The Beginner’s Guide to Year 10 English

Stuck in a mid-high school English slump. don't worry, you're not alone. In our Beginner's Guide to Year 10 English, we'll give you all the tools you need to get Year 10 back on track and ace it!

All about The Beginner’s Guide to Year 10 English

The Beginner’s Guide to year 10 English is here to help you ace English in year 10. English is really important, it has to count in Year 12 for your HSC. So, you have to get the skills right for it early on.

In this Guide, we will take you through the complete process for studying English, from making notes, to analysing texts, and finally composing responses.

Let’s start by looking at the two biggest issues facing Year 10 English students.


What are the two biggest issues facing Year 10 English students?

While there are a whole variety of struggles that Year 10 students face, they come down to two core issues:

  • Getting caught in a Year 10 slump
  • Struggling to cope with the increasing complexity of English analysis and essay writing

Let’s look at these in greater detail.



The Year 10 slump

Because Stage 5 comes in the middle years of high school, Years 9 and 10, students often take their foot off the gas.


Unlike Maths and Physics, English doesn’t have distinctive Modules and Units where you learn completely new techniques. Instead, in English, you learn to develop your skills incrementally.

That is, as the texts get more complex, your analysis of them is expanded to consider new ideas and techniques. When you write about them, your basic skills are pushed further little by little as the length of your responses increases along with the complexity of your ideas.

As students don’t see huge differences between junior English and what they do in Years 9 and 10, they feel it is easy and stop trying. This is especially true of students in year 10.

Unfortunately, as Year 10 moves fast, once students find themselves falling behind it can be very hard for them to catch back up.

Adding to the challenge is the necessity that you develop a complex understanding of texts.



Developing complex understandings of texts

While we looked at this a little in The Beginner’s Guide to year 9 English, Year 10 is where you will really expand your understanding of how to analyse texts and what you need to think about for your responses.

For the most part, in years 7-9, you primarily focus on the text and what is inside it. In Year 10, you expand your focus to include a large range of external concerns.

According to the NESA Syllabus outline, these are:

  • Context: The social, personal, and historical conditions surrounding the production of a text.
  • Values and attitudes: The beliefs and views on these beliefs that are discussed or reflected in the texts
  • Reception: The way a text is received in different time periods.
  • Perspective: The different ways an issue can be viewed, presented, or discussed

What does this mean for you, as a year 10 English student?

Well, rather than just analysing texts and thinking about what’s going on in a text and how a composer has represented that, you now need to engage in critical thinking by considering how these external factors have shaped the text. or, consider how the text is a response to these external concerns.

This means that your analysis of texts needs to develop significantly, but you also need to acquire a lot of new information.

As we will discuss, you will need to learn about a wide array of contexts, artistic movements, and ideologies and belief systems.

Fortunately for you, this Guide will give you all the tools to do that.


What’s in the Guide?

In this Guide, we’re going to help you master the following:

  • How to write notes
  • Textual analysis – analysing context, genre, and higher order techniques
  • How to analyse complex prose fiction texts
  • How to analyse Shakespeare
  • How to analyse film
  • How to analyse prose non-fiction texts
  • How to analyse digital texts
  • Composing responses in year 10
  • How to write persuasive essays
  • How to write creatives – developing complex stories
  • How to make multimodal presentations
  • Year 10 Exam skills



How does English Change in Year 10?

English doesn’t change dramatically between Years 9 and 10 by introducing brand new skills or tasks. Instead, it becomes more involved and challenges you with texts that have greater levels of complexity and depth.

In addition, you will need to produce more detailed and involved written and oral responses to demonstrate your understanding. For example, you may need to present a multimodal presentation or write a comparative essay.

Let’s look at the sorts of assessments you might face.


What kinds of assessments can you expect?

Similarly to Year 9, you can expect to face any of the following sorts of assessment tasks:

  • Short answer comprehension questions: Similar to previous years, but the texts will be harder, and the length of your responses will increase with the depth of your analysis
  • Informative essays: Essays that aim to inform the reader of a subject or idea
  • Persuasive essays: Essays that aim to convince the reader of the validity of a particular perspective
  • Speeches: oral tasks that require you to persuade or inform the audience
  • Presentations: Similar to speeches, but presented with visual aids such as props or images
  • Multimodal presentations: Presentations utilising powerpoint slides or other digital visual aids
  • Podcasts: A topical audio presentation taking the form of an episode of a serialised podcast show
  • Vlogs: A video blog post. These are normally a personal response to an issue or theme in a text
  • Video essays: Similar to a vlog, but more formal in tone. Video essays incorporate clips and images to support the argument being made
  • Reflections: A type of writing task where you discuss how you approached a task and weigh up what you did well and poorly. reflection tasks ask you to discuss how you will improve in the future.
  • Short stories: Short narratives. In Year 9, you will be expected to produce narratives that have a clear structure and well-developed characterisation.
  • Creative reimaginings: Fanfiction! A form of creative writing where you retell an aspect or scene from a text from the perspective of a different character or with a different outcome
  • Justifications: A type of reflective writing where you explain what you have attempted to achieve with a particular piece. For example, justifications offer you an opportunity to explain how you’ve used a technique in your creative writing.

While you may not face completely new assessment tasks in Year 10, you will need to engage with texts in a far more detailed manner.


Analysing texts in Year 10

As we saw with Year 9, you need to look at texts with more much more depth in Year 10.

While the basic process of analysing texts doesn’t change, you do add some new elements that you must consider and apply critical thinking to.

Let’s see what these are.



How analysis develops in Year 10

In Year 9, you will have started to engage with higher order techniques and considerations outside of the text.

In Year 10, you will still need to be able to identify these. But, in addition, you must be able to explain how these techniques and considerations affect and develop meaning as well.


Analysing advanced techniques

In Year 10 English, you may need to be able to identify and discuss how higher order literary techniques like symbolism, extended metaphor, satire, and parody create meaning.

You will need to have a comprehensive understanding of how these techniques create meaning:

  • Irony
  • Sarcasm
  • Ridicule
  • Abstraction
  • Icons and symbols
  • Tone and voice
  • Juxtaposition
  • Exaggeration
  • Humour
  • Syntax

You will also need to be comfortable using metalanguage to describe how a composer has used them in texts and what the effect on meaning is.



Deepening your readings

In Year 10 English, you will need to take into account a text’s perspective and structure, as well as considering things like context and audience.

You will need to be confident analysing and discussing how the following affect and shape meaning:

  • Textual Structure
  • Perspective and narrative viewpoint
  • Genre and genre conventions
  • Icons
  • Myths
  • Aesthetics
  • Purpose
  • Voice
  • Literary style
  • Intertextuality, adaptation, and allusion
  • Cultural values and assumptions
  • Values, value systems, and attitudes
  • How ideas can be represented and engaged with differently in different contexts

To apply this information to your analysis of texts, you will need to develop your critical thinking skills.

Additionally, you will also need to think about and discuss how composers try to engender the following responses in audiences:

  • Empathy
  • Sympathy
  • Antipathy
  • Aesthetic appreciation

To do this effectively you’re going to need to expand your knowledge around quite a few areas.

Let’s see what those are.

What do you need to know to ace English in Year 10?

To succeed in year 10 English, you are going to learn about different contexts, literary forms and genres, artistic movements, ideologies and belief systems.


Because English texts deal with representing human experiences, they engage with human history and human responses to history and events. This means that as a student of literature, you must know about what has shaped and influenced literature.

This can prove challenging and also a little overwhelming.

Developing an understanding of important contexts, movements, ideologies, forms, and genres in year 10 will make the transition into Stage 6 English far far easier and less onerous. You can develop your knowledge consistently, rather than trying to do everything in the Preliminary or HSC years.



Increasing the depth and breadth of your knowledge

One way to think of developing your ideas is to consider the breadth and depth of your knowledge as being like the knowledge of an ocean.

  • As you expand the breadth of your knowledge by learning about new movements, contexts, or ideas you are expanding your knowledge of the surface of the ocean.
  • As you start to learn more and more about each specific new movement, form, genre, etc., you are exploring deeper and deeper into the ocean.

Broadly speaking, you will need to learn about things like:

  • Context: The Renaissance, The Elizabethan Period, The 19th Century, etc
  • Artistic movements: Realism, Modernism ( and its submovements like Cubism), Postmodernism, Baroque, etc.
  • Genres: Historical fiction, Realism, Science fiction, Horror, etc.
  • Forms: Epistolary texts, Diachronic or dialogic texts, Sonnets, etc.

We will look at the particulars of what you need to know in part 2 of this Guide.

This new knowledge will compel you to develop your skills as a critical thinker and a writer.



What skills do I need to develop for Year 10 English?

Having more to think about and write about means students need to develop as thinkers and writers.

You will need to take your knowledge of a text and think about it in terms of its context, genre, or form and discuss its impact on meaning.

The Matrix MethodTM that Matrix students learn helps them develop a detailed foundational understanding of texts, first, before they learn and apply the best process for planning, drafting, and polishing their writing.

Matrix Method For English Overview (2)


Does this mean you will learn lots of new skills in Year 10 English?

Not new skills, but developing existing skills for Stage 6

You will still be writing essays and giving presentations or writing narratives, but you will need to take into account these new considerations.

This means that your notes are going to be much more important. Not only will you be keeping track of the themes, techniques, and examples from the texts you are studying, you will be including you findings about a text’s context, genre, and ideological influences.

You will also need to become adept at researching the information you don’t know. Part of your analysis of texts will now include learning abut its genre, genre conventions, or context, for example.

When you write responses, you will need to utilise more complex structures to discuss these relationships and develop arguments about them. You will need to master using signposting and various scaffolds for different tasks to make sure your ideas accessible for readers as well as insightful.

So, in Year 10, you must focus on developing and improving these skills:

  • Making notes
  • Researching
  • Critical thinking
  • Planning
  • Composing
  • Drafting and editing

This may all sound overwhelming. But don’t worry, we’ve used our experience of helping thousands of other students like you succeed to put this Guide together to help you.


A note about Stage 5 English

While we have tried to make this Guide as comprehensive as possible, the nature of Stage 5 English means that some skills will be taught in Year 9 and others in year 10. To ensure that you’ve not missed any Stage 5 content, you should take the time to read through The Beginner’s Guide to Year 9 English as well as this guide.



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