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GCSE English Literature Guide Close Reading Techniques

Steve Campsall | Wednesday May 15, 2013

Categories: KS4, AQA GCSE, EDEXCEL GCSE, Edexcel GCSE Generic Skills, Edexcel GCSE Skills Resources, OCR GCSE, WJEC Eduqas GCSE, Drama, Analysing Drama, Hot Entries, Poetry, Yeats, W.B. Yeats, Prose, Analysing Prose, Teaching Ideas & Skills Development, AQA GCSE Generic Skills, AQA GCSE Skills Resources, Edexcel English Literature, Unit 1 Understanding Prose, OCR GCSE Generic Skills, OCR GCSE Skills Resources, WJEC GCSE Generic Skills, WJEC GCSE Skills Resources, WJEC GCSE English Literature

Teacher’s Note

This guide has been tested successfully with students and gives them ways for them to develop a much deeper response to literature, with a particular, but not exclusive, focus on poetry. It also shows how to analyse at the levels of form, structure and language – the first two of which seem to cause near universal difficulties.

The various elements within the guide can easily be adapted either for direct student use (i.e. as a stand-alone revision guide) or for classroom use, where the various activities and examples can be used as a part of a series of lessons.

The poem used in the guide for illustrative purposes is Yeats’ The Wild Swans at Coole from the AQA ‘Place’ anthology but the same techniques can be used with many different poems, and can even be adapted to help students analyse unseen poems.

Why English is Different…

In Maths, the mark schemes require top grade answers to be accurate; in English, the mark schemes require top grade answers to be ‘perceptive’, ‘insightful’ and ‘evaluative’. In maths every correct response will always be identical and will be an objective fact, that is, it can be proven. In English, every correct response will always be different and will be a subjective opinion, that is, one that can never be proven.

  • A successful English answer needs to be reasonable and well-reasoned.

Activity 1 Think about:

  • Why is there this difference?
  • What does ‘reasonable’ and ‘well-reasoned’ mean?

Now think about this. If we could ask writers…

  • what brought them to choose their topics
  • why they wrote about the topic in the ways they did
  • what their texts are ‘really’ about

Would their answers be worth a higher mark than a student’s different, but reasonable and well-reasoned interpretation of their texts? Should the exam board award this different interpretation zero marks because it isn’t what the writer says?

Activity 2

Work out a response to the following:...

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