Responding to nonfiction

This week, Insight writer and English teacher Kate Macdonell outlines what you should be looking for when studying nonfiction texts.

In all nonfiction writing there is an implicit contract between the writer and the reader concerning the authenticity of the work. Unlike fiction, which portrays an imaginative world regardless of how realistic it might seem, nonfiction promises the reader a truthful account of real events and people. We expect that what we read about really happened, and that the writer has experienced the events or researched them thoroughly enough to act as an authority on the issues and events depicted.

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Responding to short stories

This week Insight writer and English teacher Melanie Flower outlines what you should be looking for when studying a collection of short stories.

Many people enjoy reading short stories for pleasure – their compact narratives make them an ideal quick read. However, how do you approach your response to a collection of short stories, when the essay you write could be longer than one of the stories? It is important to find connections between the stories, as well as to develop a deep understanding of the individual narratives. These connections will give you focal points for your analytical essays, as well as elements you can draw on for a creative response.

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Responding to plays

This week Insight writer and English teacher Anja Drummond outlines what you should be looking for when analysing a play for English, EAL or Literature.

Regardless of whether you are studying English, EAL or Literature, you will probably be required to analyse a play at some point. To craft a quality response to a play, you need to pay close attention to the elements that are unique to this text type. Consider the following features to give more depth to your analysis of how meaning is created in a play.

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Analysing visual language

This week, Insight writer and English Teacher Kate Macdonell shows us what you need to look for when analysing visual language for Area of Study 2.

Many students find the analysis of images an accessible and enjoyable part of Year 12 English. It is important, however, to prepare for a variety of visual elements that may appear on your Unit 3 SAC task on analysing argument, as well as on Section C of the end-of-year examination. Below are some elements to keep an eye out for.

Context and position

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Improving your essay writing

English teacher Kylie Nealon explains how to approach the text response essay.

Getting the text response essay right in a SAC or exam is, without doubt, your best chance to show off what you know about a text. But how do you do that? What should you include? What should you leave out? And how on earth do you get down what you need to in a single hour? Read on to find out one way of approaching this!

For those of you who love a formula, here’s one that might demystify the process:

E = C + S x A

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Annotating a text

English teacher and Insight writer Melanie Flower explains why annotating your texts is important and outlines how you can do it.

The word annotate comes from the Latin annotare, which means to add a mark. This is literally what annotation is – making marks on the text. While writing in books may have been frowned on when you were a child with an overactive crayon, as a student it is actually very useful to annotate as you read your set texts. Annotations allow you to keep track of your initial responses, note connections and ideas as they occur to you, and highlight words or sections that need clarification. Rather than relying on your memory, take the time to make brief notes so that you can preserve your flashes of insight and resolve your moments of uncertainty. The information below will help you to understand the value of annotations and to annotate your English texts more effectively.

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Understanding the task: the analysis of argument and persuasive language

English teacher and Insight writer Anja Drummond outlines what you need to consider when analysing argument and persuasive language.

The ability to analyse the ways in which argument and language are used to persuade others to agree with a point of view is integral to VCE English. In the SAC for Unit 3, Area of Study 2 you will analyse two or three texts on a current issue, while Section C of the end-of-year exam will ask you to analyse a scenario that you won’t have seen previously.

The following tips will help to ensure you understand the demands of both these tasks.

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Understanding the task – the creative text response

English teacher Kylie Nealon gives tips and strategies on how to craft your creative responses.

With the Creative SAC looming on the horizon, now’s the time to take a deep breath if you’ve broken out in a cold sweat at the very thought of it.

The first key to surviving this task is to understand what it requires you to do. You need to:

  • use what’s already there in your text to help you decide how you might present your characters, their dialogue and their story
  • be deliberate in your choices of language, voice and style
  • edit your work to help your ideas shine.

Cate Kennedy, one of the authors on the text list this year, sums up perfectly how you can narrow your range of focus. She recommends finding a frame that will ‘allow your reader a glimpse which tells them everything they need to know about the people in this world you’ve created’.

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Understanding the task – the analytical text response

English teacher and Insight writer Kate Macdonell gives advice on how to tackle analytical text responses.

The analytical text response is a form of essay that most of you will be familiar with. It will be used for both SAC and end-of-year examination purposes. Although some students find the task straightforward, others find it hard to navigate. Below are some key strategies that will help you to tackle the task with relative confidence.

1. Know your text and its context

You need to read or watch your text several times. On your first reading you will gain a knowledge of the plot, main characters and relationships, and key ideas. However, having a deep understanding of the text requires more than this. In particular, after re-reading the text, you will need to ensure that you understand:

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How to best prepare for Year 12 English during the summer break

Insight writer and English teacher Kate Macdonell gives tips on what students going into Year 12 can do over the summer holidays to prepare for the year ahead.


It is tempting to use the coming summer holidays to relax, have fun and recover from the demands of Year 11. Although it is important to recharge, it is also wise to do some preparatory work for Year 12 English during the break. Below is a list of the kinds of preparation you will want to do in order to ready yourself for the rigours of Year 12 English.

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