Weeks 1&2 work: Language Analysis preparation (focus on reading) and The Secret River (focus on writing)

  1. Language Analysis preparation: read Chapter 2: Formulating and developing arguments and complete the following activities:2.1-2.5; 2.11-12; 2.14-17; 2.20-22c  Our next lesson on Language Analysis will consist of you presenting your issue orally (your main contention; major arguments; specific evidence) for peer assessment; 2.26 is the final exercise.                                                                                        This textbook and its activities are available in an online format so use the information on the inside front cover of your text to access the material.lang analyis code
  2. The Secret River Writing Task #1: Write a version of the encounter in ‘Strangers’ from the perspective of the aboriginal: 300 words                                                               The Secret River Writing Task #2: Write a version of a trial scene related to another of the convicted felons in the story. You should re-read the scene from the novel p.61-66 and read also Charles Dicken’s courtroom scene from Great Expectations  here for another example of a courtroom scene. 300 words

Get Ready For Term 2

We will be completing the following next term:
1. Analysis of Argument – analysis of persuasive text/s
2. Presentation of Argument – writing a persuasive text (letter to ed; editorial; speech; opinion article)
3. Creative response to The Secret River.

The skills for the first two pieces (which go hand in hand) are supported by your red text book. We will be working with that closely next term. The holiday work needs to be done properly – gather the text samples and then analyse how they are written and writing a style guide for each type. This is foundation work for the course. It will feel like hard work because it will exercise the higher order thinking processes. The good news is, when you think it yourself you own the new neural pathways. It opens up new possibilities when it comes to your future reading and writing. Independent learning is the stuff that keeps us all going.

The creative response to The Secret River relies on you understanding the plot, themes, character development of the text as a starting point to appreciating the way language is used to capture a lived experience and dramatise that for an audience. You will be writing creatively on a prompt drawn from the text.

You should go to the MHS English Faculty website (google it) for further details if necessary.

Most importantly you need to engage in an ongoing dialogue with me about what it is you need to be doing to improve your work. A great starting point is your Logicomix essay. You have written feedback about that but you may wish for further clarification. TALK TO ME. SHOW ME THAT YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT TO FOCUS ON TO IMPROVE.

Here’s an idea: re-write a section of your essay, taking into account your feedback. Can you actually add value? Show it to me. We can chat about what you can do to make it even better. You need to focus on what skills are important; what kind of material will be presented over the term; and be asking me what things you could be doing to master those skills. Make no mistake, the analytical and writing skills you develop now will serve you for the rest of your life.

A note about essay structures and formulas often promoted by tutors and the like. Know this: a formula for a type of essay might be a handy thing to learn and rehearse but it is but an empty vessel. The most important thing is the quality of the thinking which will be on display. The ideas need to be yours. They need to be accurately expressed. They need to be supported with careful selection of textual evidence and rigorous analysis. This is the essence of scholarship. You may have a great mind but have you the discipline to develop it? Does your work have intellectual integrity? Is it the best you can do?

I hope this makes sense. Get on with the holiday homework and develop your appreciation for how writers work to present arguments and what language they use to position their readers to accept their argument. I want – scratch, that; YOU SHOULD WANT – true deep thought instead of short-cuts, formulas and box-ticking.

Contrary to popular belief: IN YEAR 11, EVERYTHING COUNTS. 

Oh, and in between times and only once you have finished ‘The Secret River’ you need to read The Crucible and The Handmaid’s Tale. All the work we will be doing on these texts is in the Red or Dead blog (link on the right sidebar). Why should you read them now when we are studying them in Semester 2? Know yourselves – you will be under the pump by then due to VCE 3&4 demands so get cracking on it now. Apart from the fact that ‘it’s on the test’ you should read these texts because:
1. both are rip-roaring tales that draw their dramatic inspiration from real world events.
2. They are often referenced in popular culture to try to help explain the way individuals and societies work. Don’t be a dummy when it comes to the Handmaid and Crucible references.
3. Because the this year there will be a new film of The Handmaid’s Tale and it is  going to be AWESOME

Language Analysis Holiday Reading Assignment

Your holiday task is outlined on the blog The Dress of Thought (link in the right side panel) which is where all our language analysis material is stored.

Allow 6 hours minimum for this task.  Do not try to cram it into the night before we return.

Searching, Locating, Cutting and Pasting: 2 hours (this time may be spread over a number of days as news emerges and opinions surface – it’s more interesting if you can follow your issue/s that interest you personally.

Reading and Thinking: 2 hours

Writing Style Guide: 2 hours (this is the tricky bit because you are synthesizing the information you have read; identifying patters in language, structure and style then converting this into a different form entirely (the style guide).  Your high level cognitive skills will be required so turn your social media off and do it properly.  This work will underpin all your argument analysis work for the whole of VCE.

Essays: making your mind up

Quite apart from their superlative display of colourful costumes and creative choreography, it was Bucks Fizz who, back in Eurovision 1981, had the wisdom and insight to suggest that:

“…soon you will find
That there comes a time
For making your mind up.”

They could easily have been singing about essay planning (were they, even? Who can say?).

It is very easy to merely reflect an essay topic back to the examiner. It feels like a safe option.  You make sure your introduction echoes the sentiment in the topic and then you go about finding examples of this in your set text.  This will, at best, only demonstrate that you have read the topic and that you can find related evidence from the text.

*shrugs* So what? *looks up cat videos on youtube*

Well, that’s not the high level analysis you want to engage in.  By reflecting the topic back in its unqualified, unexamined, unrefined form and simply finding evidence to illustrate it you are effectively proving to your audience that there is a presence of a big idea in the text but not really informing us of the essence of the thing.  That is, what is it exactly that you think that we, as readers, are positioned to view certain themes or characters and in what circumstances or conditions and to what end?  What is being suggested about the nature of [insert idea]*

*take your pick:  genius; madness; neurosis; the intellectual pursuit; love; fear; uncertainty; heroism; conflict; reason; irrationality, age and youth; wisdom….the list goes on.


Let’s look at one such question which could stem from an essay topic:

What does Logicomix suggest about the nature of fear?

Did you feel your mind hesitate at the thought of answering this question immediately? Your brain probably danced a step or two back to take another look at the question.  This is an understandably skittish response to what is a big and complex question which undoubtedly demands considered, nuanced and qualified answers (multiple).  Do not expect to just rattle off a response from the top of your head or spit out an essay in exam conditions without first doing some heavy lifting first (remember the ants in Whitehead’s garden).  You should  feel your mind take a little time-out on the bench to consider the nature of fear as it is presented in all its guises in the book.  That is why it is so important to devote time to deep thought.

Some possible responses to such a question might be framed in such a way:

Logicomix shows us that:

  • fear has the power to…..
  • fear originates from…
  • fear can be both…..while conversely….
  • irrationality stems from fear of…
  • fear is inextricably linked to…
  • without fear we….
  • humans need to conquer fear in order to….
  • fear leads to….which in turn…
  • fear of ……. undermines our attempts to…..
  • fear can be harnessed….
  • we are right to fear…..
  • in Russell’s case, fear is…..

Notice how each of these statements goes some way to presenting the complexity of the ideas in the text.  Each would obviously need careful consideration and gathering of evidence to be developed into a decent paragraph.  You should see, though, how each statement is evidence a position taken.  A view to be presented.  An interpretation to be developed. A perfect topic sentence.  A mind made up.