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*


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.


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


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.


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

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.


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:


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.


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:


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… | What to do if you hate Language Analysis

As a student, I hated language analysis.

It was my absolute LEAST favourite part of English and I just didn’t enjoy it at all. I found the process of reading long articles which I often vehemently disagreed with boring and dull. I hated not being able to engage with the opinions being put forward in the piece. I didn’t like how formulaic it was- there was no room to move. You either got the contention right, or you didn’t. There wasn’t much room for interpretation- which was my favourite part of English. I loved coming up with what I thought the author was saying, looking at the text, decoding the symbols, noticing recurring motifs, identifying the real purpose that the author had in writing. I never thought anything was too much of a stretch- I once developed an entire queer theory regarding two characters based on the colour of an umbrella (which I still think is 100% legit although I never included it in any of my pieces because, restraint).

Anyway, as I was a good student (obvs), I knew I needed to find a way to make myself like this beast as it would determine 1/3 of my exam and a fair percentage of my Study Score. I had many methods and while it didn’t make me like language analysis (that came later- in my second year of teaching), it certainly helped me through the necessary study which I had to do in order to succeed in the task. Below are 5 things I did which:

A) Made me better at language analysis

B) Made me enjoy it a bit more

  1. Make like a dentist and drill.
    This is a stupid title but deal with it. One thing I found really helpful was to practice timed “drills” of language analysis pieces. One of the things I didn’t like was the process of reading one really long article, opinion piece, editorial or whatever, annotating the crap out of it and then condense my hours (I’m prone to hyperbole) of work to one essay. So, to practice my skills of annotating, and identifying contentions in concise (NOT my strength) sentences I used the Letters to the Editor page of the paper. The Herald Sun is always a good place to start because they’re rarely subtle but The Age is generally more of a mental workout. I would set the timer and try to annotate and identify the contention of each letter on the page before it went off. It depended on how much time I had as to how long I set the timer for but it always provided the competitive aspect of me with something to work towards. It also forced me to be decisive, concise and precise.
  2. Annoy your family and annotate the ads.
    Every ad you see on TV is aiming to persuade you. While watching TV at night with the fam, I would choose at least one ad every break and explain to my family how it was trying to persuade them- or whoever the chosen audience was. This also provided me with practice in visual annotation and also allowed my vocabulary to expand as I could “talk it out” and didn’t have the constriction of writing. It also made me feel like watching TV was totes studying.
  3. Write sample sentences
    I don’t like advising people to write and memorise pieces. In text response it is the EXACT opposite of what you’re meant to do and it RARELY works. However, in Language Analysis, developing templates and sample sentences can really help. I stuck a list of sentence starters which I developed over the year to my shower wall (along with quotes from the various texts I was studying, formulas from maths and definitions from Psychology) meaning that no time was wasted. It wasn’t even really an issue of memorising the exact sentence- it was knowing the right vocabulary and when to use it. This is particularly useful when writing comparatively.
  4. Cartoon analysis
    I actually loved analysing cartoons. I found it so mentally stimulating so therefore, I did it as much as possible. It improved my vocab and my writing as well as mental health and attitude surrounding LA. I would highly recommend, as a starting point for comparative analysis, compare and contrast the way two cartoonists deal with a particular issue. Consider audience, style, technique etc.
  5. Deload and Detach.
    I found it so hard to remove myself from the issue we studied in Year 12. It was about the refugee crisis- one of my major passions and I often struggled not to criticise the arguments of the people who I was analysing. So, I came up with a solution. Have 1,3, 5 minutes to vent- aloud or on paper (NOT IN YOUR SAC)- and then detach from the issue at hand. You’ve had your say. It’s time to get analytical. To not do it at all was just too hard. Luckily, your exam is unlikely to be on anything you actually care  about (A Big Watermelon, for instance) so this won’t affect you at all.

I hope you find these as helpful as I did!

Happy studying!

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?


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!


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.


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!

If I were you… How to structure your oral presentation. [Year 12 English]

Last week, we discussed how one chooses the issue they are intending to develop their persuasive oral around. Today, it’s all about putting it together. This is generalised advice, so please take it with a grain of salt. Consider your own skills and utilise these to your best ability. Some people are naturally hilarious and can deliver a humorous speech effortlessly, shifting between that jovial tone to a more serious persuasive appeal in a way that compels and unsettles an audience effectively. But not everyone can.

In the same way, not everyone is able to deliver a highly specialised and technical speech with lots of stats and figures in a way that is actually engaging. The key to writing a good speech is to find out what works for you and exploit that in your writing. This isn’t the time to test out if you are in fact destined to be a stand up comedian. This is the time to put to use all the skills you’ve been honing over years of oral presentations.

That being said, there are a couple of major no nos when it comes to delivering an oral- at any level.

Do not, under any circumstance, start with

“Hi, my name is Amy and I’m going to be talking about whaling.”

Firstly, your audience (remember how these guys are your focus point- you’re trying to persuade this specific audience) knows your name. You don’t need to introduce yourself. Obviously, this may be different if you’re doing your orals in front of an audience of parents and friends- but even then, this is not the way to introduce yourself. We’ll cover that later.
Secondly, “whaling” is not an issue. There are many issues covered under the broad umbrella term of whaling but whaling in and of itself is not an issue. Nor is gay marriage. Or euthanasia. Or Donald Trump (I mean, he has issues but he’s not an issue). If you must label your issue in the first sentence of your speech (and I do not recommend you do), at least be specific— your issue might be “how Australia should respond to the claims from Sea Shepherd that a Japanese whaling fleet entered Australian waters”. But that sentence is still dull. Don’t start your speech that way.

Do not finish with “and… yeah!”

I don’t think I need to go into why not. It’s not effective. It makes you sound like a 13 year old girl talking about which 1D member is her fave. Which is fine if that’s what you’re talking about but it’s not and it’s not fine in your year 12 oral.

The way you start and finish your speech is vitally important because that is what people remember. They may not remember all the statistics and facts you’ve laid out but if you bore them, they’ll remember that.

So, if that’s what NOT to do, what then should you do??

Well, there are a few guide lines which I like to use. These can be summed up in the form of a very simple acronym that anyone can remember!


The key to a good speech is HICCUP.

That is:

This is where you grab your audience’s attention. Where you stand up and reveal something to your audience that they don’t know or haven’t heard before. Where you make them care about what you’re talking about and want to know more.

One way I recommend starting your speech is with an anecdote. A story about someone directly affected by the issue you’ll be highlighting. This could be a true story. It could be funny. It could be devastating. It could be personal or it could be global. You might ask the audience to place themselves in that person’s shoes— although, this has been done a lot and can be done poorly.

NB: I wouldn’t recommend using the “imagine you’re…” format if you’re talking about animals. It’s not particularly effective as it’s not very relatable to human experience and especially if you’re talking about something like animal testing, you don’t want people thinking about one of the alternatives to animal testing- testing on humans- in a negative light. It will not help your persuasive cause.

Another way of “hooking” your audience may be by shocking them with stats and facts. Another is by appealing to them on a personal level. All of these things point towards one main goal:

                CREATING A NEED.

If you create a need which your audience wants fulfilled, they will be invested in the rest of your speech. They will therefore listen to your speech in order to find out how they can     meet that need.


The introduction is where you explain what your issue is. You need to show that you have a deep understanding of the topic and also an assured sense that what you’re persuading your audience of is right beyond doubt. This is the time to explain any background information behind your issue which your audience needs to be aware of. It’s the time to explain what a plebiscite is. It’s the time to explain that euthanasia has nothing to do with Singaporean teens. But please don’t just read out the Wikipedia article related to your topic- it’s boring. Keep it relevant and tight. You have a time limit.

The second part of the introduction is you establishing your argument. It relates to how you wrote your hook and how you intend to progress through the evidence and sub arguments. Are you going to focus on establishing your issue as a crisis of compassion or as pure logic? Are you going to be aggressive or gentle? What are you going to target in your specific audience- what will they care about and how will you use that to your advantage?


At this point, all your work in setting up the need and your argument comes to the fore. This is where you outline your arguments and explain the reasons why you are correct and the only acceptable response from your audience is the one you are offering.

I would recommend having no more than 3 main points in your oral. Any more and it will be too long. Any less and it will seem like your argument is unsupported and will therefore be unconvincing. There are studies which I could go into about why the number 3 works but just trust me. It’s the best amount of arguments.

For each argument you must have evidence to support it. This can be concrete evidence like facts and stats, or it can be anecdotal evidence. Just remember who your audience is and which pieces of evidence will be the most effective for them. Ensure your evidence is supporting your argument, not the other way around. There’s nothing duller than a list of statistics and it will seem like you don’t really understand the issue, you’ve just read some information about it. By starting with an argument and backing it up with evidence, it ensures that you’re considering both aspects.

The key thing to consider here is have I met the need which I set up in the hook? If you told me a story about how sad it is that our young people can’t find jobs, have you told me what should be done to make sure “Sally” can now get meaningful work? If not, my need is left unmet and I am therefore unpersuaded by your speech.


Finally, it’s time to conclude. This is where you bring it back to your audience and what you want their response to be. Are you looking for personal active or passive agreeance? Do you want them to sign a petition? Change their own behaviour? OR, do you just want them to nod along? Agree with you? Shake their heads at the same things you do? Potentially change their vote at the next election? Either is fine but if it is the former, you need to tell them what to do and BRIEFLY, revisit why. Remind them of the consequences if they don’t. Similarly, remind them of the consequences if they don’t believe the way you want them to. Finish STRONG. Finish with a statement of fact that cannot be refuted. Finish the way you want your speech to remembered. Finish with something that will leave the audience thinking.

NB: Finishing by questioning the audience is sometimes effective but can be overdone and a bit predictable. Be careful and see how it sounds when you’re practising. 


This is key. Know your issue back to front. I shouldn’t be able to learn more about your issue from an hour of casual googling. I should be able to ask you questions about stakeholders, key points, the historical background and the various opinions on it and you should be able to generally address these. Obviously, no one is expecting you to know everything but I certainly need you to be well versed in the issue you choose.


Make sure you’re passionate about your issue, or at least make sure you can pretend that you’re passionate about it. Practice makes perfect and your use of voice, body language and eye contact is key to convincing me to care as much as you do about negative gearing. Good luck.

Hopefully this HICCUP structure will help your speech go off without one. It’s just a rough guide but I think it’s a good one. Just remember the cardinal rules of public speaking:

  • Fake it til you make it
  • Practise makes perfect
  • That audience in their underwear trick doesn’t work and it’s super weird if your audience are your teachers. Just… done.

Next week, we’ll look at the Statement of Intention and what you should include in it to make sure you get the maximum marks possible.

Happy Speaking!