Memo re English Works Classes 2017

For Students and Parents  (Years 9, 10 and 11)

I will be holding 5 to 6 classes on Saturday/Sunday that will focus on Year 12 students/books. This is the best chance for students in Years 10 and 11 to do some intensive/advanced work. We have done plenty of language analysis (and we’ll continue to improve these skills and perfect our metalanguage/expression). An excellent way to make a significant improvement is to choose 1-2  extra texts and study these with my Year 12 students.  Where possible, I will organise some extra classes on Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet/Macbeth) and excerpts from a range of significant texts.

I am working out the times of these classes 2017. The most popular texts are:

(Short) Plays: Medea (Euripides), The Crucible (Arthur Miller)
Novels: 1984 (George Orwell); Stasiland (Anna Funder); Ransom (David Malouf); I am Malala;  The White Tiger (Aravinda Adiga); Year of Wonders (Geraldine Brookes)

Thursday class (7-8 pm): Medea, Stasiland and 1984
Saturday 11.30 am : This Boy’s Life, Stasiland and 1984
Sunday 4.30 pm: The Crucible and Year of Wonders


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Parents: links to a range of support

Dear Parents,

Key areas we are working on are:  quality of writing (writing better sentences); quality of ideas (reasoning and persuasive strategies and thoughts); structure of essays.

I have notice a big improvement in the work of students who have been bringing me regular work – even a paragraph is very much appreciated!  Wo well done!

Students – Remember, to pls send me sentences/paragraphs. I am collecting sentences so that we can analyse grammatical pitfalls and make sure we avoid them. It is hard to get good marks in English if there are grammatical errors.

I have a lot of support material to help students improve, and I’ll keep a summary of the most important links, so that it is accessible.

A lot of the content we cover in the lessons, but these links should help you to keep a track of work and progress.

Levels differ in English as students tend to progress at their own pace, depending upon their interest, their aptitude and wide-reading tasks.

Many of these tasks can be done by all students at different levels, the difference being that the older students should be writing more sophisticated responses.

I have been updating this page for students: Please see, bring to every class.

For files relating to (tone) E book 2 Using better wordsfile  vocabulary building, and tone tests/exercises, please click here.

For tone tests, please click here.

Building a tone word vocabulary, please click here.

Character analysis tasks, please click here. and Two of Us

Please see How can I improve my expression.

Please return to Our Classes page

Please see some slideshows regarding essay writing.

This slideshow gives an overview of our progress.

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Our New Essay writing Super Book

We are pleased to announce our newest publication, “Better Essays and Persuasive Techniques” (2016) is now available.

It is perfect for all those who are seeking a solid foundation in essay writing skills.

For teachers and students, we have systematic plans that show you how to get the best out of our resources.

Also See our Slideshows.

Of particular benefit, for many is our slideshow on transferable skills, which shows you specifically how this new publication (also called our Super Book) will help you gain an excellent foundation in essay-writing for all aspects of the English curriculum.

See Our New Super Book information.


Posted in Essay writing skills, For Parents, For Students, For Teachers, For Tutors

Practice your analysis: Read “Two of Us” (Good Weekend)

Creative writing and thematic analysis (identity/conflict)/whose reality): based on people stories: Two of Us

The Age writer and social commentator Hugh Mackay believes that “we are defined more by our interdependence than our independence”. This statement alludes to the fact that the groups to which we belong have a big impact upon our quality of life and our sense of self. Evidently if we enjoy positive and supportive relationships, then these relationships help us develop emotionally and intellectually.

Conversely, relationships can also stifle our personal development and cause unhappiness. Accordingly, how we negotiate our differences with others will have a big impact upon our sense of identity.

As Andrew Solomon (author of Far from the Tree) notes, the way parents negotiate differences is critical to family relationships, and “even if they’re very diverse differences, that negotiation of differences is a central part of how parents and children develop a relationship to each other.”

Referring to the following stories as featured in Two of Us, comment on how each individual negotiates their differences and the impact of this process on their personal growth.

Judy and Tim Sharp (Two of Us, The Good Weekend, 9/11/13)

  • Analyse Judy and Tim’s relationship. Include reference to:
  • Judy’s reaction to the doctor’s advice
  • Judy’s support for Tim’s artistic pursuits
  • the fact that Tim’s autistic world view is apparent in his paintings; how has he used this to advantage?

Brad and Pam Connolly (Two of us by Robyn Doreian (14/2/15)

  • Brad’s reaction to his tragedy and his encounter with death
    the choices he makes and why
  • how he copes with his altered body image; his relationship with his family
  • what he sees as advantages and disadvantages

Click here to see a typical analysis

Posted in For Parents, For Students

How can I improve my expression?

Jim asks: I am often marked down in English because my teacher says that my expression is often unclear or clumsy. I thought ideas were the thing that mattered.

Jim, there is a link between good expression and good ideas/clear thought processes.

If you are consistently losing marks in English, it is often because you have awkward phrases/expression. If the entire essay consists of clumsy, clunky grammar, it is hard to achieve an A.

Tim’s paragraph:

By referring to her personal experience, the author criticises Kyle Sandiland’s comment and emphasis the affect of bullying (1). She highlights that it is “much worse than the problems associated with her disability”. (2) The author expects reader to feel frustrated towards Kyle Sandiland, because he is acting as irresponsible role model (3). Furthermore, using her personal experience (4), it increases the public’s awareness towards the issue of bullying, because it has a such terrifying affects on individual.

  1. The subject of the verb “emphasis”  is “the author”: it should be in the singular/present tense/ “emphasises”. Note the conjunction “and” joins together two predicates/verbs: “criticises” and “emphasises”.
  2. The verb “highlights” is a transitive verb, which means that it needs a grammatical object, ie. “She highlights the point that it is ….”
  3. You are referring to a specific role model so you must include the indefinite article, “an”.
  4. Be careful with non-finite or “ing” verbs; they do not have a direct grammatical subject and this can lead to grammatical errors. In this case, the grammatical subject “it” does not directly relate to “using her personal experience”.

Be precise: some points to keep in mind:

  • Underline the pronouns: do they clearly relate to a preceding noun?
  • Underline the verbs: if they are non-finite verbs (‘ing) do they have a clear subject in the following or preceding clause.
  • Underline the verbs: is the tense consistent?
  • Underline “and”: if there are two or more items/ objects/ things connected are they the same part of speech? Ie nouns/ adjectives/ verbal phrases?
  • Underline singular and plural nouns: do they clearly relate to singular/plural verbs?
  • Underline a lengthy clause: is it better to use a noun phrase (see nominalisation)
  • Long sentences: underline the clauses – is there a clear independent clause?

Return to Grammar Page

See other tasks to help you improve

Return to : what to bring to every lesson


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Please bring to every class …

Dear Students and Parents

Preparing for the new VCE Study Design: 2016-2020:

1. Text response: You are required to write text response essays on a variety of texts showing an in-depth knowledge of narrative devices, characters, themes and issues.  Each week, please do a paragraph on a text you are studying in class, or on one of the passages we are working on in the group. In the paragraph, you must identity /analyse the big picture concept and refer to the passage for quotes. We are working on a logical flow of ideas throughout the paragraph. For example:

  • Ransom – dealing with grief, loss (anecdotal account of Somax, beauty and the loss of son)
  • Twelve Angry Men – the ways that people suffer by being stereotyped – how discrimination / racial prejudice can interfere with the rule of law
  • Crucible – how people are ruled by fear – contagious spread of unproven assumptions and views of others
  • And Shakespeare’s plays.

2. Creative response: In the new VCE Study Design 2016-2020, you are required to do more creative writing. It is therefore important to read (long and short) stories, and also character profiles/ stories, for eg. in the Good Weekend. We need to explore the character’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour in as much depth as possible. See Typical analysis of Two of Us : creative writing; people analysis

3. Comparative Analysis: In the new VCE Study Design: 2016-200, you are required to compare and contrast two books: characters, issues and themes. Using a variety of text passages, and characters from above, we will work on the skill of comparison. We must have a good grasp of concepts and then compare similarities and differences in thoughts, actions, experiences and behaviour.

4. Language Analysis (Structure and techniques): We have done and will continue to do, a lot of work on persuasive and reasoning techniques. Please choose a short persuasive text, an article or letter to the editor, and write a  short paragraph on language analysis and structure. We will continue to improve these skills.

5. We will continue to improve our analytical vocabulary so that good words become a normal part of our writing. We will also study examples of good quality writing. You must weave through your paragraph, good words, and nice sentence constructions. You must incorporate quotes in a sophisticated manner.

6. Also See Below.

How you can accelerate your improvement in English and get the best out of good guidance.

As a minimum, please bring to every lesson at least one to two paragraphs so that I can monitor your expression. We will start off each lesson with these pieces. (You can also send them to me prior to the lesson.)

  • This will give me an opportunity to point out common/obvious grammatical errors.  (See sample.)
  • I can also check to see how well you are using our new words/phrases (i.e the words that are modelled in our workbooks).  (See sample.)


1 paragraph analysing an author’s language: choose an (short) article from one of my workbooks, or from a letter to the editor and comment on the author’s viewpoint, their most important techniques and their purpose/impact. See Sample. (Also see the Turn to Exercises for each workbook on this website.)  Green Workbook. Orange Workbook.

1 paragraph analysing a “people” story that we have discussed/circulated from the newspaper (such as from Two of Us/Good Weekend). I have also prepared a “concept” list so that we can analyse the story from a psychological/ethical/moral point of view. It is important to identity key concepts so that we can also compare and contrast people stories. (Also themes such as identity/conflict/power/perspectives)

Some concepts for different perspectives: “concept” (Also see this post: every day tasks)


1 paragraph based on a character in a novel and the relevant concepts.

Useful Forms for Classes

  1. Please click : See Checklist for Technique Identification.
  2. Please click here for “tone test” practice: learn some extra metalanguage:
    Tone Test One
    Tone Test Four
  3. Please click here for the Techniques Checklist/Summary Page
Posted in For Parents, For Students

Memo Students: what you …

Dear Students,thinking boy

There are many small tasks that you can do every day, that will keep you in tune with writing and reading.
It doesn’t take much, but you must ensure that you do not get out of the habit of reading and writing.

Here’s a few suggestions: 

  • Read Two of Us, Good Weekend, The Age, Saturday-Sunday: summarise the story. How do people react to difficult circumstances? What is special about these people. See examples.
  • For example, read Benjamin Law’s reflective pieces: what is the moral to this story
  • Learn a few tone words/adjectives every day; put them into a sentence. These are at the back of each workbook. See example, “tone test”.
  • Do an exercise in the Red, Green or Orange Workbooks. Explain the author’s main point; their supporting reasons; what techniques stand out and what is their purpose. For the Red Workbook, click here.  For the Green Workbook, click here. For the Orange Workbook, click here.
  • Aim to read one or two extra books, even if you watch the film first (if there is one) to get you going.

See English Works Classes

Posted in For Students

Reading and imagination

What would we lose in a world without books?

“When young people are introduced to books themselves, they become very excited and enthusiastic.” (Azar Nafisi, Iranian bestselling author)

As Nafisi points out, reading not only helps us think, but also helps us to imagine our place in the world, and sympathise with others. It’s an antidote to intolerance that she believes is the solution to the malaise afflicting Americans, especially the younger generations. Reading provides a passport to the Republic of Imagination, a “country without borders accessible to anyone who opens a book”.

A former lecturer at the Tehran University, Azar Nafisi’s bestselling novel Reading Lolita in Tehran has been translated into more than 30 languages. She has since written, “The Republic of the Imagination”. She encourages parents to think about the benefits of books and the impact of the imagination on our wellbeing and on our emotional intelligence: “If we are preparing our children to face and confront life then we have to teach them to see and confront and imagine life at its best and its worst. That is one of the things that imagination does for us.” She also believes that the iPhone and iPad generation does not provide sufficient meaning or passion in young people’s lives. “When young people are introduced to books themselves, they become very excited and enthusiastic.” Books, she believes, satisfies their hunger for passion and for meaning in a way that technological gadgets can never do. (See, “Passport to a better world”, Andrew Purcell, The Age, 27/6/15.)

So perhaps even from a selfish perspective, as parents wishing to protect the heart and soul of the family, a little reading goes a long way.
See FAQs for parents and please send in your queries.

Posted in For Parents, For Teachers, For Tutors

For parents: “The other day … “

The other day, I curled up with my 13-year-old daughter, bag of chips and a drink by our side, and warded off the cold with a favourite woollen rug.  We had been wanting to watch Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird for a while, so it was about time. The old black and white film transported us back to a time when the negroes were still easy prey, and to some extent one still wonders whether much has changed, thinking about the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, and the non-sentencing of his killer. But the charming, innocent, assured and loyal voice of Scout shines through as a beacon of hope and change. Innocence is always contagious and my daughter was certainly an instant admirer.

Whilst there is much about the film to be enjoyed, its timelessness, its themes and characters, its poignant but stoic depiction of a man whose only sin was to “pity” a white woman, it’s also an excellent way to ease younger 12 and 13-year-old students into the ageless classics.

Lee’s main themes about prejudice and quality leave a powerful legacy as do the characters: Atticus is everyone’s ideal father, Jem a great big brother, and Dill a fun-loving friend who breezes in for the holidays talking about the exploits of a father one can only ever dream of. But most importantly for young teenagers, who spontaneously identify with Scout’s and Jem’s thirst for adventure, it’s an ideal way to make the transition to more mature literature. One cannot help be enthralled by the very sentimental and heartfelt relationship between Boo Radley and Scout and even if the youngsters read Part 1, they will have been exposed to one of the most enduring characters in literature.

Other films such as Lord of the Flies and the Life of Pi can also help young and enthusiastic readers make the transition.

See FAQs for parents and please send in your queries.


Posted in For Parents

Special deal: tutors/teachers

A Tutor’s Pack (5 workbooks) is available for tutors. Its purpose is to provide affordable copies; minimise photocopying and ensure that students have easy access to the online support material.

Techniques of Persuasion x 5 workbooks ($50.00 – free postage + online support)

See Red Workbook Tasks

The Language of Persuasion: become an expert x 5 workbooks  ($50.00)
(free postage + online support)

See Green Workbook Tasks

The Language of Persuasion: an essay-writing guide x 5 workbooks ($50.00)
(free postage + online support)

See Orange Workbook tasks

Class Sets

Class Sets: are also available for teachers. ($10 per workbook)

Posted in For Tutors