Less than a month to go: Question 3, Structure – again


Question 3 continues to flummox some GCSE students. If your students still haven’t got the hang of it, then this synopsis may help you. The resource pictured below, with accompanying annotations, is attached here. This will be a very short post, organised around a few key points.

Remember that the bullet points are not of equal weighting. Pupils need to give the effect of the writer’s choices. This surpasses subject terminology. 

  • Students should give an overview.

A sense of the whole is required for this question. It’s important. What happens, structurally? Are we taken on a journey? Is the end similar to the beginning? Why? Is there a pattern to the paragraphs?

  • Sentences can be discussed…

…but it’s the positioning of the sentences that matters. Why has a sentence been placed at that point? What’s the effect on the reader? Is there a sudden introduction? Something that stuns the reader/makes the reader uneasy/sustains the reader’s attention because it’s unexpected?

  • Beginning. Middle. End.

Easy. They forget the easy elements, though. Remind them of story-writing when they were little. Then you can add: Is it cyclical? To what effect? Are we led somewhere else in the middle?

  • Repetition, flash-backs, lists, focus, switches and other subject terminology.

There are some wonderful blogs on this. Mark Roberts (@mr_englishteach) has written two posts on Type of repetition and why you should teach them. You can click here for the second in his series. However, it’s late in the day for this is you haven’t yet taught it. If you just need to get your students through this question in 3 weeks’ time then repetition, flash-backs and listing will suffice. In fact, the AQA annotated assessment training materials have an 8 mark response (full marks!) with subject terminology not going beyond ‘focus’, ‘flash-back’, ‘repetition’, ‘switches’, ‘short sentence’ and ‘cyclical structure’.

  • Internal and external thoughts.

Are we given internal thoughts and external thoughts? If so, to what effect? Maybe we learn that the main character isn’t being honest about his/her feelings. It could be that the reader gains an insight that helps to justify actions.

  • Repeated ideas.

If there’s a repeated idea, theme or even word running through the text then it should be pointed out, along with the effect. Perhaps it draws the reader back to the salient idea or feeling that’s being presented.

Lastly, I’ve given a Dropbox link at the top to these documents. One is an extract (from Kafka on the Shore by Murakami) and the second is the same document, with annotations for structural analysis. You can help yourself. Here’s a preview: