AQA · For Pupils · Reading skills · structure · Teaching Ideas

GCSE English Language Paper 1 revision – part two: structure

Okay – on to structure. In class, we thought about what the concept of structure meant. Here are some of the slides we used in the lesson.

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Some of you mentioned things like short sentences for effect. Remember that this sort of comment should really go in to your question 2 response. If you want to talk about sentence structures for the ‘structure question’ then it should explain how that sentence is important to the text as a whole: it might be a short sentence at the end which points back to something at the beginning; it might be a pivotal sentence on which the whole of the extract hangs. You get the idea.

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So if you simply follow the sequence on the left hand side (above), then you just end up retelling the story. It’s an easy mistake to make – so we added some detail to this:

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Now you’re commenting on the impact of the structural feature. It’s all about choices – why has the writer decided to start the extract in this way? Why have they focused on this character or that setting? And if they switch to another character, or another location, why have they done this? What is the impact of this change in direction? Here is the slide with the methods we discussed (remember there are other methods you can use):

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In the next slide, we reduced our examination of any extract to four principles:

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In class, we applied this to a fairy tale – Little Red Riding Hood and asked questions such as: why begin with Little Red? Why not the wolf prowling the forest and salivating over the thought of eating Grandma? Why stay with Red after she meets the wolf, rather than follow his story as he munches on Grandma and dresses up in her clothing? This, after all, seems much more interesting! What you need to think of is that these are narrative/structural choices made by the writer of the text to engage us as readers and to encourage us to follow a particular viewpoint or perspective.

We watched the opening sequence to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (you can see this here – we began watching from the high angle establishing shot after the opening title card at 1:08) and used this sheet to help us with our analysis:screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-18-55-22

And came up with these ideas:screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-18-55-31

Square 1: the beginning. The focus on the old man; it’s night, he’s alone; he sees a light. The opening thus introduces a sense of mystery (why is the light important?) and emphasises the man’s vulnerability (he is alone, it’s night etc)

Square 2: The focus shifts to the old man walking through the garden of the ‘other’ house. The shift is quite sudden – we don’t see him leave his own house: instead the director wnts us to follow the man across the garden and to show the house loom into view. Why is this? The focus shifts to the inside of the house and draws our attention to the cobwebs, the dark gothic feel of the atmosphere. The journey up the stairs is emphasised – why is this? What is the impact on the spectator?

Square 3: now the other group of people are introduced. What is the impact of this? Is the director setting up any contrasts between these and the old man? Why does the director focus on the snake? Does this section reinforce any of the ideas we thought of in the first two squares?

Square 4: the caretaker is killed. Did we expect this? How did the structure of the events prepare us for this? Which details from earlier in the film prepared us for this?

For homework, you’ve got to answer this question: How does the structure of the sequence make it interesting? – Use some of the ideas above to help you.

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