Go ahead and tilt your mobile the right way (portrait). The kool kids don't use landscape...
Wondering what VCAA examiners might be looking for in a high-scoring essay? Each year, the VCE EAL Examination Reports shed light on some of the features that examiners are looking for in high-scoring responses for the Listening and Language Analysis sections of the EAL exams. Let's go through 5 key points from the reports so that you know how to achieve a 10/10 yourself.
For advice on how you can apply the VCE EAL Examination Reports to strengthen your skills in the listening section, see Tips on EAL Listening.
Tip #1 Analyse How the Overall Argument Was Structured
‘The highest-scoring responses analysed argument use and language in an integrated way. Some responses used a comparative approach that analysed arguments and counter arguments from both texts in the same paragraph. However, only comparatively few responses focused on how the overall argument was structured.’
So how do we write about/analyse ‘how the overall argument was structured’?
To save time during the exam, we can adopt templates that can help us transfer our thoughts into words in a fast and efficient way. You can construct your own templates, and you may want to have various templates for various scenarios or essays. Below, I have provided a sample template and I’ll show you how you can use this template in your own essays.
(AUTHOR)’s manner of argument is proposed in real earnest in an attempt to convince the readers of the validity of his/her proposal of...by first…and then supplying solutions to...(DIFFICULTIES), thus structuring it in a logical and systematic way.
The above template ONLY applies to opinion pieces that satisfy these 2 rules:
The opinion piece commences by presenting the ‘bad effect/consequence/situation’ of the topic
The opinion piece supplies the solution to resolve the ‘bad effect/consequence/situation’ of the topic
For example, say the author, John White, contends that plastic bags should be banned and does so by:
commencing the piece with the fact that plastic bags can travel long distances by wind and water. They litter our landscapes, float around in waterways, and can eventually end up in the oceans, ultimately polluting the ocean and posing a threat to marine animals
then supplies solution to ban plastic bags
When we use our template here, the intro may look like this - note that I’ve bolded the ‘template’ parts so you can clearly see how the template has been used:
John White’s manner of argument, proposed in real earnest in an effect to convince the readers of the validity of his proposal of banning plastic bags by first exposing the deleterious nature of these bags to our environment and natural habitat and thensupplying solutions to ban plastic bags, putting it in effect in a logical and systematic way.
‘Students are encouraged to use the key words in the questions as a focus for their listening...Short-answer questions require concise and precise answers. Responses that demonstrated understanding provided what was asked for without including extraneous information.’
Some students tend to add unnecessary information in their answers. Although the answers are correct, they will NOT earn you any extra marks. Listening answers should NOT be a mini essay. Writing irrelevant information will not only waste time but may also compromise the accuracy and overall expression of your response.
Tip #3 Practice Makes Perfect
The examination reports frequently point out that students struggle with identifying and describing the tone and delivery. For example, the 2017 VCAA EAL Examination Report states:
‘Identifying tone and delivery is challenging for students and emphasis on this is needed...Students are encouraged to use the key words in the questions as a focus for their listening’.
The good news is, just like most skills, listening and identifying the tone can both be improved with practice. In fact, VCAA acknowledges the importance of daily practice as well.
‘Students need to develop their critical listening skills both in and outside of the classroom. They are encouraged to listen, in English, to anything that interests them – current affairs, news, documentaries and podcasts can all be useful.’(2017 VCAA EAL Examination Report)
Practicing listening does not necessarily mean sitting down and doing Section A questions; it can be as simple as talking with classmates, teachers, neighbours, friends from work, church, etc.
VCAA encourages us to write answers that make sense to the reader and are grammatically correct. Make sure you do address, and ONLY address, what the question is asking, because marks will not be rewarded for redundant information.
‘Short answer questions require concise and precise answers. Responses that demonstrated understanding provided what was asked for without including extraneous information. Expression skills need to be sufficiently controlled to convey meaning accurately.’ (2017-2019 VCAA EAL Examination Report)
HINT: This may sound super simple, but a lot of EAL students struggle with it. If you do, you are definitely not alone. Some students seek to use complicated words and/or sentence structures, but we should not compromise clarity over complexity.
Tip #5 Use a Range of Precise Vocabulary
VCAA acknowledges the importance of sophisticated vocabulary. This phrase ‘analysis expressed with a range of precise vocabulary’ has been repeatedly used to describe high-scoring essays in the examination reports from 2017 onwards
Below is a listof commonly misspelled, misused and mispronounced words. If you don’t know the meaning of a word, check out Collins Online Dictionary for definitions OR you can use a physical copy of the Collins Dictionary (which you are allowed to bring into the exam and SACs).
Words That Look the Same/Have Super Similar Spelling:
Abroad vs. Aboard
Adapt vs. Adopt vs. Adept
Affect vs. Effect
Altar vs. Alter
Angel vs. Angle
Assent vs. Ascent vs. Accent
Aural vs. Oral
Baron vs. Barren
Beam vs. Bean
Champion vs. Champagne vs. Campaign
Chef vs. Chief
Chore vs. Chord
Cite vs. Site
Compliment vs. Complement
Confirm vs. Conform
Contact vs. Contrast vs. Contract
Contend vs. Content
Context vs. Content
Costume vs. Custom
Counsel vs. Council vs. Consul
Crow vs. Cow vs. Crown vs. Clown
Dairy vs. Diary
Decent vs. Descent vs. Descend
Dessert vs. Desert
Dose vs. Doze
Drawn vs. Draw vs. Drown
Extensive vs. Intensive
Implicit vs. Explicit
In accord with vs. In accordance with
Later vs. Latter
Pray vs. Prey
Precede vs. Proceed
Principal vs. Principle
Sweet vs. Sweat
Quite vs. Quiet
For an overview of the EAL study design plus tips and tricks for reading comprehension, time management and more, check out The Ultimate Guide to EAL.
Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide
Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps.
So…you’ve just begun the school year and you’re feeling pretty excited about English. You’re determined to put aside all distractions this year and to only focus on studying, studying and studying. But…the minute you sit down at your desk, you find that your mind goes completely blank and that you are left only with one dreadful question: What now?
If this sounds all too familiar to you, you are definitely not alone. English can often make you feel like you don’t even know where to start. So, here is a quick guide that can help you to plan out your year, to break free from procrastination and to find some sparks of motivation when you feel like there is simply no road ahead.
Step 1: Read Your Text!
This may seem like the most obvious step, but it can make all the difference when done thoughtfully and thoroughly. One thing that VCAA English examiners always look for when reading text responses is in-depthknowledge and understanding of the text, and the best way to develop and gain this knowledge is to read, read, and read again! Try to treat your text like a blank map, full of unexplored territories and winding roads that are there for you to uncover each time you read the text.
When you read your text for the first time, look out for the major roads and landmarks; the setting and premise, the plot, the characters, the broad ideas, the authorial voice and style etc. Once you’ve gotten a good grasp of the major elements of your text, read it again, and focus on adding more detail to your map; fleshing out characters, understanding their motives, understanding the author’s purpose, and underlining key quotations and particular passages that encompass a broader idea. If you’re a forgetful person like me, you might find it helpful to note down some key observations as you go and to create a summary you can always refer back to throughout the year.
Step 2: Read Around Your Text
While reading and rereading your text will definitely help you to know your text in and out, in order to fully tick the box of knowledge and understanding, it is also important to read around the text; to understand the context of when and why the text was written, for whom it was written, and the impact the text has had on both its original audience and its audience today. Especially for texts that are rooted in history, like The Women of TroyorRear Window, understanding context and background information is essential in understanding the text itself. After all, Rear Window just wouldn’t be Rear Window if it weren’t for the McCarthyistic attitudes that were so prevalent at the time, and The Women of Troy would have been a far more different play had it not been written during wartime. Each text is a product of both its creator and its time, so make the effort to research the writer, playwright or filmmaker, and the historical, cultural, social and political context of your text.
When doing your research, it can be helpful to use a set of questions like the one below as a guideline, to ensure that the information you’re finding is always relevant.
Who is the writer/playwright/filmmaker?
Who is the audience?
When/where was your text written?
When/where is your text set?
Why was your text written?
What is the style/genre of your text?
Step 3: Study Your Text
Here’s where it gets a bit more difficult. Now that you’ve drawn out your map, and dotted it with various landmarks, rivers and roads, it is time to actually use your map to go somewhere; to make use of all the knowledge and background information you have gathered so that you can begin to analyse and dissect your text in greater detail. Studying a subject with as large of a cohort as VCE English can oftentimes mean that ideas are recycled and exams are repetitive, so in order to distinguish yourself from the pack, try to look for ways to craft your own original path; a view of the text that is distinctly your own, instead of following others. The best way to do this is to do a bit of thinking at home; to create your own original set of notes and observations and to spend time analysing each section of your text in greater detail than you may have done in class.
Constructing a notes table like the one below can help you greatly in sorting and fleshing out your ideas, and, when done consistently throughout the year, can save a lot of time and effort when it comes to studying for the exam!
The Women of Troy Notes Table:
Step 4: Target Your Study to Your SAC
So...you’ve made it all the way to your SAC. You may be feeling nervous at this point, even a little burnt out, but there is no need to worry. Studying for your SAC simply requires a bit of adjusting to your normal studying routine; changing it up so that instead of simply brainstorming ideas, you’re actually using these ideas in topic sentences, and instead of collating a list of quotes, you’re embedding these quotes into a practice paragraph. These are all examples of targeted study: taking all the information you’ve gathered on your text, all the notes you’ve made, and all the work you’ve done in class, and putting it into practice.
Targeted study could be done in the form of an essay plan, or unpacking an essay question
Bold keywords from the prompt: ‘I ask you not to hate me. With the greatest reluctance / I must tell you the news…’ Euripides softens the brutality of the Greeks’ behaviour through his characterisation of Talthybius.
To what extent do you agree? This part is asking me to adopt a specific viewpoint, whether you agree, disagree or are somewhere in between.
Step 2: Brainstorm
Unpack the keywords in the topic:
'not to hate me', 'greatest reluctance'– Talthybius’ desire to be liked, his understanding of the actions of Greeks
Softens the brutality– Talthybius serves as the opposing force to the Greeks’ brutal behaviour, makes the Greeks more sympathetic
Characterisation– Talthybius’ personality, behaviour, actions, language
Step 3: Create a Plan
Contention:While Talthybius is used by Euripides to evoke some sympathy for the Greeks, ultimately, he serves to exacerbate the cruelty of the Greeks’ actions and the devastating consequences of their fall from a civilised, sacred people to a bestial, impulse-driven group of men.
Paragraph 1: Certainly, amongst his peers which are excoriated by Euripides for their cruel, unfeeling behaviour, Talthybius is depicted to be the most humane of the Greeks due to his conflicted nature, evoking sympathy amongst the audience, and reinstating some humanity to the Greeks’ otherwise sullied reputation.
Targeted study could also be done in the form of unpacking quotes, and analysing their significance
We can also use the ABC steps here. For example:
'Like the mother bird to her plundered nest, my song has become a scream'
Step 1: Analyse
Demonstrates the dehumanisation of the Trojan women, and the heinous, beastly actions of the Greek men, who, like their 'war machine' description, have subverted all that is natural to become violent, and all that is beautiful to become grotesque
Step 2: Brainstorm
'Mother bird' - animal imagery, maternalistic
'My song has become a scream' - demonstrates devastation, contrast between melody to dissonance
Step 3: Create a Plan
Embed the quote into a sentence, e.g.:
Euripides’ description of Hecuba as a 'mother bird' at her 'plundered nest' demonstrates the innately maternal nature of her character through animal imagery, while also emphasising the vulnerability of the Trojan women, who have been reduced to defenceless prey as a result of the Greeks’ predatory and beastly behaviour.
Planning essays and breaking down prompts/quotes are extremely time-efficient ways to approach your texts and SACs. Rather than slaving away for hours and hours writing full essays, these simpler forms of targeted study can and will save you the burnout and will get you feeling confident faster.
Only move on to writing a full practice essay or some practice paragraphs once you feel you have a good in-depth understanding of how to plan an essay and once you have already naturally memorised some important quotes that you can use in your essay (learn how to embed your quotes like a boss here). Remember, quality over quantity, so spend your time before your SAC revising thoughtfully and carefully, targeting your revision, and taking things slowly, rather than robotically churning out essay after essay.
Step 5: Embrace the Exam!
The end of every VCE English journey is the highly anticipated, dreaded and feared English exam. Now, while you may be reading those words with a horror movie soundtrack playing in your mind, the English exam, despite being a gruelling 3 hours of essay-writing, really isn’t as horrific as it sounds. Preparing for it is also much less intense than you might think it to be, because essentially, from the very first time you read your text, you will have already begun preparing for the exam. All that is left to do before the English exam is to polish up on some of your weaknesses identified in your SACs, to look over all the notes and information you have gathered throughout the year, to freshen up on essay writing and essay planning, and to do a couple of practices, so that you can feel as ready as you can for the real thing.
In particular, I found that in the leadup to my English exam, studying with my friends and peers was not only a welcome stress reliever, but a really good way to expand my own knowledge by helping others and being helped myself. Having your peers review your essays and helping to give feedback on theirs is always an excellent way to improve your own essay-writing skills, and, a great way to provide good constructive criticism is to follow the GIQ rule (I’m not sure if this is a real rule…but it works!)
What was GOOD about the piece? e.g. Your sentences flow really well, and you embed quotes into sentences phenomenally!
What could be IMPROVED? e.g. Perhaps adding a couple of sentences elaborating on this idea could make your essay even better!
What QUESTIONS do you have about the piece? e.g. I don’t really understand this sentence, what were you trying to say here?
Hopefully, these tips will be able to help you out throughout the year in staying motivated and feeling okayabout English! Remember, this is just here as a guide to help you, and not a strict regimen to follow, because everyone studies differently, and has different goals in English.
However, now that you have a clearer pathway and plan for learning your texts in-depth, what’s next? Well, it’s pretty important that you learn about the different areas of study so that you understand how you’ll actually apply all of your new-found text knowledge to each of your SACs and the exam. Our Ultimate Guide to Text Response and Ultimate Guide to Comparative give you a full rundown of what is required in these two areas of study (where you will have to learn specific texts) so I would highly recommend having a read!
The big trap students doing both English and Literature fall into is the habit of writing Close Readings like a Language Analysis essay. In essence, the two of these essays must tick the same boxes. But, here’s why analysing texts in Literature is a whole different ball game – in English, you want to be focusing on the methods that the author utilises to get their message across, whereas Literature is all about finding your own message in the writing.
In a Language Analysis essay, the chances are that most students will interpret the contention of the writer in a similar fashion and that will usually be stated in the introduction of the essay. Whereas in Literature, it is the formulation of your interpretation of the author’s message that is what really counts. In a typical Language Analysis essay, the introduction is almost like a summary of what’s going to be talked about in the next few paragraphs whereas in a close reading, it is the fresh ideas beyond the introduction that the markers are interested in.
For this reason, every Close Reading that you do in Literature will be unique. The overarching themes of the text you are writing from may be recurring, but for every passage from the text that you are given, what you derive from that will be specific to it.
From my experience, this is what stumps a lot of students because of the tendency is to pick up on the first few poetic techniques used in the passages and create the basis for the essay from that. This usually means that the student will pick up on alliteration (or another technique that they find easy to identify) used by the author and then try and match it to an idea that they have discussed in class. Whilst this can be an effective way to structure paragraphs, many students aren’t consciously utilising this approach and instead are doing it ‘by accident’ under time pressure, or a lack of understanding of other ways to get a point across.
In general, there are two main approaches that can be followed for body paragraphs in a literature close reading analysis:
1. Start wide and narrow down.
What does this mean? So, as I mentioned before, each of your close readings should be very specific to the passages in front of you and not rehearsed. However, it’s inevitable that you are going to find some ideas coming back more often. So, after reading through the passage, you will usually get a general understanding of the tone that the author has utilised. This will indicate whether the author is criticising or commending a certain character or social idea. Using this general overview to start your paragraph, you can then move closer and closer into the passage until you have developed your general statement into a very unique and clear opinion of the author’s message (with the support of textual evidence of course).
This is the essay approach that is generally preferred by students but is often used poorly, as without practice and under the pressure of writing essays in exam conditions, many students revert back to the old technique of finding a literary device that they are comfortable with and pushing forth with that.
The good thing about this approach is that when you understand the general themes that the author covers, you will become better and better at using that lens to identify the most impactful parts of the passage to unpack as you scrutinise the subtle nuances of the writer’s tone.
2. Start narrow and go wide.
You guessed it - it’s basically the opposite of the approach above. However, this is a more refined way of setting out your exploration of the author’s message as opposed to what was discussed earlier (finding random literary devices and trying to go from there). Using this approach does not mean that you have no direction of where your paragraph might end, it just means that you think the subtle ideas of the author can be used in culmination to prove their wider opinion. For example, if you get a passage where the author describes a character in great detail (Charlotte Brontë students, you might be familiar!) and you think there is a lot of underlying hints that the author is getting at through such an intricate use of words, then you might want to begin your paragraphs with these examples and then move wider to state how this affects the total persona built around this character and then maybe even a step further to describe how the writer’s attitude towards this character is actually a representation of how they feel towards the social ideas that the character represents.
The benefit of this approach is that if you are a student that finds that when you try and specify on a couple of key points within a large theme, you end up getting muddled up with the potential number of avenues you could be writing about, this style gives a bit of direction to your writing. This approach is also helpful when you are trying to link your broader themes together.
The main thing to remember in the structure of your body paragraphs – the link between your examples and the broader themes that you bring up should be very much evident to the marker. They should not have to work to find the link between the examples you are bringing up and the points that you are making. Remember, a Close Reading is all about the passage that is right in front of you and its relation in the context of the whole text and the writer’s message. Be clear about your opinion, it matters!
The scariest part of the EAL exam, while might not be the most daunting task, is probably getting your head wrapped around an unfamiliar language analysis task under time condition. Jargons and difficult terms might be used, and some articles tend to not be so straightforward making this task more challenging for EAL students. This blog post aims to alleviate this fear for all EAL students as much as possible and better your performance in the end-of-year exams. After reading this, I'd highly recommend our Ultimate Guide To Language Analysis as you study for your next SAC or exam.
To understand and analyse an article well, you will need to know the writer’s contention well, identifying whether they are for or against an idea. Most language analysis articles are written on an issue, which is why it is important to spot what the issue is and the writer’s stance. Most of the time, the writer’s contention is found at the beginning of the article, in the title, though there are times it is found at the end of the article. Sometimes, skimming through an article might be sufficient for you to find its main point.
Spotting and understanding arguments, on the other hand, might be much more difficult as they can be found anywhere within the articles and the number of arguments contained varies from articles to articles.
The good news is, there is no right or wrong answer in English so there is no need to be too worried about whether what you are writing is ‘precise’ or not. In order to look for arguments and ‘chunk the reading passage’ in the most efficient way, you should be paying attention to the ways the writer tries to structure the article (e.g. paragraphs, headings and subheadings if there are any, etc). More than often arguments can be found at the beginning of paragraphs (writers might also use that good old Topic-Evidence-Example-Linking structure in drafting their piece) and sometimes two consecutive paragraphs focus on one singular argument.
Also, arguments should be specific and support the writer’s contention. For instance, if the contention is ‘technology ameliorates Americans’ standards of living’, the arguments might be something along the lines of ‘it is beneficial as it improves efficiency in workplace environment’ or ‘it allows people to communicate easily’. Trying to make an educated guess on what the arguments might look like will definitely help if you already know the contention of the article.
Language barriers might be an issue if the writer uses technical terms related to an unfamiliar area (e.g. an article about “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis”, a lung disease caused by a certain type of dust, might pop up – highly unlikely but thank me later if it does come up). This is why dictionaries are there to help us and they are a must-have coming into EAL exams and SACs. You are allowed to bring bilingual dictionaries as well, so make sure you have a good set of dictionaries that you can bring into SACs and exams. Regardless of how fluent you are, there is still a possibility that they use one if not more than one unfamiliar term in your language analysis articles.
However, it is not always difficult to guess the meaning of the word without using the dictionary (time restraints!!) by looking at the sentence as a whole. The location of the words within a sentence might allow you to make a reasonable guess of what type of words it is or what it might mean. If it is the subject or object of the sentence, it is either a pronoun, a noun or a name. If the word is after a subject, it is likely to be a verb which describes an action! To familiarise yourself with sentence structure further, read my guide on The Keys To English Fluency and Proficiency.
Answering Reading Comprehension Questions
Section C, Question 1 requires students to write short answers, in note form or sentences, which altogether will make up of 50% of the marks in Section C. I am not sure about you but for a lot of students, getting good marks for Question 1 is much easier than getting good marks for Question 2, which requires you to write a full language analysis essay. This is why it is important that you are able to maximise your marks in this question because they are purported to be easier marks to get! Some of the questions will ask the students for factual information but more difficult questions will require to think about that is contained in the text and make an interpretation based on your understanding.
1. Question words
To know what sort of answer you are expected to give before looking for details from the article, you need to be familiar with question words.
WHO - A particular person or group of people impacted by an incident or involved in a situation
WHAT - This really depends. It might require you to give out information about something or to identify reasons for the writer’s opinions (which is good it might make it easier for you to find the writer’s arguments)
WHEN - The timeframe within which an issue or event occurred (date, day, etc)
WHERE - The location of an event
WHY - The reasons for something
HOW - How a problem can be resolved
2. Direction words
Unfortunately, not all questions in this section have “question words” and examiners usually give out questions that are broader using “direction words” or “task words”, making this section more challenging for students. EAL is not the only subject that requires students to know their direction words well so it is definitely worthwhile learning these words to improve your performance. These are the most common direction words used in Section C (see below!).
Giving information about something or to identify the writer’s opinions
This requires you to give out information in your own words and elaborate
Students will be required to find what is asked from the article and write them down in the briefest form possible
Usually in note forms – to answer this you need to identify what is asked and briefly noting them down
Retelling something in a succinct and concise ways in your own words, it should only be enough to highlight key ideas
Finding evidence from the text to justify a statement or opinions
3. Marks allocation
Another super helpful tip is to pay extra attention to the marks allocation of the questions. It usually gives you a fairly accurate indication of how much you should write. The general rule of thumb would be that the number of marks tell students how many sentences or points they should be making.
Identify the reasons why the writer loves travelling (2 marks)
Students should be writing down 2 reasons why the writer loves travelling
The editor strongly opposes the use of plastic bag. Support this statement (3 marks)
In this case, it is probably best to find 3 pieces of evidence from the article that justify the statement stated to make sure you do not lose any marks by not writing enough.
4. Sample Questions And Response
My own response and annotation of Question 1 and Section C of the 2017 EAL exam is below. I really hope it would give you guys a better idea of what is expected from EAL students.
Time Management Tips
Look at the comprehension questions during reading time
I usually used my reading time skimming through the article, looking at the questions and flip back and forth the booklet to look for answers for the questions at the back. The reason why this was the first thing I did was because they often contain clues of what the arguments might me. Questions such as “give three reasons why the editor thought technology is beneficial” will help you immediately identify some key ideas and arguments in the article.
Look for key features instead of analysing and finding techniques straight away
I also used the reading time to find the contention, determine what type of article it was and the source, etc. The following acronym might help you! I often tried identifying all of the features below as it also helped me plan my introduction within reading time.
For a detailed guide on How to Write an A+ Language Analysis Introduction, check out our advice here.
Set out a detailed time management plan for your essay the night before the SAC or exams(or earlier if possible)
Be strict with yourself, know your writing speed and know how long it takes you to write a paragraph.
Stick with one introduction’s structure/ format
If you are used to writing an introduction that, for instance, starts off by introducing the issue, title of the piece, author, and then the contention, tone, audience then stick with it, or memorise it if you do not have the best writing speed or just do not work well under time pressure.
Whether or not (issue) is an issue that garners much attention in recent media. In response to this, (author) writes a (form) titled “(title)” to express his disapprobation/endorsement of (issue) to (audience). By adopting a (tone word 1) and (tone word 2),(author) asserts/ articulates/ contends that (contention). With the use of an accompanying visual, the writer enhances the notion that (contention).
Not be way too thorough with annotation
When it comes to performing well under time condition, perfectionism might hinder you from best maximising your marks! Everyone learns differently and has different approaches to this task but it is probably better if we do not spend way too much time annotating the article. While it is important to scan through the article and identify important persuasive techniques, sometimes it is more than sufficient to just circle or highlight the technique instead of colour-coding it, writing down what its effects on the audience, labelling techniques. Don’t get me wrong, these aforementioned steps are important, but there is no point writing that information down twice because you will be repeating those steps as you write your essay anyway! I’d recommend trying out different annotation techniques and see what works for you, but for me minimalism served me well.
Create your own glossary of words
Sometimes, it takes too much time just sitting down staring at the paper deciding what words you should be using. We’ve all been there, worrying if you have repeated “highlight” or “position” way too many time. Memorising a mini glossary might solve this issue and save us writing time. I have included a sample glossary for you to fill in, hopefully it helps you as much as it did me! It might be a good starting point for you.
The writer criticises …critiques, lambastes, chastises, condemns, denounces, etc
At the end of the day, regardless of how many tips you have learned from this blog, it would not be enough to significantly improve your marks unless you practice frequently. Knowing how long it takes you to write the introduction, or each paragraph will better enable you to finish the essay within the time set and allow you to spend a bit of spare time proofreading your essay. If you are aiming for A+’s, writing every week is probably the best piece of advice I can give because without enough practice, your performance under pressure cannot match up to your usual performance.
Written expression is often overlooked in our essays. Often, if we are made aware of clunky or awkward expression, we are also not quite sure how to go about improving it. Although sophisticated and pertinent ideas serve as the foundation of a successful essay, how we construct our sentences and express these ideas may be what distinguishes a good essay from a great essay.
These differences can be rather subtle, but the small things can and do matter.
1) USE YOUR VOCAL CHORDS
(to read out loud, not sing… unless you really want to)
Take your essay and read it out loud. Let your own conscience guide you in terms of whether a particular sentence flows well, is complete and makes sense. Keep your eye out for these small errors in particular: Grammar:Does your sentence actually make sense? Let’s have a look at an example:Although Funder suggests that the act of telling one’s story, especially one of victimisation, can catalyse the internal confrontation and healing required to move on.
(This is not grammatically correct! This is because this example only contains a subordinate clause and is lacking a main clause.)
But wait… what is this ‘subordinate clause’ and ‘main clause’?
A clause includes a subject and a verb.
Melissa ate an apple.After Wendy ate an apple.
What is the difference between the two clauses above?
‘Melissa ate an apple’ makes grammatical sense on its own. This is what we call a main clause (or an independent clause). On the other hand, ‘After Wendy ate an apple’ is an incomplete sentence as it does not make sense. What happened after Wendy ate her apple? This is the information that is missing from the latter clause, making this a subordinate clause (or a dependent clause).
So now let’s try again…
Although Funder suggests that the act of telling one’s story, especially one of victimisation, can catalyse the internal confrontation and healing required to move on, ultimately, these individuals can never be truly free from the past that has irrevocably defined them.
(Hooray! This is a complete sentence now.)
Spelling: Are the title of the text, the author or director’s name, characters’ names, publisher’s name, etc. all spelt correctly (and capitalised, underlined, and italicised appropriately)?
Did you use the correct there, their and they’re? How about it’s and its? (and so on).
Sentence length: Did that sentence just go on for 5 lines on a page and you are out of breath now? You can most probably split that overloaded sentence into two or more sentences that make much more sense. Check whether you have a clear subject in your sentence. If you have three different ideas in one sentence, give each idea its own opportunity (ie. sentence) to shine. The opposite also applies: if it is for a very short sentence, did that sentence pack enough content or analysis?
One spelling error or half-finished sentence in an essay will not severely affect your mark, but they can easily add up if they occur often enough. Consequently, this will distract the reader from engaging with your ideas fully and thus disrupt the flow of your essay.
By being aware of these aspects, you are now able to easily fix them and boost your writing.
2) BE SUBTLE
Try not to be casual or overt in your writing as it can be quite jarring to read and unfortunately give readers a potentially negative impression of your piece.
Try not to use phrases such as:
- In my opinion… (You do not need it as your entire essay should be your implicit opinion!)
- This quote shows that… (Embed the quote and link to its implication instead)
- This technique is designed to… (Identify the technique and be specific, especially in Language Analysis)
- I think that…, I believe… (Avoid using first person in a formal essay. Use of first person in creative writing is fine though if required)
They are redundant and do not add much to your ideas and analysis. Try omitting them and see whether that helps your sentence flow better and seem more formal.
3) LINK ‘EM UP
Sentences that seem disjointed or a clear connection can make it difficult for your teacher or the assessor to join the dots between an idea and an implication or consequence. Use linking words as they are fantastic for explicitly showing the reader how your ideas are related and thus allow your writing to proceed smoothly.
Therefore, hence, thus, thereby, consequently, subsequently, in addition, additionally, furthermore, moreover, on the other hand, on the contrary, however, henceforth, and so on… The list is endless!
4) ADD OOMPH (through vocabulary)
In general, having a wide vocabulary will allow you to express your ideas and analysis more accurately as you are likely to have access to a precise word that can capture the essence of your idea. Make a vocabulary list for a particular text or for Language Analysis (such as tone words) and aim to use varied language to convey yourself well.
If you’d like to see a list of sentence starters and essay phrases to help you get a headstart on expanding your vocabulary, check out this blog.
Focus on verbs and expanding your list of synonyms for words such as shows, demonstrates, highlights, emphasises, suggests and so on. An individual, character, author or director may not only be conveying but also denigrating or remonstrating or bolstering or glorifying or insinuating. Adding precision to your writing through careful vocabulary choice will distinguish your writing and also add complexity.
BEWARE! There is a fine line to tread with sophisticated vocabulary - do not overload your writing as you can risk writing convoluted sentences that hinder the reader’s ability to understand your piece. Also make sure that you understand the nuances of each synonym and that they are used in the correct context! (They are synonyms after all - not the same word!)
If you are debating whether to use a word, ask yourself: do you know what it means?
If yes: Go for it!
If no: Do not use it until you know what it means.
Reading sample essays, The Age Text Talks, reviews and more of the texts you are currently studying will expose you to not only a multitude of interpretations of your text, but also to different sentence structures, writing styles or vocabulary that you could incorporate into your own writing.
I would also highly recommend that you read outside of the texts you are studying if you have time, whether that may be novels by the same author or even newspapers. Your written expression will only benefit from this exposure as the ways you can express yourself through writing continue to increase upon seeing others’ eloquence.
6) GET WRITING
If you do not write, you will never be able to improve your written expression. Put pen to paper (or hands to keyboard) and start constructing that essay. You can only fix your writing once you have writing to fix.
Let’s briefly discuss the background of the article before we dive into the analysis…
So, the background information tells us that “Biodiversity is the term used to describe life on Earth — the variety of living things, the places they inhibit and the interactions between them.”
The article at hand is a transcript of a speech given by Professor Chris Lee at the International Biodiversity Conference 2010.
The purpose of this conference is to review the progress made towards achieving the target and to look beyond 2010.
Now, let’s analyse the opening of the speech. Take a second to read through Lee’s speech opener...
Firstly, we can analyse the way in which Lee addresses his audience. Rather than using a phrase like "Hi everyone" or a similar greeting, he actually refers to his audience as his "fellow delegates" which allows him to speak in a particularly candid and honest manner. He wants to be transparent about the reality of the situation with his peers, rather than trying to impress an audience or something similar.
Overall, this anecdote appeals to the emotions of the audience and plays on an apparent devotion/commitment presumably made to the environment by the delegates of a Biodiversity conference. Lee uniquely seeks to persuade his audience by using the information he knows about them – their past commitments.
More specifically, we can dive into the pejorative mood of the adjectives he uses to describe the second scene, which is one of destruction, especially compare to the images he presents first. The "lush jungle" with a variety of "interesting flora and fauna" on the banks of a "clear river" appears particularly idyllic in juxtaposition with the images of the "scorched earth", "gooey mudslide", "sepia tinge" and "barren sticks hopelessly groping for life."
In the last sentence, the repetition of the word "gone" reminds Lee's "fellow delegates" of what will be lost if action on biodiversity is not taken.
Now, we know that in any given Language Analysis article, there are so many things to analyse, which I’ve demonstrated with all of the things we managed to focus on in that single paragraph.
Often, students will be able to identify lots of techniques and as such, lots of elements to analyse, but they struggle to choose between these techniques when it comes to writing their responses.
I’d highly recommend that you download a free sample of my eBook, How To Write A Killer Language Analysis which talks about techniques you can use to pick what to write about in your essays. We won’t have enough time to talk about those techniques today, so we’ve written them down for you in the eBook.
Now that we’ve looked at how Lee has started his speech, let’s skip forward to a later section of the article. Take a second to read through the section.
One of the first things that may jump out at you is this repetition of inclusive language; "we are", "we have". However, this is way too obvious! For an upper level response, we want to steer clear of the cliche techniques and analyse ones that have more value and show off our own perspective of the article.
Utilising the statements, "everyone in the lecture theatre knows this" and "clearly, it is our lack of unity", Lee includes the audience and holds all of the delegates accountable through declaring the reasons for failure as simple matters of fact.
Here, Lee trivializes the actions of the organisation in creating "glossy brochures" with "wonderful words" as marketing tools to create the impression that meaningful action is being taken. Lee exposes such actions as deceitful and calls for "real action", seeking to persuade his audience into putting their effort into actual gains in the biodiversity fight.
Hey, guys. You can see that I am holding a stylus, which means we're doing something different today. Today's the first time that I'm going to be analyzing an article. Because I know that a lot of you are actually studying analyzing argument or basically language analysis, where you get an article, usually it's called material, and you have to analyze what persuasive techniques the author is using. Now, this is actually my favorite part of the English course. So I don't know why it took me so long to do this, but I'm actually really excited to start this sort of segment. If you do enjoy what you've watched at the end of this video then give me that like. Because I'll really appreciate it because I'll know if you guys actually do like it or not, and I'll make more of these if so.
Basically, the way I'm doing this is very much like how I teach my students inside my tutoring sessions with them. I'm going to be going through the article with you and highlighting language techniques we see and then interpreting them. So, trying to understand why it's persuasive or trying to understand why authors try to use these persuasive techniques to persuade people to agree with their argument. Now, obviously, it's not going to be exactly like a tutoring session because I didn't want this video to be too long. So, I'm going to go through it a little bit of haste, but hopefully still with enough detail for you to be able to take away and be able to do more of it on your own.
I'm going to be looking down because I have a stylus on me, which I borrowed from my lovely nephew, Alex. Thank you, Alex. And actually uses this computer for school. Lols. I have attached the PDF to this article in the description box below.
Now, this is a very old article from VCAA, back in the year 2000. Now, the reason why I chose such an old article was because: one, it's still really relevant despite its age. The things that we're doing today, in today's study design, is still very much so similar to what they did back in the day. The second thing was, I didn't want to do an article that I felt a lot of you had already done. I wanted to be able to offer you something new and bring something new to the table, basically.
So before we get started, what I want you to do is download this article in the description box below. Make sure you have a read of the article, and then try to analyze it on your own before we actually get started. This way you can compare the things that you've found versus the things that I found, and I think you might be very surprised to see that we'll probably have different interpretations.
The focus of today's video is really just to identify language techniques and to try to understand why they've been used. There are other elements of the criteria that need to be covered and they will be in due time. But that's just something that I wanted to focus on first because I want to make sure that you guys have got the fundamentals down pat. As always, reading background information is critical for your understanding of the issue.
As you can see here, we've got a report of Ms. Smith, principal of Anyton Secondary College, to the annual general meeting of the school council. So it's clear from her report that she is very concerned this year at the rising level of absenteeism among the middle school students. Also, it says, "How can students learn if they're not in class?" In the end, she writes: "So I urge the school council to devise a policy that will enable us to put an end to this epidemic of truancy. We need to take a firm line to ensure all our students are in school."
Okay. So now that we've read the background information and we understand the context of the situation, let's now move into the first article. So the first article has been written by a parent, Tom Frost. So automatically, we can see that he is a parent, which goes to show that there are some credentials there. So credentials, basically, is what's the title of the person who's writing the article. The fact that he is a parent goes to show that he is someone who is actually invested in the education of students, so we as readers may be more inclined to believe him or trust him because he obviously has a child at that school, and so he wants the best for that child. So, let's hear what he has to say. "I'd like to speak against the proposal of the principal, Ms. Smith, to come down on truancy like a ton of bricks."
Okay. So, automatically, we can see that he has labeled truancy and Ms. Smith's proposal like a ton of bricks. Now, if we think about a ton of bricks, to me, a ton of bricks is an idiom. An idiom is like a saying. So it's related to the idea that something is a burden, and so he's making truancy seem like a burden, so something that's not a good thing. So, from the get-go, he makes Ms. Smith's proposal of a policy on truancy something that has negative connotations. Next, he says, "Let's not get too carried away with this truancy issue." The fact that he uses let's is inclusive language.
This should be quite easy for you guys to pick up. Whoops. If only I knew how to spell language. Okay, fine. I'll spell it properly.
So, why do we actually use inclusive language? Inclusive language usually involves words like let's, we, our. And these create the sense that there is a collective responsibility that we hold. So, potentially as readers, we could even be parents ourselves who feel like we need to get involved in the issue in order to actually have an impact on what's happening here. The fact that he doesn't just say, "Ah, I'm not going to get carried away with this truancy issue," and he says, "Let's not get carried away," automatically includes you on his team and so may make you more inclined to support his idea. To add onto the sense that there is quite a bit of credibility, he says, "I've got three kids here." So, I believe that that compounds his credentials; his authority in this matter. So, as a parent, he should know what's good and what's not so good for his children, unlike the principal who is just an authoritative figure.
He then goes on to say, "I'm not sure they need to be chained to their desks all day." This is a great one. This is a metaphor. This metaphor of the children being chained to their desks all day, it doesn't sound great, does it? To be chained to something implies that you've been imprisoned or that maybe it's even likened to slavery. So if we're thinking of kids as being imprisoned and enslaved, obviously, this is something that we definitely don't want, and so he really pushes us from supporting Ms. Smith's policy and feeling sympathetic to these students.
Seven days a week itself also compounds on this metaphor. I would say that by saying it's seven days a week, he really leaves no room for there to be argument. To me, this is exaggeration. Why? Because students are only at school five times a week, so to say seven days is already an exaggeration. But he does this in order to really stress this idea that this policy is definitely a no-go. None of us would want our children... We're not parents, but let's just say, if we're in the position of a parent reading this article, none of us would want our children to be chained to desks seven days a week, would we?
He goes on to say, "Is it so bad to wag school?" Here we have a rhetorical question. Sorry. I switched from a thicker pen with exaggeration back to the normal one because I think it's a little bit too thick. Rhetorical questions are generally put there in order to get you thinking. And rhetorical questions tend to have an obvious answer that you should be agreeing to. So, when he says, "Is it so bad to wag school?" it's not the same as openly asking, "What do you think about wagging school?" where you're then open to the opportunity to support it or not to support it. Whereas, the way that he phrases it, "Is it so bad to wag school?" is already urging you to say, "Ah, of course not." So, at the same time, he belittles this issue. He dismisses the issue of wagging school and turns it into something that is just to be thrown away; something that shouldn't really be a concern of parents. So, at the same time there, I'm going to say that there's belittling there.
He then goes on to say, "After all, most of us have wagged school without coming to grief or causing trouble, haven't we?" That's generalization, right there. Whoops. Why can't I write on this side? Generalization is done when we want to make it sound like something is super common. By saying "Most of us," he collectively involves everyone to make it seem as though everyone has wagged school before, so really, what's the issue?
Next, he says, "In our house." Okay. This, I believe, really draws upon family values. By now including his home, he is saying that this is an issue that just goes beyond just kids wagging school or kids not being at school. It's a family value. "The fact that they don't go to school is something that they call mental health days." He puts a positive spin on the negatively connotated truancy, and because a lot of people are advocates for mindfulness, meditation, and looking after ourselves, this is something that may encourage readers to agree with the author.
Okay, continuing on. "Seems to me there are good reasons why kids play truant." Play is a really interesting word choice. By using the word play, it definitely dumbs down the issue and makes it seem something super lighthearted. Because when kids play, of course, it's just fun. It's joyful. And so, he's making this issue of truancy, basically, a game. So again, it's like it's not a serious issue and it underplays the principal's point of view.
If we skip ahead a little bit, he even says, "I can see from your nods." So here, again, it's like the collective response. He's already indicating, through his speech, that everyone pretty much agrees with him and so should you. Then there's rubbish. Rubbish has negative connotations. You get reminded of words like waste, garbage, and nonsense, which undermines the idea of independent and flexible learning, as though it's something that actually isn't really that helpful. He then continues to say, "Kids decide to find out about life firsthand." What he's saying here is that kids actually need to experience things themselves.
Let's move into our final paragraph. He says now, that "School started out as places to educate kids and then became kind of a childcare for big kids." The imagery there... I would say imagery, you don't have to use imagery. You could say negative connotations. You could say metaphor. You could label it whatever you want. For me, I get this picture of a childcare with really old kids that are like teenagers running around in the cradles, kids in cots, playing with little games, and it's just nonsensical. In addition to this, by saying that school is like a childcare, he suggests that school isn't really a place that has children's best interests at heart; now they're part of the remand system.
Remand is legal jargon. I actually didn't even know what this word meant, so I had to look it up. But if you use jargon, you're using words from a certain field that most people won't be familiar with. So lawyers, obviously, will be really familiar with terms like being on being on bail, custody, defense, prosecution. Words like that, that say, for me, as an everyday person who might only know a little bit about the law, because I've watched quite a few legal dramas on TV, that's when it becomes jargon; when it's vocabulary that's beyond just the everyday person. So, here you could say that it's legal jargon and that he is now creating the picture of a school, not as a place for education, but a place where people are in custody. So, they're in custody of the school, which sounds terrible, doesn't it?
He goes on to keep using inclusive language. So, that is some repetition that is used throughout his piece. To sum up, he says, "You hear all these things about drop-in centers, buddies, big sister programs, peer support, and other schemes. Why can't we try some of these than hounding students endlessly?" Rhetorical question. It's interesting that he has now offered alternative solutions. This is something that may encourage other people to agree with him because he's not just slamming down the principal's suggestion, but he's offering his own solution to the problem. Which implies that he has carefully thought this through, and he has thought about other ways they can improve on absenteeism. Moreover, you could even say that maybe the principal hasn't been doing her job because if she had been trying drop-in centers, buddies, big sister program, maybe she wouldn't be at this point where she's trying to enforce the truancy policy.
That's just where I'm going to leave it today. I didn't want this video to stretch out too long for you guys, so I didn't go into as much detail as I could have. But that's to say that there are plenty more language techniques for you guys to pick up. It's your job now to have a read of it again and see if you guys can find anything else. I'm going to respond to every single one of you who has analyzed something and left it in the comment section below.
I also wanted you guys to know that I have an online course called How to Achieve A+ in Language Analysis. If you're somebody who struggles with language analysis and you've found this video helpful, or you've liked my teaching style, then I encourage you to check it out. I've just updated some of the videos for 2018 so that it's up to date, and I share with you all the secrets that I discovered when I achieved A+ in my own language analysis SACs and in the exam when I was in year 12. I'll put it down in the description box just down below. And next week, we're going into part two of this article, where we're going to analyze Rosemary Collins' letter, so I'll see you guys then. Bye!
[Video 2 Transcription]
Hey guys, welcome to part two of the article that we'll be analyzing today on the topic of truancy. If you haven't watched my previous video where I analyze the first article in this language analysis, then I'll just put it in the card up above. But if you have, then you're ready to join me on this next part.
Last week, we looked into Tom Frost's speech, whereas this week we're going to be looking at Rosemary Collins. I will be looking down here, so don't mind me, and I'll be annotating live for you guys as we do this. So just to reinforce on what I said last week, I can't possibly go through every single language technique here with you, especially because I don't want this video to be too long. So I'll just be choosing the ones that stand out to me, and I'll be sharing with you the language technique that it's called or how I would call it, and why I think the author might use that in an attempt to persuade the audience.
So let's begin here with Rosemary Collins. So Rosemary herself is... I thought I can expand it. That's cool. All right. So Rosemary herself is a parent. We know that because of this down here. So she automatically uses her credentials from the get-go. So as somebody who uses their credentials, we may be more inclined as the audience to agree with what she's saying because, one, she's a parent, so she has a child at the school, and so therefore has their best interests at heart.
Now, unlike the first article, what we can see here is an image. It's a key and on it says, "Key Educational Consultants," and it has the address. I think this image is really interesting because keys are usually indicative of safety, of the answer, or something that is trustworthy. So it definitely shines a positive light on Rosemary Collins, who is some sort of Key Educational Consultant. So not only is she a parent, but she seems to hold quite a high position when it comes to something involving education. She is a consultant herself, so maybe that means that she shares her advice with other people and people actually pay her for this, so therefore maybe we're more inclined to support her point of view.
Additionally, we could also identify a pun here. Further credibility. The final thing I would say here is that there as a pun. So with key, it's not only the physical key, but it's the key as though it's the answer. So as you can see just from the one image, we've been able to find at least three different language techniques. So don't be afraid to go into this much details, teachers actually love this.
So we've already established that she's writing as a parent and we've talked about that. Now she goes on to talk about how she's a consultant, so I feel like we've touched on that, so I won't go into that again. But then she goes on to talk about how it is a complex issue and that it will not be solved by a punitive model of discipline, one which is both ineffective and... Woops my camera turned off. Sorry, lost the battery. So let's make this super quick.
By saying punitive model of discipline, punitive itself means punishment, so here essentially she's saying that it's a form of punishment, which actually reminds me of Frost's comment earlier, that students would be chained to their desks. So you call that negative connotations, if you would like to. One of my favorite ones. One of my favorite language techniques to use. Okay, the word alienating is interesting as well. School should be a place that's welcoming, it should be inclusive, comforting, but not alienating, going against everything that school should represent. So the portrayal of this discipline model is a negative one.
So if we jump ahead into the next body paragraph, I'm just going to group a few things together. She uses research and statistics, particularly in Victoria as well. So we know from early on that she is a researcher, so that's credible within itself, because she is someone who's experienced in the field and someone who has done her research and she's knowledgeable. She uses statistics, and statistics itself is seemingly factual, it's something that we can't refute and, therefore, we may be more inclined to agree with her based on those facts. Moreover, she includes the fact that they're in Victoria, so this means that it's relevant and applicable to us as readers because pretty much all the students who'll be doing this article will be from Victoria. Because it affects us directly, we might be more inclined to therefore agree with what she's saying.
She also mentioned that students who do not attend school regularly are disengaged socially and educationally. So what this does is it absolves students of the blame, as though it's not their fault. There is a reason why they don't show up at school. And so the concern and the focus should really be on that, rather than just punishing them even more and therefore alienating them even further. This might connect with parents who especially don't want their children to be unfairly blamed.
In her last sentence, she says that students absent from school due to an impediment are equally deserving of attention according to their needs. So again, this is reinforcing the fact that it's not the student's fault, but we need to work harder at lifting them up, so that they do receive equal attention. And it's implied that this hasn't been happening. She says our school. In our last video, we talked about inclusive language and how that encourages people to agree.
She talks now about a holistic approach to absenteeism. So like Frost, she offers her own solution to the matter, rather than just slamming down the principle's policy. Now we're looking at something that is about the entire community. So if we go ahead with a holistic approach, it's as though everyone wins and as readers, we might be more inclined to agree with this because we always want the best for everyone's interests. She elaborates by talking about alternative curriculum options, positive community service experiences. So by offering her own solution, she now is encouraging readers to agree with what she's saying. And she ties it in with four other students going to show that it's not just a one-size-fits-all. Every student is different and so, therefore, the way that we go about helping them should be different as well.
Oh my gosh. I'm so sorry. I just realized that I forgot to annotate the articles. I'll do that in a second and attach the PDF to this annotated version for you in the comment section below. The last thing I would want to talk about is how she mentions, "I would be happy to be part of a working group." So she's not just talking, but she's actually going to walk the talk. Therefore, we should trust her judgment because even she is a willing participant of her own solutions. So if that's the case, then we're more inclined to agree with her.
Lastly, she concludes with her credentials. So of course that ends up on that high note to ensure that we do trust for her and to show that she is somebody who is deserving of our trust. So that ends off my analysis of this particular article.
If you wanted more information or you like the way that I teach language analysis, then you might be interested in my online course, How to achieve A+ plus in Language Analysis. It's had over 300 students participate and an overall rating of 4.5 stars, so I'm really happy to say that I believe this course has been doing really well at helping those who struggle in language analysis. So if you're somebody who struggles from the basics of not knowing how to identify a language technique to somebody who is unsure of how to explain how it persuades or somebody else who struggles with analyzing the argument and seeing how the argument comes together and develops, then I would strongly encourage you to go ahead and check it out.
Otherwise, there are plenty of language techniques that I haven't covered just yet. And I'm sure that you guys have interpreted some of the language techniques I've found here differently. I'd absolutely love to hear what you guys have to say. Leave it in the comment section below, and let's all work together to do well in language analysis over this next term. Can't wait to see you guys next week. Bye!
[Video 3 Transcription]
Hey guys. So what am I talking about? So recently, I released a new segment where I talk about analyzing argument and I analyzed an actual article with you. I haven't done it before, but from what I can see, you guys are actually really enjoying it. I want to remind you guys that I am doing a analyzing argument livestream next Friday, the 27th after school at 5:00 PM. So if you have any questions for me I encourage you to start asking away. I'll put the link to the livestream below for you guys so you can hit that link and then go and set up a reminder for yourself. There's also a chat section there for you to actually start answering your questions. So do that because you know, I need questions to start off with, to answer. If you get in early, then I'll probably start off with yours.
So heck yeah, let's answer this. Asa has asked me, "Hey, Lisa. This video was super helpful, but I was wondering if next time you could include a section where you translate annotations and put it into a paragraph. I know in order to get a high mark you shouldn't be focusing too much on the techniques, but rather in a more holistic way. It'd be pretty cool to see which ones out of the bunch you annotate you choose to include in your analysis. Thank you."
I eventually wanted to get up to this point and talk more about structuring an essay and how to organize it in a body paragraph. But I was trying to figure out what to do for this video. Then I thought, "You know what, why not just do it now?" Obviously, with analyzing argument or language analysis, however you want to call it, it's a big section in the exam and there's a lot to cover. So I'm not going to go into too much detail about how I actually structure the essay for language analysis, because I think that is most suited to an entire video in itself. But I thought I would at least just create one paragraph for you guys just to give you a little bit of an idea of how I would go about it so you can walk away from this video with a little bit of extra knowledge to help you with your language analysis.
So basically, in the paragraph that I've created, you'll see that I don't use every single language technique that I have found, and that's the whole point. You want to be at that skillset where you can find so many language techniques, but you're so good that you know that you can't analyze absolutely everything, so you go and choose the gems out of the lot. So choose the ones that you think will help you set yourself apart from other students. For example, I always try to encourage my students not to necessarily always talk about stats or rhetorical questions or inclusive language, because those ones are super obvious. They're the ones that everyone can find.
So of course, you don't just strategize your essay and choose techniques that you think no one else is going to write about. Because, what if that rhetorical question is actually a really strong one where you could elaborate and say something really insightful about it, right? So it's all a balancing game. Let's just get into the paragraph and give you guys a look. What I do is I base paragraph according to ideas. Now, every single author who creates an article has a main contention, but what we're after now are the smaller ideas that the author makes in order to support that overall contention. One idea that I have chosen to talk about is the idea of what school has become, or the current school culture. In my paragraph, I have included a few language techniques that I believe fit into this overall idea.
So Frost highlights the current and unpleasant school culture in an effort to rile support from other parents. You can see here that this is the idea that I'm focused on. His use of the metaphor, chained to their desk all day, suggests how children are being imprisoned by their schooling. Especially since it's seven days a week. This may deter parents from supporting the principal's absenteeism policy, as they feel as though their children are spending more than enough time at school.
You can see here that I've included one language technique, and it's the metaphor. The main reason why I've included this metaphor is because the idea that children are chained to their desk all day really reflects the school culture and attitude of Frost's child school.
Next I say, Frost compounds this idea of trapped children through highlighting that school is now a childcare for big kids, rather than a place to educate kids. The childcare works to portray the school, and by extension the principal, as incompetent at their job of raising an independent next generation. As a result, disgruntled parents may resist the idea of a truancy policy as it becomes apparent that more times at school is unlikely to equal better outcomes for the child.
I've inputted a second language technique here, and I've really focused on the idea itself though. I'm emphasizing the fact that this school, as it is right now, is just not a good place to be. You can see that I'm being consistent with this idea, because I start off the sentence with, "Frost compounds this idea," showing the link with my own sentences.
Then I move on. Moreover, Frost's declaration that school is now a remand system may further encourage parents to support his case, as it is implied that children are being held custody by the school. His passion may strike a chord with other parents who feel alienated by the seemingly impenetrable school culture, with which they find it difficult to contribute or influence.
So I finished off this paragraph with a third and final language technique. As you can see here, what I am focused on more as a writer of this essay is the idea of school culture. With that, I try to find language techniques that work with it. I don't do it the other way around, where I base it off a language technique and try to cram, I don't know, just ideas into a language technique or try to make it work that way, because it's going to be a lot tougher for you. Focus on the ideas and see which techniques fit into it.
Now, I found more techniques I think than the three, that could have fit into this body paragraph, but I felt like these three pointers were probably the strongest ones and the ones where I felt like I could really show off my analytical skills. So I talked about a metaphor. I talked about how the place is a childcare. The betrayal of the school, lack of childcare and the idea of trapped children or imprisoned children, I worked off this idea. Then I worked off this idea even further by talking about a remand system, which is legal jargon for custody.
It's like these children are just being condemned to this school, which is something that no parents would want. And so, I really emphasized that. So yeah, that's pretty much it. I hope that answers your question, Asa. I only used three language techniques, but it's not about the quantity. It is about the quality of the work that you're portraying. Sorry, I keep looking down because I've written my stuff here for you guys, but you'll notice that these language techniques don't come one after another in the article, they're kind of all over the place. This is really important to enable you to be able to go and find different techniques from different areas of the article, rather than just confining yourself to, "Oh, this author has written this one paragraph. Let me try to find all these techniques in this one paragraph and transport that into one paragraph in my essay." You know?
To sum up, main messages are, focus your paragraphs on an idea. It's not about quantity, it's about quality of your language techniques. Try to find the ones that are going to show off your skill. And fourth, you don't need to find language techniques in a chronological order. You can pick them out wherever you please. That's it.
If you find this interesting or if you're not being taught this at school or you feel like the advice that I'm giving you is actually really helpful, then I'd encourage you to go and check out my study guide that I created with two other girls who achieved a study school of 50. So we have an entire section there about analyzing argument, from analyzing itself, language techniques, essay structure, writing up the essay, then showing you high essay responses with annotations to ensure that you know what you're doing. So I've got you covered, all right? Don't stress.
So I will see you guys next week for the livestream. It will be on Friday the 27th at 5:00 PM. So as usual, I'm your Friday girl. I'm always here on Fridays and you guys can ask me any of your questions related to analyzing argument then. Speak to you guys then. Bye!
We all love hacks. Life hacks, game hacks, Netflix hacks (wait, what)? They're all fabulous. Even better is when we can use English study hacks - because who doesn't want to make English just that much simpler?
Watched the video above already? Awesome! Keep reading for extra life hacks:
Extra hack #11 - Don’t just write essays.
There is a massive difference between writing an essay for the sake of writing an essay, as opposed to actively learning when applying your skills. If you feel yourself slipping into the dreaded ‘reusing the same evidence for every essay’, or you’ve somehow ended up doing 5 essay prompts based on the same character – STOP RIGHT THERE. Be proactive. You have to keep switching things up. This means constantly trying new prompts that are more challenging than the last and always trying to find new evidence you can use. Yes, there will always be our go-to pieces of evidence we like to use, like our favourite quote or symbol, but change it up often so that you don’t become complacent.
Extra hack #12 – Unique interpretations
The purpose of develop a unique interpretation of a text or film is so that you can demonstrate originality in your thinking and bring something new to the table that teachers have never come across before. After all, if you’re marking 30 essays in a row, you’d get pretty bored reading the same arguments again and again, wouldn’t you? Try to view the text from different lenses – feminist, Marxist, post-colonial perspective – and these will offer you new ways of interpreting the story.
Extra hack #13 – FOCUS
Some books can be very long (and no, we’re not talking about don’t need to go into detail with every single passage. Instead, have a selection of passages throughout the book that you know really well. It’s much better having an in-depth understanding of fewer passages, but produce a sound essay than to have a superficial overview of the book and struggle to write much at all!
English is not easy, but it doesn’t need to be hard either. Adopt only a few of these hacks and see your improvement in English – they really do work! Keep it up!
If you’ve been studying John Donne’s metaphysical poetry, you’ve probably noticed that his works are riddled with different symbols and motifs. Embedded throughout his poetry, these literary devices may seem slightly abstruse to the reader. You may find yourself asking: What do they mean? And in relation to what? Even Donne’s contemporaries failed to appreciate his poetry. The neoclassical poet John Dryden rejected Donne’s works because it “affects the metaphysics” and “perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts, and entertain them with the softnesses of love”.
One thing that you should understand about Donne’s romantic poetry, is that while his stark images of compasses and spheres may seem foreign to you, they were also alien to his predecessors too. So, if you’re struggling to comprehend his enigmatic poetry, not to fear! Because John Donne’s poetic peers didn’t initially get it either.
The reason for this is because Donne refused to conform to the poetic conventions of the time. The poet emerged as an idiosyncratic in the Elizabethan era, the Renaissance. Unlike his contemporaries, he didn’t employ elaborate descriptions of symbol natural landscapes, classical myths and female beauty. The reason for this was because Donne did not believe in the one-sided love and emotional frustrations that his contemporaries tried so hard to convey in such imagery.
Donne’s poetry was so different because he rejected and even openly mocked the idea of such a high-minded religious worship in literary romance. In “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning,” Donne criticises the “tear-floods” and “sigh-tempests” of the “dull sublunary lovers.”. In a similar vein, Donne satirises the “sighs” and “tears” (The Canonisation) so prevalent in Petrarchan works.
Instead, Donne advocated for a different kind of love. He espoused a love that comprised of the Body and the Soul, which was a dominant intellectual issue in the literary treatment of love in the 1590s. More specifically, Donne embraced the balance between Platonic love and the Ovidian love.
Platonic: Platonic love is essentially love that surpasses the mere sensual and physical. It is a very spiritual concept and is based on reason, affection, respect, intellect and compatibility.
Ovidian: Ovidian love
The idea of balance derived from discoveries being made about the human body during the Elizabethan era. The Renaissance was fundamentally a time of discovery (particularly in the area of science). Elizabethans believed that elements in the body needed to be balanced,
Top Tip: When you’re analysing John Donne’s poetry and writing essays, be aware of Donne’s overarching message in his romantic poetry. Most explanations about his use transcendent relationship with his lover is thus determined by obtaining a balance between the spiritual and earthly pleasures. Most examination questions will leave room for to discuss the connection between the material and the divine world! Make sure to understand this, because this is a huge component to his poetry.
Welcome to 2014! As many of you will already be in your second or third week of schooling, it’s likely that you’re getting plenty of workload from across your subjects. Some of you may very well be preparing for your oral presentation SAC that’s coming up very soon! If that is the case, I’ve collated a list of some popular topics that have cropped up in the Australian media since September last year. The list is intended to help you brainstorm different issues you may wish to debate in your speech, with the contention left for you to decide once you have researched enough on the topic! Check it out below:
Treatment of asylum seekers
Processing of asylum seekers
‘One punch law’
Should mathematics be compulsory in schools?
Shark culling in South Australia
The end of car manufacturing in Australia
Sex education and homosexuality
Needle vending machines
Cory Bernadi’s book – The Conservative Revolution (Abortion)
If you, like me, grew up Asian in Australia, you might think you already know a thing or two about, well, growing up Asian in Australia. Our stories can be pretty similar—just have a scroll through the ‘subtle asian traits’ Facebook group, or have a conversation with literally any Asian Australian about their parents.
At the same time, it’s also important to recognise that everyone’s experiences are diverse, especially given how broad an identity ‘Asian’ can be. Also important is to recognise how broad and intersectional identity can be in general—intersectional meaning that race isn’t the only thing that defines any one of us. Things like gender, socio-economic status, ability, sexual orientation and religion can also be really central, for example. Each of these things can impact the way we navigate the world.
Covering a broad range of these stories is Alice Pung’s anthology, Growing Up Asian In Australia. Some of the contributors in this volume include Sunil Badami, Matt Huynh, Bon-Wai Chou, Diana Nguyen, Michelle and Benjamin Law, and Shaun Tan, and already this cross-section is fairly diverse in nature. You can also click on their names to find out a bit more about each of their work. I think this is worth a few minutes, just to get acquainted with the sheer range of Asian-Australian creatives who are represented in this book, and to locate their work within the themes they write about—in other words, having a think about the ways that cultural heritage, or experiences with family, or economic hardship permeate their work, both in the anthology and in their lives outside it.
The anthology is (perhaps quite helpfully) divided into sections which revolve around key themes, which is also going to inform the structure of this guide. I’ll be using this guide to go through an exercise that I found really helpful when learning the text, which involves:
taking two stories per section and drawing up some dot-point similarities and differences
translating two of those points into paragraphs, a bit like a ‘mini-essay’
We’ll go through some an example of what this might look like, and why it’s a helpful exercise to try.
Strine is what’s called a syncope, a shortened way of pronouncing Australian (a bit like ‘Straya’)—it refers to Australian English as it’s spoken by locals. This section of the book is all about language, and about the difficulties of juggling two languages growing up, and Badami and Tseng’s stories are great examples of this.
1. Similarity: connections to one’s mother tongue fade over time. Tseng recounts how, one by one, she and her sisters stopped learning Chinese as they progressed through their Australian education. Badami on the other hand compromises his name which stood out as too Indian when he “just wanted to fit in.”
2. Similarity: for ‘third-culture kids’, losing knowledge of their language also strains their relationship with their forebears. Badami’s mother is shocked to hear the anglicisation of his name despite the significance it carrie for her (“she spat my unreal new name out like something bitter and stringy”), and Tseng describes the experience of communicating with her father in “Chinglish” so that they can both understand each other.
3. Difference: language can be an internalised, personal experience, or a highly exposed and interpersonal one. While Tseng feels her loss of her language as a “sense of shame, a vague unease”, Badami is almost bullied into changing his name, “Sunil? Like banana peel?”
The Clan (Law & Chau)
This section delves into the complex ties that hold migrant families together. Chau’s poems are starkly different to Law’s story, so it’ll be interesting to compare how these different narrative forms work to explore those ideas.
1. Similarity: it can take at least one generation for migrant families to dig their roots into their new home. While Law’s parents are proud tourists at Queensland theme parks, he and his siblings “groan” at their comportment. Chau’s poem ‘The Firstborn’ traces his ancestry forward until he arrived, “an ABC” and his son “by amniotic sea”, both of them born into Australia.
2. Similarity: family dynamics are still traditional and therefore gendered. Law notes how his mother’s health suffered when divorcing his father, and Chau notes that the women members of his family were “cast off” the family tree “as if they were never born.
3. Difference: family history and heritage can vary in importance. Chau’s family traces back “twenty-eight generations” of history, whereas Law’s family very much lives in the present, the only tie to older generations being his “Ma-Ma”, or grandma.
4. Difference: families show their love in different ways. Whether it’s dedicating a poem to his son about his life as one of “ten thousand rivers” of Chinese diaspora into the Australian sea, or taking the kids to theme parks on weekends, all sorts of affection can hold families together.
Putting it together
So I’ve tried to choose two sections (and four stories) that are all a bit different to try and mix it up and get some rich comparative discussion out of these. You might be studying this text alone, but even as one text, remember that there’s a lot of diverse experiences being represented in it, so discussing how stories connect, compare and contrast is just as important as discussing the content of individual stories themselves.
If we do a mini-essay, we might as well go about it properly and pick some sort of contention. Without a fixed prompt though, it might be easier to start with those dot points and pick which ones we want to write out and string together. Let’s pick two—connections to mother tongue fading over time (Strine similarity 1) and digging roots into Australia over time (The Clan similarity 1). A contention covering these points might look like:
While second generation migrants may struggle with loss of culture, they also constitute a unique and significant part of the diaspora.
Many migrants lose connections to their heritage over time, and these connections are often in the form of language. Particularly for Asian migrants, there is not as strong a need to preserve their mother tongue in the English-speaking Australia, and as such their knowledge of those languages can be easily lost. Ivy Tseng, for instance, recalls how she was never able to “grasp the significance” of learning Chinese as a child, and eventually she and her sisters would prioritise “study” and other academic pursuits over learning Chinese. Because tertiary study and education as an institution generally carry a lot of weight in migrant cultures, there is often a compromise made at the expense of heritage and language. These compromises can come from other factors as well, particularly the group dynamics of being in white-dominated Australia. Bullying is a frequent culprit, and Badami for example is indeed peer-pressured into resenting—and ultimately anglicising—his name, “Sunil? Like banana peel?” More generally speaking, a sense of shame for one’s difference is a common part of the migrant experience—Law experiences it as well at theme parks, where he and his siblings attempt to “set [them]selves apart” from the faux-pas of their parents. Not always an intentional goal, but a general willingness to compromise connections to heritage underscores many Asian Australian migrant stories, particularly of second-generation migrants.
However, the extent to which migrants feel socially integrated in society shifts generationally and over time as well. Second generation migrants are thus unique in that they have the closest connection to their heritage while also initiating this process of integration. Law and his siblings exemplify this, with their “Australian accents” and “proper grammar and syntax.” While some loss of their native Cantonese takes place, they are also the first in their family to sound Australian, one step closer to being Australian. They constitute part of the distinct, third culture of “ABC”—Australian-born Chinese—to which Chau alludes in his poem, ‘The Firstborn’. Distinct from first-generation migrants, ABCs are a product of diaspora and spend their formative years immersed in the Australian way of life. Chau’s poem goes on to highlight how sizeable this demographic now is—“the sea is awash with the unfathomable Chinese sons.” Thus, we can see how ABCs, or second generation Asian migrants, represent a unique and significant social group exemplified by great compromise, but also great change.
Why is this useful?/How can I apply this?
I like this exercise because it gets you thinking creatively about the key implications of the stories. Within a section or theme, you want to identify similarities in how both stories contribute to our understanding of that theme. You also want to identify differences to explore how stories can be unique and nuanced, which will provide your essay with more depth when you ultimately need it. Then, putting it all together helps you synthesise new connections between themes.
For an analytical study of this text, you’d flesh out those ideas until they become paragraphs, introducing relevant evidence and mixing it up with explanatory sentences as you go. Explanatory sentences keep you analysing rather than story-telling, and they usually don’t have any quotes—an example from above might be “because tertiary study and education as an institution generally carry a lot of weight in migrant cultures, there is often a compromise made at the expense of heritage and language.”
For a creative study, you’d take away those ideas and look at how else you might explore them in other stories. Feel free to challenge yourself for this; I remember falling back on more personal writing when studying this creatively, but don’t neglect other genres or forms! If second generation migrants are in fact more on their way to belonging, write a speculative story about how an apocalypse tests those connections to white Australians. I dunno, but don’t be afraid to really push the boundaries here and test the implications you draw from the stories.
Give it a go
Try it for some of these:
UnAustralian? (Loewald & Law) and Leaving Home (Diana Nguyen & Paul Nguyen)
Battlers (Dac & Law/Huynh) and Mates (Phommavanh & Ahmed)
The Folks (Lazaroo & Tran) and Homecoming (Beeby & Larkin)
Growing Up Asian in Australia Essay Prompt Breakdown
The essay topic we’ll be looking at today is short and sweet;
To belong is to sacrifice. Discuss.
The key terms are evidently “to belong” and “to sacrifice”, so these are the words and definitions that we’ll have to interrogate.
Belonging is a feeling of being accepted by someone or being a member of something, so we’d have to ask who is doing the accepting, and what are the writers seeking to be members of. On the other hand, sacrifice is loss, it’s giving something up—it’s implied that seeking belonging means you may have to navigate compromises to what you have, how you live, or maybe, who you are. Have a think about what sacrifices are made by whom, and why.
With that in mind, let’s brainstorm a contention. We usually want to avoid going fully agree or fully disagree to create a bit more ‘grit’ for the essay—and in this case, the prompt is pretty deterministic or absolute; it’s saying that belonging is all about sacrifice.
I’d probably argue that belonging is sometimes about sacrifice, and for migrant children they often give up some of their culture or heritage for Western lifestyle or values. That being said, belonging in these cases is probably more about synthesis than sacrifice—it’s about being able to negotiate and bring heritage into increasingly Australian ways of life.
The brainstorming section of writing a killer essay is where my THINK and EXECUTE strategy comes in. If you haven’t heard of it before, essentially, it’s a method of essay writing that emphasises the importance of really thinking about all aspects of a prompt and exploring all the different avenues you can go down. To be able to EXECUTE a well-reasoned, coherent and articulate essay that contains enough nitty-gritty analysis, you have to do enough THINKing to get some meat on the essay’s skeleton, so to speak. To learn more, check out my top selling eBook, How To Write A Killer Text Response.
In paragraphs, we could start by looking at some of the sacrifices people make in order to belong. The poem, ’Be Good, Little Migrants’ has a more of a cynical take on this, suggesting that migrant groups are expected to sacrifice economic mobility and even personal dignity in order to gain favour with locals: “give us your faithful service”, “display your gratitude but don’t be heard, don’t be seen.”
Economic sacrifices are seen across many stories, from the working class “decent enough income” in ‘Family Life’ to the failing business in ‘ABC Supermarket’. Other forms of sacrifice might be less material—for example Benjamin Law’s sacrifice of his Mariah Carey cassettes in an attempt to fit in at school from the story ‘Towards Manhood’. This example is interesting because it isn’t a cultural sacrifice, but a gendered one—it’s a good reminder that identity is always multi-layered.
For migrant children though, the sacrifices usually revolve around their race and culture. Diana Nguyen for example notes language as a key sacrifice: she quits Vietnamese school because she didn’t feel like she belonged with the grade ones in her class, and her ultimate “lack of interest in learning [Vietnamese] created a lasting barrier” between her mother and her. In Sunil Badami’s story, ‘Sticks and Stones and Such-Like’, the sacrifice is his name, as he Anglicises it to Neil. When his mother finds out, “she spat my unreal new name out like something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow.” The common denominator here is that Asians growing up in Australia often have to navigate sacrificing some of their heritage in order to belong in western society.
However, the challenges faced by the Asian diaspora growing up abroad are more complex and more nuanced than just sacrifice. More often than not, they’re required to synthesise a ‘third culture’ identity that balances their heritage with western values and lifestyles.
Diana Nguyen goes on to discuss her career trajectory in becoming a “working actor” in Melbourne’s entertainment industry, carving out a path for herself in spite of her parents’ disapproval, and going on to represent a new generation of Asian Australians in the media. The story ‘Wei-Lei and Me’ also points to this shifting demographic in Australia, as Gouvernel and her best friend stave off a racist primary school bully only to see their home change for the better as they grew up, with new restaurants from their home cuisines opening up. At the same time, they “had become what [they] thought [they] could never be: Australian,” describing a way of life in Canberra that is unmistakably Australian.
So, belonging isn’t necessarily all about sacrifice—it doesn’t mean you can’t pursue your passions or become ‘Australian’. Sure, sometimes sacrifice is necessary, but ‘third culture kids’ synthesise conflicting identities in order to belong.
Having arrived at the contention, let’s just have another think about the takeaway message - being able to bring other themes into an essay topic that only really raises one theme. To answer this topic fully, a good essay wouldn’t just discuss belonging and sacrifice, but it would also bring in discussion about family, friends, careers and cultures, just to name a few. Hopefully this is something you can translate into your own future work!
Growing Up Asian In Australia is an anthology with a lot to unpack, but there are plenty of unique stories with plenty of interesting links to be made. However you’re learning this text, being able to draw conclusions from stories and extrapolate them into your writing is a really important skill.
As you go, ask yourself about the implications: ‘so what?’ and ‘why?’. These sorts of questions will help you get richer insights and write about the anthology in a more interesting way.
1. What Is Text Response? 2. What Are You Expected To Cover? (Text Response Criteria) 3. School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks 4. How To Prepare for Your Text Response SAC and Exam 5. How To Write a Text Response
1. What Is Text Response?
Like its name, Text Response is when you respond to a text. The most popular texts are novels and films; however, plays, poetry and short stories are also common. Your response will be in the form of an essay, in which you discuss themes, ideas and characters. Recall all the novels and films you've studied since Year 7 (there'll be quite a few!). You should be very familiar with the process of watching a film or reading a novel, participating in class discussions about themes and characters, and finally, submitting an essay based on the text.
As you graduate into higher year levels, you spend each year revising and improving on TEEL, learning to better incorporate quotes and formulating even longer essays than the year before (remember when you thought you couldn't possibly write an essay more than 500 words?).
The good news is, all of that learning is now funnelled into VCE’s Text Response, one of the three parts of the VCE English study design. Text Response, officially known as ‘Reading and Responding’ in the study design, is the first Area of study (AoS 1) - meaning that the majority of students will tackle the Text Response SAC in Term 1. Let's get into it!
2. What Are You Expected To Cover? (Text Response Criteria)
What are teachers and examiners expecting to see in your essays? Below are the VCE criteria for Text Response essays.
Note: Some schools may express the following points differently, however, they should all boil down to the same points - what is necessary in a Text Response essay.
a) Critically analyse texts and the ways in which authors construct meaning;
Much of the ‘meaning’ in a novel/film comes instinctively to readers. Why is it that we can automatically distinguish between a protagonist from an antagonist? Why is it that we know whether or not the author supports or denounces an idea?
Here you need to start looking at how the author constructs their texts and why they have made that choice. For example, the author describes a protagonist using words with positive connotations (kind, brave, charming), whereas the antagonist is described with words using negative connotations (vain, egocentric, selfish).
For example, 'in Harry Potter, by describing the protagonist Harry as "brave", the author JK Rowling exhibits the idea of how possessing bravery when making tough choices or facing challenges is a strong and positive trait.'
b) Analyse the social, historical and/or cultural values embodied in texts;
Society, history and culture all shape and influence us in our beliefs and opinions. Authors use much of what they’ve obtained from the world around them and employ this knowledge to their writing. Understanding their values embodied in texts can help us as readers, identity and appreciate theme and character representations.
For example, 'through the guilty verdict of Tom Robinson in To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee expresses the belief that the American legal system in the 1930s was not always fair or just.'
c) Discuss and compare possible interpretations of texts using evidence from the text;
Be open to the idea that many texts can be interpreted in many ways. Texts are rarely concrete and simple. Take The Bible, a book that is one of the most popular and famous books in history but is interpreted differently by every person. Acknowledging more than one perspective on a certain aspect of the text, or acknowledging that perhaps the writer is intentionally ambiguous, is a valuable skill that demonstrates you have developed a powerful insight into your text.
For example, 'in The Thing Around Your Neck, feminist readers condone Adichie's stories which all revolve around women either as protagonist or as narrators, giving voice to the disempowered gender in Nigerian society.'
d) Use appropriate metalanguage to construct a supported analysis of a text;
While you should absolutely know how to embed quotes in your essay like a boss, you want to have other types of evidence in your Text Response essay. You must discuss how the author uses the form that he/she is writing in to develop their discussion. This encompasses a huge breadth of things from metaphors to structure to language.
For example, 'The personification of Achilles as "wolf, a violator of every law of men and gods", illustrates his descent from human to animal….' or 'Malouf’s constant use of the present voice and the chapter divisions allow the metaphor of time to demonstrate the futility and omnipresence of war…'.
e) Control and effectiveness of language use, as appropriate to the task
When examiners read essays, they are expected to get through about 12-15 essays in an hour! This results in approximately 5 minutes to read, get their head around, and grade your essay - not much time at all! It is so vital that you don’t give the examiner an opportunity to take away marks because they have to reread certain parts of your essay due to poor expression and grammar.
3. School Assessed Coursework (SAC), Exams and Allocated Marks
Reading and Creating is assessed in Unit 1 (Year 11) and Unit 3 (Year 12). The number of allocated marks are:
Unit 1 - dependant on school
Unit 3 English – 30 marks
Unit 3 EAL – 40 marks
Exactly when Text Response is assessed within each unit is dependent on each school; some schools at the start of the Unit, others at the end. The time allocated to your SAC is also school-based. Often, schools use one or more periods combined, depending on how long each of your periods last. Teachers can ask you to write anywhere from 800 to 1000 words for your essay (keep in mind that it’s about quality, not quantity!)
In your exam, you get a whopping total of 3 hours to write 3 essays (Text Response, Comparative and Language Analysis). The general guide is 60 minutes on Text Response, however, it is up to you exactly how much time you decide to dedicate to this section of the exam. Your Text Response essay will be graded out of 10 by two different examiners. Your two unique marks from these examiners will be combined, with 20 as the highest possible mark.
4. How To Prepare for Your Text Response SAC and Exam
Preparation is a vital component in how you perform in your SACs and exam so it’s always a good idea to find out what is your best way to approach assessments. This is just to get you thinking on the different study methods you can try before a SAC. Here are my top strategies (ones I actually used in VCE) for Text Response preparation that can be done any time of year (including holidays - see How To Recharge Your Motivation Over the School Holidays for more tips):
a) Reread your book (or rewatch the film)
After all the learning and discussion you’ve had with your teacher and peers, you should have now developed a solid foundation of knowledge. Rereading a book enables you to refresh your memory on subplots, popular passages and most importantly, helps you fill in any missing gaps in knowledge. Take this as an opportunity to get familiar with the parts of the texts you're less confident with, or to examine a particular theme that you know you're weaker in (HINT: A good place to start is to make sure you know the difference between themes, motifs and symbols!)
b) Do a close analysis
This is like an advanced version of rereading a book. A 'close analysis' - a term stolen from VCE Literature (thanks Lit!) - is basically where you select a passage (a short chapter or a few pages), and analyse it in detail.
As you move through the passage, you can pick out interesting word choices made by the author and try to interpret why they have made this choice. Doing a close analysis will immensely strengthen your metalanguage analysis skills, and also give you the opportunity to stand out from other students because you can offer unique and original analysis and evidence in your essay. I know this can be a bit confusing, so this video below shows a full close analysis of a Macbeth passage in action:
c) Read and watch Lisa's Study Guides' resources
Doing this study all by yourself can be rather daunting, so we've got your back. We specialise in supporting VCE English by creating helpful videos, study guides and ebooks. Here are some just to get your started:
We create general Text Response advice videos like this:
We also create text-specific videos:
And if you just need general study advice, we've got you covered too:
Check out our entire YouTube channel (and don't forget to subscribe for regular new videos!).
Our awesome team of English high-achievers have written up study guides based on popular VCE texts. Here's a compilation of all the ones we've covered so far:
Most people seem to the think the most difficult part of Text Response is the writing component - and they're not completely wrong. However, what I've found is that not even students place emphasis on the brainstorming, preparation and planning of Text Response.
Think about it - if you don't come to the table with the best ideas, then how can you expect your essay to achieve A+? Even if you write an exceptional essay, if it doesn't answer the prompt, your teacher won't be sticking a smiley face on your work. We need to avoid these common teacher criticisms, and I have no doubt you've experienced at least once the dreaded, 'you're not answering the prompt', 'you could've used a better example' or 'more in-depth analysis needed'.
Enter my golden strategy - the THINK and EXECUTE strategy. This is a strategy I developed over the past 10 years of tutoring, and I've seen my students improve their marks every time. The THINK and EXECUTE strategy breaks up your Text Response into two parts - first the THINK, then the EXECUTE. Only with the unique THINK approach, will you then be able to EXECUTE your essay to its optimum potential, leading yourself to achieve those higher marks.
To learn more about the THINK and EXECUTE strategy, download my ebook sample on the shop page or at the bottom of this blog, or check out the video below:
d) Get your hands on essay topics
Often, teachers will provide you with a list of prompts to practice before your SAC. Some teachers can be kind enough to hint you in the direction of a particular prompt that may be on the SAC. If your teacher hasn’t distributed any, don’t be afraid to ask.
We have a number of free essay topics curated by our team at LSG, check some of them out. Also go scroll back up to our list of study guides above, as most of those also have essay prompts included:
Once you've done some preliminary revision, it's time to write plans! Plans will help ensure you stick to your essay topic and have a clear outline of what your essay will cover. This clarity is crucial to success in a Text Response essay.
Doing plans is also an extremely time-efficient way to approach SACs. Rather than slaving away hours upon hours over writing essays, writing plans can will save you the burnout and will get you feeling confident faster.
I've curated essay topic breakdown videos based on specific VCE texts. In these videos, I explore keywords, ideas and how I'd plan an essay with corresponding examples/evidence.
f) Write essays
Yes, sad, but it’s a fact. Writers only get better by actually writing. Even if you just tackle a couple of essays then at least you will have started to develop a thinking process that will help you to set out arguments logically, utilise important quotes and time yourself against the clock. It will help you write faster as well – something that is a major problem for many students. With that said, let's get into how to write a Text Response next.
Take a look at some of the essays our amazing LSG team have written:
If you need any more tips on how to learn your text in-depth, Susan's (English study score 50) Steps for Success in Text Study guide provides a clear pathway for how to approach your text and is a must read for VCE English students!
Perhaps nothing exemplifies the power of love and recognition more than the bond between Albert Sutton and his older sister, Lizzie, in Joan London’s ‘The Golden Age’. Many of London’s characters exhibit suffering that requires compassion and support to heal and grow, to distinguish present from past. However, London explores the perspectives of such characters from different aspects of trauma, and emphasise that love and recognition do not always work to heal and mature. Frank Gold, the novel’s resident “sneaky” boy who adjusts to newfound life in the Golden Age Convalescent Home seeks love as an adult, rather than eliciting sympathy as a supposed victim. Here love and recognition are unsuccessful in amending Frank’s troubles when given from the perspective of an outsider, a judgemental onlooker. In a similar sense, Ida Gold seeks recognition not from Australia, who she views as a ‘backwater’, but validation in herself after having been ousted from her Hungarian identity. London, however, makes sure to emphasise the impact that Sullivan has on Frank Gold’s life. Sullivan, a boy only a few years older than Frank, seems content with his future, with his fate, despite his sacrifice of rugby and conventional life. There is a lacking sense of urgency for love and recognition in Sullivan’s life, rather, it appears that Sullivan accepts his fate, regardless of his father’s sympathy or support. Thus, London explores a myriad of ways in which love and recognition may or may not heal wounds inflicted upon individuals.
Try to keep your introduction to the point. There's no need to prolong an introduction just to make a set number of sentences. It's always better to be concise and succinct, and then move into your main body paragraphs where the juicy contents of your essay resides.
Most of you will be familiar with TEEL. TEEL can stand for:
If your teacher or school teaches you something slightly different - that's okay too. At the end of the day the foundations are the same.
Early in the novel, London makes reference to Norm White, the resident groundskeeper of The Golden Age Convalescent Home. Norm White hands Frank Gold a cigarette, 'as if to say a man has the right to smoke in peace'. Here, there is a complete disregard for rule and convention, an idea that London emphasises throughout the text. This feature provides a counter-cultural experience for Frank, pushing him to realise that he is a strong human being rather than a mere victim. This is a clear contrast to the “babyishness” of the home, and is used as evidence of true humanity in an era where society judged upon the unconventional. Frank yearns for a traditional Australian life after his trauma in Hungary; 'his own memory…lodged like an attic in the front part of his brain'. Hedwiga and Julia Marai’s caring of him pushed him towards fear and reluctance to trust, yet also pressured him to seek acceptance in a world that ostracises him for his Jewish heritage and polio diagnosis. This here is why Frank desires a mature, adult connection – love that regards him as an equal human being. Frank seeks Elsa’s love and company as she too loathes being reduced to a victim, an object of pity. Frank thereafter uses humour to joke of his wounds; 'we Jews have to be on the lookout'. Elsa sees 'a look in his eyes that she recognised', thus their bond enables both characters to heal. London alludes that Frank requires love and recognition not from the perspective of a sorrowful onlooker, rather he longs to be recognised as a mature adult.
Conclusions should be short and sweet.
Although trauma is often treated with love and compassion, London details different perspectives on this idea. Whilst Frank Gold requires a specific kind of recognition, Ida and Meyer seek validation in themselves and their relationship, whilst Sullivan is at ease with his fate and does not yearn sympathy from his father.
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response.
Analysing Techniques in Visual Texts
The Complete Maus is a graphic novel that depicts the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jewish Holocaustsurvivor who experienced living in the ghettos and concentration camps during the Nazi regime. Vladek’s son, Art has transformed his story into a comic book through his interviews and encounters which interweaves with Art’s own struggles as the son of a Holocaust survivor, as well as the complex and difficult relationship with his father.
Survival is a key theme that is explored during Vladek’s experience in concentration camps and his post-Holocaust life.
For example, Vladek reflects that “You have to struggle for life” and a means of survival was through learning to be resourceful at the concentration camps.
Resourcefulness is depicted through the physical items Vladek keeps or acquires, as well as through Vladek’s skills. For example, Vladek explains to Art that he was able to exploit his work constantly through undertaking the roles of a translator and a shoemaker in order to access extra food and clothing by being specially treated by the Polish Kapo.
He even wins over Anja’s Kapo to ensure that she would be treated well by not being forced to carry heavy objects. Vladek’s constant recounts and reflections symbolise survival, as Vladek was willing and able to use his skill set to navigate through the camp’s work system.
During the concentration camps, food and clothes also became a currency due to its scarcity and Vladek was insistent on being frugal and resourceful, which meant that he was able to buy Anja’s release from the Birkenau camp.
Although survival is a key theme, the graphic novel explores how Holocaust survivors in The Complete Maus grapple with their deep psychological scars.
Many of those who survived the war suffered from depression and was burdened with ‘survivor’s guilt’. This can be seen through the character of Art’s mother, Anja, as 20 years after surviving the death camps, she commits suicide. After having lost so many of her friends, and families, she struggled to find a reason as to why she survived but others didn’t. Throughout the graphic novel, her depression is apparent. In a close-up shot, Anja appears harrowed and says that “I just don’t want to live”, lying on a striped sofa to convey a feeling of hopelessness as if she was in prison. Her ears are additionally drawn as drooped, with her hands positioned as if she was in prison in the context is that she must go to a sanatorium for her depression.
It is not only Anja’s guilt that is depicted, but also Art himself who feels partly responsible. Art feels that people think it is his fault as he says that “They think it’s MY fault!” and in one panel, Art is depicted behind bars and that “[He] has committed the perfect crime“ to illustrate that he feels a sense of guilt in that he never really was the perfect son. He believes he is partly responsible for her death, due to him neglecting their relationship. Spiegelman also gives insight to readers of a memory of his mother where she asks if he still loves her, he responds with a dismissive ‘sure’ which is a painful reminder of this disregard.
Art constantly ponders how he is supposed to “make any sense out of Auschwitz’ if he “can’t even make any sense out of [his] relationship with [his] father”. As a child of Jewish refugees, Art has not had the same first-hand horrific experiences as his parents and in many instances struggles to relate to Vladek’s stubborn and resourceful tendencies. Art reflects on this whilst talking to Mala about when he would not finish everything his mother served, he would “argue til I ran to my room crying”. This emphasises how he didn’t understand wastage or frugality even from a very young age, unlike Vladek.
Spiegelman also conveys to readers his sense of frustration with Vladek where he feels like he is being treated like a child, not as an adult. For example, Art is shocked that Vladek would throw out one of Art’s coats and instead buy a new coat, despite Vladek’s hoarding because he is reluctant and feels shameful to let his son wear his “old shabby coat”. This act could be conveyed to readers that Vladek is trying to give Art a life he never had and is reluctant to let his son wear clothes that are ‘inappropriate’ in his eyes. However, from Art’s perspective, he “just can’t believe it” and does not comprehend his behaviour.
Since we're talking about themes, we've broken down a theme-based essay prompt (one of five types of essay prompts) for you in this video:
3. Analysing Techniques in Visual Texts
The Complete Maus is a graphic novel that may seem daunting to analyse compared to a traditional novel. However, with countless panels throughout the book, you have the freedom to interpret certain visuals so long as you give reasoning and justification, guiding the teacher or examiner on what you think these visuals mean. Here are some suggested tips:
Focus on the Depiction of Characters
Spiegelman may have purposely drawn the eyes of the Jewish mice as visible in contrast to the unapparent eyes of the Nazis to humanise and dehumanise characters. By allowing readers to see the eyes of Jewish mice, readers can see the expressions and feelings of the character such as anger and determination. Effectively, we can see them as human characters through their eyes. The Nazis’ eyes, on the other hand, are shaded by their helmets to signify how their humanity has been corrupted by the role they fulfill in the Holocaust.
When the readers see their eyes, they appear sinister, with little slits of light. By analysing the depictions and expressions of characters, readers can deduce how these characters are intended to be seen.
Look at the Background in Each Panel
Throughout the graphic novel, symbols of the Holocaust appear consistently in the background. In one panel, Art’s parents, Anja and Vladek have nowhere to go, a large Swastika looms over them to represent that their lives were dominated by the Holocaust.
Even in Art’s life, a panel depicts him as working on his desk with dead bodies surrounding him and piling up to convey to the reader that the Holocaust still haunts him to this day, and feels a sense of guilt at achieving fame and success at their expense.
Thus, the constant representation of symbols from the Holocaust in Spiegelman’s life and his parents’ past in the panels’ background highlights how inescapable the Holocaust is emotionally and psychologically.
Size of Panels
Some of the panels in the graphic novel are of differentsizes which Spiegelman may have intended to emphasise the significance of certain turning points, crises or feelings. For example, on page 34, there is a disproportionate panel of Vladek and Anja passing a town, seeing the first signs of the Nazi regime compared to the following panels. All the mice seem curious and concerned, peering at the Nazi flag behind them. This panel is significant as it marks the beginning of a tragic regime that would dominate for the rest of their lives.
You should also pay close attention to how some panels have a tendency to overlap with each other which could suggest a link between events, words or feelings.