Year 12 English is the one subject that counts towards your ATAR no matter what and this makes a lot of students nervous. If English isn’t your strength then here are a few things you need to know to help make your Year 12 English experience a little less daunting.
Reading and Responding
AOS 1: Reading and Responding is the area of study commonly referred to as the text study and it focuses on reading, understanding and interpreting texts. Reading and Responding demands that you undertake a comprehensive text study that culminates in you showing your understanding of the texts you studied in well supported and well written text response essays.
Know what the teacher/examiner is looking for
The best Reading and Responding essay, or text analysis essays, show a deep understanding and analysis of the text you are studying. This can only be achieved by knowing your text like the back of your hand, studying the text itself and questioning the author’s intentions. Once you know the text inside and out, the next challenge is to write a well structured, well supported essay to show off your knowledge to the examiners or your teacher.
Ask yourself these questions
Here are some questions to ask yourself when studying a text that will help you think beyond the surface of the text and get you examining some of the deeper ideas.
What are the character’s main actions in the plot and what do we learn from them?
How does the character change and grow in the text – what is their journey?
What are the characters relationships like with other characters?
Which themes/ideas are explored through the journeys of the characters?
What do you think is the overall reason for this character being included in the text?
What is the author trying to explore and how to do we know this? (what is the evidence from the text?)
What are the author’s key messages in relation to each theme/ big idea/ issue and how do you know this?
There are many more questions you could ask yourself but remember – a text is not written by accident. The author makes very intentional decisions about every character, theme and setting that they include (and the language features and literary devices they use) and there is a reason behind each one of these decisions. If you question the text at this level, thinking about the author’s intentions and messages and how they are delivered and how the author makes meaning in their text then you will be on the right track for text study success!
Creating and Presenting
AOS 2: Creating and Presenting was added the Study Design to give students the opportunity to showcase their ability to write creatively and for different audiences and purposes. You will be given a context to study (your school will most likely decide which of the four contexts you will study) which is a essentially a theme or big idea around which your work will be based.
Know what the teacher/examiner is looking for
You are required to produce your own pieces of writing exploring the context your school has chosen. Beware – this is not another text study. Although you will read texts in this area of study, they are provided as inspiration for your own writing, not as a text to write an essay on. Examiners want to see how you use the text you are given as a vehicle to create your own writing and how you can incorporate the ideas of the context with your own ideas to create a new and interesting piece. Having said that, the quality of your writing is every bit as important as the prompt and the text. The pieces that do best in this area of study are the ones that show creativity and a genuine engagement with the context.
Each piece is judged on several things:
The prompt is not an essay topic – it is intended to “prompt” or inspire your thoughts and ideas around the context. Having said this, your writing piece needs to have a link to the prompt or be exploring ideas that are in the prompt – you cannot just ignore it and write on whatever you like. You should always consider the implications or issues of the prompt and try to explore these in some way in your writing. Although the prompts will always be general (they have to relate to all four texts in each context so they can’t be too specific) you need to explore the ideas of the prompt with depth and substance.
Ideas from the text
There is no rule as to how much you need to refer to the text, however as the text explores some of the central concerns of the context you should be able to use the text in some way in your response. There must be enough of a link to the text for the assessor to recognise something about the text in your writing. This link doesn’t have to be through directly discussing the text. It could be through referencing or emulating any of the features or ideas of the text including language techniques, structure, literary devices, techniques, characters, themes or issues.
Along with all of this your piece needs to be a clever, mature, unique and interesting response to the prompt and the text. You will be assessed (as with any piece you write in English) by how well you write. The assessor will be looking at your piece of writing not only in relation to how it addresses the prompt and references the text but also as its own piece, examining the ideas and concerns of the context. You need to focus on style, language use, the form of writing you choose and your grammar and punctuation as these elements all have an effect on the readability and sophistication of your final text.
Using Language to Persuade
Know what the assessor is looking for
This area of study is one that many students find difficult. You are expected to be able to analyse another person’s point of view in a persuasive article and not only discuss what they are saying but how and why. The trick to this is to have some strategies and a step by step plan to follow that will enable you to work out what is going on in an article even when you are under the pressure of a time limit.
Understand the art of persuasion
People use various methods to try to influence others to agree with their opinion and persuasion could be described as an art form. One of the reasons this area of study is in the study design is so that students are made aware of the tricks of the media so that you can be more critical of what is around you and make informed decisions in your life based on evidence and not opinion. Whether you are given a speech, letter to the editor, some sort of persuasive article or an image to analyse there are certain techniques and language features they will employ to try to garner the support of their audience. It is not enough to just recognise some of the persuasive techniques and label them, you must also have an understanding of why these techniques are being employed and how they are designed to impact on the reader.
Discuss the language of persuasion
Just as you organise your own essays by focussing on particular arguments, so will writers in the media. It is your job to identify the main points they are making in order to work out exactly how you will structure your language analysis essay.
When analysing the way someone has used written and visual language in an attempt to persuade, there are some things to look for to make it a bit easier.
Go through the article and think about the following things:
- What is the author saying (their main arguments or points)?
- How are they saying it (the language techniques they are employing to get their point across)?
- Why are they saying it in this way (the intended effect on the reader of what they said and how they said it)?
It is this last point – thinking about the effect of the particular language devices the author is employing that is the most important as this is the bit that most people forget to address. It is not enough to be able to identify what the author is saying and how, but you must think about why – what are they trying to make the audience think or feel by portraying a person or organisation in a certain way? What are they trying to suggest or imply using words with a negative connotation?
If you can make sure that you address these three things in each of your paragraphs then you are a step ahead of a lot of other students.
VCE English is really nothing to be scared of but it does take a bit of effort to become a master. Make sure you set aside at least 1-3 hours each week to read, write notes and write practice essays.