The post I just made reminds me I kept a copy of what the examiner’s said about LAST year’s language analysis section of the exam. It’s worth repeating if only because the 2008 Examiners’ Report was the first official report from the examiners on the new course. The following extract refers to Section C of the exam, the language analysis.
Section C – Analysis of language use (Using language to persuade 2008)
‘It is evident from assessors’ comments and examination responses that the scenario presented in 2008 was both engaging and interesting to students. The piece for analysis was a newsletter written by the coach of a local sports team that promoted good sportsmanship and challenged aggressive parents to consider the impact they were having on their children, the club and the sport. It is interesting to note that the coach uses the very first ‘Club News’ (Volume 1, Issue 1) to voice his dismay at the behaviour of some parents in the previous season.
The material was to be seen as a single piece of writing, but offered students variety in language use within the text. It opened with a personal story from a team member and also contained a poignant cartoon that supported the key ideas the coach was attempting to convince his audience – primarily the parents and supporters of the local sports team. Most students understood this and it was pleasing to see that many were able to offer the appropriate context of their analysis. Very few students failed to understand that the coach had purposely chosen the cartoon to support his contention; however, those who did, discussed the cartoon as a separate entity and ignored its place in the newsletter.
The breadth of such material enabled nearly all students to respond to the task, which demonstrates the continued development of this skill throughout Victoria. Most students demonstrated a solid understanding of the task and even the less able students found some words that were used to have an impact on the reader. Simplistic listings of persuasive techniques were very rarely seen in responses. The best responses showed excellent analysis that was quite sophisticated and showed an understanding of the links in language and the construction of argument.
Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement and students should be encouraged to be more specific in their analyses. Too many students offered a general discussion rather than a specific impact on the audience. Comments such as ‘grab the readers’ attention’ or ‘to get the reader interested’ are far too generalised and vague. Likewise, students need to go beyond statements such as ‘makes the reader feel sad’ and explore the implication of this intention in relation to the writer’s purpose. Teachers should spend time throughout the year drawing attention to the impact of specific words and phrases intentionally selected by the writer to support the purpose of the piece.
The best responses deliberately set out to explore and analyse the way language was used in attempting to persuade parents. These students were often able to offer insights into the construction of the newsletter and the way in which the readers’ ideas were being directed. Students showed both the capacity to focus on the finer detail as well as the ability to focus more broadly and understand where the reader is intellectually taken.
The cartoon was very popular and virtually all students were able to discuss the ideas with some understanding. While detail is important – and many students studied the cartoon very carefully – it can also be a problem for students who simply describe the cartoon and do not analyse its meaning and purpose. On the other hand, insightful comments and wonderful observations were made regarding the various facial expressions of the audience and how this fit in with the message of the newsletter.
The analysis of visual material throughout the year seemed to clarify the task for students when analysing the written word. This may be an effective means of teaching at younger year levels rather than focusing on language technique identification, which unfortunately still appeared on occasion.’