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My Brilliant Idea - Spell it out

English literature

Ages 17-18

With all the A-level changes, many English literature students are going to be facing unseen texts in their exams for the first time. AQA, Edexcel and WJEC require students to write about texts that they haven't had a chance to prepare in advance; but how do you prepare them to think independently and cope with the unknown?

Some students need the comfort and structure of a set approach - and that's where DRUMPIT comes in. This handy mnemonic focuses on some of the essentials of critical appreciation, whether for prose or poetry.

- D is for diction, the writer's key choices of vocabulary. R is for rhythm and rhyme, verse structures, and shifts in sentence length and pace for prose. U is for the unusual, the striking features that pupils shy away from but they deserve attention because they are odd or original. M is for metaphorical language. P is for point of view (does the writer introduce themselves or hide behind a narrative voice or persona?) I is for irony, always one to be on the lookout for. T is for tone, requiring pupils to look at the passage and consider the overall effect and mood. That way they should be able to see the wood as well as the trees - and find their way through it in the timed conditions of the exam.

John Gallagher is head of English at Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls.

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