Reading and Exploring Texts Part 6: Analysing the Ideas, Concerns, and Tensions Presented in a Text

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.

Ideas, Concerns, and Tensions

In the previous Study Designs we’ve seen views, values, themes, issues, and ideas. The “concerns and tensions” of a text are new territory, although like the inferential reading skills it’s something we’ve been teaching all along.

I’ve been a VCE assessor for a few years, and I’ve often heard the executive talk about students needing to resolve the “tension” in the examination topics. I like to think about the tensions in a text in a similar way: there has to be a point of conflict which is significant enough that a student can write about it in a robust manner, ultimately reaching their own conclusions.

In exploring concerns and tensions, students could identify how the relationships between characters create friction or move the plot forward. They could explore how the settings contribute to the atmosphere or reflect thematic elements of the text. Or, they could examine how the author’s views and values are expressed through the main issues and ideas explored in the text.

Students who can discuss ideas, concerns, and tensions will be well on their way to the kind of analytical writing we should be hoping for in senior English and EAL.

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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:

  • Ideas, Concerns, and Tensions Brainstorm: Have students brainstorm a list of ideas, concerns, and tensions present in the set text. Have them categorise their ideas into themes and discuss any patterns or connections they see.
  • Ideas, Concerns, and Tensions Group Discussion: Divide the class into small groups and have each group choose a different idea, concern, or tension from the set text to discuss. Have the groups share their discussions with the class and discuss any commonalities or differences in their interpretations.
  • Ideas, Concerns, and Tensions Debate: Divide the class into small groups and have each group choose a different idea, concern, or tension from the set text to defend in a debate. Have them use evidence from the text to support their arguments.
  • Ideas, Concerns, and Tensions Timelines: Have students choose an idea, concern, or tension from the set text and create a timeline showing how it developed or evolved throughout the text. Have them use evidence from the text to support their analysis.
  • Ideas, Concerns, and Tensions Presentations: Have students choose an idea, concern, or tension from the set text and create a presentation (e.g. powerpoint, poster, oral presentation) to share with the class. Have them use evidence from the text to support their analysis of the idea, concern, or tension.

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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