There are some big changes coming to the HSC English syllabus in 2018.

If you’re worried about how these changes will affect you or your teenager, we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive guide to the changes, the new Reading to Write Common Module, and what it all means!

We’re going to cover the changes to content and assessments, as well as how to prepare, use class time and get a Band 6 in Reading to Write, the new Common Module for Year 11 HSC English!

Make sure you download your free PDF breakdown of the Reading to Write module!

What’s different in the new HSC English syllabus for Year 11?

Not too much, don’t worry!

Students going into Year 11 in 2018 can look forward to a few changes, but the course is much the same as the Preliminary course studied in previous years.

Goodbye ‘Area of Study’, hello ‘Common Module’!

In Year 11 the Area of Study is now called the ‘Common Module: Reading to Write’. But don’t worry – it’s very similar to the previous Area of Study.

However, rather than a theme like Belonging or Discovery, the focus of the module is on developing your reading and writing skills, hence the name ‘Reading to Write’! Here’s the first paragraph of the rubric: it tells you what kind of things you’ll be looking for in the texts your school chooses.

As in previous years, there are no set texts for Year 11 and it’s up to your school to choose the texts that you study in Year 11. 

NESA gives slightly different titles for the common module in the Standard and Advanced syllabi (in the Standard syllabus it’s called ‘Reading to Write: Transition to Senior English’ and in the Advanced syllabus it’s simply ‘Reading to Write’), the rubrics are essentially the same between Standard and Advanced English. 

Everyone must study the Common Module first, but your school will decide whether you do ‘Contemporary Possibilities’ or ‘Close Study of Literature’ next.

Changes to number and values of assessment tasks.

NESA has set firmer rules about how schools can assess you in HSC English:

  • There should be THREE assessment tasks set in Year 11
  • Each task can only weigh between 20-40%
  • Schools can only set ONE formal exam during the year

This is good news, because it means the number and type of assessments that students across NSW are given are relatively similar. In other words, this means there will be less variation in assessments between schools.

Why did NESA create a Common Module on ‘Reading to Write: Transition to Senior English’ for Year 11 students?

The idea of a ‘Transition to Senior English’ recognises that lots of students get into Year 11 and struggle with HSC English.

They’ve been doing OK throughout Years 7-10 reading short and/or simple texts and doing relatively simple assignments, but the step to senior English is more difficult.

So you can see that to address the challenge of making the jump to senior English, ‘Reading to Write’ hopes to:

  • Pace out the introduction of content and the stamina for writing at an HSC level
  • Give students more opportunities to write analytically, critically, and creatively
  • Require students to write in different ways – for example, essays, tables, speeches, reading logs, and even graphs or other infographic ways of setting out information.
  • Make students recognise some of the technical aspects of writing, like grammar

How do I get a Band 6 in HSC English ‘Reading to Write’?

The Performance Band descriptors within the new syllabus outline what the work of a top performing student looks like. So let’s go through each descriptor to work out what it means, and how to achieve the top mark for each!

To demonstrate and make things a little easier to understand, we’ll use the text ‘Of Mice and Men’ by John Steinbeck as an example.

Step 1: Understand and evaluate the factors that shape the meaning of texts

demonstrates extensive knowledge, insightful understanding and sophisticated evaluation of the ways meanings are shaped and changed by context, medium of production and the influences that produce different responses to texts

To be able to understand the meaning of a particular text, you need to understand the context and influences that have shaped its composition.

Action Point: Do some research on the writer and the historical period when the text was written.

Here are some prompts to get you started:

  1. Write a short paragraph on the writer and his or her life. What was their family background and upbringing like? Where are they from? What was the historical period in which they were writing?
  2. What is the historical period in which this particular text was written?
  3. What are ways in which the text has been influenced by the writer and/or the context in which the text was written?

Example:

 

John Steinbeck was an American author, born in California in 1902. He spent most of his early life working on farms with migrant workers in rural California. ‘Of Mice and Men’ was published in 1937, and is largely informed by Steinbeck’s experiences working alongside migrant workers. The text is also set against the context of Depression-era America.

Step 2: Be able to identify language techniques and explain how these shape the meaning of texts

displays highly developed skills in describing and analysing a broad range of language forms, features and structures of texts and explain the ways these shape meaning and influence responses in a variety of texts and contexts

Next, you need to be able to identify language techniques and to understand how the use of certain language shapes meaning in a text.

Many students simply find a quote containing a technique they’re familiar with and vaguely connect it to a theme or concept they’ve heard their teacher talk about in class.

Slapping a quote and technique together as if it’s a sandwich is not what you should be doing.

Writers intentionally use language to create meaning, and you need to be able to identify and explain this with specific examples from the text. You also need to be able to identify that the type of text and structure of the text is important in shaping the meaning.

If you need some help recognising and identifying literary techniques, check out our complete HSC English Literary Techniques Cheatsheet!

Furthermore, you need to remember that a writer’s context shapes the effect and meaning you can take from the writer’s use of language!

Action Point: Create a TEE table and start to fill it with examples from the text

If you’re unsure of how to create a TEE table, or just need a little refresh, check out our article here! 

Example:

 

“A water snake glided smoothly up the pool, twisting its periscope head from side to side; and it swam the length of the pool and came to the legs of a motionless heron that stood in the shallows. A silent head and beak lanced down and plucked it out by the head, and the beak swallowed the little snake while its tail waved frantically.” 

 

Steinbeck uses vivid imagery of a heron and water snake to emphasise the dominant theme of the predatory nature of world and to foreshadow Lennie’s impending fate.

Step 3: Be able to write a critical and personal response to a text

presents a critical, refined personal response showing highly developed skills in interpretation, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of texts and textual detail

You get ‘highly developed skills in interpretation’ by really, genuinely thinking about what the story means, and what it means to you.

Action Point: Use your analysis of context, themes, and language to inform your personal response to the text

Here are some more prompts to get you started:

  1. What does the text tell us about being human, living on earth, and dealing with problems?
  2. What do I really think about what the text means? What do I think the writer is trying to say through this text?
  3. Can I actually back my argument up with solid examples and analysis?
  4. Can I refer to other texts to support my point?
  5. Am I aware of any other ways of thinking about the story? Is there solid evidence (i.e. examples and analysis) to back that argument up?

You then need to be able to take your evidence and analysis of the text to inform your personal response. Basically, you need to be able to take what you’ve learned and write a kickass essay using your knowledge! 

We have an amazing article which outlines step-by-step How to Write a Band 6 English Essay here!

Step 4: Be able to write a logical and sophisticated response

composes imaginatively, interpretively, critically and reflectively with sustained precision, flair, originality and sophistication for a variety of audiences, purposes and contexts in order to explore and communicate ideas, information and values

After writing a kickass essay with sophisticated and original interpretations and analysis of the text, you need to make sure it’s grammatically correct.

We’ve written a guide on how to properly draft, edit and polish your HSC English essays to perfection! Check it out here.

After all, there’s no point having incredible ideas and analysis, if you can’t communicate it clearly and effectively in your response.

Looking for some practice essay questions for Reading to Write? We’ve got you covered with 20 Practice Questions here!

How can I prepare for the new module Reading to Write?

Step 1: Ask your teachers what you’re going to be reading and read it!

Ideally, you will have read your texts before you actually need to have read your texts…

Step 2: Get some related texts!

Even if you simply write down a list of texts that you might like to use. This is useful as you can ask your teacher for advice on which texts would work well.

Need some help finding related texts for Reading to Write? Check out our article here!

Step 3: Clear up your understanding of grammar

If you find teacher writes ‘expression’ or ‘watch your expression’ or ‘this isn’t a sentence?‘ ask them to explain which rule of grammar you’ve broken and how to fix it.

How can I use class-time well?

To transition into the high-stamina writing you’ll need to do well in Year 12, you should be absolutely clear about a few things.

Good reading and note-taking strategies:

  • How to read the text if you’re looking for answers to essay questions
  • How to write down your notes to prepare for those questions
  • Breaking up the essay question as something you genuinely answer, not treating it a chance to reel off three memorised paragraphs
  • How to plan a considered response to an essay question

Find out how to write Kickass HSC English Study Notes more than one week before your exam… Check out our guide here!

Writing and grammar:

  • How to properly integrate quotes into your sentences. Seriously, if you’re sketchy on the two things that a complete sentence must have, you should get help with your grammar
  • How to write a good introduction, sentence by sentence
  • How to write a good paragraph, and use correct grammar, not just the generally correct shape (i.e. PETAL, TEEL or any of those acronyms which are OK, but not if the grammar of each sentence within them is wrong)
  • How to recognise your own mistakes by reading your work ALOUD and being honest when it sounds like nonsense (and getting help if you don’t understand why it sounds off!)

In summary…

A Band 6 performing HSC English ‘Reading to Write’ student:

Goes the extra mile to learn about the context of their texts

 

Genuinely thinks about the texts and their meaning (and doesn’t just memorise bullet points and essay paragraphs)

 

Writes clearly and precisely, and is able to communicate their ideas effectively

 

Works on their English skills because they know that almost all jobs will require the ability to write sustained and clear prose

Are you looking for some extra help with HSC English in 2018?

We pride ourselves on our inspirational HSC English coaches and mentors!

We offer tutoring and mentoring for Years K-12 in a large variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby!

To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor get in touch today! 

Give us a ring on 1300 267 888, email us at info@artofsmart.com.au or check us out on Facebook!

Dr Anna McHugh is a qualified English teacher with 10 years+ experience at Sydney’s top schools, with 2 PhDs from The University of Sydney and Oxford University and the author of a number of textbooks for HSC English. Anna works with Art of Smart Education as an on-campus English teacher at our Hornsby campus.