Question three of the first GCSE English Language paper requires students to write about the structure of the literary source they’re provided with:
Although this task seems fairly straight-forward – how has the writer structured the text? – I’ve always found the concept of structure hard to teach because I’ve never been entirely clear on what counts as a structural feature and what doesn’t. The upshot of this is that I think I’ve tended to over complicate things. I’ve never really felt that I’ve taught structure well. Anyway, enough preamble… Recently, I went to examiner training provided by AQA and I took some of the notes on question three. Here they are… There’s nothing surprising or transformative, but hope they’re useful.
What is structure?
- ‘Shifts, movements and progressions through the text.’
What are some common structural features?
- Zooming in from something big to something much smaller (or vice versa).
- Shifting between different times or places.
- A sudden or gradual introduction of new characters or significant points.
- Moving from the inside to the wider outside world (or vice versa).
- Combining external actions with internal thoughts.
- Switching between different points of view.
- Developing and reiterating: focusing on a point of view by expanding and repeating it.
- Circular structure – returning at the end to what happened at the beginning.
- Positioning of key sentences and their impact on the whole.
A few bits on marking:
- To achieve a level two mark, students need to be able to recognise structural shifts and then say something relevant about their significance.
- To move further up the mark scheme, students should explore the source as a whole – not just isolated extracts.
- When marking responses, column one of the mark scheme should always be the starting point – make a broad judgement on a level before deciding upon a specific mark.
- Students do not have to fulfil all descriptors in a level before they can progress – meaning that students can enter the mark scheme at, say, level three.
A few bits on teaching:
- ‘At this point’ is useful starter phrase that should help lower-ability students write about narrative progression.
- At a very basic level, students should be able to make a distinction between the beginning, middle and end of the source.
- Overview sentences can help to signal a broad understanding of the source as a whole e.g. ‘This helps to create a sense of foreboding.’ However, having used them, it’s important that students then go into more depth.
- Concise responses will be rewarded. Students should avoid over complicating their answers (the key word for level three is ‘clear’).
- Literary terminology should enhance written responses. Students should avoid feature-spotting.
Thanks for reading –