensure that each of your points will point to said contention, which will then be well backed up by evidence and explanation and will mean that everything you write will be relevant to the question at hand, not just retelling the story, and not completely off track.

Pathways and Landmarks

When you know where you’re headed, you can decide how you’re going to get there- that is, how to prove that your contention is correct. This is where you consider your points.

After you have decided upon your contention, consider all the different ways your chosen text can support that contention- how did you come to it? After all, if you think it’s correct, then you think that for a reason- what influenced that reason?

These are your pathways. For each point you come up with, write a topic sentence which links that point to your contention- how does this point demonstrate that you are correct?

Next, comes your landmarks- these are the things on your journey that prove you’re on the right track. It’s like when you think you’ve missed your turn and are totally lost but then you see the Giant Watermelon that Mick-at-the-pub said you should go right at and suddenly all is well. Your landmarks are your pieces of evidence. Quotes, film techniques, language and structural techniques; all of these things can be a landmark to demonstrate that you know where you’re headed and your backed up by good quality textual proof- you’re not just making stuff up.

This is the same for persuasive pieces- consider your contention and how you want your audience to respond- both emotionally and actively- and then consider the points which made you come to that same response. You will need to think beyond yourself, however- think about who your audience is and what needs you must therefore cater to so that they reach the same point you do. Your landmarks- proof- are even more important here, so be very aware of how you use them and where this proof is coming from.

For creative pieces, it’s a little different, but you still need to develop pathways which lead to your final destination, considering the aspects you include which will elicit the desired response from your audience while also ensuring you’re ticking all the boxes you identified in the “Starting Point” section.

~

If you create a plan, you know where it is that your heading. It may seem time consuming and annoying to do but if you don’t plan then it may be that you end up just rambling on about irrelevant and secondary information without linking it back to any overarching point. Then when you read it back, you realise you’ve totally missed the point of the task and have gone on a random tangent. You cross it all out and start over… again, without a destination in sight.

Now, that’s a waste of time.

Basically, what I’m saying is:

PLAN.

Use the roadmaps method if you want to. I find it helpful because I would NEVER go on a trip without planning and so the metaphor works for me.

Even if you don’t use it though, planning is super helpful because it forces you to consider your ideas and flesh them out prior to writing and the more practice you get planning the quicker and easier it will come to you. Likewise, the quicker and easier the ideas and contentions will come to you, because you’ve already used similar ones in other plans.

If you’re in year 12, I would aim to plan out at least one essay a week through the year- whatever type you’re focusing on in class, unless it’s the creative SAC- just use the text your focusing on and write analytically. Every two-three weeks, write an essay based on one of these plans.

When it comes to SAC time, try doing a plan a night, minimising the amount of time spent on the plan each night.

Exam season (as soon as coursework is complete): A plan a night, 3 essays a week (one of each type). Try doing one timed, two untimed/two timed, one untimed/all timed. Try doing a full practice exam at least twice before your exam, in addition to whatever school provides for you.

I hope this was helpful!!

Happy planning!

Amy xx

If I were you- Navigating the new Year 12 English Exam

The day has finally arrived! Kill the fattened calf- VCAA have released a sample English exam!

This is what English teachers around the world* have been waiting for. At last, something which will tell us what this new study design will look like in examination format.

For sometime, the school I used to teach at has been developing their unit plans with a focus on what we want students to learn by the end- that is, what we would like them to produce. Annoyingly, at least a component of that is based on the assessment they will be completing. While we have had an idea of what will be on the exam in that it will be similar to the SACs, it still wasn’t 100% set in stone.

Now, we have a sample paper. Now we can finally have some certainty in what we tell our students about the exam. That isn’t to say the exam will look identical to the sample paper, but at least we now have more of a guide.

So, this post is to highlight any changes and to let you, as students, know what you need to be keeping in mind as you speed toward October (It’s MARCH, WHAT?!)

Click HERE to see the sample exam

Section A: Text Response/ Analytical Interpretation of a Text

This section is basically a safety blanket. It wasn’t broke, so they didn’t fix it and everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. The questions are the same types that we’re used to (propositional [ie. posing a statement and asking you to discuss this idea], quotation and direct) and the texts are familiar. The only difference between the 2016/2017 exams are that in the 2016 exam students are invited to write in either an analytical or expository fashion whereas in the 2017, you must write analytically. This indicates a stronger focus on the metalanguage and the mechanics of how directors, writers, poets etc develop their intention throughout the text. There should be more how and significantly more why. 

Also important to note- if you choose a collection of short stories or poetry, it is stated that you can no longer base your text on one story or poem- at least 2 pieces from the collection must be discussed. Personally, if you were ever going to just discuss one poem/short story your essay would have been severely below average and frankly, if you only discuss two (ie do the barest of minimums), I wouldn’t be holding out much hope.

Section B: Section B – Writing in Context/Comparative analysis of texts

The new bit! How excitement! This is the bit we were all chomping at the bit for and wow- it’s a biggie.

Let’s start with the instructions:

“Section B requires students to write a comparative analysis of a selected pair of texts in response to one topic (either i. or ii.) on one pair of texts.Your response should analyse how the two texts present ideas and/or issues, and should be supported by close reference to both texts in the pair.

If you choose to write on a multimodal text in Section A, you must not write on a text pair that includes a multimodal text in Section B.

In the answer book, indicate which text pair you have chosen to write on and whether you have chosen to answer i. or ii.

Your response will be assessed according to the assessment criteria set out on page 14 of this book.

Section B is worth one-third of the total marks for the examination.”

Nothing too shocking but again, the focus is on analysis and developing an interpretation regarding the views being presented in the texts. You MUST engage with both texts. You MUST use high quality evidence- quotes, language, visual techniques, structural evidence- throughout. It is not an essay about one text with a paragraph thrown in on the other text at the end. It is balanced and it examines how the texts, when compared, offer the audience a richer perspective on the issues and ideas within.

Notice how they don’t even mention themes- themes are at the bottom of the triangle; too broad, too general. The issues and ideas which stem from those themes are what you need to be focusing on as that is where you will find your authorial intent hiding.

The questions themselves is what we were really interested in! What would they look like? Would they be quote based? Propositional? Direct questions? Discussion based? Explicitly structure focused?

The answer, of course, is all of the above. There are some really familiar types of questions but there are some which at first, seem particularly nasty. Sorry to any WCC kids, but the Black Diggers/Longest Memory ones seem like the examiners were having a wordy day when they wrote them. Once you scratch the surface they’re not so bad… but at first- wow.

Here are some examples:

‘It is individual courage and determination that help bring about change in society.’ Explore points of comparison in the way this issue is dealt with in the two texts.

This question is for The Crucible and Year of Wonders . It’s pretty familiar to most students. A propositional question at its most propositional, it provides an issue and asks you to analyse how the text(s) engage with the text. It’s important that you provide an interpretation- that is, what the author intends the reader to understand about this issue.

This question also specifies that it’s engaging with points of comparison rather than those of contrast- this invites discussion of similarities between the text but you can also engage with differences, certainly. They should just be less of a focus.

 “… I also know how important it is in life, not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong.” (Into the Wild)
“… you are as powerful and strong as you allow yourself to be.” (Tracks)
Compare how the importance of personal strength is explored in these texts.

This question is more unique though at its core are still the fundamentals of a quotation based question- quotes provided as the launch pad, with a guiding issue to engage with. You must discuss and analyse the quotes listed. If they do not feature heavily; if you do not develop your contention and interpretation without significant inclusion of these quotes then it’s going to be challenging to get anything above a 7. The assessors have chosen these quotes for a reason. Don’t ignore them. Place them in context and ENGAGE with them.

“Compare what the two texts suggest about gaining wisdom”

This direct question regarding Bombshells and The Penelopiad is as comforting in its familiarity as it is in its brevity. It is broad without being needlessly general but specific enough to direct your focus without stifling your interpretative skill. You will need to ensure that your contention for this is precise and your essay, well planned. Otherwise you could fall into listing all the parts of the texts where one gains wisdom without coming to a conclusion regarding the purpose of these sections and how they point to the author’s/playwright’s views on wisdom and how one comes to develop it.

“Memory is pain trying to resurrect itself.” (The Longest Memory)
“That’s the thing, the bits left behind, they’ll come out, they must.” (Black Diggers)
Using these quotations as a starting point for a comparison between Black Diggers and The Longest Memory, analyse how, in the texts, memory is simultaneously inescapable and unbearable.

I just wanted to highlight the importance of brevity and being concise. This question could be so much more accessible and interesting. Instead, it’s dense and just annoying to read. Break it down, look for those key words and my point about engaging with the quote is amplified 10 fold here as they specifically direct you to use them as a starting point.

Section C: Analysis of language use/Argument and persuasive language

Generally speaking this is pretty similar and if you’ve had good teachers, then you will have been doing it the way they want you to for years.

While in previous years VCAA have left the instructions at:

Section C requires students to analyse the use of written and visual language

The new exam specifically states:

Section C requires students to write an analysis of the ways in which argument and language are used to persuade others to share a point(s) of view

Notice the difference? You must engage not just with language (which you never should have been doing in the first place) but engage with language and how it works in conjunction with argument to persuade the reader. You must, therefore, engage with structure, style, language, audience, purpose, and progression. If you fail to engage with the way one argument follows another and the reason it does so then you’re not fulfilling the brief. Language refers to verbal, written, visual language- so images and graphs are fair game too.

In the grand scheme of things, not that much has changed, however it’s good to be aware of what has so you know what you’re being assessed on.

Also check out the marking guide:

Criteria Section A will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • knowledge and understanding of the text, and the ideas and issues it explores
  • development of a coherent analysis in response to the topic
  • use of textual evidence to support the interpretation
  • control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task

Section B will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • knowledge and understanding of both texts, and the ideas and issues they present
  • discussion of meaningful connections, similarities or differences between the texts, in response to the topic
  • use of textual evidence to support the comparative analysis
  • control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task

Section C will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • understanding of the argument(s) presented and point(s) of view expressed
  • analysis of ways in which language and visual features are used to present an argument and to persuade
  • control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task

Like I said, nothing majorly surprising or new- but enough of a shift to warrant a re-read.

I hope this has been helpful!

Let me know if there’s anything you want me to go over specifically!

Happy studying!

Amy xx

*Victoria

If I were you… Reading and Creating

Howdy, howdy, howdy!

Just a quickie today!

As you begin to consider the first SAC of the year, which for most of you will be the Reading and Creating creative task, it’s important that you know the Key Skills and Knowledge which VCAA wants you to display.

Because this is a SAC and this skill isn’t actually tested in the exam, every school will have a different way of conducting this SAC, however, every school should be basing its teaching and assessing of the text on the same thing; our trusty study design.

Image result for spongebob kissing

This is an excerpt of said document from which I’ve highlighted the crucial bits for this SAC.

On completion of this unit the student should be able to produce an analytical interpretation of a selected text, and a creative response to a different selected text.

To achieve this outcome the student will draw on key knowledge and key skills outlined in Area of Study 1.

Key knowledge

  • an understanding of the world of a text and the explicit and implied values it expresses
  • the ways authors
               – create meaning and build the world of the text
               – respond to different contexts, audiences and purposes
  • the ways in which readers’ interpretations of texts differ and why
  • the features of a range of literary and other written, spoken and multimodal texts
  • the conventions of oral presentations and discussion
  • the features of analytical interpretations of literary and other texts: structure, conventions and language, including relevant metalanguage
  • the features of creative interpretations (written, spoken and multimodal), including structure, conventions and language, and how they create voice and style
  • the conventions of spelling, punctuation and syntax of Standard Australian English.

Key skills

  • explain and analyse
    how the features of a range of texts create meaning and how they influence                     interpretation 
              – the ways readers are invited to respond to texts
  • identify and analyse the explicit and implied ideas and values in texts
  • examine different interpretations of texts and consider how these resonate with or challenge their own interpretations
  • synthesise ideas and interpretations to develop an interpretation of their own
  • apply the conventions of oral presentation in the delivery of spoken texts
  • apply the conventions of discussion
  • use textual evidence appropriately to justify analytical responses
  • plan analytical interpretations of texts
  • develop, test and clarify ideas using discussion and writing
  • plan creative responses to texts by
    – analysing the text, considering opportunities to explore meaning
    – selecting key moments, characters, themes worthy of exploration
    – taking account of the purpose, context, audience in determining the selected content and approach
  • develop and sustain voice and style in creative responses
  • transform and adapt language and literary devices to generate particular responses, with consideration of the original text
  • explain and justify decisions made in the writing process and how these demonstrate understanding of the text
  • draft, review, edit and refine creative and analytical interpretations to texts for expressiveness, accuracy, fluency and coherence, and for stylistic effect
  • apply the conventions of spelling, punctuation and syntax of Standard Australian English accurately and appropriately

So… as you can see… pretty much everything in this list is relevant to you.

Today we’re just going to focus on the 3 key things you must consider before starting to write which covers the following:

  • an understanding of the world of a text and the explicit and implied values it expresses
  • the ways authors
               – create meaning and build the world of the text
               – respond to different contexts, audiences and purposes
  • the ways in which readers’ interpretations of texts differ and why

In this task, I want you to identify the following aspects of your text, whatever it might be:

What are the main themes of the text?
What is the author saying about this theme? What do they want you to think about this theme?
How do you know the author holds this view? What are the 
features of the text which demonstrate this?
How does this relate to the purpose of the author in writing the task?
Do you think your view of the themes are influenced by your own background, knowledge, understanding etc- what aspects influence the way you interpret that theme?

By doing this, you should be able to explicitly detail the authorial intent of the writer. This authorial intent should be reflected in your own work and in your Statement of Intention as it will fulfil the Key Skills of:

plan creative responses to texts by
– analysing the text, considering opportunities to explore meaning
– selecting key moments, characters, themes worthy of exploration
– taking account of the purpose, context, audience in determining the selected content       and approach

Sorry for the quick post! Hope it’s still a useful task for you as you start to tackle this relatively foreign task!

Happy reading!

Amy xx

If I were you… The Statement of Intention

Two weeks ago I promised that next time, I’d talk about the Statement of Intention and what you need to include in this very important and often overlooked piece of writing.

I broke my promise. Sorry.

Image result for promise brokenI hope you can forgive me.

Let’s move on.

Today, we’re looking at what the Statement of Intention is all about. What does it want from you? What do you need to include? What is its purpose? Why do you even have to do it?

The SOI is hardly a new thing, it’s been around in some form or another since at least 2008, but instead of being attached to the oral, it was attached the old CRAP area of study (CReating And Presenting). It asked students to explain their linguistic and creative choices, detailing the links between their writing, the context and their source text. It, like the current incarnation, was all about making thinking visible and forcing students to consider what they were writing- not just pulling something out of the air. It had the added benefit of forcing them to admit that they reasons for writing the way they did and therefore, maybe so did the authors, playwrights, directors etc they were studying did too.

Image result for what the author meant
(This meme is dumb and people who believe it are dumb as evidenced by the spelling and grammar featured in this meme.) 

So, it’s likely that you’ve come across a SOI in some form before now. But it is also likely that you may have ignored it until the last minute or hashed something together in a hurry. Let’s remedy that today. Ready?

Begin.

The Statement of Intention: 

VCAA Assessment Task Description: A written statement of intention to accompany the student’s own oral presentation, articulating the intention of decisions made in the planning process, and how these demonstrate understanding of argument and persuasive language. (10 marks- 1/4 of total grade for this assessment piece) 

The suggested length of the statement of intention is approximately 300–500 words.

Top marks gained by providing: Insightful articulation of the intention of decisions related to selected content and approach made during the planning process, demonstrating complex understanding of purpose, audience and context.

You’ve probably noticed two or three things in this brief blurb of information which VCAA has provided. Firstly, this is not a long piece of writing. You don’t have to detail every sentence and why you chose every single word which you did. It is much more holistic than your average language analysis. Secondly, it’s basically a mini language analysis completed on your own work and therefore, you already know what to comment on as it is the same as what you’ve been doing in all your LA prep.

The key here is that you show your teacher (remember, you will never write one of these in the exam) your thinking processes and how they show that ultimately, you have a complex and well rounded understanding of the art of persuasion.

So, what does that involve?

At my old school, we used a helpful little acronym for our SOIs which you can utilise too!

FLAPA

Image result for flappy

F-FORM: Obviously, this is an oral presentation which brings with it a whole host of things you need to consider. How will you use and vary your voice, what props or visuals- if any- will you use, are you presenting as yourself or as a characterised stakeholder (not something I would recommend, btw). When you address your form, address any key choice you make in the presentation of your speech and why they matter. Due to length restraints you can’t include everything, but if you choose to use a certain image, it might be helpful to include the rationale behind this choice.

L-LANGUAGE: This should make up the bulk of your SOI. Your language and how you’ve shaped it is vitally important as your analysis of your own language will demonstrate that you understand how language can be used to in other works to persuade, which as we read earlier, is the whole point.

A-AUDIENCE: This is sort of a given in your case but you should mention at least one way you’ve catered to your specific audience of your peers and teachers- how have you shaped your language or form or argument to fit your audience? I would be v impressed if a student wrote about the duality of their audience and how they shaped their speech to cater to both their highly educated teachers and their peers.

P-PURPOSE: Your purpose is not to get a good grade. Nor is it to persuade your audience. LIKE YES, I KNOW that both of those things are your purpose here but get specific. Like I mentioned in the post about your speech, your purpose needs to be something like:

  • Convince my audience to sign up for the organ donation program
  • Convince my audience to donate a blanket this winter
  • Make my audience feel guilty about eating chocolate and therefore buy fair trade chocolate

And then you can discuss how your purpose fits with your audience, language, form and argument. The last example came straight from a student I watched present last year who opened her speech by offering around chocolate which nearly everyone took and ate while she systemically described the slave trade which exists to support our sugary, creamy addiction. At the end of her speech, she offered some more chocolate. The response was quite different. It was a great hook and closer and I hope she discussed it in relation to her audience and purpose in her SOI (I do not know- she was not my student, sadly)

A-ARGUMENT: The MOST important part of ANY writing you do in AOS  2 is ARGUMENT. You need to articulate the structure of your argument and how it is ultimately persuasive due to the audience and purpose you have and how you intend to further the progression of your argument in the form and the language of your speech. This is what underpins your entire speech and therefore your SOI.

Questions?

Yes, you can use first person (though check with your teacher first, I’ve heard some get funny about this. Generally speaking though, first person is fine and I personally prefer it IN A SOI)

No, you don’t have to follow the order of FLAPA. In fact, I’d prefer you just to make sure that you include all the components of FLAPA but beyond that, forget it exists. I do not like SOIs which are 5 dot points of: “Form: I started with an image because… Language: I used a rhetorical question…” Your SOI may not be a formal essay but it must still be “Insightful articulation”. 

Yes, your teacher will actually read it (it makes up 1/4 of your mark!!) and it will actually count. I found the SOI most helpful when ranking students as orals, in my opinion, can be notoriously hard to judge and distinguish between 3 16s or between a 27 and 29. The SOI and the care which you put into the planning and crafting of your piece can make all the difference.

Yes, you can include things which you chose not to do. Just include what you chose to do instead and why you chose to do the latter over the former.

No, you can’t hand it in after. It’s due the day of speech or first day of speeches, depending on the format of your presentations.

It’s really not that daunting and basically it’s just an opportunity to talk about how good you are. Essentially, your entire SOI is you sidling up to us and saying “see what I did there?” and sometimes, we don’t, so they’re really useful too.

Image result for see what i did there

Hope this helped you in some way and again, deepest apologies for the interruption.

Happy SOI-ing!