In this article, we are going to show you how to take your comprehension skills to the next level and begin analysing texts.
Are you confident with analysing texts? In Year 7 and 8, students are introduced to textual analysis.
In this part of our Years 7 & 8 English Study Guide, we will clarify what textual analysis is, explain why it is a necessary skill to master and provide some strategies to effectively analyse texts.
In this article, we address the following NESA Syllabus Outcomes:
To analyse texts, your child needs to have strong comprehension skills first. This is because textual analysis is the unpacking of a text and its features to search for abstract meaning.
No. Simply put, comprehension skills is a stepping stone to textual analysis.
Textual analysis is the process of understanding of a text’s plots, characters, events and main message. Without knowing this, you cannot analyse your text.
This is because textual analysis requires you to look for figurative language and see how it creates meaning. You also need to go beyond techniques and consider form, style and genre.
Textual analysis also involves more abstract ideas and meanings.
You need to consistently ask why and how.
“Why did the composer choose to use this technique? “, “How does this technique create meaning?” are a few examples of the types of questions you should be asking when you are analysing texts.
Textual analysis also requires you to interpret a text. You have to form your perspectives on the text’s meaning. To do this you need to take your reading of the text and develop an interpretation of it. You will need to back up this reading with examples from the text.
You need to ask yourself questions as you analyse the text:
In high school, we move from simple comprehension to essays and short answer questions that require textual analysis.
This is why it is crucial that your child starts building their textual analysis skills now.
However, this is not the only reason.
When you learn how to analyse a text, you are also developing critical thinking skills that are necessary for life.
These critical thinking skills include:
These skills can then be applied to real-life situations.
In Years 7 & 8 you will largely focus on the figurative devices, such as figurative language, in a text that create meaning.
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Figurative language is words or phrases that represent an idea that is different from its literal meaning. It does this by creating a particular mood, tone, imagery, or atmosphere.
Some examples of figurative language are:
Simply writing about the text’s plot is not in-depth enough for high school. This is a very superficial discussion.
Remember, textual analysis requires you to analyse the craft of the text, not just comprehend it.
This means that you have to unpack the text and see how each part plays a role in creating meaning, including figurative language.
Keep in mind that every word, sentence, and structural decision is deliberately made by the composer. They all serve a specific purpose.
It is very important that you figure out what they mean and discuss it in your responses.
It is important that your child begins building strong textual analysis skills in their early high school years. Textual analysis will become an integral part of their study of texts throughout Years 9, 10, 11, and 12.
Every response you write for HSC English will have a connection to textual analysis.
As we saw in the previous article, comprehension is an understanding of the text and its messages. But in high school, this is taken a step further. You need to analyse the crafting of the text.
Let’s take a look at a few dot points from the Stage 4 Syllabus to see how your child needs to do more than just comprehend a text.
We can see here that the syllabus requires you to apply your own viewpoints, explore abstract ideas and analyse how the crafting of the text creates meaning.
This is textual analysis.
It is clear that your child needs strong comprehension skills to do this. You cannot unpack the text for evidence and abstract ideas, if you don’t understand what is happening in it.
Textual evidence is any information in your text that can prove your argument. It consists of examples, techniques, quotes, paraphrases and any deliberate crafting of the text that creates meaning.
When you are writing an essay, you need to present your argument. This is often based on the text’s themes and abstract ideas.
So, when you look for evidence, you need to make sure that its meaning links to the themes and ideas that you are discussing.
This ensures that you are using relevant examples and not just simply writing about anything.
Textual evidence is the proof that your argument is valid.
Without it, you are trying to persuade an audience with ideas, not real evidence.
Let’s take a look at lawyers. Without evidence, they cannot build a case. Saying that a crime occurred is not the same as proving that it happened.
By using textual evidence, your argument will be more persuasive and stronger.
Textual analysis might seem daunting, but there is a very straight-forward procedure that your child can follow to develop their skills.
Here are some steps that you can take to analyse texts:
“Metalanguage” are words or terms that are employed to describe the language being analysed.
This includes verbs, nouns, symbolism, metaphor, soliloquy, syntax, lexicon and many more.
Remember, a composer’s use of language is a deliberate choice to create meaning. So, every little thing serves a purpose.
It is up to you to figure out and interpret the meaning and why the composer has chosen it.
When analysing texts, it is important to remember to use metalanguage. This is because textual analysis requires you to ask “how does the author use language to convey meaning?”.
We incorporate it into our responses by introducing the technique using metalanguage, explaining the effect and linking it back to the argument.
Identifying techniques is all about familiarity.
You need to make sure that your child is comfortable with a variety of techniques and what it does. Click here to view a list of techniques on Matrix’s English Literary Toolkit.
When you are continually exposed to the technique, you will be able to recognise them faster.
So, as your child progresses through high school, make sure that they are continually expanding on their bank of techniques and that they continue to practice identifying them.
Here are some simple steps that your child can follow to better identify techniques:
Remember that you can only improve with practice.
Try to encourage your child to notice techniques when they are leisurely reading. But don’t overdo it… Reading should be a fun activity.
Over time, identifying techniques can become instinctive.
When you analyse texts, there will be a number of techniques that seem relevant to your argument.
However, you should only discuss stronger techniques that make your argument sound more persuasive; the higher order techniques.
This is because some techniques carry more meaning than others, like metaphors over alliteration.
So, how do you know which technique to discuss?
Ask yourself these two questions:
As your child progresses through high school, selecting the right techniques will become more natural.
Techniques help create meaning by creating a certain mood, atmosphere or image to convey a message.
They are effective because they don’t literally tell you what to think.
Instead, you feel before you interpret what it means.
Sometimes, your brain just takes in the information without you noticing!
Let’s look at the difference between, “The weather is very cold” and “The weather felt like ice“.
Which one conveys the message better?
The second sentence creates a more vivid sensual imagery. Here, the weather seems unbearably cold, not just ‘very cold‘.
Over time, your child’s ability to recognise the effect of the techniques will become more natural.
However, they can start thinking about this process by following these simple steps:
These are some steps that your child can take to interpret the technique’s meaning.
You can start thinking about a question before you read, but you cannot answer a question until you finished the text.
This is because you need to first understand the plot, characters, themes and messages and find textual evidence before you can answer the question.
However, it is possible to know the question before you read the text for your first time. This is usually the case for short answer questions.
Here are a few steps that you can take to begin thinking about questions:
As you continue to apply these strategies, you will continue to develop your textual analysis skills.
As your child moves into Year 7 or 8, they might find textual analysis quite daunting. That’s okay. As they continue to be exposed to texts and practice their analysis skills, it will become a lot easier.
To develop textual analysis skills, you need to have strong comprehension skills.
You can help your child improve their comprehension by encouraging them to read extensively.
This means reading everything, not just the one genre they enjoy.
This will not only expand their knowledge but force them to learn how to understand different types of text.
With strong comprehension skills, you can then help your child practice textual analysis with these tips:
It is important that your child regularly update and maintain their notes, especially for English.
Know that you know the benefits of writing English notes, let’s see the different ways you can write them.
Different people will find different note-taking strategies effective. It is important that your child experiments and see which one they find most useful in their early high school years.
Notes can be handwritten or typed. Let’s look at the benefits of each.
There are also various ways you can organise your notes. Let’s go through a few methods and see which one is most suitable for your child.
Dot point and outline
This is when you organise your notes using headers and subheaders, and instead of writing full sentences, you use phrases and keywords to explain your points. Here is an example using Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
The benefits of this method are:
Tables are especially useful when you need to compare texts.
Let’s take a look at an example that compares the original text with the re-imagined text.
|Scene in text||Shakespeare’s King Richard III||Pacino’s Looking for Richard|
|Opening of the text:
Richard is describing the happiness after the war and how he can’t experience it because he is ugly
“Cheated of feature by dissembling nature / deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time“
|Close up shots of Richard’s pained face
The benefits are:
A mind map is a visual diagram that connects ideas and points.
You can sort out ideas and themes or even plan your response to a question.
The benefits of this method are:
Now that you are aware of some note-taking methods, it is time for your child to try them out and see which works best!
We now know that textual analysis develops critical thinking skills like weighing options and conceptualising ideas. But you need to communicate these to others, now.
So, in Part 5: How to plan written responses, we will explain how to think about and plan your responses to questions. We’ll explain why planning is so important, and how to make it part of an efficient process for studying English.
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