Reading and Exploring Texts Part 8: Planning and Developing Personal and Analytical Writing about 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.

Planning and Developing Personal and Analytical Writing

This series has covered all of the Key Knowledge and Skills required in Area of Study 1: Reading and Exploring Texts. Along the way, I’ve tried to highlight the need for students to develop skills beyond simple recount and description. I’ve written elsewhere that I believe this Area of Study is crucial to developing students’ skills for the VCE.

Ultimately, students will need to produce written responses to demonstrate their skills and meet the outcome. This doesn’t have to be an essay. Students can write a range of responses to the set text which will meet the required Key Skills, and I’d suggest that a formal essay – in the style of Section A of the exam – might be out of reach for many students at this stage.

If we try to get students to write essays they are unprepared for, then we inevitably have to fall back on supports and scaffolds like TEEL. My thoughts on such formulaic structures are pretty well known, but suffice it to say that I think there are plenty of better options out there. For this response, I recommend short written tasks which form a writing journal over the course of study, rather than a final essay response.

However, I know that many schools will use a formal essay as the outcome. If you are going down that path, I would advise you to treat this as an “early days” essay rather than a “mini exam” – give students plenty of time and opportunity to draft and craft their final essay.

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


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

  • Writing Brainstorming: Have students brainstorm a list of potential writing ideas or concerns related to the set text. Have them group their ideas into categories and discuss any patterns or connections they see.
  • Writing Free Write: Have students choose a writing topic or theme related to the set text and write a short free write exploring their thoughts and ideas on the topic. Have them share their free writes with a partner and discuss any commonalities or differences in their ideas.
  • Writing Outline: Have students choose a writing idea or concern related to the set text and create an outline for a formal essay on the topic. Have them consider the main points they want to make and the evidence from the text that they will use to support their points. They might never write the full essay but the activity is valid nonetheless.
  • Writing Draft: Have students use their outlines to write a draft of their formal essay on the set text. Encourage them to focus on organisation and development of their ideas, rather than perfection of grammar and mechanics. This “draft” might be annotated and submitted as the final response.
  • Writing Peer Review: Have students exchange their drafts with a partner and provide feedback on the organisation and development of their ideas. Have them discuss any suggestions for improvement and revise their drafts based on the feedback.

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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