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Reading and Responding Essays: ‘Life of Pi’ and ‘On the Waterfront’

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1 Reading and Responding Essays: ‘Life of Pi’ and ‘On the Waterfront’
Year 12 English

2 Reading and Responding Skills
Close reading. Know the text! – read at least three times Analysis of how text is structured (no describing!) Reader impact/viewer impact Development of protagonist External elements prompting change Embedding quotes Overarching interpretation of text as a WHOLE – question and challenge premise of question

3 Different types of exam questions
Characterisation/relationships Narrative style/voice Structural elements Language Values Issues

4 Styles of exam questions
Question type Example What you need to do… Why does character act in a particular way? Why does Pi ultimately decide to become ‘life hungry’? Explain why, eg: because…. Statement about one or more relationships and a prompt. ‘The characters in the text are fiercely protective of their territory’. Discuss. State whether you agree or disagree and explain WHY these relationships are like these. Analysing how an element of narrative is used and the impact of the element on the reader. ‘The first person narrative of ‘Life of Pi’ means we only gain a limited understanding of the other characters’. Discuss. State how the element is used and what its impact is. How does the text…? How does the structure of ‘Life of Pi’ work to maximise the emotional impact on the reader? Explain how several features of the text are used to have the stated effect. Quote from the text followed by ‘is this true?’ or ‘Discuss’. Life of Pi is about ‘the better story’. Discuss. Explain the quotes significance. State whether you agree/disagree and EXPLAIN why. A contention about the text, either ‘Do you agree?’ or ‘Discuss’. ‘Life of Pi’ demonstrates the value of adaptation in an unpredictable world’. Do you agree? State whether you agree/disagree and EXPLAIN why. Ie: how the text demonstrates this.

5 The Four C Contention (your argument) – fully outlined in the introduction and allows you to RESOLVE the topic. Content – succinct quotes that are embedded, specific textual knowledge. Coherence – logical argument that builds as the essay progresses. Clarity – expression is sharp, focused, formal. Sentences, paragraphing and syntax is controlled and supports ideas.

6 Step one: analyse the question
What to ask yourself What to do What are the KEY TERMS? Underline, highlight, define key terms. Make synonyms of key terms eg: suffer = hardship. Is there something in the topic that’s not always true? Pick an argument but you need to show both sides… Is there a quote from the text? What is the importance of the quote? Where does it fit in the text? Are there two or three parts to the topic?Eg: ‘Life of Pi’ demonstrates the value of adaptation in an unpredictable world’. Do you agree? Pick it apart! Adaptation (to physical environment, to living without family) Unpredictable world (shifts from zoo to ocean) How being able to adapt leads to survival. Does the question ask about the way that the story is told? Don’t forget the structure/voice/features of the text if the question demands that they be addressed!

7 Step two: develop a plan
Decide your stance. Express this in a single sentence. This is your main contention. From your notes, select 3 -4 key points that support your main contention. Express each key point as a single sentence. These will form the topic sentences for each of your body paragraphs. Number each point from least important to most important. Select 1 key point that presents the alternative view to yours. This is your ‘nuanced’ paragraph. Repeat step three for this point. Using your notes, select key information, ideas and QUOTES relevant to your key points – put these under the relevant topic sentence. Restate your main contention in different words. This will form the basis of your conclusion. List some linking words to join each paragraph…On the other hand, additionally, similarly, in conclusion, ultimately, however, it is true…

8 Step three: writing your essay Introduction
THIS SETS UP A SUCCESSFUL ESSAY… A sentence that states your contention. A sentence for your first main point to show this (this is main body paragraph 1) A sentence for your second main point to show this (this is main body paragraph 2) A sentence that states the alternative (opposite) view to yours (this is main body paragraph 4). A sentence that begins with… Ultimately, however…..that reinforces your contention.

9 Example of introduction
It's not a hard and fast formula, but an introduction should be: In ‘Yann Martel’s narrative ‘Life of Pi’ (opening sentence – your contention).  This is explored first through (para 1).  It is also demonstrated in (para 2).  However, (para 3) suggests that this is not always the case.  Ultimately, therefore, we see that (x - a nuanced conclusion). Example: Throughout the text, Pi chooses life over death. To what extent do you agree? Martel’s ‘Life of Pi’ tells the story of a young boy consumed by choices, yet capable of being left ‘sad and gloomy’ at the ever-present prospect of death (CONTENTION).  Primarily, Pi’s choice to survive relates to his need to keep his companion, Richard Parker, ‘vital’, resulting in Pi feeling an element of control over his fate. (PARA 1) Richard Parker, however, is not the sole cause.  Pi deep commitment to God enables him to ‘beat the odds’ and survive 227 days at sea. (PARA 2) But, when ‘death consistently excites Pi’s emotions in part three of the text, we see that Pi gets ‘caught up in grim and exhausting opposites’ and considers death. (PARA 3)  Thus, while Pi does spend much of the narrative contemplating about the various choices between life and death, we ultimately see that when prompted, he ‘refuse to believe in death’ and acts promptly and decisively and defend his life. (CONCLUSION – REINFORCE CONTENTION).

10 Body paragraphs (3-4) USE TEEL
T- topic sentence (main point for the paragraph) E- evidence (support your point with the PERFECT quote or scene) E- Explanation (explain the significance of the evidence and how it supports your point). L- Links (link back to the topic) using a linking word.

11 Body paragraph example: Life of Pi’ shows the extent to which we need ‘the other’ to survive. Discuss. Pi’s survival is linked inextricably to Richard Parker. Pi relies on him for emotional security – the reassurance that if another being is alive then he too, can endure the hardships of the environment in which he has been thrust. (Topic sentence). Indeed, as the narrative progresses, their survival transitions from a question of ‘him or me’ to ‘him and me’. (Evidence). Richard Parker’s reliance on Pi for food and water and Pi’s reliance on Richard Parker for company demonstrates that, indeed, Richard Parker and Pi would ‘live – or die – together.’ (Explanation). Clearly, the ability for a young boy and a Bengal tiger to share 227 days on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean reveals the extent to which we rely on ‘the other’ for physical and emotional survival (Concluding sentence).

12 Conclusion Clearly refer to the topic
Restate your argument – avoid repeating the same words that you used in your intro. Include two main, general statements about the text’s significance – the big ideas that the raises.

13 Step four: edit and rewrite
ASK YOURSELF… Is a STRONG point of view evident THROUGHOUT my piece? What could make my argument stronger? Do I use a range of words? Have I chosen the BEST words for what I want to say? Check your thesaurus… Does each paragraph being with a different word? Is the tone SERIOUS and the style FORMAL (no casual words like a lot) Have I avoided using ‘I’ or ‘in my opinion’? Have I used present tense? Eg: ‘Pi rebels’… not ‘Pi rebelled’ Do I use at least three linking words to show LOGICAL development of ideas? Eg: because of…in contrast… consequently… Do I use 6-8 quotes but no more that 8 words per quote?

14 Hot tips Linking words Embedding your quotes in sentences
Sentence stems – Description of what happens (10%)This reveals/shows/illustrates/demonstrates….(90%) PLANNING IS CRUCIAL! The introduction sets up your whole piece.

15 Above a 6… 8,9,10 essays are perceptive, explore the complexities of the CONCEPTS, BIG IDEAS, CONSTRUCTION of the text. You need to FULLY explore the implications of the topics – each paragraph builds on the last and your contention runs through the whole piece. BE PASSIONATE – it shows! But compose a controlled, substantiated discussion.

16 Practice, practice, practice!
The best English students write, write, rewrite, write, rewrite… The most dangerous animal in a zoo is Man. To what extent do you think this is true, given your understanding of ‘Life of Pi’. ‘Life of Pi’ shows animals and humans to be territorial creatures.’ How far do you think this is true?

17 Insight resources and Neap
Read Chapter 6 of Insight – SACs for Reading and Responding. Neap smartstudy English guide. See ‘high scoring’ essay – ‘1984’ and ‘Life of Pi’.

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