Saturday, 21 November 2015

Revision App 
A first post of the 2015/16 academic year!

Here's a link to the GCSE English revision app. Click the pic:

Thanks for showing me this, KM. A good find (if a bit geeky).

Why not give it a whirl?

Mr M

Saturday, 30 May 2015

The final stretch

Hi folks,

Well, if your GCSEs were a marathon, then you're here: approaching the final corner - counting down yards instead of miles. The finishing line is around the next bend!

I know that you lot are all ready now, but if you feel like you need a final shove in the right direction, I'll be about at the end of school on Monday for a final revision session. 

I'll bring biscuits! For the final time!

Have I said final enough?

Mr M

Friday, 29 May 2015

English Language - Exam Guide and Q4 tips

Hi all,

As you know, the next English Paper is THE BIG ONE!

Here's my exam guide:

You can find a past paper and mark scheme here

I have a series of powerpoints dealing with each question in turn. You can find these here, here and here.

Question 4 is the really tricky one, as you can see from this graph:

The key to standing out from the crowd on this paper is by being one of the 21% of students who answer Q4 well. The only way to do it is practise, practise, practise!

Tips for Q4:

1) Memorise this... and practise searching for these techniques (esp. the ones in bold):

2)  Remember the keys words in the question: language and its effects.

3) In order to make the most of your comparisons, be prepared to use both of these key words as starting points for comparison:

4) Using language as a starting point for comparison
  • Both writer's start with long, list-like sentences in order to....   
  • In both articles, the writers use metaphor to illustrate their points...
  • In Source 3, there is a lexical chain of words which remind us of movie monsters...
  • Whereas in Ssource 2, the writer uses a string of powerful verbs to...
  • Both writers use alliteration to good effect... 
  • The language in Source 3 is often colloquial...
  • In comparison, the language of Source 1 is fairly formal. However, there are exceptions...
5) Using effects as a starting point for comparion
  • At the start of Source 3, the writer builds tension before revealing the subject of the article...
  • Similarly, the writer of Source 1 is trying to build interest...
  • Both texts have a humorous tone in places...
  • Both writers use hyperbole in order to persuade the reader...
  • Source 3 ends with a feeling of triumph...
  • In contrast, Source 2 ends with a sense of resignation... 
 REMEMBER, when starting with effects, make sure you comment on language after the quote to explain how the writer's techniques helped achieve those effects.
 6) Follow up your quotes by analysing (ZOOM IN):
  • The word ___________ has connotations of...
  • The word __________ has the effect of...
  • This suggests...
  • This use of imagery has the effect of...
  • The use of the short sentence at this point is particularly effective because...
  • The writer's use of assonance has the effect of...
  • This has an impact on the reader because... 
 7) Structuring your response:

I'm always a little wary of giving students a set structure. This is because it entirely depends on the combination of texts in front of you. A structure like DAFOREST is limiting in that it just picks out a few arbitrary techniques in a weird order - and some of them aren't language. It's a structure to scrape you a C.

If I was pushed to recommend a structure, it's probably be this:

1) Start by comparing the effect of the openings of the extracts and how they suit the purpose of the text (eg. building tension/interest, shock, persuasion, describing etc)
2) Write about word choices in the two sources
3) Write about imagery (similes/metaphors/personification) or comparisons used to illustrate.
4) Write about sound effects such as alliteration and assonance in the two texts.
5) Comment on the use of sentence structures (long, short, lists, repetition etc.)
6) If there's time, end by commenting on how the endings of the texts are effective. 

It's very likely that you won't have time to do all this, but you don't have to. This structure will give you plenty to write about and will keep you on task. Starting with effects gives you a nice way in to any combination of texts. 

Finally, a very useful resource can be found here: a past paper (your mock?) with example Band 4 answers (with examiners comments).

I hope this helps. Feel free to send me stuff to mark! And get in touch if you are unsure about anything.

Mr M 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Revision Session and debrief

Hi all,

A few last messages:

1) Please drop in tomorrow and let me know how it went.
2) Over half-term, remember to have a go at the Q4 (language) question for the final English Language paper I gave you. THIS QUESTION IS THE BIG ONE!
3) If you're available, I can do a revision session at the end of the first day back after half-term to discuss your Q4 response. Let me know.

Mr M

Portrait vs Alison


One more...

Here's the exemplar answer we worked on in class on Tuesday:

Compare the ways in which poets present feelings of loss in 'On a Portrait of a Deaf Man' and one other poem.

In On a Portrait of a Deaf Man, the speaker is mourning the loss of a loved one (probably a father) and is experiencing feelings of anger and horror about death. In contrast, in Casehistory Alison, the speaker is mourning the loss of her own past life and memories following an accident. Her inability to remember means that she 'cannot get over' it, but Alison seems resigned rather than angry.

In Portrait of a Deaf Man, the speaker experiences sharply contrasting emotions. On the one hand, the portrait of his father brings back fond memories. He mentions small details that bring his father to life, from his 'kind old face' and 'egg-shaped head' to his 'discreetly loud' tie. These fond memories use synecdoche to start to put together a sense of who he was. However, each of these details has darker connotations. The egg image implies fragility, and the oxymoron of 'discreetly loud' represents the mixed feelings which run throughout the poem. Each detail from the past links to a morbid thought about the present: his fondness for 'potatoes in their skin' is a reminder of the man's skin now - and his position in the earth. Later, the reference to shaking hands links to a grim thought about how 'his finger bones stick through his finger ends'. The poet's main point seems to be that fond memories have been tainted with the horrid realisation of death.

Similarly, in Casehistory Alison, there is a sense of pride and fondness when focusing on the past contrasted with a sense of shame and despair about her transformation. In fact, the contrast is so sharp that Fanthorpe presents Alice in both the 1st and 3rd person, describing her as 'My husband's wife, my mother's only daughter'. This immediately creates an identity crisis; the old Alison and the new Alison are like different people. This is developed with a series of contrasting descriptions. In the past, Alison had 'delicate angles' and 'airy poise' like a 'Degas dancer.' These descriptions create an image of grace and beauty, like a work of art. The 'autocratic knee' also depicts the old Alison as being powerful and in control. The new Alison couldn' be more different; she is 'enmeshed in ... fat' and that same knee now 'lugs' her upstairs. The word 'enmeshed' has connotations of entrapment, suggesting she feels trapped in this new life, mind and body. The use of the heavy sounding 'lug' sharply contrasts to her 'airy poise' in the past. Later in the poem, we learn of other things she has lost: her old 'lack of faith' and her 'smiles' - even after her father's death. Her head injury means she has to suffer grief over and over again, and the 'lack of faith' implies that her old carefree attitude has gone forever.

The structure of these two poems is very different and shows the different mindsets of the speakers. On a Portrait of a Deaf Man is fairly regular, with an abcb rhyme scheme and regular stanza lengths. This helps create a sense of order and certainty which fits with the speaker's blunt, direct assessment of the reality of life and death. The rhymes often make this blunt truth all the more horrific as they are completed at the end of each stanza, many of which end with an image of horror. In contrast, the three lines stanzas and enjambment in Casehistory Alison help recreate the irregular, uncertain nature of her new life. The splitting of phrases using enjambment (eg. 'lugs me upstairs/Hardly') suggests that she is always trying to catch up with herself, and that thinks never quite fit together as they should. The short, long, short pattern in terms of stanza lengths creates a sense of a repetitive cycle - much like her existence now that she needs 'reminding every morning.' Although there is little rhyme, clusters of repeated words and phrases help create pathos: 'morning' comes in close proximity with its homophone 'mourning', emphasising the repeated sense of loss. Other repetitions (smiles, faith) emphasise the sense of there being two Alisons.

Finally, Casehistory Alison ends with more repetition as 'a bright girl she was' is repeated. At the end however, there is more pathos as it is juxtaposed with the tragedy of the previous line: 'I am her future'. 'Was' seems like the perfect word to end the poem with, as it suggests that her old life is well and truly consigned to the past and can never be recovered. Portrait of a Deaf Man ends in anger - at God. The address to God and the capitalisation of His name suggests a continuing belief, but the accusation suggests a crisis of faith. The final word emphasises the bleak reality of the constant presence of 'decay' and death. Perhaps the speaker's horror is as much about his own decay as it is about the loss of his father; losing a loved one has made him discover the truth of his own mortality.

As you can see girls, you can't write about everything in 45 minutes. You don't have to. Just use the structure we discussed today and stay focused and you'll be fine.

Best of luck,

Mr M

Final Poetry Advice


I'm pretty confident about this one, girls. You are more ready for this paper than any other class that I've sent into this exam in the past.

In this post, I'd like to just focus on some key reminders. See previous posts for past papers, mark schemes, links to blogs about other poems etc.

So, here's a reminder of the structure I described today:


  • when comparing ideas/attitudes/feelings, you should still analyse and interpret your quotes
  • when comparing the writer's methods, you should still comment on interpretations of meanings (ideas/feelings/poet's message etc.) Perhaps do structure before language to ensure that you don't forget it.
In effect, you are using two different starting points for making comparisons to ensure that you hit the requirements of the marking criteria. You are looking at the comparison from two different angles (I wish I could show you Burrell's illustration here - if you send a photo, I'll put it up!).
Just keep doing what you've been doing through the course. Zoom in and zoom out.
A few last things...

Remind yourself of poetic devices here.

Finally, here's a couple of interpretations of My Last Duchess. There's loads of help on this poem out there, including tutorials on Youtube like this one

Here's one more dramatic reading of the poem, this time re-imagined as a British-Asian arranged marriage.

Great work so far, girls. You're nearly there: keep going!

Mr M