Thursday, 25 April 2013

Locked in the Library? 16 Revision and Study Tips

Are you locked in the Library?

It's the exam season again!

Here are 16 practical tips and strategies to support study and revision work for exams:

  1. Short blocks of time for work
  2. A balanced workload between all subjects means variety 
  3. Days off work for leisure
  4. Writing down a list of reasons to be motivated
  5. Rewarding yourself for doing the hours planned
  6. Not starting to revise too late
  7. Summarising your notes
  8. Creating Mindmaps or other visualizations
  9.  Devising your own mnemonics or memory games
  10. Reading past exam papers
  11. Ensuring that you know what the examiners are looking for
  12. Doing timed answers and exercies
  13. Trying out model opening and closing paragraphs for essays
  14. Learning about 50 impressive words to use in discussions, arguments, or concepts
  15. Working with your teachers to explain what's not clear
  16.  Working with friends collaboratively in teams

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)

The 7 Secrets of Effective Study and Successful Revision 

63 Tips for More Effective Memory and Recall


Monday, 8 April 2013

Designing a Critical Scorecard: the Poetry League Table

Why not create your own league table of writers with your class? This is a great opportunity for critical thinking and collaborative decision-making.

Start by constructing a long or short list of writers/poets/novels/poems. Then discuss your key criteria for evaluation. Perhaps your scores will change over time?

Poet and playwright Oliver Goldsmith’s “poetical scale” was originally published in
The Literary Magazine in January, 1758.

Genius        Judgement        Learning           Versification

Chaucer                       16                    12                    10                    14

Spenser                        1 8                   12                    14                    18

Shakespeare                19                    14                    14                    19

Jonson                         1 6                   1 8                   17                    8

Cowley                        17                    17                    15                    17

Waller                          12                    12                    10                    16

Milton                          18                    16                    17                    18

Dryden                         18                    16                    17                    18

Addison                       1 6                   18                    17                    17

Prior                             16                    16                    15                    17

Pope                            18                    18                    15                    19

Further Reading

Check out the final section of Salvador Dali's Diary of a Genius for an absurdly serious League Table of famous artists.

"At the age of six I wanted to be a cook. At seven I wanted to be Napoleon. And my ambition has been growing steadily ever since."

"The secret of my influence has always been that it remained secret."

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Exam Board Guidance on English language work

Summary of the AQA Exam Board Guidance on language work for A level (16-18 years). 

For AS and A level, learners can analyse texts by exploring four functions of language:

  • the expressive function – how a text represents its writer or producer and conveys their attitudes and values

  • the experiential function – how a text represents people, institutions and events

  • the relational function – how a text creates an ideal audience position, creating a power relation between producer and audience, and shaping the audience’s response

  • the textual function – how texts create coherence and cohesion

Linguistic Frameworks


alliteration, assonance, rhythm, rhyme

the forms and functions of non-verbal aspects of speech


denotational and connotational meaning, figurative language, structural semantics (semantic fields,
synonyms, antonyms, hypernyms, hyponyms), jargon, levels of formality


nouns: proper/common; singular/plural; concrete/abstract

adjectives: comparative/superlative; attributive/predicative

adverbs: manner, place, direction, time, duration, frequency, degree, sentence

verbs: infinitive; mood (imperative/interrogative/declarative/exclamative);

main/auxiliary/modal auxiliaries; present and past participles; person; tense; voice; aspect (progressive/perfective),

pronouns: personal (person, number and function); interrogative; demonstrative


determiners: definite/indefinite articles; demonstrative adjectives; numerals

conjunctions: co-ordinating, sub-ordinating

sentence functions: statement, command, question, exclamations

sentence types: minor, simple, compound, complex, compound-complex

clause types: main, sub-ordinate , co-ordinate

clause elements: subject, verb, object, complement, adverbials


text structures

cohesion (lexical, grammatical and graphological)

the forms and functions of graphological features  of texts

discourse features of texts (eg speaker switches and the management of turn-taking; the nature and purpose of feedback)

Language Development

For this topic candidates should study how children go through the initial phases of language acquisition and how they develop writing skills.

Candidates should study:

  • the functions of children’s language

  • the development of phonological and pragmatic competence, lexis, grammar and semantics

  • the relationship between children’s spoken and written language

  • the development of the conventions of writing and multimodal texts

  • theories about language development: imitation, innateness, cognition, input, socio-cultural, genre theory

Useful References

Helpful ideas about ways of approaching textual study, the use of re-writing and textual interventions, and how ideas about language are generated can be found in:

Fairclough, N. (1989) Language and Power,

Pope, R. (1995) Textual Intervention, London: Routledge.

Crowley, T (1989) The Politics of Discourse: The Standard Language Question in British Cultural Debates, London: Macmillan.

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)