Learn more about my unique teaching methods, top tips and great ways for your child to approach their English GCSEs. Please take a moment to read the blog posts below.
Is it possible to revise for English?
English is certainly a very difficult subject to revise for. Unlike the other 'fact driven' subjects, where the route to successful revision is often a lot easier to navigate, English revision can be a challenge.
Yet there certainly are ways that students can independently revise for English.
The first strategy that I would suggest revolves around the set texts. I always use 'audible' to listen to any new texts that I am going to teach. There are many benefits to gain from listening to novels. Often the individual reading them is an actor/actress and is therefore able to use intonation and expression whilst reading in a very successful way that makes the novel interesting and engaging. Also, listening to a novel/play can realistically be completed in a day or so whilst reading a play or a novel can take a considerable amount of time longer.
Secondly, it is always important to have a bank of really superb phrases/words to use. I give my students a list of really strong generic words to use for when they are writing to persuade, writing to describe and also analysing work.
By revising a list of sophisticated words to use, it ensures that marks are maximised for expression in the exam. I wouldn't personally have too many for each genre of writing. 8-10 words or phrases is more than enough. For Literature these are the kinds of words I would encourage students to use, in order to demonstrate sophistication:
Another tip to give students when revising, is to make sure that they watch any set poems on YouTube. YouTube is a fantastic tool to use as very often there are some clips of the set poems that are read out. On these clips there are often visual images to help understand the poems and also teachers explaining the key themes of the poems.
Lastly, I always recommend students of mine to read broadsheet newspapers. Often within these papers, if articles about politics are put to one side, there are really fantastic articles about interesting issues/subjects. The wonderful thing about reading a broadsheet newspaper is that this then provides students with all of the techniques that they themselves have to use (so these articles are a fantastic example of the kind of thing that students themselves need to create). In addition to this, students are provided with impressive vocabulary, sentence structures and tone usage - all things that they get awarded marks for in the exam.
What to consider when writing to persuade
Writing to persuade, in the English Language GCSE, constitutes 25% of the final grade.
This is such an important part of the exam that it is certainly worth considering the essential ingredients that are necessary for success.
The first thing is to consider the correct genre. The genre that you write in is the style/type of writing that you write in. So, therefore, if you are asked to write a letter then the techniques that you use within that letter will be different in comparison to if you were writing a story. Types of genre techniques that I suggest that students use are triples, repetition, rhetorical questions, statistics, personal pronouns, anecdotes and reliable quotations. This makes sure that the examiner can reward you for writing in the correct genre and it also adds some substance to your paragraphs.
Secondly, ensuring that you use a range of sentence structures is always very important. I encourage my students to consistently use the full range of sentence structures in every paragraph: simple sentences, compound sentences and complex sentences. This will enable the examiner to reward you for showing the different types of structures. I particularly like to encourage complex sentences being used as they are so successful at being able to emphasise a point in a subtle and intelligent way.
Additionally, using a range of punctuation is also important. Using colons, semi colons, hyphens, exclamation marks and inverted commas are all essential to demonstrate this skill set. Perhaps the most important thing for me to see is the semi colon and colon as this portrays a student with class and elegance.
Lastly, vocabulary is certainly an important ingredient as well. I advise my students to have a bank of 15 words that can be used generically in most persuasive writing responses. These 15 words should be oozing with class, style and sophistication so that when the examiner reads them, they are instantly placing the student in higher levels. Words such as 'imperative', 'compelling', 'exacerbate' and 'futile' are all words that are wonderfully striking to use and can also be used in most responses. This is a fantastic strategy.
How to approach unseen poetry
For many students, approaching unseen poetry is perhaps the most daunting of things that they can experience in English. Simply because of the fact that they have not seen the poem before, it places students in a position of unknown and this, understandably, promotes uncertainly.
I have a few tips for students. Firstly, I find that poetry is very much so like a puzzle. It only unfolds when read at least twice. The first read of a poem is often met with students understanding a small amount of it, and then students jump straight into analysing it. Just taking an extra three or four minutes to re-read and establish very clear thoughts on the direction you want to take works wonders.
Secondly, I often say to students to think what the 'Golden Thread' is. What is the thread that runs through the entire poem? The single most important message that the poet is trying to convey. Once that is decided students can then base their analysis strongly around this one key concept/idea.
It is also very important to look at poetry metaphorically as well. Often, if there is a poem about a tree - students should look for a deeper message. Is it really about a tree? Or something far deeper. Many poems about seemingly insignificant things such as a flower, a tree or an animal is often a metaphorical thought that contributes to a more philosophical discussion of an element of human nature - so students shouldn't be too literal with poetry!
An example of this is a very well-known poem about snowdrops. In this poem, dedicated totally to a snowdrop, the poet is really trying to offer a discussion not on the gentleness, beauty and tenderness of a snowdrop but on human nature: how we are as delicate and ill-fated as flowers, who can be blown by the wind at any stage into different circumstances in life.