My English/ESL blog had 800 views last Sunday

I wonder why? Winking smile

The top items viewed in the past seven days have been:

  1. A student’s “Belonging Essay” workshopped 627 views
  2. How should I write up a Science experiment? 566
  3. Essay writing: Module C “Conflicting Perspectives” – the introduction 443
  4. Belonging pages: HSC 2009-2012 334
  5. Home page / Archives 260
  6. What tense should I use when I write about literature? 173
  7. The "Belonging" Essay 168
  8. Is “majority” singular or plural? 84
  9. Workshop 09: Advanced English Module B “Critical study of a text” 64
  10. How can I write faster in exams? 61

The top posts in all the time the blog has been on WordPress – around six years now:

  1. How should I write up a Science experiment? 95,692 views*
  2. Home page / Archives 95,642
  3. Essay writing: Module C “Conflicting Perspectives” – the introduction 46,669
  4. A student’s “Belonging Essay” workshopped 39,174
  5. Physical journeys and Peter Skrzynecki’s poems 29,005
  6. What tense should I use when I write about literature? 24,244
  7. Studying the Gothic, or Emily Bronte? 23,989
  8. Mary Shelley, “Frankenstein” — and “Blade Runner” 23,798
  9. The "Belonging" Essay 21,236
  10. Belonging pages: HSC 2009-2012 16,003

Wish I had a dollar for every view! Or even 5 cents… October 17 2011 was the busiest day ever with 2,066 views!

* This was the first entry posted on the WordPress version of the site – prior to that it had been elsewhere – in December 2006.

Nothing has been added to English/ESL since 2010, and even maintenance, apart from monitoring comments, has ceased. Even so it seems some, especially NSW HSC students, still find it useful. I see that the current text list – including “Belonging” – is in place now until 2014. So I guess people will still be coming for a while, even though many other sites have entered the field. This one, for example.

Paper One of English was yesterday. I note that Thomas – now a teacher of course with his very own (second?) HSC class — had the event coincide with his birthday. I just checked his FB to see if he commented on today’s Herald story, but he hasn’t yet. Unlike me he will have seen the 2012  HSC English paper!

Some thought it was too hard.

The head of English at one of Sydney’s most prestigious schools has slammed yesterday’s Higher School Certificate English exam as too difficult for most students in NSW and in danger of being reduced to a speed-reading test.

Babs Helleman, head of English at the King’s School, Parramatta, said the reading required by students sitting the exam was too long and the questions too sophisticated for average students.

Standard and advanced English students sat a common exam paper yesterday.

Students who sat the exam were given four extracts to read. An extract from Dionne Brand’s memoir, A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging, was 1½ pages long, while an extract from Peter Jankowsky’s Myself Passing By was one page long.

Students are not permitted to use a pen or highlighter during their 10 minutes of reading time in the exam.

"My brighter students said they found it quite demanding," Ms Helleman said. "An average student – and this is the whole state here – they would not be able to read that much text in reading time.

"They are also not allowed to pick up a highlighter during reading time so they have to keep going back to the text.

"They might have had four extracts to read in the exam in the past but they have never had them of this length."…

Jennifer Taylor, head of English at selective high school North Sydney Girls High, said she felt the exam was challenging but fair.

"Every student could access that paper," she said. "Its focus was very clearly in the rubrik."

Steve Stoneham, dean of language arts at The Scots College, described the exam as difficult, particularly for students unfamiliar with problem solving under pressure.

"While the English HSC examination could be criticised for its asking students to write about more than one text in detail mostly from memory in forty minutes using a ballpoint pen, so long as there must be examinations, it would be nice that the examinations could distinguish those students able to think on their feet and write clearly with supporting evidence," he said.

"This examination did precisely that. Many schools and students will not have liked it. It would be out of their comfort zone."…

I haven’t seen it, so I don’t really know. I think too “slammed” is journalistic embellishment; Ms Helleman is critical of it, but “slamming” seems out of synch with some of what she says. The point she and others  are making arises from the fact that every English candidate, except ESL, sits this paper – from the average or less than average though to the best. This is so that there is some yardstick to compare the two main courses, Advanced and Standard, whose second papers – tomorrow? – are separate and based on separate content.  If you want to see what a Paper One looks like try the PDF of 2010.

Question 3 (15 marks)

‘An individual’s interaction with others and the world around them can enrich or limit their  experience of belonging.’  Discuss this view with detailed reference to your prescribed text and ONE other related text of your own choosing.
The prescribed texts are listed on the next page.

The Herald cites this year’s equivalent:

Ms Helleman … said the questions were too tough for a typical student and included: "Analyse how imagery is used to capture the author’s intense experience returning to his hometown" or "In your view which TWO texts most effectively explore how feelings of belonging and not belonging may shift in time? Justify your view with reference to TWO texts".

"I think the idea behind setting a question that requires students to think and not regurgitate a set answer is a really good one but it’s got to be within the elements of their reach," Ms Helleman said.

"I felt it was a very high-level paper. For the top group of the state it would have been fine but for the whole state I felt it was a quite difficult one for them to do."

That second one is obviously this year’s Question 3 and doesn’t seem outrageous to me. Yesterday the Herald revealed what the examiners have probably tried to do.

STUDENTS who memorised prepared essays might have had a tough time answering questions in yesterday’s Higher School Certificate English exam.

”They asked for something very specific so it would be a little bit harder to adapt to the question,” said year 12 student, Aengus Tran, from Sydney Secondary College’s Blackwattle Bay Campus.

The 18-year-old dux of the school was nursing a fatigued hand following the two hour exam. He wrote 15 pages…

Anders Melander, also from Sydney Secondary College, said yesterday’s exam was a little harder than he expected.

”The essay was really specific, so if you hadn’t prepared for that part you were definitely screwed,” he said. ”Memorising an essay could have backfired completely.”

And he is right, I’d say. Back in 2006 I posted How can I improve my essay grades, especially in exams, without learning “model essays” off by heart? because for some students this really was an issue.

From my English/ESL site: click to see what this is about!

Any HSC students (or teachers) that happen by in the next day or so: good luck! I don’t miss it all that much!