English exam aids

28th March 2003 at 00:00
Pupils love mnemonics. Here are two I use when preparing them for English literature exams.

The first, TEQC, is an acronym to help with paragraph structure.

It stands for "topic" (the sentence that makes a point), "explanation" (explains and clarifies any difficult ideas), "quotation" or a close reference (backs up the point being made) and "comment" (shows how the quotation supports the topic sentence).

And the mnemonic? "I go To Every Queen Concert" or "I go To Every Quasimodo Convention".

The zanier the mnemonic, the more memorable it is.

The second one I use is the formula 3Ts and ST. SID. By systematically focusing on these areas GCSE candidates should be able to comment meaningfully on any poem they encounter and make links between poems.

The 3Ts mean "title", "theme" and "tone".

ST means "structure" (the form of the poem and how it can be divided into manageable units).

SID covers "sound" (alliteration, assonance, rhyme, rhythm, onomatopoeia), "imagery" (simile, metaphor, personification, symbol) and "diction" (connotations and denotations, poetic versus colloquial language).

Obviously, candidates need to be encouraged to see the interrelatedness of meaning, form and language but these mnemonics ensure learners don't panic at the thought of using technical terms in an exam. They also welcome simple "handrails" to help them survive those initial moments of exam panic.

Alban O'Brien, head of English, De La Salle School, St Helens, Eccleston

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