Part 4: Year 7 & 8 Textual Analysis

In this article, we are going to show you how to take your comprehension skills to the next level and begin analysing texts.

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Year 7 & 8 Textual Analysis

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.

 

What’s in this article?

What Syllabus Outcomes does this article discuss?

In this article, we address the following NESA Syllabus Outcomes:

A. communicate through speaking, listening, reading, writing, viewing and representing

  • EN4-1A: responds to and composes texts for understanding, interpretation, critical analysis, imaginative expression and pleasure
  • EN4-2A: effectively uses a widening range of processes, skills, strategies and knowledge for responding to and composing texts in different media and technologies

B. use language to shape and make meaning according to purpose, audience and context

    • EN4-3B: uses and describes language forms, features and structures of texts appropriate to a range of purposes, audiences and contexts

C. think in ways that are imaginative, creative, interpretive and critical

  • EN4-5C: thinks imaginatively, creatively, interpretively and critically about information, ideas and arguments to respond to and compose texts
  • EN4-6C: identifies and explains connections between and among texts

D. express themselves and their relationships with others and their world

  • EN4-8D: identifies, considers and appreciates cultural expression in texts

 

What is textual analysis?

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.

 

Is textual analysis different to comprehension?

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:

  • Does the text’s message align with your beliefs?
  • Does it give you new insights?

 

Why is textual analysis a crucial skill to develop?

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:

  • You learn how to weigh options and decide on the best evidence to support your argument.
  • You develop the skill to read between the lines and look beyond literal meanings to find abstract ones.
  • You learn how to unpack and dig deep into details.
  • You begin to question what is presented to you and search for the ‘truth’.
  • You begin to formulate arguments and defend them with evidence.
  • And you develop your own perspectives on things in life.

These skills can then be applied to real-life situations.

year-7-and-8-textual-analysis-dig-yellow-shovel-in-soil

In Years 7 & 8 you will largely focus on the figurative devices, such as figurative language, in a text that create meaning.

 

What is figurative language?

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:

Why do we need to discuss figurative languages in arguments?

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.

 

Why is textual analysis important?

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.

 

What is comprehension in high school?

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.

  • Recognise, reflect on, interpret and explain the connections between their own experiences and the world in texts
  • Explore and appreciate the aesthetic qualities in their own and other texts and the power of language to communicate information, ideas, feelings and viewpoints
  • Analyse and evaluate the ways that text structures and language features vary according to the purpose of the text and the ways that referenced sources add authority to 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.

 

An overview of textual evidence

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.

year-7-and-8-textual-analysis-treasure

 

Why is textual evidence important?

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.

 

What skills do I need?

Textual analysis might seem daunting, but there is a very straight-forward procedure that your child can follow to develop their skills.

 

What does textual analysis involved?

Here are some steps that you can take to analyse texts:

    1. Comprehend the text: You need to understand the text’s plots, themes and messages first.
    2. Create an argument: Answer the question. Make sure it relates to the text’s themes and ideas.
    3. Finding evidence: Look for figurative techniques or structural decisions that can support your argument (this should stem off the text’s themes and ideas).
    4. Explain what the technique does: What is the effect of the technique?
    5. Explain how that creates meaning: How does it relate to your argument?
    6. Interpreting evidence: Add your own perspectives when you explain the meaning. Does it align or conflict with your views.
    7. Provide the example: This can be a quote or paraphrasing of your evidence.

 

 

What is “metalanguage” and how should I use it?

“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.

 

How do I identify techniques?

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:

  1. Get a list of common techniques like metaphorsymbolism and motif.
  2. Learn what the technique is and what it does.
  3. Read over examples to know how the technique is used.
  4. Practice identifying the technique by reading or going through papers. Highlight or circle techniques used.
  5. Writing sentences or short paragraphs using different techniques. You can become more familiar with the technique by using it in your creative writing.
  6. Repeat the above steps for a variety of different 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.

 

Picking the right one: Ranking techniques in order of importance

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:

  1. Is the composer using a higher order technique or a lower order one?
    You should always aim to analyse higher order techniques in your responses.
  2. Is the example specific to your argument or is it broad?
    You should always find techniques that are specific and directly support your argument.

As your child progresses through high school, selecting the right techniques will become more natural.

year-7-and-8-textual-analysis-ranking-race-number-track

 

 

Understanding the effect of techniques on meaning

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‘.

year-7-and-8-textual-analysis-cold-yellow-jacket-snow

 

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:

  1. Remember the general effect of techniques – Although each example will convey its own message, each technique does have a general way of achieving this. For example, we always see red as a symbol of love, anger or blood. Certain techniques and examples become recognisable by the audience. That is how techniques convey the message effectively.
  2. Apply the meaning in the context of your text – Although techniques have general meanings, it doesn’t always work for your text. You need to critically think to figure out what the most appropriate meaning is. When you know your text and where the technique appears, you begin to have an idea of what the technique can mean. For example, the colour red appears when the two boys are arguing. In this situation, we know that red is symbolic of anger, not love or blood.

These are some steps that your child can take to interpret the technique’s meaning.

 

Thinking about questions when analysing texts

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:

  1. Unpack the question: Find keywords in the question to help you know what you need to focus on.
  2. Create an argument: This is your thesis. It needs to answer the question.
  3. Keep your thesis and question in mind: Remember your argument so you can select relevant techniques.
  4. Scan for techniques: You don’t need to read the whole text again. Scan and/or skim over your text to find relevant techniques that support your argument. You should look for a few techniques per idea.
  5. Select the strongest techniques: You need to discuss the strongest techniques to make your argument more persuasive. These are usually higher order techniques and techniques that are specific to your argument.
  6. Analyse: Figure out the effect and meaning of the technique.
  7. Link to question: Relate your analysis to your argument. Remember your argument needs to answer the question

As you continue to apply these strategies, you will continue to develop your textual analysis skills.

 

How do I teach my child to analyse a text?

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.

 

How to help your child practice textual analysis

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:

  • Go through the text and identify the techniques together. Try to figure out the meaning of the examples and figure out why the composer used it.
  • Encourage them to keep familiarising themselves with different techniques.
  • Encourage them to read over their prescribed text for a couple of times. Each time you re-read a text, you learn and find new things about it.
  • Encourage them to build a large knowledge base. Read or watch the news. Read different genres and text types. This will improve comprehension skills and understanding of texts.
  • Expand their worldview. Give them the opportunity to think and develop their own perspectives about ideas and issues in society. This will help with building arguments for textual analysis.

 

How to help your child develop notes

It is important that your child regularly update and maintain their notes, especially for English.

Why?

  • When you write notes, you are also revising over the text or what you learned in class.
  • You can refer to your notes during exam periods instead of flipping through your novel to look for techniques.
  • It makes it easier to select techniques when writing an essay.
  • Your ideas are organised so you can easily create an argument

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.

Handwritten

Typed

  • Better retention of information.
  • You can draw diagrams, mind maps or visuals to help organise your ideas.
  • Better practice for the HSC. The exams are all handwritten, so you can practice writing faster and neater for the HSC.
  • Neater than handwritten, especially if you have bad handwriting.
  • Easier to organise. You can move things around and add information.
  • It is faster to type up notes than to hand write them.

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.

DEATH

Symbolism

  • After Macbeth killed Duncan
  • Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand?
    • Symbolises Macbeth’s guilt

Metaphor

  • After Lady Macbeth’s death, Macbeth says her life is similar to a candle
  • Out, out, brief candle”
    • Saying that Lady Macbeth had a bright but short life

 

The benefits of this method are:

  • Easy and fast to read
  • Organised – can be sorted out by topics, main ideas…
  • Quick to write and refer to

 

Tables

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 textShakespeare’s King Richard IIIPacino’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

Bitter tone

Cheated of feature by dissembling nature / deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time

  • The harsh language creates an image that Richard’s physical deformities are a sign of his inner evil; punishment of God
  • He is innately evil
Close up shots of Richard’s pained face

  • Richard says his soliloquy but looks very pained and conflicted
  • This shows a more human version of Richard compared to Shakespeare’s
  • We see his inner conflict

 

The benefits are:

  • You can see similarities and differences clearly.
  • It is organised and clear.
  • Information is easy to find.
  • It is useful if you are a visual learner.

 

Mindmaps

A mind map is a visual diagram that connects ideas and points.

blog-hacks-henry-hamlet-mindmap

You can sort out ideas and themes or even plan your response to a question.

The benefits of this method are:

  • Good for visual learners
  • Capture key ideas and connections between them
  • Organise information
year-7-and-8-textual-analysis-mindmap

 

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!

 

Do you know how to plan, so you can produce your best response?

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.

 

© Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au, 2019. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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