Once you have mastered the basic cake recipe, you can begin to experiment to make it extra delicious



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How to bake a cake

  • A foundation recipe
  • for writing a text response essay
  • A Christmas Carol

Once you have mastered the basic cake recipe, you can begin to experiment to make it extra delicious:

  • Once you have mastered the basic cake recipe, you can begin to experiment to make it extra delicious:
  • From this...
  • To this...
  • Start by having a strong understanding of the basics, then add extras to improve

It’s the same when writing an essay:

  • Basic cake (vanilla, plain, good enough)
    • Add chocolate
    • Add icing
    • Add decoration
    • Add chocolate chips
    • Add a dollop of whipped cream
  • = Awesome cake
  • Basic essay (3 body paragraphs, standard, good enough
    • Add quotes
    • Add language techniques
    • Add sophisticated vocabulary
    • Add strong structure and detail
    • Add excellent use of a dictionary
  • = Awesome essay!

Knowing the text

  • This is TEXT RESPONSE – it is imperative that you know the text inside out – order of events, characters’ names, their relationships and growth, symbolism, and construction of the text, and of course a LOT of quotes!
  • If you don’t know enough quotes, how to spell the characters’ names, the order of the things that happen, or any literary devices – you are NOT going to do well. Simple as that

Textual Elements - brainstorm

Going in to the SAC

  • You will get 5 minutes reading time
  • Use this time wisely!
    • Read both topics
    • Choose a topic
    • Decide on your contention about the topic
    • Spend a minute planning your essay mentally (you should never just write without knowing where your essay is actually going!)
    • Re-read instructions and criteria
  • And BRING A DICTIONARY! We might just be mean, nasty teachers and give you topics with obscure, difficult words in it...

Step 1:

  • Step 1:
  • Read the essay topic carefully
  • Define key terms if necessary
  • Find synonyms for each of the key terms – use this new sophisticated vocab in your essay to show you understand the topic
    • It may be helpful to rewrite the topic using these new words to show your understanding (copying out the topic shows ZERO understanding and is lazy)
  • Answer ALL parts of the topic – don’t forget about or ignore half of it!

Example topic:

  • ‘Although Dickens’ story is entertaining, even enthralling, it is mainly intended to educate.’ Discuss. (2011 exam)
  • Key terms and synonyms (build up a word bank to use throughout your essay, especially in linking sentences):
  • Although: though, even though, while, despite...
  • Entertaining/enthralling: amusing, pleasurable, interesting, engaging, enjoyable...
  • mainly: mostly, largely, primarily, generally, essentially, predominantly...
  • intended: planned, proposed, aimed, meant, used...
  • educate: teach, instruct, inform, alert, teach a lesson...

Step 2:

  • Step 2:
  • Decide whether you agree or disagree with the topic
  • (or partly agree/partly disagree)
  • Draw up a table as a brainstorm:
  • Once you have filled in the table you can see where most of your points lie and therefore what your contention (argument) should be for the topic. You can also then choose the best points to include in your essay (these will become body paragraphs)
  • Points that AGREE with the topic
  • Points that DISAGREE with the topic

Always consider both (or more) sides of the topic, as it shows more careful and complex thought processes and a deeper level of knowledge and interpretation

  • Always consider both (or more) sides of the topic, as it shows more careful and complex thought processes and a deeper level of knowledge and interpretation
  • Always Challenge the Topic
  • Is it always true? Always false? What exceptions and different interpretations are there?
  • Don’t just go with the obvious – this is a competition after all!
  • sophistication – insight – clarity

Thoughts about this topic...

  • Mostly true (that it definitely has a clear moral lesson), though it is also engaging and amusing
  • Points that AGREE with the topic
  • Points that DISAGREE with the topic
  • Scrooge’s moral redemption acts as a message that we all need to celebrate and be joyful at all times of the year (especially Christmas)
  • Elements of the text (e.g. The initial authorial intrusion) use humour to add to the festive tone of the text
  • The fact that the story is set at Christmastime clearly indicates Dickens’ message that Christmas should be about joy, togetherness and generosity
  • It uses the supernatural (Gothic features) which are clearly not realistic and therefore add to the amusing and enthralling nature of the novella
  • Dickens was directly enlightening people about the plight of the poor in Victorian England in the hopes that there will be social reform
  • Scrooge’s dramatic and almost instantaneous reform is hard to accept as believable, which makes it seem more like a fantasy than an educational experience

Step 3:

  • Step 3:
  • Write a plan
  • From your table, choose at least three (four or five is better!) points that support your point of view/interpretation/contention of the topic
  • Write up a dot point plan that shows the order and flow of your arguments/body paragraphs (the one that agrees most with the topic generally goes first, and the one that least agrees with the topic last)

Plan

  • Intro
  • BP1: Scrooge’s reform as a lesson for us all to spread Christmas joy
  • BP2: Dickens’ choice of setting and characters as an education on the plight of the poor in Victorian society
  • BP3: Romantic elements add to the fantasy aspect of the text
  • Conclusion

Step 4: Write your introduction

  • 4 components:
    • General statement : either a statement that explores the meaning of the topic (don’t copy out the topic, and don’t even mention the text or characters – discuss the meaning of the topic in broad terms as a lead in)
    • Link topic to the text (mention name of text underlined, and author’s name)
    • Outline of the points you will talk about in your body paragraphs (don’t get into specifics just yet, be brief) – avoid listing (about a sentence or less each)
    • Statement of contention – what is your point of view or stance about the topic?
    • The introduction must be VERY clear in stating your contention – what YOUR INTERPRETATION is about the topic
    • Don’t use quotes in the introduction (unless they are a part of the topic)

Introduction

  • Christmas is generally regarded as a time for joy, cheer and togetherness, but this is not always the case. In fact, Christmas time can often be a reminder of the harsh realities that society presents. Dickens’ iconic novella A Christmas Carol depicts the inspiring transformation of Scrooge, the ultimate Christmas grinch, to become a beacon of festivity and joy. Through the protagonist’s journey to redemption, there is a clear moral lesson about the importance of togetherness and generosity especially in the holiday season. Additionally, Scrooge’s interactions with other characters highlight Dickens’ greater educational purpose of bringing to light the inequalities that existed in Victorian England between the wealthy elite and the poor masses. Despite the obvious moral allegories, the tale’s romantic and Gothic elements add a fantastical atmosphere which, though unrealistic, help Dickens to spread his message of goodwill due to how entertaining and popular it has become. Thus, A Christmas Carol endures as an entertaining and uplifting Christmas story, it clearly had (and still has) an important educational purpose.
  • Christmas is generally regarded as a time for joy, cheer and togetherness, but this is not always the case. In fact, Christmas time can often be a reminder of the harsh realities that society presents. Dickens’ iconic novella A Christmas Carol depicts the inspiring transformation of Scrooge, the ultimate Christmas grinch, to become a beacon of festivity and joy. Through the protagonist’s journey to redemption, there is a clear moral lesson about the importance of togetherness and generosity especially in the holiday season. Additionally, Scrooge’s interactions with other characters highlight Dickens’ greater educational purpose of bringing to light the inequalities that existed in Victorian England between the wealthy elite and the poor masses. Despite the obvious moral allegories, the tale’s romantic and Gothic elements add a fantastical atmosphere which, though unrealistic, help Dickens to spread his message of goodwill due to how entertaining and popular it has become. Thus, A Christmas Carol endures as an entertaining and uplifting Christmas story, it clearly had (and still has) an important educational purpose.
  • General statement about text
  • Link topic to text
  • Point 1: Scrooge used to teach us to be joyful
  • Point 2: Novella used to teach society about inequalities
  • Contention about the topic
  • Point 3: Novella is educational, but also engaging and entertaining

Step 5: Write the body of your essay

  • Step 5: Write the body of your essay
  • (your body paragraphs – TEEL!!!)
  • 4 components for each body paragraph:
    • Topic sentence that explains what the paragraph will explore in detail (which should have been outlined in the introduction)
    • A deep, thoughtful and sophisticated explanation of how this point backs up your interpretation of the topic (elaborate on topic sentence)
    • Quotes and examples (i.e. evidence) should be embedded throughout the explanation
    • (Explanation and evidence should be 4 or 5 sentences alone)
    • Link back to your interpretation of the topic – use key words/synonyms from the topic to link back. Starts with words like Therefore/Thus/Clearly/Hence...
  • Body paragraphs should be very detailed and specific – don’t be vague and waffle on, and NEVER retell or summarise the plot!
    • Show a high level of knowledge of the text through carefully chosen examples and quotes, use lots of evidence!
    • Don’t link to the next paragraph – always link back to the topic by using key words/synonyms from the topic to show you are answering it and not getting off track

Topic sentences:

  • The role of the topic sentence in your body paragraphs is to clearly indicate specifically what each body paragraph will focus on in relation to the topic of the essay.
  • BP1: Dickens uses Scrooge’s dramatic turnaround from a cold and dismissive miser to the epitome of Christmas spirit, teaches us that we are all capable of redemption.
  • BP2: A Christmas Carol also acts as a means of voicing Dickens’ concerns and educating society about the inequalities and hardships the poor had to endure in Victorian England.
  • BP3: Though A Christmas Carol clearly serves to educate its readers, the Gothic and romantic features that are present add to its entertaining and enthralling nature.
  • Your task: Find evidence that could be embedded into each of these body paragraphs
    • Quotes (key parts, not big slabs. Short and sharp!)
    • Examples (what that characters do/say/what happens to them)
    • Literary techniques (structure, humour, imagery, contrast, etc.)
    • Symbols (representations)

Sample body paragraph

  • Dickens uses Scrooge’s dramatic turnaround from a cold and dismissive miser to the epitome of Christmas spirit, to teaches us that we are all capable of redemption. Even today, the character of Scrooge is synonymous with greed, isolation and bitterness, and the fact that even a character such as himself can become a better man, serves as an inspiring message for all of us that we are capable of amending for past mistakes and building better futures. Scrooge began his journey of redemption already painted as an emotionless and misanthropic loner, as even “he was not so dreadfully cut up” by his business partner’s death. This miserable caricature is further enhanced when we learn of Scrooge’s appearance. The icy London winter acts as a symbol of Scrooge’s disposition, as “the cold within him froze his old features” and “he carried his low temperature around with him”. When contrasted with the “ruddy” warmth of nephew Fred, Scrooge seemed all the more a hopeless case as he dismisses and ridicules all things joyful, especially Christmas, which is a “humbug”. Through the visits from the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come, Scrooge learns the importance of remembering and learning from his own past and empathising with those in the present, in order to build a fruitful future. Scrooge learns that his “passion” for money has contributed to his downfall, and so becomes more generous and donates a sizable sum of money to the “portly gentlemen”. He comes to understand that he should be a jovial employer like Old Fezziwig was to himself, and atones for his cruelty by giving the Cratchits a prizewinning turkey. He finally realises his own loneliness that everyone else saw but him, and joins the festivity at Fred’s. Through Scrooge’s difficult and confronting journey, Dickens teaches us the importance of generosity, empathy and togetherness in order to live a full life.
  • Topic sentence
  • Evidence
  • Explanation
  • Link to topic
  • (key ideas from topic)

Step 6: Now you write your conclusion…

  • Step 6: Now you write your conclusion…
  • Bring your main ideas together – don’t just spout out everything you’ve already said – what conclusions have you drawn about the topic based on evidence from the text that you have presented? What have we learnt about the topic?
  • Finish with a ‘clincher’ sentence to tie everything together and finish it off – closing statement that reinforces your contention (Therefore/Thus/Overall...)
    • No new information or quotes should go into the conclusion (unless there is a quote as part of the topic)

Sample conclusion

  • A Christmas Carol has become a literary classic not only due to its entertaining nature, but its important moral lessons. Dickens uses his novella to remind us all of the importance of joy and togetherness particularly at Christmastime, as well as bringing to light the plight of the poor in Victorian England, and educating the masses of the need for social reform. The instructional nature of the novella is further enhanced by how entertaining it is, and even though it uses romantic elements to symbolise the lessons Dickens was teaching, it is all the more successful because it endures as an accessible and engaging tale that none of is should “wish to lay”.
  •  Note:
    • Only 3 sentences long
    • Nothing specific – no listing of characters or repetition/summary of points from body paragraphs
    • Explains what conclusions/messages/lessons can be learned about the topic based on what has been discussed earlier in the essay

Step 7: Proofread

  • Check for mistakes and fix them (quotation marks, run on sentences, poor word choice, confusing areas, legibility, accuracy of information, logical flow and cohesion)
  • Use a dictionary to check spelling
  • Can you strengthen any points by using more powerful vocabulary?
    • Find stronger words for basic ones
  • Check you have covered the criteria
  • Count how many key words (or synonyms) from the topic you’ve used – there should be LOTS

Do...

    • Show off your complex, clever, insightful ideas about the text in relation to the topic, and back this up with clear, sophisticated writing
    • Underline the title of the text each time, and include Dickens’ in your introduction (as well as body paragraphs)
    • Spell characters’ names right (as well as other key terminology)
    • Proofread, proofread, proofread!!
    • MINIMUM of THREE body paragraphs
    • Check you have covered the criteria (attached on assignment)
    • Use formal language (not informal/colloquial/slang)
    • Show a HIGH level of knowledge of the text (specific details! Not just the general gist of the plot)
    • Use strong, sophisticated vocabulary (bring a dictionary!)
    • Write up a plan to stay focused (don’t get off track – stick to the topic!)
    • Use quotation marks correctly (and other punctuation)
    • Choose the BEST quotes/evidence for your purpose, not just the first one you can remember
    • Link to the topic – ALWAYS (use key words from the topic frequently)
    • View sample essays to get some ideas of how to write an essay and to get ideas, sentence starters, view assessor comments etc.
    • Write practice essays for feedback before the assessment task

Don’t...

  • Don’t be vague or waffle on, retelling or summarising a story your teachers already know! We want to know your thoughts about the topic, backed with evidence from the film (quotes, examples, symbols, language features...)
  • Don’t use big chunks of quotes – embed KEY parts into your discussion (copying out long quotes is a waste of time)
  • Definitely avoid simplistic ideas like ‘The ghosts are the only reason why Scrooge changes’ – this shows a lack of knowledge, insight, thought and is lazy!
  • Don’t say ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘agree/disagree’ or mention ‘the essay’, ‘this paragraph’ or anything else along those lines EVER e.g. ‘I agree with the topic...’ or ‘This paragraph in my essay will talk about...’
  • Don’t just throw quotes in and expect the reader to know how it links to your argument – explain your evidence!
  • Don’t start or end a paragraph on a quote
  • Don’t link to the next paragraph as this can lead you off track – make sure you are answering the topic at all times
  • Don’t put information into your introduction that you aren’t going to expand upon in the body paragraphs
  • Don’t make silly spelling/grammar mistakes – proofread!

IMPORTANT!

  • How you interpret the topic is completely up to you – there are no right or wrong answers
  • As long as you are able to back up your ideas with evidence from the text, you are fine with making your own interpretations
  • - Embrace ambiguity and show some original insights! (just don’t go making wild and unjustifiable assertions that cannot be supported by solid evidence)
  • - Fresh thinking is what assessors look for, so know the text well so you aren’t just stating the obvious!

Practice topics:

  • “His offences carry their own punishment” (Fred).  It is Scrooge’s fear of punishment in the afterlife, rather than his realisation that he can be a good man, that causes his change. Do you agree?
  • Dickens uses the setting of A Christmas Carol to add complexity to the characters and evoke empathy and guilt. Discuss.
  • See PRACTICE SAC instructions and criteria
  • It is expected that each of you do at least one practice essay on at least one of these topics as preparation for the real SAC



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