This is the third post in a series about the new VCE English Study Design. for the other two posts, check out the links below:
For a long time there has been something of an imbalance in the modes in senior English. Between reading, writing, and speaking and listening, the skills required for ‘reading’ – predominately analysis – have outshone everything else. This is immediately apparent when you consider the exam: Section A is analysis of text, Section B is the analysis and comparison of two texts, and Section C is the analysis of an unseen persuasive text.
Acknowledging that imbalance, VCAA have updated the Study Design with two new important Areas of Study: Crafting Texts in Unit 1, and Creating Texts in Unit 3. In this post I’m focusing on Crafting Texts, as it will be the first to roll out in 2023.
Introducing ‘Crafting Texts’
The purpose of this Area of Study is to expand students’ knowledge of the writing process. In the F-10 English and EAL curricula, there is a pretty even weighting given tot he modes. There is also a very explicit balance between different styles of writing.
This is reflected in Crafting Texts through the four purposes:
Note that there is a preference for purpose over genre and form. This is deliberate: the VCAA wants to encourage teachers to let students experiment and play with writing, especially in ‘hybrid’ forms. I’ll write more about hybrid writing in another post. In Crafting Texts then, the techniques, structures, language and style take precedent over the genre, but genre is still a useful tool for anchoring students’ writing.
Another driving force behind Crafting Texts is the need for students to produce ‘real world’ writing that is relevant to their own lives. A lot of emphasis has been placed throughout the Study Design on the importance of students drawing personal connections to the texts they study, and this outcome is no different.
The Writing Process
This is something I’m very passionate about. My colleague Ben White and I have started work on Practical Writing Strategies, the followup to my first book for English teachers, Practical Reading Strategies. We’ll be describing our own Writing Cycle, and it’s very similar to that offered by Annelise Balsamo and Kellie Heintz in the VCAA on demand videos for the new Study Design (link at the end).
If you want to stay up to date on PWS, and also receive free sample essays, PDFs of writing model collections, exclusive videos and more, please join my mailing list!
We talk about writing being a cycle or an ongoing process because we acknowledge that real writing is never “done”. I know for a fact that much writing out in the real world only ever sees the light of day because publishers set deadlines: if it was up to the authors, we’d fiddle and edit endlessly.
Writing is a process that begins with idea gathering, moves through experimentation and testing, into collaboration (with peers, other authors, beta readers, editors and anyone else we can force to read a manuscript) and finally into publication. After publication, the process continues with reflection, feedback, and occasional existential crisis.
In the classroom, writing should also follow a process (preferably without the existential crisis). This might involve:
- Before writing: brainstorming, discussion, idea generation, exploration of mentor texts, analysis of style and technique
- During writing: drafting, editing, adapting and transforming mentor texts, discussion, and collaboration
- After writing: sharing, peer editing, publication, feedback, and reflection.
Mentor Texts and Ideas
I’ll write an in-depth post on mentor texts and ideas – it’s a topic big enough to warrant a separate focus. The mentor texts (models of short, quality writing) are used to provide inspiration, technical ideas and a model for style and voice. The mentor texts can be anchored to the idea chosen in class, but discussion and analysis of them should be focused on the ‘craft’ of the writing rather than the themes, issues and ideas (remember, this is not another “reading” unit).
The ideas for Unit 1 can be selected by the teacher, and must not be drawn from the ‘Frameworks’ for Unit 3. They should be broad and accessible, and relevant to your students.
There are some excellent videos explaining the new Study Design and the various elements of Crafting and Creating Texts over on the VCAA website here.
This post is part of a series unpacking the upcoming Study Design. I’ll also be releasing some short videos, and PDFs containing annotated writing models and sample responses to people on my mailing list. If you’re interested, join here!