Showing posts with label skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label skills. Show all posts

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Exam Performance - diagnostic and tips

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." --- F. Scott Fitzgerald

Have you recently received your exam results? Are you preparing for an exam?

I have made a short list of some of the best tips that will help you to improve your exam results in the future. How many of these strategies DID you follow (or not) in your recent work?
  1. Employ short blocks of time for work.
  2. Develop a balanced workload between all subjects means variety.
  3. Select days off work for leisure.
  4. Write down a list of reasons to be motivated.
  5. Reward yourself for doing the hours planned.
  6. Starting to revise too late in the process.
  7. Don't just rely on your revision sessions run by your school or college.
  8. Summarize your notes.
  9. Create Mindmaps or other visualizations to aid recall.
  10. Devise your own mnemonics or memory games.
  11. Read and study past exam papers.
  12. Ensure that you know what the examiners are looking for.
  13. Practise timed answers and exercises.
  14. Draft model opening and closing paragraphs for essays.
  15. Learn 50 impressive new words to use in discussions and topics.
  16. Work with your teachers to explain what's not clear.
  17. Collaborate with friends by working in pairs or teams.
  18. Revise throughout the year, not just at the end! 
  19. Reduce stress by planning well-ahead.
  20. Good luck! Stay positive!
Further Information

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.

He has recently published 11+ English (Primary to Secondary English Skills)

More advanced Students: The PhD Roadmap: A Guide to Successful Submission of your Dissertation / Thesis.

Dr Ian McCormick's other recent publications include chapters on Romanticism and Gothic Literature in The English Literature Companion, edited by Julian Wolfreys  (London and New York: Palgrave Student Companions 2011).

His chapter on 'Teaching and Learning Strategies' was published as an Appendix to The Eighteenth-Century Literature Handbook, edited by Gary Day and Bridget Keegan (London and New York: Continuum, 2009). It is is available for free online (download the pdf) -- you will need to complete a very straightforward and short registration.

"Someone with 4As at A-level from Eton may look good on paper and come across as very smooth, but push a bit more, and often you get the impression they have learned to pass exams rather than think for themselves." Cherie Blair

Saturday, 30 July 2016

For and Against Memorizing Poetry

This petition was submitted during the 2010–2015 Conservative – Liberal Democrat coalition government; the deadline 30 March 2015. At the time is attracted only 366 signatures, despite being widely circulated as a link on social media.


End of GCSE English Literature for All, 2017

GCSE English Literature from 2017 will require students to remember between 15 and 18 (depending on exam board) poems in an exam in order to 'closely analyse' them. Signatories ask government to consult with the English teaching community as to whether this is the fairest and most meaningful way of assessing students' understanding and appreciation of poetry. There has been no such consultation on this matter to date.

Meanwhile the learning of poetry for public recitation is increasingly popular. Moving beyond the controversial rote-learning for exams issue, this blog explores some of the advantages and disadvantages of learning poetry for public recitation.


  1. Typically, the student who successfully memorizes a poem will be offered a reward or a prize (often also a bribe). This motivates those who are successful to embark on greater challenges.

  1. Successfully memorizing a poem provides a sense of student competence, achievement and proficiency. An insurmountable obstacle has been overcome.

  1. Accordingly, learning a poem is a form of proficiency that is easy to mark and assess, with clear winners and losers.

  1. This is an opportunity to practise memory techniques, props and systems.

  1. The task involves a high degree of focus, repetition and concentration. These skills are undervalued in contemporary pedagogy.

  1. Rather than simply reading the poem from memory, this exercise affords an opportunity for performance and recitation skills. These express the life of the poem filtered through the idiosyncratic voice of the reciter.

  1. The public speaking is an opportunity to inhabit and express the rhythms and cadences of the poem, using soft and loud voices, and other techniques. This means feeling a poem, rather than just skimming over it on the page. As a result, the reciter gains a deep familiarity with the secrets of a poem, with the hints and undertones that are often missed on the page.

  1. This process affords an insight into the unity between reading and reciting, and between speaking and listening, demonstrating the fundamental inter-connectedness of the message and its delivery as effective communication.

  1. Wit and humour can be introduced by using tongue-twisters as poetic exercises. Or use short comic poems such as limericks or nonsense verse.

  1. Recitations can be collaborative: in this case, each student in a class learns just one line!

  1. Learn how poets provide memory clues by using repetition, assonance, rhythm and rhyme.

  1. This is a useful and deepening insight into the sonic and oral dimension of poetry.

  1. If a poem has been learned then it can be called back into being as you wait for a bus or walk through the countryside.

  1. A learned poem may stay with you for the rest of your life. Its value deepens and glows more brightly as time passes. For adults, there is a glorious joy in the poems that you learned in childhood and youth.

  1. Memorized poems provide touchstones in the mind. Favourite lines that linger in our consciousness become an aesthetic criterion and foundation for critical judgements.

  1. Classical rhetoric afforded a respected place to the arts of memory.

  1. This exercise will support essential speaking, debating and speech-making skills. These skills are essential for effective team-work and leadership roles.

  1. If you want to be a stage actor the arts of memory and recitation and will provide essential training.

  1. The learned memory skills will help you in your career as a singer or performance artist. This will appeal to young people who often express a preference for following the career choices of their idols.


  1. A high proportion of poems have a textual and on-the-page quality. Since the invention of writing and print, the experience has been one of reading, not reciting. Poets write to be read.

  1. The emphasis on the orality of poetry has an old-fashioned, nostalgic quality. It is Homer rather than Virgil.Our world is essentially prosaic. Would anyone attempt to recite Henry James's Golden Bowl  from memory? (But without doubt it is fascinating to read Walter J. Ong on Orality and Literacy.)

  1. Rote-learning is an exercise based on the nineteenth-century classroom; it values memory and parrot-like repetition over creativity and critical discussion. It is a discipline for obedient and servile citizenship, rather than self-standing, self-aware individuals.

  1. Memorization is arduous and alienating; for the majority of students the outcome of this exercise will be a sense of failure to achieve. The experience of failure will be a scar, and lead to a perpetual resentment against poetry.

  1. Memory skills are over-rated in a world where anything can be looked up and located on the internet in a couple of clicks.

  1. Memorization is like doing all your math calculations by hand, rather than using a calculator.

  1. Exams already offer plenty of opportunity for students to demonstrate their capacity to use their memory. Why add to the anguish? And don't higher level exams value understanding over total recall?

  1. Modern speech making is less literary than that of the classical/humanist past; improvisation is to be preferred to rote learning that will appear forced, artificial and awkward.

  1. Is this really the most effective use of student work time?

     10. Total recall is a kind of slavery. Leave it to robots and to Hollywood fantasy.

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences

(Quibble Academic, 2013)

Further Reading

"Many people in Great Britain and the United States can recall elderly relatives who remembered long stretches of verse learned at school decades earlier, yet most of us were never required to recite in class. Heart Beats is the first book to examine how poetry recitation came to assume a central place in past curricular programs, and to investigate when and why the once-mandatory exercise declined. Telling the story of a lost pedagogical practice and its wide-ranging effects on two sides of the Atlantic, Catherine Robson explores how recitation altered the ordinary people who committed poems to heart, and changed the worlds in which they lived. Heart Beats begins by investigating recitation's progress within British and American public educational systems over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and weighs the factors that influenced which poems were most frequently assigned. Robson then scrutinizes the recitational fortunes of three short works that were once classroom classics: Felicia Hemans's "Casabianca," Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," and Charles Wolfe's "Burial of Sir John Moore after Corunna." To conclude, the book considers W. E. Henley's "Invictus" and Rudyard Kipling's "If--," asking why the idea of the memorized poem arouses such different responses in the United States and Great Britain today. Focusing on vital connections between poems, individuals, and their communities, Heart Beats is an important study of the history and power of memorized poetry." See Heart Beats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem by Catherine Robson (Princeton University Press 2012)

"What has happened to the lost art of memorising poetry? Why do we no longer feel that it is necessary to know the most enduring, beautiful poems in the English language 'by heart'? In his introduction Ted Hughes explains how we can overcome the problem by using a memory system that becomes easier the more frequently it is practised. The collected 101 poems are both personal favourites and particularly well-suited to the method Hughes demonstrates. Spanning four centuries, ranging from Shakespeare and Keats through to Auden and Heaney, By Heart offers the reader a 'mental gymnasium' in which the memory can be exercised and trained in the most pleasurable way. Some poems will be more of a challenge than others, but all will be treasured once they have become part of the memory bank." By Heart, By Ted Hughes (Faber 2012)

"The ancient Greeks, to whom a trained memory was of vital importance - as it was to everyone before the invention of printing - created an elaborate memory system, based on a technique of impressing 'places' and 'images' on the mind. Inherited and recorded by the Romans, this art of memory passed into the European tradition, to be revived, in occult form, at the Renaissance, and particularly by the strange and remarkable genius, Giordano Bruno. Such is the main theme of Frances Yates's unique and brilliant book, in the course of which she sheds light on such diverse subjects as Dante's Divine Comedy, the form of the Shakespearian theatre and the history of ancient architecture. Aside from its intrinsic fascination, The Art of Memory is an invaluable contribution to aesthetics and psychology, and to the history of philosophy, of science and of literature." The Art Of Memory, by Frances A Yates (Pimlico, 1992)

"Mary Carruthers's classic study of the training and uses of memory for a variety of purposes in European cultures during the Middle Ages has fundamentally changed the way scholars understand medieval culture. This fully revised and updated second edition considers afresh all the material and conclusions of the first. While responding to new directions in research inspired by the original, this new edition devotes much more attention to the role of trained memory in composition, whether of literature, music, architecture, or manuscript books. The new edition will reignite the debate on memory in medieval studies and, like the first, will be essential reading for scholars of history, music, the arts and literature, as well as those interested in issues of orality and literacy (anthropology), in the working and design of memory (both neuropsychology and artificial memory), and in the disciplines of meditation (religion)."  The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature) by Mary Carruthers 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

List of frequently used academic words

Have you heard of corpus linguistics

Corpus linguistics proposes that reliable language analysis is more feasible with corpora (samples) collected in the field, in their natural contexts, and with minimal experimental-interference.

How did it all start?

A landmark in modern corpus linguistics was Henry Kučera and W. Nelson Francis's Computational Analysis of Present-Day American English (1967).

This work was based on the analysis of the Brown Corpus, a carefully compiled selection of about a million words, drawn from a wide variety of sources in current  American English

How did technology help?

The first computerized corpus of one million words of transcribed spoken language was constructed in 1971 by the Montreal French Project. This effort inspired Shana Poplack's much larger corpus of spoken French in the Ottawa-Hull area

The analysis of academic writing shows that there are many 

frequently used words and phrases:

a form of   

a function of   

a high degree   

a large number   

a large number of   

a list of   

a number of   

a result of   

a series of   

a set of   

a small number   

a variety of   

a wide range   

a wide range of   

according to the   

allows us to   

an attempt to   

an example of   

an increase in the   

and so on   

and the same   

and the second   

appear to be    

appears to be   

are a number of   

are able to   

are as follows   

are based on   

are likely to   

as a consequence   

as a function   

as a function of   

as a result   

as a result of   

as a result of the   

as a whole   

as an example   

as can be seen   

as opposed to   

as part of   

as part of the   

as shown in   

as well as   

associated with the   

assume that the    

assumed to be   

at least in   

at the outset   

at the same    

at the same time   

at the time of   

at this stage 


based on a   

based on the   

be achieved by   

be argued that   

be carried out   

be considered as   

be explained by   

be noted that    

be regarded as   

be related to the   

be seen as   

be the case   

be used as a   

be used to   

because it is   

been carried out   

been shown to   

between the two   

both of these   

but this is   

by virtue of   


Statistics in Linguistics

Christopher Butler

can also be   

can be achieved   

can be considered   

can be expressed   

can be found   

can be found in   

can be seen   

can be seen in   

can be used   

can be used to   

can easily be   

carried out by   

carried out in   

could be used   

degree to which   

depend on the   

depending on the   

depends on the   

difference between the   

different from the   

different types of   

does not appear   

due to the   

due to the fact   

due to the fact that   

each of the   

each of these   

even though the   

exactly the same   

example of a   

extent to which   

fact that the   

factors such as   

focus on the   

for example if   

for example in   

for example the   

for the purposes of   

for this purpose   

for this reason   

form of the   

from the point   

from the point of   

from the point of view   

function of the   

give rise to    

An enquiry into the role of satire and sense in academic life today:

The Graves of Academe

Would you recommend this book?

has also been   

has been used   

have shown that   

have the same   

high levels of   

his or her   

if they are   

if this is   

important role in   

in a number of   

in accordance with   

in accordance with the   

in both cases   

in conjunction with   

in more detail   

in most cases   

in order to   

in other words   

in other words the   

in relation to   

in response to   

in some cases   

in such a   

in such a way   

in such a way that   

in table    

in terms of   

in terms of a   

in terms of the   

in the absence of   

in the case   

in the case of   

in the context   

in the context of   

in the course of   

in the form of   

in the next section   

in the present study   

in the same   

in the sense   

in the sense that   

in this article   

in this case   

in this case the   

in this paper   

in this paper we   

in this way   

insight into the   

is affected by   

is based on   

is based on the   

is consistent with   

is determined by   

is likely to   

is likely to be   

is more likely   

is much more   

is not possible to   

is the case   

it appears that   

it follows that   

it is clear   

it is clear that   

it is difficult   

it is important   

it is important to   

it is impossible   

it is impossible to   

it is interesting   

it is interesting to   

it is likely that   

it is necessary   

it is necessary to   

it is not possible   

it is not possible to   

it is obvious that   

it is possible   

it is possible that   

it is possible to   

it is worth   

it may be   

it should be noted   

large number of   

less likely to   

likely to be   

little or no   

means that the   

more likely to   

most likely to   

nature of the   

need not be   

needs to be    

none of these   

of the fact   

of the same   

of the second   

of the system   

of the two    

of these two   

of view of   

on the basis   

on the basis of   

on the basis of the   

on the other   

on the other hand   

on the other hand the   

on the part of   

other words the   

out that the   

over a period   

over a period of   

part of a   

part of the   

parts of the   

point of view   

point of view of   

referred to as   

related to the   

same way as   

see for example   

should also be   

should be noted   

should not be   

shown in figure   

shown in table   

similar to those   

size of the   

small number of   

so that the   

such a way   

such a way that   

such as the   

such as those   

take into account   

take into account the   

terms of the   

the ability to   

the amount of   

the area of   

the basis of   

the case of   

the change in   

the concept of   

the context of   

the definition of   

the development of   

the difference between   

the difference between the   

the distribution of   

the effect of   

the effects of   

the example of   

the existence of   

the extent to which   

the fact that   

the fact that the    

the first is   

the form of   

the frequency of   

the idea that   

the importance of   

the issue of   

the level of   

the meaning of   

the most important   

the nature of   

the nature of the   

the next section   

the notion of   

the number of   

the order of   

the other hand   

the other hand the   

the part of the   

the point of view   

the point of view of   

the presence of   

the presence of a   

the problem of   

the process of   

the purpose of this   

the question of   

the rate of   

the real world   

the reason for   

the relationship between   

the result of   

the role of   

the same as   

the same time   

the same way as   

the size of   

the size of the   

the structure of   

the study of   

the sum of   

the total number   

the use of   

the validity of the   

the value of   

the way in   

the way in which   

the way that   

the work of   

their ability to   

there are a number   

there are a number of   

there are no   

there are several   

there are three   

this means that   

this paper we   

this type of   

this would be   

to carry out   

to determine whether   

to distinguish between   

to do so   

to ensure that   

to ensure that the   

to show that   

to some extent   

to the fact that   

to use the   

total number of   

two types of   

value of the   

view of the   

was based on   

was carried out   

way in which   

ways in which   

we assume that   

we can see   

we do not   

we have seen   

what are the   

whether or not   

whether or not the   

which can be   

which is not   

which is the   

wide range of   

with regard to   

with respect to   

with respect to the   

with the same