Revision tips for the holidays: Part 2

Insight writer and English teacher Claire Warr gives some tips and strategies for using the holiday period to prepare for your VCE English Exam. This post is the second of two parts; click here to catch up on Part 1.

Preparing for Section C

When preparing for your Section C response, it is important to remember the specific task instruction in the examination:

Write an analysis of the ways in which argument and written and visual language are used to try to persuade others to share the point of view presented.

Read More ...

Revision tips for the holidays: Part 1

Insight writer and English teacher Claire Warr gives some tips and strategies for using the holiday period to prepare for your VCE English Exam.

Study schedule

The Term 3 holidays are here and, while you may feel there is an inordinate amount of exam preparation to complete, it is important to create a study schedule for the holidays that incorporates breaks. Studying for more than 12 hours a day in the lead-up to exams will soon prove exhausting and unproductive.

I suggest working to the school-day schedule. Work on English in the morning, take a short break, undertake further tasks until an hour-long lunchbreak, and study through until the end of the school day. In the afternoon, enjoy some physical activity. Playing sport or even taking a walk will help to consolidate your day’s learning. Your brain is like every other organ in your body: it needs to rest, recuperate and repair before you require it to work to capacity again the next day and into the coming weeks.

Read More ...

EAL: Preparing for the listening comprehension task

Insight writer and EAL teacher Michael E Daniel discusses preparing for the EAL listening comprehension task.

The listening comprehension component of the examination will test your understanding of spoken texts and will be the first task you undertake in the examination. You will have to listen to two or three texts. The total length of the texts is likely to be approximately 10 to 12 minutes.

There is a range of things you can do to prepare for the listening comprehension task. Since listening comprehension is about how well you understand a spoken text, the most effective preparation is to practise listening to aural texts as much as possible. Every time you talk with another person and listen to what they are saying, you are in fact developing your listening and comprehension skills. It is best to practice with aural texts rather than audio-visual texts (such as TV programs or YouTube videos) because when you watch an audio-visual text you are interpreting the meaning of the text largely from visual cues.

Read More ...

Cloudstreet

Insight Text Guide author Anica Boulanger-Mashberg discusses Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet

There are plenty of reasons why Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet (1991) remains one of Australia’s most loved contemporary novels (it hit the top of the list in ABC TV’s First Tuesday Book Club’s survey of ‘10 Aussie Books to Read Before You Die’ in 2012, the National Year of Reading). So how do you translate this diehard national adoration to an enthusiastic and productive academic study?

Yes, it’s one of the longer texts on the VCAA set lists – an epic domestic journey – and that can be overwhelming for students. But it’s a rewarding read, not a slog, and the length and breadth of Cloudstreet means there are so many directions in which students might choose to take their interpretation of the novel. Any one of the text’s features – including character, style, structure, narrative voice, and historical and cultural setting – provides enough textual evidence to support a really in-depth exploration of how Winton constructs meaning in his authorial choices, and by combining any mix of these, a whole new set of investigations becomes available. For instance the narrative framing, formed by the intrusion of Fish’s first-person perspective throughout, welcomes discussions about how narrative point of view influences our understanding of events. When paired with an investigation of the magic-realist style of much of the narrative (particularly Fish and Quick’s experiences), this gives students plenty to think about in terms of how symbolism constructs the reality of the characters and how this reveals underlying authorial beliefs and values. For example, despite the epic difficulties both the Lamb and the Pickles families experience throughout, one of the novel’s strong themes is that family is one of the most important things of all. This is reiterated in symbolism as well as structural elements, such as Quick and Rose’s ultimate return to Cloudstreet, bringing a circular closure to the narrative.

Read More ...

What you should start doing now to prepare for your English exam: Part 2

Insight writer and English teacher Claire Warr discusses what you should be doing now to start preparing for your VCE English Exam. This post is the second of two parts; click here to catch up on Part 1.

The VCE English exam is approximately two months away and, while you may still have assessment tasks to complete for Term 3, it is time to start preparing your examination material. This preparation time is about organising, collating, planning and condensing all of your notes and resources to identify areas that require further attention, and to consolidate your understanding of existing knowledge and ideas.

Read More ...

What you should start doing now to prepare for your English exam: Part 1

Insight writer and English teacher Claire Warr discusses what you should be doing now to start preparing for your VCE English Exam.

The VCE English exam is approximately two months away and, while you may still have assessment tasks to complete for Term 3, it is time to start preparing your examination material. This preparation time is about organising, collating, planning and condensing all your notes and resources to identify areas that require further attention, and to consolidate your understanding of existing knowledge and ideas.

Read More ...

All About Eve

Insight Text Guide author Anica Boulanger-Mashberg discusses Dir. Joseph Mankiewicz’s film All About Eve

‘Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night,’ Margo Channing, one of the central characters, famously quips during a key scene in the film. Is it ever.

When it comes to the selection of multimedia texts, the temptation to choose contemporary films for students to study – on the very practical grounds that it is sometimes easier to engage with more familiar material – can be hard to overcome. But when it comes to classic cinema like All About Eve, hasty dismissal in favour of something more modern really would result in missed opportunities. The stylised film techniques and film language of the era provide such rich fodder for discussion and analysis, and would make particularly good learning ground for students less familiar with studying film. From the poignant, manipulative orchestral commentary underscoring Eve’s plaintive life story in the dressing room scene when she first meets Margo, to the freeze (Eve’s delicate hands outstretched to grasp the award – indeed, everything before her that she desires) as the story loops back to bookend the film with Eve’s award ceremony, the symbolism is offered in not just narrative layers but also through the characteristic contributions of the multimodal genre: soundtrack, camera angles, editing, voice-over and so on. These aspects of the film will all enhance students’ investigation of the ways in which multimodal texts create meaning. At the same time, the narrative structure and the young protagonist’s journey are also very clear and accessible, reminding students that all ‘texts’, no matter the form, can be analysed in terms of the way they develop characters, relationships and key conflicts and events.

Read More ...

The White Tiger

Insight Text Guide author Anica Boulanger-Mashberg discusses Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger

At first glance, Aravind Adiga’s 2008 Man Booker–winning novel The White Tiger is a headlong, near-epic, slyly humorous, tension-building story of one man’s audacious plans to rise above the soul-destroying poverty of modern India through whatever opportunities he can find – even when this includes murder. At second, third, fourth, and further glances, however, this text offers more sophisticated layers perfect for study. It reads almost like genre fiction (the suspense as Balram builds towards finally telling his audience the details of the murder is as good as any telly series cliffhanger) but stands up to deep analysis like all good capital-L Literature. Perhaps an unusual thing, to find both in one book. Of course, English study at this level is about serious investigation and concentrated skill development – but why shouldn’t students be engrossed by the narratives too?

Read More ...

Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Insight Text Guide author Anica Boulanger-Mashberg discusses Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers.

As a reader, I often struggle with nonfiction and, as a student, I used to find it difficult to apply the kinds of analyses I’d learned working with novels – discussions of character, themes, even structure – to nonfiction texts. Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers presents students and teachers with an unusual approach to working with nonfiction. The real-life story of a malicious neighbour’s accusations against a Mumbai slum-dwelling family, and their subsequent struggles, was researched intensely by journalist and writer Boo, in an immersive process where she spent years living very near the slum with her subjects. The result, framed in her curiously novelistic style, is a nonfiction text that reads like fiction. It is ‘creative nonfiction’ (also called literary or narrative nonfiction) – a subgenre some people can be suspicious of, but which has been described by one of its leading proponents, Lee Gutkind, simply as ‘true stories well told’. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is exactly this. I found it so engaging and readable, and a quite intimate way to discover a new sociocultural world: the teeming Indian undercity.

Read More ...

Mabo

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are respectfully advised that this blog contains names of deceased people.

Insight Text Guide author Anica Boulanger-Mashberg discusses Rachel Perkins’ 2012 film Mabo

Rachel Perkins’ 2012 film Mabo tells a deeply important Australian story: of an individual battle; of a family who struggle to hold together through difficult times; of the love between a husband and wife, and whether that love can survive the pressures of external commitment to social activism; of inheritance and chosen heritage; of legal precedent. That it is also a story of Indigenous Australian history should not need emphasising, but it does. It does because Indigenous narratives in the Australian literary and cultural canon are in the minority, despite the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history far exceeding the post-colonial non-Indigenous history in terms of chronological extent. Koiki ‘Eddie’ Mabo and his ground-breaking legal rights case was a significant turning point in the history of Australian race relations – the High Court decision was, as Paul Keating described it at the time, an ‘historic decision’.

Read More ...