Zoom in... Zoom out.

'PEE all over your work' I told my sniggering GCSE students with only a glimmer of a smile. I felt a fool. I felt like I was debasing my beautiful subject with toilet humour acronyms. I felt like I wasn't being the 'Dead Poet's Society' teacher I'd always dreamed of becoming - far, far from it. Fast forward thirteen years and I still cringe at one of my lowest teaching points. However, with the help of a great Head of Department, loads of reading and listening, and reflection and practice, I have crawled my way to respectability and being able to hold my head up high whilst teaching analysis (and not one mention of desecrating students' work). What had I been thinking? Well, my first years of English teaching was all about binding students to the Point/Evidence/Explanation torture board - there were PEE burgers illustrated on the walls in loud friendly colours, resources screaming PEE to the students, and teachers inanely repeating this mantra day in and day out. I had to break free. 

So, I admit, it is a good starting point in upper KS2 and lower KS3. It makes the first foray into analysis manageable, breaking it down into baby steps. But why would we want to rigidly keep to this acronym as students gain confidence and ability? We certainly want to avoid just increasing the acronym with various add-ons e.g. PETAL, PEADL and so on and so on... So, I was led down the path of revelation from reading such books as 'Cultural Poverty - Teaching English Literature'. It trusted the students to be able to structure their own paragraphs with flexibility and concision - leading to great essay style writing (assessment objective 1 - tick). There is also a focus on vocabulary - not just the numerous synonyms for 'shows' but a sense of sophistication throughout. 

One approach to a Year 11 class was 'zoom in, zoom out'. Zooming in on words and phrases and then gradually zooming out into deeper analysis until you're considering the 'big ideas' e.g. the author's message, themes, the reaction of the reader. This could be a way to approach a paragraph or a whole essay structure. For example, while looking at the 2018 AQA English Language Paper 1 (can be found on the AQA website), we wrote an example response to question 2: How does the writer use language here to convey Mr Fisher’s views on books and stories of the past? 

Mr Fisher remembered a time – surely, not so long ago – when books were golden, when imaginations soared, when the world was filled with stories which ran like gazelles and pounced like tigers and exploded like rockets, illuminating minds and hearts. He had seen it happen; had seen whole classes swept away in the fever. In those days, there were heroes; there were dragons and dinosaurs; there were space adventurers and soldiers of fortune and giant apes. In those days, thought Mr Fisher, we dreamed in colour, though films were in black and white, and good always triumphed in the end.

First we decided to focus on the the dynamic verbs 'soared...ran...pounced...exploded...illuminating' showing how Mr Fisher was energised by stories of the past (zooming in). Then, taking a step back (zooming out) we considered how the writer might be inferring that, in the past, Mr Fisher had enjoyed the exhilarating effects of books and been inspired to teach these stories to enthused students however, maybe, that enthusiasm for teaching has dissipated with the modern age of internet and social media. Finally, a further zoom out to considering the message of the author. Could he be inferring that the simpler past, untouched by advanced technology, nurtured a greater imagination in children, however now that energy is lacking leaving a sense of inertia in today's youth. Also, we considered how the reader might respond, collecting adjectives to describe the mood of the reader. With a focus on sophisticated vocabulary, we collected adjectives like: nostalgic, inspired, excited, and yearning. 

There are various pictorial ways you can represent this analytical approach. The most simple is a large V shape: the zooming in being at the point and as the analysis takes steps back, the focus on the overall message being at the widest point at the top of the V.