Insight writer and English teacher Kate Macdonell gives tips on what students going into Year 12 can do over the summer holidays to prepare for the year ahead.
It is tempting to use the coming summer holidays to relax, have fun and recover from the demands of Year 11. Although it is important to recharge, it is also wise to do some preparatory work for Year 12 English during the break. Below is a list of the kinds of preparation you will want to do in order to ready yourself for the rigours of Year 12 English.
It is never too early to begin organising your folders (electronic and physical) for Units 3 and 4 English. Many of you will have a system in place for organising your notes and essays. If not, it is a good idea to have separate folders for your two List 1 texts, your List 2 comparative texts, your argument and persuasive language tasks and your oral presentation. You could also have one for vocabulary and terms relevant to each task or text. Some of you might like to have an exam folder too, comprising the 2017 VCAA examination paper and the Examination Report on that paper (due around February 2018), as well as other examination advice and your practice examination pieces.
Read your set texts. You will have two texts from List 1 and a comparative pair from List 2. Read or, in the case of a film, watch, them all. A first reading should be for plot and to familiarise yourself with setting, characterisation and the author’s style. If you are a slow reader you should annotate as you go; otherwise, annotate on the second reading. To annotate you will need to highlight:
- the names of the characters
- settings (historical, cultural, geographical)
- short quotations that you think shed light on a character or an issue the text explores.
You should also make notes in your text about:
- key ideas
- what you think are the author’s views
- the genre
- the narrative point of view
- phrases, syntax and unfamiliar vocabulary (this is particularly important for the creative writing component of Unit 3)
- any changes to genre, setting, context (historical, cultural and geographical) or narrative point of view.
Transfer this information to an electronic document or hardcopy sheet that you can refer to when planning and drafting your initial essays or creative pieces. This will be particularly important to do when you are preparing for the comparative task in Unit 4. A table that lists ideas central to both texts and then notes how those ideas are played out in each text will help you to do comparative analysis. Over the summer holidays such a chart will almost certainly be preliminary in scope, but you will add to it in more detail once you begin studying your set comparative texts.
Also, read media texts such as newspaper articles and articles on websites such as The Conversation and The Guardian. Be sure to read a mix of text types – blogs, opinion pieces, feature articles, letters and interviews, for instance. Pay attention to how each writer presents an issue and their point of view, and the kind of language they use to persuade. Explore how any accompanying visual elements (photographs, graphs, charts etc.) work to support the views of the writer. Be alert to how you are being invited to respond to what you are reading and why that is.
- Find out about the writers whose work is set for your class (e.g. look for interviews, podcasts, Ted Talks etc.).
- Read reviews (where appropriate and available) of the texts that you have been set.
- Research the historical, geographical and cultural contexts of the work: locate where the action is set on a map; do some background research on the historical context; identify specific cultural elements (such as beliefs and practices).
Of course, your priority is the set texts and your ability to analyse them and to write about them. Nonetheless, you might want to investigate some social media platforms like Pinterest and Instagram to immerse yourself in the texts and their contexts. For instance, there are images and quotations relevant to The Crucible and Burial Rites on Pinterest. Instagram can be a way of seeing images relevant to the setting of your texts, too. Photographs of Illugastadir, one of the settings of Burial Rites, can be found on public posts on Instagram. As with all material, and particularly quotations that you might have gleaned from a social media site, it is always wise to cross-reference against your own copy of the text.
During your holidays, it will be very easy to take a long break from writing. This is problematic because writing is a craft – one that demands practice in order to facilitate improvement. Your teacher might have set you writing activities and you should definitely complete these. You might also want to keep a journal, written using a formal register, to test out new vocabulary, tighten punctuation and phrasing, and work through ideas. It is important that you HANDWRITE this. At the end of the year you will need to write three essays in three hours and if you are used to typing this will not be easy. Start training your muscles now so that you can write quickly and with minimal pain in the end of year examination.
Share ideas and queries with your classmates during the break and throughout the year. It is always best to discuss texts in person so that you can clarify confusion or consider a particular point or idea more carefully; however, using a social media platform like Facebook for discussion can be useful too. If you are uncertain about a particular reading or understanding of a character or concept, remember that your teacher is your primary resource – you should be able to glean advice, ideas and inspiration from them.
A LAST WORD …
Right now, Year 12 might seem daunting; however, if you keep on top of the workload by doing preparatory work over the holidays and staying up-to-date during the year, you should be able to manage. English adds value to your life in so many more ways than a study score can, so work hard, seek help when you need it, reflect on what you read, and write as often and as much as you can.