Reading and Exploring Texts Part 4: The Importance of Vocabulary, Text Structures, and Language Features in Creating Meaning

This series of posts goes through the Key Knowledge and Skills for the new Area of Study 1: Reading and Exploring Texts for VCE English and EAL. Each post has a brief discussion of the Key Knowledge and Skills covered, some suggestions for resources, and five lesson activities. Even if you’re not an English teacher in Victoria, I hope you find the suggestions for activities and resources useful.

Vocabulary, Text Structures, and Language Features in Creating Meaning

Vocabulary, text structures, and language features are important elements of literature that contribute to the overall meaning of a text. These elements can be used to create atmosphere and mood, convey themes, and add depth to a story. By teaching students how to analyse vocabulary, text structures, and language features, teachers can help students move beyond simple recount and description and towards more in-depth analysis of a text.

The idea of “creating meaning” has been in the Study Design before, but it’s something that students often question. We always have to be mindful that the texts we teach are constructions: the characters aren’t real, the events didn’t happen, and the dialogue was never actually spoken. This can even be true of nonfiction texts, as the author has selected what to include and what to omit.

It’s important for teachers to help students recognise that texts are constructed and that meaning is not simply “given” to us, but rather it is something that we must actively seek out and construct through our own interpretation and analysis.

Here are four strategies for “seeking meaning” in texts:

  1. Asking higher-order thinking questions: Encourage students to ask questions that go beyond surface-level details and help them think critically about the text. These can include questions about the themes, ideas, and values presented in the text, as well as the ways in which the author uses vocabulary, text structures, and language features to convey their message.
  2. Analysing vocabulary, text structures, and language features: Encourage students to pay close attention to the words, structures, and features used in the text and consider how they contribute to the overall meaning and atmosphere of the story. Encourage students to use a variety of strategies, such as identifying connotations and associations of words, examining the way information is presented in the text, and analysing the use of figurative language and tone.
  3. Making connections to personal experiences and the world: Encourage students to consider how the text relates to their own lives and experiences, as well as to the wider world. Encourage them to think about how the text resonates with them and how it reflects or challenges their own values and perspectives.
  4. Engaging in discussions and debates: Encourage students to engage in discussions and debates about the text and the ideas and values it presents. Encourage them to listen to the perspectives of their peers and consider different viewpoints. This can help students develop their own thinking and deepen their understanding of the text.

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For resources and PL on the new study design, visit the VCE Hub

Activities

Here are five suggestions for lesson activities which can target this Key Knowledge and Skill:

  • Vocabulary Match-Up: Provide students with a list of vocabulary words and have them match each word to a passage from the set text. Have them explain the meaning of the word and how it contributes to the overall meaning of the text.
  • Text Structure Analysis: Have students choose a passage from the set text and analyse the text structure being used (e.g. chronological, cause and effect, compare and contrast). Have them explain how the text structure contributes to the overall meaning of the passage.
  • Language Feature Scavenger Hunt: Provide students with a list of language features (e.g. imagery, figurative language, tone) and have them search for examples of these features being used in the set text. Have them write down the feature and the evidence from the text that led them to identify it.
  • Vocabulary Word Maps: Have students choose a vocabulary word from the set text and create a word map to explore its various meanings and connotations. Have them use evidence from the text to support their analysis.
  • Text Structure Comparison: Divide the class into small groups and have each group choose a different text structure (e.g. chronological, cause and effect, compare and contrast). Have the groups create a short passage using their chosen text structure and then compare it to a passage from the set text that uses the same structure. Have the groups discuss the impact of the text structure on the meaning of the passages.

Have a question about this post, or anything else related to Reading, Writing, or Digital? Get in touch below:

AI Disclaimer: I used ChatGPT to construct parts of this series. I’ll be making a full post later outlining exactly what prompts I used and going through the entire process.

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