Paragraphs are the building blocks of a sound extended response. A helpful framework for writing effective paragraphs is the TEEL (T = topic, E = example, E = explanation and L = link sentence). This works well for content based responses, but in English, it is important that each paragraph contains sufficient textual evidence to support an argument that answers, or responds to a question. Consider the Triple TEEEL paragraph structure:
One area of concern for many students when analysing texts is the lack of specific detail that they include in their writing. This table outlines the difference between simply re-telling what happens in a text, which attracts a low pass mark or grade, and an actual analysis which attracts a much higher mark.
Sometimes, it is simply a matter of drafting and redrafting until you have included all your information. Expect to re-read a novel up to three times, and watch key scenes from a movie many times to collect relevant examples of specific techniques and features.
During student seminars for HSC English, I discuss the ‘HSC numbers game’ and how to achieve by thinking of the whole process in small, attainable goals.
Crafted paragraphs become the building blocks for your response – and the more blocks you have, the better choices you can make in selecting textual evidence to support your thesis.
Students may become dismayed at the idea of including five techniques (or language features) per paragraph. And yes, it also means you need to include examples or evidence, as well as explain the effect or meaning of each technique.
Build a word bank that will allow you to use a wide vocabulary in your discussion, and avoid repeating the same key words in each paragraph.
A common mistake made by students is to use the actual words from their quote in an attempt to explain the effect eg. “In Anthem for Doomed Youth we learn that the young soldiers are doomed.” Simply use a thesaurus to find another word for ‘doomed’ – I found these options in a few moments: cursed, damned, condemned.
Remember, too, to make sure the simple things are correct. The following slides are taken from a presentation giving feedback and suggestions for improvement. Students were asked to write an interview with the composers of two texts:
Both texts explore aspects of humanity. How does the context of each text affect the ideas represented and the techniques used?
These next slides each contain a question and answer, followed by an example of how the answer could have been improved with specific details. The questions are from different responses and so do not make sense as a whole.
The final question shows a sophisticated interplay between both composers.