General Information on reading and interpreting texts

Interpreting Texts

Interpreting texts means looking for meaning and reading at a deeper level. This means not just finding out what happens in the plot. You also need to

· Discover the reasons why the author may have constructed events they way he/she did

· Understand how the themes and ideas are conveyed

· Identify the style features and conventions used by the author

· Understand the author's point of view and how he/she positions the reader

· Identify the cultural, social and historical values in the text

· Understand different readings and alternative points of view on the text

It is important to develop your own perspective of the text. This will depend upon your personal context – your views and values – which will shape the way you gain meaning from the text. Including your personal view of the text in your response to a question helps to show your personal engagement with the text. It helps to distinguish your response from those of other students and helps meet the criteria for the higher grades.
How to develop your own perspective on the text
After you have read the text write your opinion on the text.
The author is trying to tell readers that….
Include responses to three themes from the text in your completion of this statement. Identify the author’s point of view as you see it. Identify how characters portray the themes. Identify how the themes explored are relevant to modern society.
Having a clear idea of your personal perspective on the text will enable you to adapt it to suit the question for an essay.

The Ten 'Big'Text Questions you need to explore
1. What themes, ideas and values are explored? Track how they are developed
2. What is the Author’s point of view on these themes, ideas and values?
3. What is the significance of the title?
4. What is the genre and how do you know this?
5. What style features does the author use to position the reader?
6. How does he author portray the main characters? What do they do? Say? Not say?How do they act and react to each other? How do other characters speak about them? How/why do they change if at all? What motivates the protagonist or antagonist?
7. What are the key plot points and turning points?
8. How does the setting create or reflect the mood of the text? Track changes in the tone and atmosphere related to setting.
9. How does the text comment on historical, social or cultural values?
10. From whose point of view is the story told and why did the author make this choice?

Style Style refers to the mood, feel, look or visual tone of a text. The components include point of view, language, genre, form and features specific to the form. Style is the author’s individual stamp on the text. It is what makes it different from other texts of the same type or genre.
Point of view – First person – means we see the action though the eyes of the narrator who may or may not be part of the story. Therefore what audiences get is limited, biased or unreliable information about characters.
Third person is commonly used where the author adopts an omniscient (God like) view of as character and gives us greater insight into their persona. It also allows us to see the world of the text from multiple points of view.
Language – This considers the words chosen to reveal the nature of characters, to create the setting and develop the tone. It can be complex, stylized, contain symbols, motifs and imagery.
Genre – texts of similar type and form or from a certain era can be grouped into a genre or style. Nineteen Eighty Four is a classic dystopian novel. All genres have conventions or features which are typical of the form and type. They may have particular types of characters, particular structures, particular plots etc. Some texts can be grouped into more than one genre as they contain the features and conventions of more than just one Genre.
Form – plays, films, novels, poems – all these are examples of forms and have expected and typical features. The way the author uses them needs to be part of your analysis.

General Information on writing a response to a text
Writing your response
Your response may be written as an expository or analytical essay.
· Expository: Formal, detailed explanation of ideas supported by evidence from the text - Uhh sir, I thought expository essays are meant to conceal your point of view.. I'm confused now. And sorry I have no idea how to comment so I decided to edit
· Analytical: Formal, developed analysis of the text.
You need to
1. Develop or argue a perspective on the text in relation to the essay prompt.
2. Analyse HOW the key elements work together to conveys the author's point of view on themes/issues relevant to the prompt.
Your response needs to
1. Present your perspective on the topic related to themes and characters
2. Demonstrate an understanding of social, historical and cultural values in the text
3. Offer an interpretation of the author's point of view
4. Have at least five key points
5. Include evidence, especially quotes, from the text
6. Use formal language rules

‍Dissect the Topic

· Identify all parts of the topic – often up to three
· Identify themes issues and ideas in the topic – and those that are missing from the topic
· Note key words and write synonyms for them
· List the questions the topic is asking and link these to themes and characters
· Identify the author’s point of view
· Challenge the topic if necessary
· Decide your perspective on the topic
· Pay careful attention to directions in the topic ( Do you agree; discuss etc)

‍Plan the response

Guaranteed to be a high scoring formal essay structure: Target – 800-1200 words
Introduction. 1 paragraph – 100 words
Give your perspective/viewpoint on the topic
Mention form (novel), genre (fantasy/science fiction etc.), creator's name (author) and title somewhere
Define key terms if necessary (that is, the terms that are open to different interpretations)
Give an overview of the main ideas that will be explored in your body paragraphs (normally three)
Use your own voice and a formal language style. (No 'I' statements, abbreviations or slang)
Body – 3--5 paragraphs
200+ words each
Separate paragraph for each key point
Use TEEL structure
Topic sentence: Makes a clear statement in response to the topic. Uses at least one of the key words from the topic
E1 expands and explains this idea.
E2 provides specific clear evidence for the point you make. Must also include specific analysis of the evidence. See more detailed notes below.
L links these ideas to key words and ideas in the topic.
Also use linking words to link ideas and paragraphs together like:
However, conversely, Nevertheless, Although, It could be argued, On closer examination, From a different perspective, In another sense… (Include these links through the topic sentences)
Another way to link paragraphs is to repeat a key word from the linking sentence in the following topic sentence.
*Make sure you have used Metalanguage, that is using words which demonstrate your understanding of the structures and features of the text – eg play, scene, character, theme, symbol, aside etc. (Do not overuse them or make their use sound contrived.)
E2 Evidence and analysis: (This step is essential to access the higher grades)
Key scenes (Briefly identify key scenes, explore what they teach you about the characters/ideas and show how they advance the story.
Quotes (Make sure they are appropriate, relevant and fully explained)
In general, you should be aiming for at last one brief but apt quotation per paragraph.
Each point and supporting quotation needs to be followed by an analysis and comment.
This is needed to explain how and why the aspect of the text or the quotation ‘works’ within the context of the essay question and your contention or point of view.
Certain key questions need to be answered concerning each quotation used: E.g. What techniques have been used to make the language of the quotation effective?
This means discussing the writer’s methods of creating meaning through language.
Writing conventions and techniques (How has the author used various language and structural techniques to enhance our understanding of the characters/ideas?) , e.g. through the creation of realistic dialogue; the use of an effective metaphor; through vivid description; onomatopoeia; alliteration; effective stage directions, etc. Tip: refer to the author by name. e.g. Orwell show us through Winston his......
Background (How has the social, historical and cultural setting of the text shaped the characters and/or ideas?)
Conclusion – 1 paragraph
80-100 words
Clearly restate your viewpoint or perspective in response to the topic and in the light of the evidence you have given
Ensure there is a use of metalanguage in this paragraph – noting the way the author has constructed the text for meaning in relation to the topic
Use the key words from the essay topic
No new ideas (New ideas need to be in the main paragraphs where they can be explored and supported with evidence)

‍Making use of metalanguage and showing understanding of structures and features:

The [text type and title] exemplifies the [genre] because…
[Author’s name] explores [list themes] in his/her [text type]…
[Author’s name] gradually reveals….
The [adjective] title alerts the audience to the significance of ….
The world of [setting]portrayed by [author] ….
The theme of [theme] links characters together by…
The protagonist of the text, [character name], invites/evokes sympathy/empathy/condemnation because…
In [title] [authors name] explores [theme] against a backdrop of [setting] ..
In their [text type, title], [authors name] challenges beliefs that…