Over the past four parts in my Analyse This series, I’ve explored the barriers to analytical writing about literature and established, I think, that we should stop reinforcing the idea that every paragraph should contain the same elements.
Though I think this is the case, it would be exceptionally difficult (more likely impossible) to craft a successful analytical response to a text without building it around a sequence of relevant and developed points. These do not necessarily have to come at the beginning of every paragraph, though you might initially teach students to position them in this way to develop a habit.
What’s the Point?
At what point in the sequence of instructions below do we stop if we wish to get the best out of our students?
“Make a point about the text.”
“Make a point about the character in the text.”
“Make a point about how the writer presents the character in the text.”
“Make a point about how the writer presents the character, ensuring it’s relevant to the task.”
“Make a relevant point about how the writer presents the character as a representative of upper class society in the 1940s.”
“Make a relevant point about the way the writer uses the character to support the view they seem to have of the upper classes in the 1940s.”
“Make a relevant developed point, including a reason, about the way the writer uses the character to support the view they seem to have of the upper classes in the 1940s.”
“Craft four relevant and developed points about the way the writer’s presentation of the character links to the view they seem to have of the upper classes in the 1940s.”
Careless talk costs lives.
The instruction seems to move, during the sequence, from being vague, to being helpfully supportive and on to being overly wordy. To teach point making well, we have to consider which point in the sequence we will lose our students. Careless talk costs lives.
A question worth asking, therefore, is what makes a well crafted point?
The answer is dependent on:
- The quality of the wording of the task.
- The student’s ability to decode the requirements of the task.
- The student’s knowledge of the aspects of the text(s) which are relevant to the task.
- The student’s knowledge of the aspects of context which are relevant to the task.
- The student’s knowledge of vocabulary and ability to select from their vocabulary precisely.
- The student’s knowledge of grammar and punctuation and ability to express themselves accurately.
Where students are week in any of these areas, they will struggle to craft what we might think of as being a good point.
To exemplify this, as well as to give a sense of progression from a very basic point to a more developed one, I’m going to share what Matt Pinkett (@positivteacha) describes as the evolution of a point. This photo shows how a three word point that gives the impression that the student views Scrooge is a real person, moves through a number of steps to become far more developed. The steps Matt has taught are:
- Adding the writer’s name.
- Using a conjunction to encourage further thinking about the point.
- Including the first piece of evidence in the same sentence as the point.
- Including terminology in the same sentence as the point.
I would add to this a development relating to the world outside the text. This would take the final point to:
Prior to his redemption, Dickens uses the simile “solitary as an oyster” to present Scrooge as a lonely man who lacks emotional attachments to friends or family, thus conveying the impact of greed on social cohesion.
To take this further, have a read of this post from Chris Curtis Beyond the Show Sentence. Chris’ post is based on one from Katie Ashford which she has currently taken off line as her school are amending their approach.
Alex Quigley has written this post on How to Train a GCSE Essay Writer which is also very useful in this area.
Other Posts in this Series:
Analyse this Part 1 Thoughts Feelings And Actions
Analyse this Part 2 The Higher You Build Your Barriers
Analyse this Part 3 PEE-Nuts
Analyse this Part 4 Baking Up An Essay