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Unit 3a CA for English - new AQA GCSE

Discussion in 'English' started by mrvonnegut, Dec 31, 2010.

  1. Words cannot express my loathing for the new AQA syllabi. All the joy of teaching GCSE English Literature (especially after doing a November entry for English) has been replaced with a slog of getting through text after text, with little space for joy and wonder.
  2. jarndyce

    jarndyce Occasional commenter

    Me too. Urgh. Hate, hate, hate! Hard to mark as well - the Bands really are totally arbitrary, and the C/D borderline seems to be bang in the middle of Band 3. They refuse to tell us where the boundaries are, but regardless of the integrity of the qualification as a whole I think it's quite important to be able to give a piece a mark in the certainty that "this is an essay that passes/fails GCSE English". Gah!
  3. regentsreject

    regentsreject Occasional commenter

    The whole point of this is that students read the poems themselves and respond to them themselves rather than being drilled by the teacher as to what the poems "mean". Students should be taught the skills of responding to poems and interpreting them individually rather than regurgitating the teacher's interpretation of them.
    The rather arbitrary figure of 15 poems is (as I have said ad nauseum on this and in other forums) a QCDA decision. The requirement however is not to write about 15 poems but, as others have said, to write about 2 or 3.

  4. regentsreject

    regentsreject Occasional commenter

    Whilst I have huge sympathy with the way English teachers are under so much pressure to deliver the A*-C, the relentless league tables and the fallacy of early entry, I also feel that attacking the AQA syllabi is somewhat unfair.
    The AQA English Literature specification provides the opportunity for students to read a modern novel OR modern drama text plus an other cultures prose text. Unit 2 encourages the development of poetry skills so that students learn to express their own response rather than regurgitating what the teacher thinks. There is an unlimited choice of Shakespeare text on this route too. Unit 1 offers a mix of old favourites and new texts - something for everyone maybe?
    Poetry can be studied at length for CA if preferred and the teacher is free to indulge their own preferences here and with ELH texts.
    May I suggest that the "joy and wonder" of Literature is generated by the teacher and teaching approaches rather than by what the students are examined on?
    Or perhaps you could say what you would prefer to see in these syllabi?
  5. regentsreject

    regentsreject Occasional commenter

    A single essay does not "pass or fail" GCSE English - the pass or fail is made up of performance across all the units and, as any English teacher knows, the disparate nature of the skills tested means that there can be huge differences in performance in different units.

    The boundaries are not fixed and it is therefore impossible to tell you where they are.

  6. Thanks for your responses regents, your knowledge is absolutely invaluable for me in making sense of the new spec.
    I can't help but sympathise with the poster who mourns 'joy and wonder'. The reality of league tables means that in my school, one which is fighting to get the required percentage of A*to C grades every year in order to avoid being 'shut down', the vast majority of pupils will do English only. I appreciate there is literature content in this and also appreciate that the restrictions are not AQA driven, they are league table driven, but I think as a body English teachers mourn 'joy and wonder' in general.
    As for the pupils reading and responding to the poems themselves, this is fine for a lot of pupils and they would really thrive on small group discussion of pupils with little 'teaching' but for lower ability students, the level of poems in the anthology is very challenging. We have taken the decision that these pupils will have to study fewer poems with more teacher input. Don't know if this is OK!!!
  7. regentsreject

    regentsreject Occasional commenter

    Basilius, we all do what we need to do for our students so of course it's ok! I also agree that some of the poems are challenging and will need more teacher input. The hope is that teachers will be able to move gradually to students being more independent and having the confidence to know that they can say something about any poem without the need to feel that there is a right answer which they must somehow get to. I have been amazed at times to see how students who I considered could not deal with a particular poem have come up with something quite unexpected if given the freedom and confidence to "attack" the poem themselves. Try lots of visual activities - painted responses, storyboarding in groups, cutting out shapes which represent a feeling they percieve in a poem etc and resist the temptation to help them by telling them what you think a poem means. You might be surprised by what they can do[​IMG] Have a look at Trevor Millum's poetry site - he has some great ideas about what is meant by "meaning".
    I also bemoan the sidelining of Literature and the relentless time pressure on English teachers but I don't believe it should lead to a loss of joy and wonder. Perhaps we English teachers should get back to the militancy of old and refuse to be cowed by the league tables. Now that would generate some joy!
    Good luck and thanks for the positive comments!

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