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MACBETH at A2 AQA Lit spec B

Discussion in 'English' started by ulysees, Jul 26, 2009.

  1. Does anyone have any ideas resources for A level approaches to teaching Macbeth for the gothic unit? I've taught a variety of texts at A l[​IMG]
  2. Does anyone have any ideas resources for A level approaches to teaching Macbeth for the gothic unit? I've taught a variety of texts at A l[​IMG]
  3. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    The format of the exam is the same as AS - Part 1 - text specific, Part 2 - comparative.
    Are you team teaching? You will need to work closely with whoever is teaching the other texts as students can choose to answer 'Macbeth' as a text specific task or as part of the more general question on the gothic genre in Part 2.
    I mark current A2 and the mark scheme for the new exam is remarkably similar.
    I find the main weaknesses are in understanding of contextual factors - these are not simply historical - and making relevant links. I see that some of the poetry criteria now appear in Unit 3. Candidates usually perform well on AO2 - form and structure - but less well on AO3, different interpretations. They will often quote critical views, but make no comment on them.
    It is also clear that making links to texts studied at AS will be looked upon favourably, so whatever Shakespeare they did then can come into play - hopefully not 'Macbeth'!. If they studied a second contemporary drama - we did 'Dr Faustus' - this could also be used to inform their understanding.
    In any case, the first thing to think about is 'Macbeth' as a gothic piece (a genre invented in 1764 according to one candidate this year!) and explore it from that perspective.
  4. Hi Gruoch,
    Thanks for swift reply.I am sharing the class . I will teach Macbeth and at least 2 stories from The Bloody Chamber and my partner will teach Dracula and 2 stories from The Bloody Chamber. We also split the coursework, I will cover the comparative and she will cover the critical positions one.
    I am just a little nervous about the weight to be given to the gothic elements of the text -how far should I go with this? Is there any mileage in looking at different interpretations through film if we can't get to a performance? How much of the text should I teach explicitly? The students studied Hamlet at AS which will be very helpful I can see. How far should I go to include a variety of critical positions? IE is marxist and feminist enough or should we also look at structuralist etc....? How are we going to fit it all in???
    I told you I'm struggling with this!! I kind of feel the novels are great for this but the plays seem bolted on a bit.
  5. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    It's the focus of the unit, so students really need to get their heads aroung what 'gothic' is before you do anything else.
    Yes - but I would suggest not before they've read and discussed the text. Not the way I usually do it, I admit, but different interpretations weren't part of the drama AOs before. An informed discussion on different film interpretations, from different periods, would be useful. Analysis of the strengths and weaknesses, informed by students' own perceptions of the play, is what gets the As and Bs.
    Don't - unless they know what they are talking about and can comment on what they say. I get sick of marking the same quotations from the same critics about a text when students clearly only shoehorn it in because they have to. They haven't thought about it at all. It's no good writing 'X comments that..... whereas Y says.....' and then moving on. That's band 3 writing at best.
    For 'Macbeth' you need to look at the language - the number of times 'blood' is used, for instance and the animal imagery. Go to David Crystal's 'Shakespeare's Words' web site for lots of helpful stuff. I'm pretty sure there's a concordance - and it's free. (And don't forget that some of it is not Shakespeare, it's Middleton. All the Hecate stuff and the Bloody Sergeant's long speech is Middleton.)
    Contextually it might be a good idea to look at the difficulty we have with the presentation of the witches which was not relevant in 1604. Joan Littlewood presented them as battlefield scavengers at Straford East in the 60s, an idea also used by Michael Bogdanov in his C4 film.
    I'll get back to you if I have any more thoughts.

  6. Gruoch this is really really appreciated . Thank you!
  7. Thank you Gruoch I really really appreciate this! [​IMG]
  8. Oops !!! Computer playing up -so slow I wasn't sure it had accepted my reply!!
  9. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    No probs [​IMG]
  10. gruoch

    gruoch Occasional commenter

    Just a thought, if you haven't done it, have a look at the specimen Q paper and mark scheme on the AQA web site, or I can email them to you - if you'd then like any clarification get back to me.
  11. Ulyssees - be careful here, there's some confusion creeping in here.
    What you are teaching is GOTHIC, and using macbeth as an example of GOTHIC. You are not 'teaching Macbeth'. So look at all the criteria and descriptions of gothic, and then get the students to apply them to the play. eg 'gothic' was not a genre when Shakespeare was writing; what did HE think he was writing and why? Victorian definitions, modern definitions, gothic characters, expectations of the modern reader when told 'this is gothic' - THAT is what you look at. NOT how many times 'bloody' is used, for goodness sake!
    As for 'context' - read the rubric carefully and all the notes to teachers. The same for 'comparison'. AQA have done their best to interpret the QCAs Assessment Objectives in as creative a way as possible so that the students can succeed. For eg at AS, 'comparison' between the texts in the exam does NOT mean what it does at GCSE. So long as they write about the same element (at AS it's narrative, so perhaps endings) for 3 texts, they have compared, according to the board. They can (and are encouraged) to write three 'mini essays' rather than one long, rambling, constantly comparing one. So, even though it says 'comparison' on the mark scheme, you need to know what AQA mean by that term, and not assume, as it seems clear Grouch has done.
    This sort of thing is only made clear at the training days, so do ask to go on them - and I would be wary of taking too literally the advice of people on here who may or may not (probably not, judging by some of the comments) have been on the training. The days are good, helpful, you get a chance to talk to the senior markers/setters of questions/examiners, as well as other teachers going through the same thing.
    Good luck, and perhaps see you at those meetings!

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