In this post, Insight writer and EAL teacher Niki Cook offers her tips on how you can prepare for the new VCE EAL Study Design (2023–2027).
Beginning VCE can seem quite daunting at the best of times, but it can appear even more challenging when there’s a new Study Design to negotiate as well. With the new English as an Additional Language Study Design beginning for Units 1 and 2, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with what to expect as you begin your VCE journey. In this blog post we’ll focus on what’s new, what hasn’t changed and what you can do to prepare for the tasks ahead.
1. Focus on language and how it is used
This is going to be crucial for success throughout VCE EAL. The new Study Design has an increased focus on the identification of language features and the understanding of how they are used to create meaning. These skills are required in the ‘Reading and exploring texts’, ‘Crafting texts’ and ‘Exploring argument’ Areas of Study in Units 1 and 2.
As an EAL student, this is likely to be one of the things that you find hardest, as it requires an understanding of the meaning of words, their connotations, and potentially their cultural and social associations. This will require considerable practice!
Try writing sentences and swapping some of the words for synonyms. How does the meaning change? Discuss the changes with native speakers to help build your understanding of the ways in which language is used. Play with word forms and see how using different punctuation can affect meaning. This will particularly help you with Unit 1, Area of Study 2 – ‘Crafting texts’.
2. Record your personal responses
Unit 1, Area of Study 1 focuses on personal connections to texts, which means that you’ll be asked to consider the features of a text and how you connect to and respond to them. How you’ll do this will depend on the text you’re studying and the assessment that your teacher sets, but you can prepare by keeping a journal about your personal responses to texts that you have interacted with. Are you going to see the new Marvel film? Great – write a review of what you thought about it after you’ve seen it! Make notes on what you thought of each one when you finish.
The important thing to focus on here, to help you prepare, is that you explain the reasoning for your responses. As noted in step 1, being able to write about the language features of texts is important across most Areas of Study, so aim to include some detail in your responses. Writing ‘It was great, I liked it a lot’ won’t help much, but if you’re able to say ‘I really liked that it was written in the first person because it helped me empathise with what the main character was feeling’, then you’ll be getting into good habits.
3. Read widely
An old piece of advice, but an enduring one! Reading widely will help expose you to different vocabulary, structures, language features and forms of expression. This will not only help you with your own writing, but it will also help you build confidence when it comes to analysing your set texts.
Set yourself a challenge to read a different genre or text type each week. You have to deliberately expose yourself to unfamiliar types of writing. We all have styles of writing that we prefer to read, but if we just keep reading those texts, we’ll struggle to develop a broad understanding of how language is used in different contexts. Consider making a reading list of different text types with your friends, and then seeing who can tick them all off first.
4. Collect examples of writing you enjoy
This is something that you can do in conjunction with your reading widely challenge. Create a physical or digital scrapbook to collect examples of writing that you’ve enjoyed, then annotate the piece with notes about what you enjoyed about it. This will be good preparation for the ‘Crafting texts’ section of Unit 1, where you will need to explain the reasons behind your language choices. Again, aim to be specific in explaining what you liked. ‘It was good’ doesn’t provide any insight into why you enjoyed it.
5. Listen and speak!
Remember that language isn’t just used in written form; speaking and listening are also key skills in the use and mastery of English. While there isn’t an outcome in Unit 1 or 2 that specifically focuses on listening, it will be assessed in Year 12, so it’s important to keep developing your skills. Listen to podcasts on things that you are interested in, or on the texts that you’ll be studying to help build some background knowledge and contextual understanding. You could even listen to the audio versions of the texts themselves. Listening to audio texts will also help build your understanding of how language is used – the flow and language of written texts are quite different to those of oral texts, and understanding this will help you when you have to prepare your oral presentation in Unit 2.
The new Study Design might seem a little daunting initially, but it promises to be a lot of fun. There’s a greater focus on how language is used, and more scope to play with language and adapt it to different contexts, so embrace this opportunity and enjoy playing with English!
Looking for a resource that will help you navigate Units 1 and 2 of the 2023 VCE EAL Study Design? Make sure you get EAL Year 11: VCE Units 1 & 2 by Melanie Napthine with Niki Cook and Michael E Daniel. It’s a comprehensive textbook that includes detailed guidelines for each Area of Study, as well as strategies for text analysis, practical approaches to developing written pieces, and sample responses.
EAL Year 11: VCE Units 1 & 2 is produced by Insight Publications.