HomeIDIOM back issue reviewsEnglish Year 11: For the new VCE Study Design 2016-2020

English Year 11: For the new VCE Study Design 2016-2020

Author: Robert Beardwood
Publisher: Insight Publications, 218 pages
RRP: $46.95

As this book’s Introduction states, the text is closely based on Insight’s English in Year 11, familiar to many senior English teachers, but it offers new material 'specifically written for the revised VCE English Study Design, which is accredited for Year 11 students from 2016'.

The first seven chapters, relating to Area of Study 1 of the newly accredited Victorian English study design, introduce students to features of novels and short stories, film, drama, non-fiction narratives, poetry, ideas, issues and themes and the familiar analytical approaches to text response. The new elements of learning particularly related to Area of Study 1 (Units 1 and 2) are dealt with in Chapters 8, 9 and 10.

Chapter 8 deals with creative text responses. The chapter is well organized, offering its reader ideas on planning and developing a creative response as well as offering guidelines for the written explanation that needs to accompany a student’s creative response. Annotated examples of text types and sample responses follow the above. One observation might be that the chapter is not as comprehensive as it might be in explaining what exactly is being learnt by producing a creative text response, that is, offering a more probing examination of the sort of thinking and learning promoted by these revised inclusions into the study design. Students may well benefit from and find motivation in a discussion of the habits of mind fostered by thinking about a text in this way. In fairness, aspects of the above are buried in the Chapter’s suggestions but may not be sufficiently explicit to encourage students to use them in order to enrich their learning.

Chapter 9 focuses on comparing texts and presents strategies and guidelines to its reader. It offers good ideas for projects that are well grounded in what the study design envisages. When considering strategies such as the use of mind maps to show different points of view on a theme, useful connections are offered with other parts of the textbook that can assist the immediate project or task. This adds to the textbook’s cohesive approach to its purpose. Comparing texts is possibly the area of the revised study design about which teachers will seek most advice. This textbook’s Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 are careful in their 'how to' approaches relating to thinking about comparing texts and actually writing comparative text responses. Models are offered on how to structure comparative essays, as are sample topics, analyses and annotated responses.

The final revised aspect of the study design relates to analysing and presenting argument. Area of Study 2 is dealt with in Chapters 11 to 17 of this book. Teachers familiar with previous Insight English textbooks will recognize the approach taken in these chapters to the study of analysing and presenting argument. One aspect of improvement on previous publications’ management of this part of the study design is the way this book actively discourages students from falling into the 'hunt-the-device' trap. The organization of these seven chapters and particularly Chapter 14, make an improved attempt to encourage students to learn to ask the relevant questions about this part of the study design and, hopefully, to write and speak meaningfully about the persuasive texts they have read. Good teaching and selective use of what the textbook offers to assist students become effective analytical readers are, as always, essential.

English Year 11 offers a comprehensive introduction to the 2016 revised VCE English study design Units 1 and 2, both features that have largely carried over from the previous study design as well as the new ones including what a VCE English exam might look like. It will also offer students a sound basis to understand VCE English Units 3 and 4 when they are introduced in 2017.

Reviewed by Paul Martin, Life member and member of VATE Council.