How to use films to inspire descriptive writing

[Still image taken from Mad Max Fury Road. This still image is used for educational purposes only, to illustrate a point about teaching.]

Many students struggle to write descriptively. And this is a problem because the writing to describe task for GCSE students is worth a lot of marks on the exam.

Despite your best efforts to inspire students with intriguing photos like those published at the New York Times, they still seem to be more at home ‘reading’ stories on Snapchat instead of books.

So they stare at the photo. And stare some more. And they keep staring. Until they look at you and say, “I don’t know what to write about”.

It’s not enough to say, “use your imagination” because these kids are really struggling to think in an imaginative way.

You’ve shown them the boxing up technique, you’ve flogged the five senses to death and you’ve harped on about the ‘Show Don’t Tell’ method until you’ve got steam visibly rising out of each nostril.

But there is another technique. And I’ve named it the ‘Still to Action’ method.

All you need is a film clip, preferably a really slow one… so slow in fact that it’s very difficult to tell what’s going on… and it needs to be set in one location.

With nothing much happening… so that just as students are beginning to think you’ve got a really bad taste in films.


Something happens that’s actually quite interesting.

Take a look at this still image from Fargo Season 1 Episode 7:


[Still image taken from Season 1, Episode 7 of Fargo. This still image is used for educational purposes only, to illustrate a point about teaching.]

It looks like not a lot is happening. But then this happens:

In class, get your students to describe the really mundane looking still from a film BEFORE watching a corresponding clip that’s full of action. They could discuss how they might create action in the still and contrast it to what the director actually does.

For this method to work effectively, ideally you’ll need clips that are long takes (one continuous shot):

These are just a few examples of film clips that demonstrate the ‘Still to Action’ method.

I got the idea of teaching students to add movement to a still image from Show Don’t Tell by Sandra Gerth (2018). In her book she advises that the best descriptions are dynamic, not static. And that the best descriptions use movement.

So this got me thinking about how this could be applied to the still image students are given for AQA’s Paper 1 Question 5: Writing to Describe.

The types of movement they could focus on (in any image) include:

  • Time (contrast scenes: night vs day, summer vs winter)
  • Weather (clouds, sun to rain, falling snow etc)
  • Sounds and silences
  • Movable objects that interact or move in the setting (animals, birds transport, people)
  • Changes in narrative perspective (e.g. description from the eyes of a person to the eyes of an animal)
  • Zoom in / Narrowing focus from the general to the specific

Take an image from a film and use the bullet points above as discussion prompts in class.

Next week I’ll be sharing how to structure a piece of descriptive writing based on this method. And I’ll be using all these ideas in my teaching from September – I’ll keep you updated about the results.

Use the comments section below to tell me about any other long takes from films or TV shows that could be used to inspire descriptive writing.

Copyright: Kat Jayne, Pexels

5 Film Clips To Teach Pathetic Fallacy

Image Copyright: Kat Jayne, Pexels

The definition of ‘pathetic fallacy’ has changed over time and often gets confused with personification. In its broadest sense, pathetic fallacy refers to the way the setting of a literary piece of work (or film) reflects an emotional mood. Think of thunderstorms that signify anger, or the rising sun and optimism.

Many students struggle to communicate (let alone imagine) a convincing setting for their narratives. However, pathetic fallacy is an easy technique for students of any ability to use in their descriptive writing.

Here are five film clips that will help you to teach pathetic fallacy…

  1. The Lion King: the aftermath of Scar’s death

There’s the trees that look dead. The fire and smoke. The rain. The stars. The sun over pride rock. It’s like the artistic director has taken a big paint pot of pathetic fallacy and daubed it all over this scene. The setting takes us from despair to celebration in about 60 seconds.

In fact, the whole of Disney’s The Lion King (new or old version) can be used to teach students how writers and directors use setting to create an emotional mood. And there’s a lot already written on Disney and its use of pathetic fallacy here.

In class, students could write descriptions of settings that move from one strong mood to another. They could discuss the symbolism of key features of the setting and the emotions they convey.

  1. Wuthering Heights: Yorkshire Moors scenes.

Emily Bronte’s novel is a masterclass in using pathetic fallacy. The Yorkshire Moors are a rough and dangerous environment, but despite its bleakness can be stunningly beautiful. The moorland surrounding Wuthering Heights reflects the hostile yet passionate relationships of Heathcliffe, Cathy and the characters that live around its environs.

In class students could discuss how hostile and bleak the landscape appears in the film’s trailer and what emotions it might be communicating. Or they could analyse the use of wind and fog, and what they might symbolise.

  1. The Maze Scene: The Shining

Jack Torrance has just tried to hack his wife to death with an axe. He makes a run for it outside. But it’s the depths of winter and a blizzard is closing in around the Overlook Hotel. The snow storm is symbolic of Jack’s cold-heartedness and cruelty.

Students could discuss the different ways snow imagery can be used in their own writing to communicate particular feelings and moods. Or look at how snow is used in other films. It’s often associated with cold-hearted characters like the Snow Queen from the Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

  1. Frankenstein’s Monster: “It’s Alive!” Scene

This clip represents any film scene that uses thunder, lightning and howling wind to convey danger. In this classic example when Frankenstein’s monster is born, the natural order has been disrupted and the world is very angry as a result. Another famous example is the clock tower scene from Back To The Future.

In class, students could discuss the different ways a storm could be used to communicate particular feelings and moods.

  1. The Opening Scene of Disney’s The Lion King

Dancing animals (check). Sunrise (check). Clear blue skies (check). A rock that looks like a mountain (check). And what do all these create?

Answer: a celebratory, joyous mood.

In class, students could write descriptions of the animals using personification. Or they could discuss how features of the setting create particular emotions.

Use the comments section below to share your ideas about films clips that could be used to teach pathetic fallacy.

Or if you already use specific film clips to teach this technique share your thoughts below.

Why I Hate the Nationwide Poetry Adverts

Banks using poetry to sell banking is tantamount to graffiti being used to promote consumerism. Why? Because poetry (like graffiti) is about challenging the ordinary and drawing people’s attention to what’s possible outside of the mainstream. Both are used as mediums for seeing things differently.

Bad Graffitti

So cool. Graffiti being used to sell beer. Brooklyn, 2017.

The Nationwide poetry campaign has been running for just over a year now, using spoken word poetry to sell bank accounts. Spoken word poetry and bank accounts are incongruous noun phrases; put simply they shouldn’t be uttered alongside each other. The free-flowing and spontaneous nature of spoken word poetry is long associated with protest and emancipation. It’s a verse form, that like all good poetry, presents the ordinary in an extraordinary way. It’s not supposed to be associated with Nationwide, McDonalds or The Village Hotel franchises.

There’s a reason why banking doesn’t really appear in poetry; banking is ordinary. Uninspiring. Boring. And no amount of spoken word poetry can make it hip, youthful or interesting. During the late 1500s, Shakespeare exhausted every conceivable monetary metaphor in his sonnet series, and given its woeful status since the financial crash of 2008, the only poetry banking deserves in 2017 is protest poetry. Just try writing a poem about banking and you’ll soon be spieling off insulting rhymes on the word “bankers”.

What makes something poetry is up for debate. It always has been, always will be. From Allen Ginsberg, to John Cooper Clarke, good spoken word poetry has a musicality to it, cadences, repetitions, occasional rhymes. A good spoken word poem makes you stop, think and see something differently. It has the same effect as seeing this piece of graffiti for the first time:


Graffiti by Stik, London, 2013

Poetry should Stik

It’s the experience of poetry itself that’s really important. The moment when you find a poem that you really ‘get’. A poem that you want to remember. A poem that has most importantly, taught you something new or made you think in a new way. Not a poem that promises you £100 for getting a mate to set up a new bank account.

  1. “Make it new” – Ezra Pound the American poet believed all writing should aim to do this and this is something I believe poetry should aim to achieve, whether you’re writing a poem about autumn or a red wheel barrow. I’m not sure what the Nationwide is making new in its campaign. Its image of friendship is cynical and the format of using spoken word poetry in advertising isn’t novel or ground breaking.
  2. Poetry is ‘pure concentration, a focus where our power to concentrate is concentrated back on ourselves,’ said the Irish poet Seamus Heaney (Government of the Tongue). This one is troubling when you think about it. What is the Nationwide reflecting back to ourselves? That we should coerce our friends into setting up bank accounts for our own financial gain?

What are your thoughts, is the Nationwide campaign the worst advertisement on TV at the moment or is there worse out there?


Analysing Adjectives

5 min read: this blog post will help you to:

  • identify the forms and positions of adjectives
  • explore the connotations and meanings of adjectives

Know It!


Rio 2016 Olympics – anyone fancy a dip?

Adjectives are traditionally known as ‘describing words’ because they modify (or change) the meanings of nouns. For example, the noun phrase ‘water’ is pretty dull, however if you add in some adjectives: green + smelly + water the writer is deliberately focusing the reader’s attention on particular qualities of the water; in this case it looks disgusting and presumably tastes as bad as it smells!

Test It!

To check if a word is an adjective:

  • Place it in front of a noun e.g. the shiny, red bus
  • Put an intensifier in front of it e.g. the very cold snow    really awful     so soft
  • Add the inflection –ly to it e.g. significantly minimally angrily

Apply It!

When analysing adjectives, you need to think about the position, the form and their connotations. Adjectives are known as modifiers because they modify the meaning of a noun. The table below gives details about the different forms of adjectives you might encounter in texts:

Adjectives Table A

DCrystal SuperlativeComps

Superlative and Comparative adjective phrases used in adverts (D.Crystal, CUP, 2014)

Adjectives can be graded so that nouns can be compared:

→ A big house → a bigger house → the biggest house

Comparative adjectives are formed by using the inflection – er whilst Superlative adjectives are formed by adding –est


  • tall → tallertallest
  • mad → maddermaddest
  • sunny → sunniersunniest

Some comparatives are formed by using ‘more’ before the adjective and some superlatives are formed by using most before the adjective:

  • More luck →  most lucky
  • more awful → most awful

Some gradable adjectives don’t follow the patterns demonstrated above and are ‘irregular’ as a result:

  • Bad →  worse  →  worst
  • good →  better  →  best

Positioning Adjectives: Attributive and Predicative Adjectives

  • Adjectives can be placed before a noun in the attributive position and are known as attributive adjectives

the warm bath       the ill girl      cloudless sky

  • Adjectives can be placed after the verb ‘to be’ in the predicative position and are known as predicative adjectives

the bath is warm      the girl became ill      the sky is cloudless

Analyse It!

The adjective choices a writer makes, reflects the tone of the voice of the text, mood, atmosphere and representation of its subject. When you analyse a writer’s use of adjectives, you should always select groups of adjectives that either share characteristics or demonstrate contrasts.

Identify the adjective forms, positions, connotations and meanings in this extract:

cala-galdana-beach-menorca-E413GEArrive on the sun-bleached shores of Menorca after a spell on Mallorca or Ibiza and notice the drop in volume – here it’s more birdsong than Pete Tong. The easternmost Balearic island moves to its own mellow beat. Its twinset of sea-splashed cities, Anglo-Spanish Maó and medina-like Ciutadella, are delightfully low-key, and the white-sand bays that stud its 216km coastline are among the loveliest in the Med. Inland, criss-crossing its fields and rolling hills are an estimated 70,000km of dry-stone walls.


Adjectives Table B

The commentary below uses the four basic steps to language analysis outlined in this blog post.

Adjectives Table C

Practise It!

Use your knowledge of nouns and the four basic steps to language analysis method to write a paragraph that answers this question:

How are adjectives used in the extract to create effects and meanings?

Kylie Cosmetics Adjectives Copy

Adjectives Table D

Analysing Nouns

5 min read: this blog post will help you to:

  • identify the different types of nouns
  • explore the connotations and meanings of nouns

Know It!

On a basic level, nouns name things: people, places and things. However, they also name ideas and feelings such as: knowledge, solution, love, happiness.

Test It!

To check if a word is a noun:

  • Place the or some in front of it:          the F1 car some tyres
  • Turn it into a plural:                             tyre → tyres            wheel → wheels
  • Make it possess something:                 Lewis Hamilton’s helmet       The car’s pitstop


Apply It!

Common and Proper Nouns

Common nouns are non-specific names, whereas proper nouns indicate specific names:

Noun Table AConcrete and Abstract Nouns

Concrete nouns are physical things which can be seen, touched and interacted with:

car          school                   laptop                   iphone                  table

Abstract nouns are ideas, processes, occasions, times:

challenge             heroism         excitement          jealousy            appointment

Analyse It!

The noun choices a writer makes reflect the type of text it is and the subject of the text itself. When you analyse a writer’s use of nouns, you should always select a group of nouns that either share characteristics or demonstrate contrasts.

Identify common concrete, abstract and proper nouns in this extract:

SunsetThe all-night raver, the boho-cool hippie chick, the sexiest babe on the beach – Ibiza is all this and more to those who have a soft spot for the party-loving sister of the Balearics. The cream of Europe‘s DJs (David Guetta, Luciano, Sven Väth et al) makes the island holy ground for clubbers. And nowhere does sunset chilling like Sant Antoni de Portmany’s strip of mellow cafes.

Answers:Noun Table B

The commentary below uses the four basic steps to language analysis outlined in this blog post.Noun Table C.JPG

Top Tip:

  • The strongest analysis will discuss contrasts and juxtapositions in language use.

For example, it would explore the meanings of some of the abstract nouns, ‘holy ground’ which presents Ibiza as almost being like a religious experience. Or, ‘soft-spot’ as a term of endearment that shows how much tourists love Ibiza.

It could also explore how some of these nouns are juxtaposed to each other such as ‘chilling’ vs ‘clubbers’ which have individual connotations that suggest Ibiza has very different experiences to offer tourists.

Practise It!

Use your knowledge of nouns and the four basic steps to language analysis method to write a paragraph that answers this question:

How are nouns used in the extract to create effects and meanings?

Mickey Mouse FreenMickey is one lucky guy. Created by animator Walt Disney in 1928, this irrepressible mouse caught a ride on a multimedia juggernaut (film, TV, publishing, music, merchandising and theme parks) that rocketed him into a global stratosphere of recognition, money and influence. Plus, he lives in Disneyland, the ‘Happiest Place on Earth,’ an ‘imagineered’ hyper-reality where the streets are always clean, employees – called ‘cast members’ – are always upbeat and there are parades every day.

Sure, every ride seems to end in a gift store, prices are sky-high and there are grumblings that management could do more about affordable housing and health insurance for employees – but even determined grouches should find reason to grin. For the more than 14 million kids, grandparents, honeymooners and international tourists who visit every year – and those who love them – Disneyland Resort remains a magical experience.

Noun Table D


Analysing Language: useful words & phrases list

2 min read: this blog post will help you to:

  • use words and phrases that analyse language


The strongest analysis will be able to cluster language techniques and discuss contrasts and juxtapositions in language use.

A stronger analysis will cluster different language techniques that create similar effects and it will be able to explore patterns of language use.

A more able analysis will explore groups of words/phrases and discuss their connotations and lexical fields.

A weak analysis will offer the examiner one word/phrase examples in the evidence and talk at length about one word/phrase.

Clustering refers to the ability to use short embedded quotes and discuss different language techniques that support one main point.

HowDoIAnalyse Language

This list of useful words and phrases for analysing language moves from a weaker analysis, to the strongest:

  • This word/phrase suggests that…
  • This word/phrase means that…
  • The meaning of this word/phrase is…
  • This vocabulary is chosen by the writer to suggest…
  • The writer uses (language example) to focus the reader’s attention on…
  • This image/idea is reinforced by the writer’s use of…
  • The writer repeats (language example) to draw attention to…
  • (Language example) is repeated to emphasise the key idea of…
  • This use of (language example) reminds the reader that…
  • The writer wants the reader to recognise that…
  • Language has been used to persuade the reader to… like/agree…
  • The use of (language example) used to describe (subject) reinforces the reader’s awareness of…
  • Through the contrasting use of (language example) the writer is able to reflect the character’s…
  • The writer’s use of (language example) is further reinforced through the use of (language example)…
  • By using the (language example) and (language example) the writer is able to contrast…

Language Analysis: Exploring Semantics (Meanings)

4 min read: this blog post will help you to:

  • Say something meaningful about a writer’s vocabulary choices
  • Understand the terms ‘Connotation‘ and ‘Lexical/Semantic Fields

Vocabulary choices create different effects and support/reinforce a writer’s ideas. A writer can drastically alter their intended ideas and messages through the vocabulary choices they deliberately make. At both GCSE and A level, discussing what words mean is a key skill. It is the bread and butter of language analysis, without it you may as well be analysing a beige wall because there’s not much to say about language if you don’t discuss what words mean and suggest!


Beige language analysis

Connotations are the ideas we associate with words and by discussing the connotations of words you will strengthen your language analysis skills. For example, the word ‘beige’ means something that is a pale brown colour; the connotations of the word are bland, boring, drab and dull.

When you discuss the connotations of words you could:

  • Identify groups of words that have similar connotationspositive or negative
  • Identify groups of words that are subject specific lexisformal or informal

In the extract below, identify words that are negative and list their connotations:

At first the villagers tried to hold me back. They warned me not to touch him, that he was “cursed”. I shrugged them off and reached for my mask and gloves. The boy’s skin was as cold and grey as the cement on which he lay. I could find neither his heartbeat nor his pulse. His eyes were wild, wide and sunken back in their sockets. They remained locked on me like a predatory beast. Throughout the examination he was inexplicably hostile, reaching for me with his bound hands and snapping at me through his gag. World War Z, Max Brooks

Here are some of the words you may have identified:

Semantics AZooming in on individual words and the associations (connotations) they suggest will help you to analyse texts in a more perceptive way. If you are a perceptive reader it means that you will notice and understand meanings that not every reader does. In the examples above, the most perceptive word to analyse might be the adjective ‘cursed’ because it foreshadows the boy’s fate, before his death is explicitly described to the reader.

Further your learning with this activity below by listing associated connotations. What are the most perceptive meaning(s) you can identify?

Semantics B

Exploring semantics (the meanings of words and their associations) is a key skill, but be careful not to overdo it. By this I mean don’t force an association that is weak, or doesn’t really exist. You will only get marks for analysing ideas that are directly related to the texts you are studying.

By organising vocabulary into groupings that share characteristics, you will see that lexical/semantic fields are also apparent in most texts that you will analyse.

A lexical/semantic field are groups of words linked by a theme/idea.

A convincing lexical/semantic field will involve 3+ words. Have a look at these examples below:

Semantics C

Further your learning with this final activity by identifying the theme/idea linking the groups of words:

Semantics D

Advice A

BBC2: No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free?

5 min read

This blog post will:

  • Introduce you to up-to-date gender theories and studies
  • Help you understand where differences between the genders arise from

Last year, Turner-Prize-winning artist, Grayson Perry, made a rather wonderful documentary for C4 about male masculinity called, All Man and wrote an accompanying book, The Descent of Man. His work in both visual and written format challenges long-held notions of what it means to be ‘masculine’. Perry’s observations of male behaviour have led him to form a convincing argument that the world would be a better place if men placed less emphasis on action and competition, and more emphasis on being adaptable and compassionate. Grayson Perry

Fast-forward a year, and BBC2 have produced a deliberately provocative two-part series that takes some of the ideas explored in Perry’s work and focuses on whether children can really be brought up ‘gender-free’.

It’s important to understand here that ‘sex’ refers to biological differences between males and females (determined at the moment of conception) and ‘gender’ relates to identity (something which isn’t determined at the moment of conception).

How much do biological differences explain differences in gender?

The documentary, fronted by Dr Javid Abdelmoneim, makes it quickly apparent that structurally there are very few differences in male and female brains that account for apparent differences between the genders. These differences, or rather stereotypes, include ideas like:

  • Boys are: stronger, fitter, play football, fight lots of people
  • Girls are: love hearts, pretty, drawing, art

A neurological specialist points out to Abdelmoneim that a child’s brain development is linked to their experiences and upbringing, which just like gender, isn’t determined at the moment of conception. The viewer is then guided through the argument that daily experiences have taught children the mental attitudes associated with fixed ideas of what it is to be a ‘man’ and ‘woman’.  This is an argument that would appeal to A level gender-theorist fave, Deborah Cameron and her sociolinguistic observations of where differences between the genders arise from.

How can a documentary prove that differences between the genders are learnt and not inherent?

A class of mixed-gender seven-year-olds from the Isle of Wight are the subjects of BBC2’s documentary. At the start of the week all the seven-year-olds undertake a baseline psychometric survey that tests their levels of assertiveness, resistance to acts of impulsiveness, self esteem, perceived intelligence and vocabulary used to describe their emotions.

The results showed that:

  1. Girls underestimate their intelligence and have low self esteem. They use words such as “ugly”, “lipstick” and “pretty”; language that forms a semantic field of beauty and attractiveness.
  2. Girls scored more highly on vocabulary (synonym use) to describe their emotions. Whereas when boys were asked to describe their emotions, the only word they scored more highly than the girls was for the word ‘angry’.
  3. Boys’ results depicted themselves as angry, with low-levels of empathy and a tendency to over estimate their achievement/ability.
  4. 50% of the boys described themselves as ‘the best’, indicating far higher levels of self-esteem than the girls, with only 10% identifying as being ‘the best’.

From a socio-linguistic perspective, the results linked to vocabulary use are reminiscent of Robin Lakoff’s 1975 book Language and Woman’s Place which argues that women’s language is weaker than that of men’s. However, the results lean more towards the Cameron side of the debate. Is it any wonder girls’ language is reflective of their low self-esteem and body image, given the representations of women that saturate the media and the world around them?

What can a documentary do to challenge differences between the genders?

Abdelmoneim and his team attempt to create new experiences for the children, with the hope of producing new attitudes and new behaviours relating to their perception of gender. This approach echoes Grayson Perry’s own thoughts about gender-fixed attitudes and behaviours. In his conclusion to The Descent of Man he writes :

I think adaptability is the key to our masculine future. Masculinity is mainly a construct of conditioned feelings around people with penises. It can feel writ in stone, but emotions and feelings can be changed. I think that men need to look inside themselves (open the bonnet), become more aware of their feelings (read the manual) and start adapting (upgrade).  (Penguin Books, London, 2016, p140)

Abdelmoneium sets about creating changes in students’ attitudes and behaviours via classroom interventions (activities) that deliberately highlight their gender similarities rather than their gender differences. Note how important the comparative clause ‘rather than’ is in that statement!

The gender differences were quickly established by interviewing the children themselves. When asked, who are more important? regardless of the speaker’s gender, opinions were unanimous:

  • “Boys because they protect people”
  • “Men are better than girls at being in charge.”
  • “Men are more cleverer than girls because they get to be President”

Jobs are also discussed by the children, with a clear focus on action/power jobs for the boys and caring/appearance jobs for the girls.

Where do children get these ideas from at such a young age?

The simple answer is, the toys they interact with. But also highly influential is how adults interact with the children (via the medium of toys) as they often subconsciously reinforce gender roles.

Abdelmoneim brilliantly illustrated this by duping unwitting adults into believing a girl baby was a boy baby and a boy baby was a girl baby, just by swapping their clothes. Adults were then filmed playing with the babies whilst Abdelmoneim and his team secretly recorded the results.

There were no real surprises – the girl baby was offered cuddly toys and dolls, the boy baby robots and transport. The real surprise though was for the adults themselves, with most of them describing themselves as being ‘liberal’ when it came to their own perceptions of gender, they acknowledged that there ‘must be something subconscious going on’ that drew them to gender-stereotyped play.

How ‘innocent’ are the differences between the genders?

I think the idea of ‘innocence’ that the documentary explores, is this ‘subconsicous’ use of gender-specific language/gender-specific play that the adults in the above experiment refer to. It’s only when we analyse gender interactions, that we realise how constructed they really are, and what their implications are.

The documentary brings this to the fore by deconstructing the teacher’s use of language. The teacher, who is male, uses terms of endearments in an idiosyncratic way. Idiosyncratic refers to the speech habits particular to an individual. In this teacher’s case, he innocently uses terms of endearments before he says students’ names, resulting in his use of “mate” for boys and “love” for girls.

Almost immediately, these two endearments are signalling differences between the genders. ‘Mate’ has connotations of friendship and comradeship, whereas ‘love’ is softer, feminine, more emotional.

Two boys are disgusted when Abdelmoneim suggests their teacher calls them ‘love’ whereas the girl is much more open to being called ‘mate’ by her teacher. It seems that the male term ‘mate’ has the ability to signal equal respect between the genders, whereas the female term, less so.

Despite this, the teacher uses endearments twice as much after girls’ names than he does boys. This form of gender marking is overt, it is also awkward, particularly when pointed out to the teacher as it’s patently obvious he doesn’t mean to mark out gender so obviously, he does it innocently or ‘subconsciously’.

However, his idiosyncracies have no place in a modern gender-neutral classroom! Abdelmoneim makes a wall of shame so that students can stick sad-faced stickers on ‘mate’ and ‘love’ every time their teacher utters them. By doing so, Abdelmoneim challenges the students’ attitude towards gender marked terms as they are more aware of them.

Where can I find out more information about differences between the genders?

Abdelmoneim’s documentary series is well-worth the watch via BBCiPlayer as a solid starting-point for understanding where differences between the genders come from. You could then follow it up with a binge-fest of Grayson Perry’s thoughts on gender.

If you’re an A Level English Language, Sociology or Psychology student, I can’t recommend enough that you take three hours of your life to watch Perry’s documentary series, AND devote a few easy evening reads to The Descent of Man. It will challenge your attitude towards gender and possibly even result in changed behaviour.

The Let Toys Be Toys website also has many examples of gender-stereotyped play that A level students can find useful.

The next episode of BBC2: No More Boys and Girls: Can Our Kids Go Gender Free? will air Wednesday 23rd August, 2017 9-10pm.

Language Technique Analysis – The Basics

4 min read: this blog post will help you to:

  1. Understand how to analyse language used by a writer
  2. Think critically about language choices

When you analyse language, you are more likely to achieve better results by discussing the meanings (semantics) of words chosen by the writer and analysing their stylistic effects (linking them to how and why they have been used). Let’s take a look at this extract from Max Brooks’ World War Z:

world_war_z_book_coverI found “Patient Zero” behind the locked door of an abandoned house across town. He was twelve years old. His wrists and feet were bound with plastic packing twine. Although he’d rubbed off the skin around his bonds, there was no blood. There was also no blood on his other wounds, not on the gouges on his legs or arms, or from the large dry gap where his right big toe had been. He was writhing like an animal; a gag muffled his growls.


Four Basic Steps to language analysis:

  1. Topic statement outlining what you have identified in the text for analysis. Your topic sentence should link to the text’s topic, theme or message; ask yourself – what’s happening in the text that’s important?
  2. Evidence that proves your topic sentence
  3. Exploration of semantics: are there any specific words in your evidence that have significant meanings contributing to how the text may be interpreted by the reader?
  4. Analyse stylistic effects: how and why is your topic statement happening in the text in the way(s) that it is?

World War Z Analysis A

The four basic steps analysis works for any type of evidence that you analyse:

World War Z Tip AThe opening of the chapter presents Patient Zero as being dangerous. The simile “writhing like an animal” uses the verb ‘writhing’ to describe movements that are painful, whilst the comparison to an ‘animal’ implies that Patient Zero is wild; his behaviour is out of control. The writer reinforces this image with another animal phrase ‘a gag muffled his growls’ to suggest that Patient Zero is intimidating, as angry dogs are said to ‘growl’. The writer has used animal imagery to imply that Patient Zero’s illness might not be treatable using normal methods.