This Spring I set my Year 11s a tricky little question for their Edexcel Certificate mock English Lit exam: A comparison of the treatment of love in His Last Duchess and La Belle Dame Sans Merci.
I chose the two longest poems in the Anthology, and the two that they had found the most opaque, precisely because I hoped they would find the question hard. I believe it is a valid question and since the two poems have not yet been examined from Anthology C, I thought it worth while.
I attach a Powerpoint used as part of a give back… a screencast may follow when i have the time!
I had been disappointed by how many students simply had forgotten the two poems – many thinking that the Duke was utterly justified in his behaviour because the Duchess must have been unfaithful. Echoes of MAAN became hard to miss, but with the Duke as a wronged Claudio rather than an arrogant and domineering husband who treats his wife and love in general as a business transaction. The treatment of Belle Dame, tended to miss the Gothic decay of the surroundings and the focus tended to be on the woman and miss the idea that men are their own worst enemies – he is warned, but persists!
Anyway, have fun.
Compare the depiction of love
anth C test
Unseen paper: Marginal gains… small steps to big improvements.
A resource written as a give-back aid for this paper which I wrote as an Edexcel Unseen paper – Lit 2.
mock lit paper 2_ unseens
marginal gains unseen paper
This file contains the text below and a little picture embedded to help…
ZOOM IN: Ensure that when you analyse you always show a direct link to the key words or phrase which are relevant. This is a key element of the PEARL technique. Without zooming into these phrase, it is almost impossible to convince an examiner that you have a detailed or perceptive understanding of the language used.
FULLY DEVELOP: Try not to leave anything unstated. Too often students write “ this helps the reader to share the writer’s emotion”. If you think about it, this tells me little that proves that you understand the effect or how it is created. Ideally, explain the actual emotion… “the author’s sense of frustration is shown by…” is so much more effective.
STRUCTURE FOR CLARITY: Remember SCASI? Your essay will be much more effective with a short introduction which places the passage into context. Avoid the “in this is essay I will analyse…” school of repetition and aim for something more like this: “In this poem about the experiences of a recently arrived immigrant in post-war London…” or “This passage in which a young protagonist is in danger and on the run…” is useful because i) it shows that you understand the passage and ii) it gives you a context in which to make the analytical points you wish to raise.
EXPLAIN DON’T ASSERT: Try to explain every point. Too often I read paragraphs which simply tell me that the writer is “upset” or “angry”. This is linked to FULLY DEVELOP, and requires the same process- never leave the examiner hanging by failing to show your working. IN maths you would explain fully even a simple response such as finding the angle in a right-angled triangle… do the same here. Zoom into the key word(s) and make your thought process clear. Sometimes the best ideas are personal and take quite a lot of explanation. In an exam, the examiner has a mark scheme with useful ideas on it and the instruction to reward any “valid” thought. Make sure your idea is seen to be valid.
PICK THE BEST EXAMPLES: In order to get maximum credit, ensure you choose well. If asked to find evidence of dramatic effects, look at the clearly dramatic. In terms of the passage here – the knife, the short sentences, the subordination during the chase. Ideally you will find an example which allows you to clearly refer to the question (see below) when answering. A poor choice will be much harder to link in this way.
TERMS OF THE QUESTION: In a PEARL paragraph, the R should be understood to require you to RELATE to the question, probably more than to the reader. If you are asked to track “dramatic effects”, make sure all you points do this clearly – use the term in your response on a regular basis. The risk is that you slip into a form of generalised comment and lose the chance to be seen as perceptive, or even thorough!
A useful resource for increasing the range of responses to emotions… no more happy…sad… angry!
A mark scheme can be found in this booklet:
A model response… model for unseen response.
I will be using this to introduce Year 11 to the art of unseen analysis. Feel free to use it.
unseen lesson intro
A screencast to discuss this paper can be found here:
I have tried to give a general response to the paper as well as focusing on some examples of good practice found in the papers I have marked.
I am working on a module which introduces writing of diverse ages and styles to Year 9, partly as enrichment and partly to begin the process of unseen response. The PDFs attached are images drawn/created by some of the students – Ekum, Avleen, Preet, Sylvia and Aman. Please open them and enjoy the work – it deserves to be enjoyed.
In all cases, the students have been told to respond to a central image or idea underlying Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 – “Let me not to the marriage of true minds/ admit impediment.”
The task is not the art itself – lovely though it is, but in what follows. Based on my experience of teaching IBDP Independent Oral Presentations, I am excited by the idea that students who explain the genesis of their artwork also, by definition, show deep understanding of the metaphor/image that they are discussing, which might not always be present when they are told simply to comment on the language choice in front of colleagues.
It is important that the students understand that this is a two part process- the art and the explanation and that they are kept engaged with then need to be able to show how their ideas originated in the text.
A good example here is Avleen’s work – the alphabet sheet. I didn’t “get it” at first. She explained to the class and the understanding of Shakespeare’s poem became so obvious.
I and U are a couple, ring fenced and protected by love. The other letters represent temptation or distraction -“alteration”, ” “remover” or “impediment”. No matter how lovely the other letters are, they will never overthrow the marriage of true minds that “I have with U.”. Simple? Maybe. Effective and memorable? YES!
Please enjoy these pictures and by all means use them as stimuli – just give credit to Year 9 (!) at Upton Court Grammar School.
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Some teaching materials I will be using to introduce Writing to IED to my new Year 9 class. There is an outline Powerpoint which can be adapted or made more detailed as required and the word documents referred to in it, since the direct links will only work from my laptop!
tension model para