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Two of our Year 12 sixth formers, Archie De Silver and Zoe McCulloch, sat down with our Head of English, Mr Stephenson, to talk about what it is like to study A Level English Language and A Level English Literature respectively:

What topics and texts have you studied so far?

Archie: For Paper 1, we’ve looked at articles and transcripts, how to write textual analysis for these and for Paper 2 we’ve been looking at how to compare contemporary texts. Lots of different style models, too, for our upcoming coursework.

Zoe: There’s also different papers. For example for our prose paper, we have been looking at Dracula and The Little Stranger and comparing those two novels. They’re both gothic texts, and we’ve been looking at how the respective writers use different literary techniques to create an emotional effect on the reader. We also look at context – how Dracula reflects Victorian society for example, and how The Little Stranger is post-war and addresses mental health issues people experienced around that time.

You alluded to coursework – can you tell us a little more about what you are doing for that?

Archie: There’s two pieces. For the Language Investigation, you have a lot of freedom, so you could do something like how does social class affect the language a teacher uses, or someone I know looked at how Adele’s accent has changed since she moved to America for instance. And for my other piece, I need to select a style model of my own choosing, analyse it and use it as the inspiration for a piece of writing of my own.

Zoe: For our coursework, we have to pick two texts and compare them. I decided to do Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney and Translations by Brian Friel, a poetry collection and a play. You are looking at how they might address a common theme or idea, but in different ways, especially as they are different types of texts. Also, the shared context of them being writers from Northern Ireland and talking about place and change.

What has been the most enjoyable thing about studying A Level English courses here at Dallam?

Archie: For me, it has probably been looking at the socio-linguistic side of things, looking at how things like how ethnicity or region might affect different types of English and in Year 13 we are going to look at World Englishes, which I am looking forward to.

Zoe: I think the discussions we have in class about different interpretations of a text, because we then get into an even deeper level of analysis of the texts through this.  You can then develop your own opinions, perspectives and thoughts about a text, which helps you to write about it come the exam – because you have to look at different interpretations as part of that!

My final question is: if you had any advice for students about to embark upon studying these subjects, what would it be?

Archie: Read up on the topics beforehand, and make sure you know enough theorists for each part of the course. Create a glossary of key terms, too. Finally, get a good folder to keep yourself organised.

Zoe: Order the books as early as you can so you can read ahead. Make mind-maps of key themes and quotation banks, too. If you do this, you’ll be well-covered for revision of all the texts.

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