Year 7: What to Revise

Dear Year 7,

Your English exam this year will have two parts: a Reading section and a Writing section.
Here’s what to expect in each section:

Reading (45 minutes)

You will be given an advertisement to write about. You will have to:

* Identify features of the language (rhetorical questions, superlatives, comparatives, etc.)
* Write about specific words and phrases and their effect on the reader.
* Identify features of the design (pictures, layout, fonts, etc.)
* Write about specific features of design and their effect on the reader
* Respond to the advertisement as a whole, paying particular attention to who it is aimed at (the target audience) and how you know.

Writing (45 minutes)

You will be asked to describe a place. You will be given a choice of three places to describe. You must choose one. You will be marked upon your ability to:

* Use ambitious and specific vocabulary.
* Be creative (you may wish to use personification, for example).
* Write in detail – ‘zoom in’ on certain features.
* Use a variety of sentence lengths.
* Use a variety of sentence structures.
* Make use of accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar.

How to Revise:

* Make sure you have learnt all the features of advertising from Unit 3 (January/February).
* Do it! Find an advertisement from a newspaper / magazine and highlight the features of language and design.
* Who do you think the target audience is? Write a paragraph identifying the target audience, backing up your points in as much detail as possible.
* Practise describing different places. Give yourself 20 minutes and go! You could describe the seaside, a funfair, or a deserted house…

Three Golden Rules:

1. LESS IS MORE. You should always aim for quality, rather than quantity. Don’t write without thinking. You should take your time, and make sure that the words and phrases you write are brilliant. Don’t worry too much about how many of them there are!

2. CROSS THINGS OUT. It’s ok to cross out (neatly) the words and phrases that aren’t as good as they could be! The best writers in the world do this. It’s impossible to get it perfect first time and you are not being marked on how beautiful your exam paper looks.

3. HAVE FUN. It would be rude and horrid not to.

If you have any further questions about the exam, come and ask me, or e mail


Homework for A2 English Literature: Brideshead Revisited (Section A)

Here is another one of those essay things for you to do.

“‘Brideshead Revisited’ is a novel about death: its inevitability, its finality, and, ultimately, the ways in which we seek to escape it.”

To what extent do you agree with this view of the novel?

In my inbox by 8:30 on Monday morning, please, if you want me to mark it in the bucolic pastoral idyll that is East Grinstead.

A is for Arcadia: 25 Pastoral Terms

The Countryside

As promised, here is a list of critical terminology for LITB3 Elements of the Pastoral. Read it. Know it. Use it. Be it.

  1. Antipastoral: The opposite of the pastoral, in terms of genre. Antipastoral texts are designed to subvert and undermine the ideas and illusions upon which the pastoral genre is founded.
  2. Arcadia:The mountain region found in the Peloponnese, Greece, a place depicted in classical literature as an ideal and rural haven populated by shepherds and shepherdesses tending their flocks and being free from the stresses and strains of ‘real life’.
  3. Bucolic: Another term for ‘pastoral’.
  4. Court/courtly: Befitting a royal court, hence, the opposite of ‘country’/’rustic’.
  5. Doric: Another term for ‘rustic’.
  6. Ecologue: A short poem, usually taking the form of  a dialogue between two pastoral characters.
  7. Edenic: Of or pertaining to the Garden of Eden.
  8. Elegiac: Characteristic of an elegy (see below).
  9. Elegy: A poem of mourning, similar to a lament, for a deceased individual or a tragic event. Often, pastoral elegies lament the death of a shepherd, or, in later versions, the death of the pastoral idyll itself.
  10. Georgic: A poem about rural life which instructs the reader in agricultural matters.
  11. Golden Age: A time of idyll, often containing qualities such as prestige, wealth and power.
  12. Idealised: Someone or something that is exalted to a state of perfection.
  13. Idyll: An adjective, used to describe a place or state of tranquility and happiness. To quote the AQA textbook: ‘In contrast to the elegy, an idyll presents a positive vision, and one that is attainable’. Theocritus wrote ‘Idylls’.
  14. Idyllic: An adjective, used to describe something with the qualities of an idyll.
  15. Lament: An expression of grief or sorrow, often sung, for the loss of a person, state or thing.
  16. Lyric: I love this word! It means song-like, melodic, and often expressing intense feeling. Some of you often write that a line of poetry ‘flows’. What you mean is that it is ‘lyrical’. (Writing that a poem ‘flows’ is rather horrid, I think. Don’t do it.) 
  17. Peasant:In pastoral literature, a country-dweller, or a ‘rustic’.

    This man is most definitely a swain.
  18. Picaresque: A type of pastoral narrative, typically consisting of a journey made by a disreputable servant and his master. During the course of the journey, a series of unfortunate events take place.
  19. Provincial: Within the pastoral genre, another term for ‘rustic’.
  20. Romantic / Romanticised: A text that is designed to capture and evoke intense emotions.
  21. Rural:Pertaining to the countryside. 
  22. Rustic: As a noun, a ‘rustic’ is a countryside-dweller, who is unsophisticated. As an adjective, it means something that is characteristic of rural life.
  23. Sentimental: That which prioritises feelings and emotions over reason and the rational.
  24. Swain: A man who is the lover of a young woman, or, more generally, a ‘country lad’.
  25. Urban: Pertaining to the city, hence, the opposite of ‘rural’.

Elements of the Pastoral: They’re Everywhere!

How now, rustics! Wither are you bound?

It occurred to me about five minutes ago that you read a fair amount of pastoral literature last year, but we weren’t really thinking about it then. What about Act 4 of ‘The Winter’s Tale’, for example? (You studied it for LITB2 Dramatic Genres.) Or some of those Thomas Hardy poems? And then earlier this year, when we were considering metaphor for LITB4, we looked at Keats’ ‘Ode to Autumn’. Remember?

I mean to say. They’re positively pastoral. I suggest you dig them out and have another read. You never know, you might discover some ‘elements’ lurking about.

Reading: Why your mind will thank you for it

What this man says about reading is true.

Schola Affectus


“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” ― Charles William Eliot

A month ago I was in Bangalore looking for a couple of books. I stumbled across a second hand bookshop called ‘ Goobes Book Republic‘ on Church St Inn. It is a wonderful place – an Aladdin’s Den of books in a basement shop.  I was mooching and trying to restrain myself from buying too many books when I overheard the wise owner (pictured) trying to persuade a boy with his mum to start reading an Enid Blyton book.  The boy was doubtful – so the owner cut a deal – he could have the first book as a free loan and if he enjoyed it he had to come back within a week and tell the owner why.  The boy…

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Essay Planning: Light and Darkness in ‘Of Mice and Men’

So we have been practising using ‘PEE’ to plan an essay in the Literature exam. Here’s how:

Steinbeck frequently uses images of darkness and light in ‘Of Mice and Men’. Write about how this imagery contributes to the novel as a whole.

1. Highlight the key words in the essay question.

2. Use these to write your POINT sentence. The POINT sentence is the sentence you will use to make your points (or at least, the beginnings of them.) It should:

* use words from the question;

* use them in such a way as to make it clear that you are actually answering it.

Examples of POINT sentences:

The imagery of light and darkness is used to…

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to…

Images of light and darkness contribute to the novel by…

Obviously the ends of the point sentences will be different, depending on what the point is. This is when you need to start generating some ideas. So:

3. Work out what the ends of your point sentences will be. You could do this as a brainstorm, or, if you prefer, by writing out three or four point sentences and then filling in the ends, like this:

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to… create atmosphere.

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to… emphasise the novel’s themes.

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to… create characters.

Obviously, knowing what to put at the end of the POINT sentences involves having studied and revised the novel thoroughly. This is not what we are concerned with here, but rather with the art of planning.

Once you are happy that you have three or four strong POINT sentences, then you can begin to think about the EVIDENCE you will use, to develop your point. WJEC English Literature is a ‘closed book’ exam, which means that the evidence you use will need to be in your head. (This is why revising is so important.)

4. Add the evidence:

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to… create atmosphere.

The afternoon sun is described as ‘slicing’ through the cracks in the barn wall.

In the bunk house, when George confides in Slim about what happened in Weed, they are situated under the spotlight, whilst the rest of the bunkhouse is in darkness.

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to… emphasise the novel’s themes.

When Curley’s wife dies, the light leaves the barn. Steinbeck describes a rectangle of light gradually climbing the wall of the barn.

When Lennie is shot at the end of the novella, the light leaves the Salinas valley: ‘Evening came fast…’

Steinbeck uses imagery of light and darkness to… create characters

When Curley’s wife enters, Steinbeck writes that a rectangle of sunshine is cut off by her body in the doorway with her body.

In Crooks’ room, there is a small ‘globe’ of light that emits a yellow light.


5. Now for the best bit: exploring the evidence. This should be what you spend most of your time doing. It’s what I spend most of my life doing. For some tips on how to explore quotations, click here.