Unlike some of the questions on the Language GCSE papers, these two are actually pretty straightforward and familiar. There’s no hidden and inexplicable criteria (ahem, ‘summary’), but rather good old fashioned language analysis.
Here’s how I teach my students to approach both questions, based around What, How, Why as a series of prompts to help steer their analysis.
WHAT: Here I ask students to consider what the writer’s point of view is (especially for Paper 2) or what the passage seems to be capturing or conveying. At the sentence level, this tends to be a single, clear sentence.
It might look something like this: ‘When considering how the writer uses language to describe X one notices the overall sense of the extract is…’
HOW: Now, after our opening sentence expressing the overall sense of the passage, we move onto how the writer expresses this point of view. This is the language analysis bit. For this, I suggest students select 3 or 4 diveable images, depending on whether it is Q2 or Q3.
They move chronologically from image to image, unpicking its nuances. They might consider what a certain word is typically associated with or why a writer used that word and not another similar word. Phrases I teach to help with this include ‘When one thinks of X one imagines Y’ or ‘X is typically associated with Y’, as well as a few others.
I then teach students to knit these moments of analysis together so they form a coherent response by using transition phrases like ‘This sense of Y s further compounded by X’, with X being the next diveable image for them to analyse.
A diveable image, by the way, is the nomenclature I use to describe rich images that students feels they can really ‘dive’ into and say a lot about. I contrast these to ‘shallow’ images.
WHY: Now, at the end, I ask students to consider why they think the writer has depicted their point of view in the specific way they have. What are they hoping the reader thinks or feels about the topic? What is the overall tone being established in the passage? Does the extract, and the way the writer uses language, connect with some kind of big idea?
And that’s it: with practice and a lot of modelling this strategy will get them a pretty good mark.