Bedrock GCSE English Terms & Analysis: beyond definitions and beyond the curriculum

“Miss, I know what I want to say, but I don’t know how to say it…” 

If teachers each received a pound for every time they heard that phrase in the classroom, they’d surely be rich! In order to speak critically about texts, we must first equip students with the language with which to do so. When we designed our GCSE English Terms & Analysis learning scheme, a crucial objective was that it would go beyond simple definitions, and it would go beyond just teaching to the specifications of the National Curriculum.

Providing students with learning content that is broad, ambitious and logically sequenced has long been Bedrock’s main focus, and has been a priority for much of the education sphere ever since creating ‘knowledge-rich’ curricula was placed at the heart of the 2019 education inspection framework. As Ofsted’s National Director for Education, Sean Harford, highlighted in a blog, some of the UK’s richest, best-designed curricula include these key themes:

great breadth and depth of curriculum
the wider curriculum being open to all pupils, regardless of academic ability, and being taken up by the vast majority
KS4 courses going deeper into content and being broader than just the specifications called for by the exam boards or the national curriculum.

As was also the case with our Bedrock GCSE Jekyll & Hyde learning scheme, these key themes can be seen running throughout the way we designed and sequenced Bedrock GCSE English Terms & Analysis.

Beyond definitions: breadth and depth

There are a lot of components to think about when teaching both English language or English literature. Among other things, students need to have:

an in-depth knowledge of set texts
the ability to write informed analysis
the critical reading skills to quickly unpack unseen literature in exams.

On top of this, students need to be familiar with relevant subject-specific terminology – terms that can feel like a whole new language to a student who’s never encountered them before.

Teaching these terms is important for a number of reasons – not least because subject-specific terminology forms a key part of AO3 (“Show understanding of the relationships between texts and the contexts in which they were written”) in all GCSE English exam specifications. A confident understanding of literary terms enables students to concisely discuss and analyse literature – both inside and outside of exams – as well as opening up a greater appreciation for the skill and craftsmanship that goes into literature as an artform.

But Tier 3 terminology needs to be taught properly in order for it to be effective. As Stahl (2005) found, words need to be encountered multiple times to ensure long-term retention – but mere drilling of definitions is ineffective. Moreover, when teaching subject terminology, we need to be careful not to encourage what AQA referred to as “technique spotting” in their 2019 English Literature insight report. In other words, we don’t want students to overuse or misuse terminology in irrelevant or unnatural ways. Effective teaching of literary devices therefore needs to be deep, in order to cement understanding, and broad, in order to model how and when terms can be identified and used in multiple contexts. We need to go beyond definitions. A glossary of terms won’t lead to effective comprehension and usage.

Teachers, however, don’t have time to plan and deliver detailed lessons for 102 literary terms, which is why Bedrock’s GCSE English Terms & Analysis scheme is such a valuable tool. We provide students with simple explanations of each term, as well as showing them our own student-friendly examples of the terms and devices being used. Each term is also taught within the context of at least two literary excerpts, from classic texts like Jane Eyre and Macbeth. Students complete basic comprehension questions to test their understanding of the terms, followed by activities that challenge them to identify how and where terms or devices are being used in the context of a literary excerpt. Finally, an analysis activity is completed for each term, where the student builds analysis from scaffolded parts, modelling how terms can be applied to critical exam-style writing.

Accessibility for all students

Bedrock’s GCSE English Terms & Analysis scheme is designed to be broadly accessible to a wide range of students, regardless of their academic ability. Sequenced into eight thematically-related units, the terms taught within the scheme start with the basics like ‘proper noun’ and ‘synonym’, before moving onto advanced techniques like ‘sibilance’, ‘soliloquy’ and ‘enjambment’. The explanations students receive for these terms – along with the example sentences, and the immediate feedback they receive after activities – are carefully written in student-friendly language, so that they can be understood by students of varying literacy levels. The scheme is also fully human-narrated, providing learners with extra audio support.

Beyond the curriculum

Going beyond the curriculum and providing students with valuable knowledge and cultural capital has always been at the heart of Bedrock’s teaching methods, as can be evidenced by the wide range of topics we teach students across our core vocabulary curriculum (our newly-released Block 12, for example).

This is no different for Bedrock’s GCSE English Terms & Analysis. With students being exposed to excerpts from over 204 literary texts – two per term – we ensure students aren’t only exposed to classic exam favourites, like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde or A Christmas Carol, but also poetry, prose and plays form a diverse range of writers, including Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston and Homer. All these excerpts – and the analysis activities they complete around them – are automatically stored in the student’s interactive knowledge organiser, where students, teachers and parents can refer back to them whenever they please. These frequent encounters with classic literature empower students to make links, recognise patterns and spot recurring themes. This is not only excellent preparation for when students have to unpack unseen texts in exams, but also a way of giving students a wonderfully broad view of the different styles of writing that literature has to offer.

To access our broad and rich learning scheme, start your trial of Bedrock’s GCSE English Terms & Analysis today.

You can also find out more about the Bedrock Jekyll & Hyde GCSE English Literature learning scheme, and how it’s structured.

Find out more about Bedrock’s GCSE English Terms & Analysis

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