Part 1: Year 12 English Standard Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences
In Part 1 of the Year 12 English Standard Study Guide, we discuss the purpose of the Common Module: Texts and Human experience. We explain how to address all of the NESA rubric requirements and tell you what to expect in Paper 1.
Worried about being among the first to study the Year 12 English Standard Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences? Don’t be!
In this post, we’re going to take you through the new Year 12 Common Module and explain what you need to know to about the Module Rubric, the kinds of assessments you’ll face for it, and the sample questions that the NSW Education Standards Authority has put together. We’ll also give you a comprehensive understanding of what human experience is!
What is the Year 12 English Standard Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences?
The Common Module is a unit of study for English shared by most of the levels of English. The Common Module forms the content of your first term in Year 12. All students in Year 12 will study the Common Module at the same time.
The only students who will not encounter some form of Texts and Human Experiences are those studying English Life Skills.
Students will be set one school assessment in Term 1 for the Common Module. The Common Module will also be the focus of Paper 1 in both the Trial HSC and the HSC.
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Check back regularly as we add new articles and exemplar essays for Common Module texts!
What’s the point of the Common Module for English Standard?
The Common Module explores the things that make us human and the experiences that are common to us all. Focusing on an idea like “human experience” allows you to reflect on your own experiences through the texts that you study.
Additionally, a universal concept such as human experience lets students develop a personal connection to the set texts. You can offer a far more perceptive analysis of a text if you can find personal connections to it.
Now, let’s look at the Module Rubric to see what you need to do.
To score Band 6 for the Common Module, you need to understand the Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences Rubric
NESA’s Module Rubric explains the way you should approach the Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences and the texts for study in the Module. NESA has laid out the objectives and expectations that you must address in your responses in this document.
Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences Rubric from NESA
To ace the Common Module, you need to understand what you have to demonstrate. This is presented in the rubric.
In this common module students deepen their understanding of how texts represent individual and collective human experiences. They examine how texts represent human qualities and emotions associated with, or arising from, these experiences. Students appreciate, explore, interpret, analyse and evaluate the ways language is used to shape these representations in a range of texts in a variety of forms, modes and media.
Students explore how texts may give insight into the anomalies, paradoxes and inconsistencies in human behaviour and motivations, inviting the responder to see the world differently, to challenge assumptions, ignite new ideas or reflect personally. They may also consider the role of storytelling throughout time to express and reflect particular lives and cultures. By responding to a range of texts they further develop skills and confidence using various literary devices, language concepts, modes and media to formulate a considered response to texts.
Students study one prescribed text and a range of short texts that provide rich opportunities to further explore representations of human experiences illuminated in texts. They make increasingly informed judgements about how aspects of these texts, for example context, purpose, structure, stylistic and grammatical features, and form shape meaning. In addition, students select one related text and draw from personal experience to make connections between themselves, the world of the text and their wider world.
By responding and composing throughout the module students further develop a repertoire of skills in comprehending, interpreting and analysing complex texts. They examine how different modes and media use visual, verbal and/or digital language elements. They communicate ideas using figurative language to express universal themes and evaluative language to make informed judgements about texts. Students further develop skills in using metalanguage, correct grammar and syntax to analyse language and express a personal perspective about a text.
While this may be a bit vague, it’s not really that complicated. What we’ll do now is unpack it some detail for you.
Unpacking the Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences Rubric
To help you best understand this rubric, we’ve broken it down into 11 key statements. Further, we’ve analysed these in three categories to help you understand how they fall into:
Ideas: The concepts you are asked to investigate and discuss
Skills: The skills you need to develop and display
Requirements: The actions you must take to demonstrate your understanding of the ideas and acquisitions of the skills.
Okay, let’s turn NESA speak into plain English.
We’ll begin with the requirements.
Common Module Rubric Requirements
Rubric Statement #1
“Students study one prescribed text and a range of short texts that provide rich opportunities to further explore representations of human experiences illuminated in texts.”
Analysis of Rubric Statement #1
You will study one prescribed text and then several shorter texts that will be chosen by your teacher or department. You must study all of these texts and analyse how they represent human experiences.
Rubric Statement #2
“In addition, students select one related text and draw from personal experience to make connections between themselves, the world of the text and their wider world.”
Analysis of Rubric Statement #2
Based on your reading of the prescribed text, you will need to select a supplementary text. You will need to analyse this text and consider how the narrative and ideas it presents resonate with you and reflect your own experiences. You will need to draw connections between your understanding of the text, your experience as an individual, and the world at large.
Rubric Statement #3
“They examine how different modes and media use visual, verbal and/or digital language elements.”
Analysis of Rubric Statement #3
You must analyse and discuss texts from a range of mediums. You will not be able to study multiple texts of the same medium or form. For example, you must not study two novels, but rather a novel and a film.
Now we’ve covered the requirements, let’s consider the ideas in the Common Module Rubric.
Common Module Rubric Ideas
Rubric Statement #4
“In this common module students deepen their understanding of how texts represent individual and collective human experiences. They examine how texts represent human qualities and emotions associated with, or arising from, these experiences.”
Analysis of Rubric Statement #4
This is a complex statement that underpins the key ideas for the Module. To get to grips with it, we need to consider some definitions:
Representation: The way ideas are portrayed and represented in texts, using language devices, forms, features and structures of texts to create specific views about characters, events and ideas. Representation applies to all language modes: spoken, written, visual and multimodal.
Representing: The language mode that involves composing images in visual or multimodal texts. These images and their meaning are composed using codes and conventions. The term can include such activities as graphically presenting the structure of a novel, making a film, composing a web page or enacting a dramatic text.
Human Qualities: This is the main focus of the Module and the most complicated aspect of it. Asking, “What are “human qualities”?” is the equivalent to asking “What makes us human?” Neither English literature or philosophy – the discipline that has historically pondered this question – give us clear answers. For you, this is good. It means that the Module, and by extent your teachers and markers, cannot require a certain type of understanding from you and they, too, must embrace the ambiguity that the vague phrase “human qualities” suggests. With this ambiguity in mind, here are some potential human qualities discussed by philosophy that you may find useful for your analysis:
A soul (Plato, Aristotle – but also both pre-Socratic and post-Socratic ancient philosophers)
Considering the ideas discussed in these definitions will help guide you through the analysis of your texts and their concerns.
Bear in mind that just because Western philosophy has been prioritised, largely because of the nature, character, and history of English as a subject, it does not mean that other philosophical traditions should be excluded. Eastern ideas about human existence and other cultural or religious perspectives are equally valid and may also be worthy of consideration depending on the author and context of the texts you are studying.
The other key term from this rubric statement is emotions.
Emotions: You will be able to feel confident discussing and exploring this point because it is readily reflective of human experience. If you struggle with some of the more complex or obscure ideas associated with “human qualities,” you should start with this syllabus point by focusing on your own emotional experiences and understanding as this is a very accessible window into what it means to be human.
Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotion may help you visualise and interpret the emotional experiences you find in texts. The wheel provided below should help you engage with this concept as well as expand your vocabulary of emotional experience. You should familiarise yourself with the image below and see how different emotions are related.
A less conceptual approach to this idea of “human qualities” is to consider generic elements of human behaviour that cannot be classified as emotions. For example, the following concepts would also be relevant to a study of human experience:
If you consider generic ideas like these you open the door to a virtually endless array of ideas concerning human experience. While these may be more accessible, it will be easy to be overwhelmed by the variety of conceptual approaches available.
Rubric Statement #5
“Students explore how texts may give insight into the anomalies, paradoxes and inconsistencies in human behaviour and motivations.”
Analysis of Rubric Statement #5
When you read texts, you are engaging with a composer’s ideas and insights into human behaviour and human motivations. In your study, you need to consider what insights the text gives you.
Anamolies, paradoxes, and inconsistencies are good places to start as they illustrate the complex nature of being human.
Think about it, we are often full of contradictory emotions and ideas. Being human can be hard at times, while it can be exhilarating at others.
To help you get your head around these contradictions, consider the following definitions:
Anomaly n. something that deviates from what is standard, normal or expected.
Paradox n. 1. A seemingly absurd or contradictory statement or proposition which when investigated may prove to be well-founded or true; 2. A statement or proposition which, despite sound (or apparently sound) reasoning from acceptable premises, leads to a conclusion that seems logically unacceptable or self-contradictory; 3. A person or thing that combines contradictory features or qualities.
Inconsistent adj. 1. Not staying the same throughout; 2. Not compatible or in keeping with.
To nail this syllabus point, you will need to have a complex understanding of the characters in the text and their narrative arcs; the role of the narrator; and your role as the reader. You will need to contrast your emotional experience of reading with the emotions reflected and manipulated by the composer in the text.
Rubric Statement #6
“They may also consider the role of storytelling throughout time to express and reflect particular lives and cultures.”
To understand this point thoroughly, it is essential to remember that texts are often narratives that retell earlier stories. This concept of metanarratives is illustrative of how human experience is often told and retold in similar ways with similar plots and events and often only the characters changing.
The retelling of metanarratives are often distinctive parts of a culture and can be retold in numerous ways. Sometimes these narratives focus on events, such as cataclysms like floods.
Other cultural narratives focus on important figures. Considering metanarratives is also a useful way of understanding how characters come to understand each other within narratives. Ask yourself, do these characters follow traditional narrative tropes such as the Hero’s Journey.
An interesting contemporary cultural example of this is comparing the narrative of Moses in Exodus to James Mangold’s X-Men film Logan. In Exodus, Moses is a hero who leads the Israelites out of Egypt to the promised land. Whereas in Logan, the X-Men character Logan, otherwise known as The Wolverine, must make amends for his past mistakes by leading a young band of mutant slaves and survivors across a dangerous landscape to the promised land, Eden.
As you can see, the story is very much the same but the narrative is very different and very much reflective of its time.
Now you know what concepts you need to focus on and the ideas you must consider and discuss, let’s look at the skills you need to demonstrate.
Common Module Rubric Skills
Rubric Statement #7
“Students appreciate, explore, interpret, analyse and evaluate the ways language is used to shape these representations in a range of texts in a variety of forms, modes and media.”
Analysis of Rubric Statement #7
This tells you that you need to analyse texts to understand their content and see how the composers have developed their ideas. This statement describes the standard approach you should take to textual analysis.
“Inviting the responder to see the world differently, to challenge assumptions, ignite new ideas or reflect personally.”
Analysis of Rubric Statement #8
A significant part of the new syllabus is a focus on personal reflection. Reflecting on your experiences of reading and studying texts will often challenge your ideas about the world, and even yourself.
“By responding to a range of texts they further develop skills and confidence using various literary devices, language concepts, modes and media to formulate a considered response to texts.”
Analysis of Rubric Statement #9
This is telling you that you need to do more than just analyse techniques, structures, and forms in texts, you must be able to apply them in your own writing – both fiction and non-fiction.
One of the challenging aspects of the Year 12 English Advanced Course is that it requires you to produce responses in a variety of modes. It is quite possible that you will be asked to produce a Multimodal Presentation or an Imaginative Recreation – accompanied by a Reflection Statement – rather than a traditional essay. This will require you to be able to write using a variety of registers and techniques, both rhetorical and literary.
To do well, you will need to demonstrate your understanding of these techniques, structures, and forms through your confident and competent use of them.
Rubric Statement #10
“They make increasingly informed judgements about how aspects of these texts, for example context, purpose, structure, stylistic and grammatical features, and form shape meaning.”
Analysis of Rubric Statement #10
Here, you are being asked to consider how and why a composer has gone about their work. You must consider why the composers have made the compositional choices that they have – these include:
Style and structure
Grammatical and rhetorical decisions.
In your responses, especially your essays, you must discuss how these choices create meaning and shape the reader’s perceptions.
Rubric Statement #11
“They communicate ideas using figurative language to express universal themes and evaluative language to make informed judgements about texts. Students further develop skills in using metalanguage, correct grammar and syntax to analyse language and express a personal perspective about a text.”
Analysis of Rubric Statement #11
Not only must you be able to decode figurative language, you must demonstrate that you can use it yourself. We often use metaphors and metonymy to describe the world around us. As humans, we are able to describe abstract concepts and figurative language facilitates that. This means that you must demonstrate both an understanding of and the ability to use:
The common metaphors embedded in English
Figurative language in creative expression; and also
Develop skills in using metalanguage. That is, the technical ways we can talk about texts, for example, narrator, focalisation, metafiction.
In presenting these ideas, you must also consider and express your own personal perspective. They want to see your insights and understanding of the texts that you study!
How will the Common Module be assessed?
The types of in-school assessments for the Common Module will vary greatly between schools.
The NESA sample materials suggest a two-part assessment. A creative task followed by a multimodal presentation that reflects on the production of the creative. It is unlikely that you will have an essay task set as an assessment for Term 1.
However, the HSC Trial Paper 1 and the HSC Paper 1 will both include an essay on the core text.
In addition, Paper 1 – for both HSC Trials and the HSC – will include a short-answer section. This section will require students to analyse a series of texts and answer a group of questions on them.
The texts in this section can be visual, prose (both fiction and non-fiction), or poetry.
The questions asked in this section will range from simple comprehension to detailed long responses. We’ll examine these questions in detail later in this post.
You will also study some shorter texts chosen by your teacher and department. You will also need to study one supplementary text of your own choosing.
You will not be assessed on the supplementary texts in the HSC.
What’s Sample Paper 1?
Included in the materials for the new English Advanced HSC Syllabus 2019-2023 is a sample Paper 1 to help students, teachers, and parents familiarise themselves with the new HSC assessment format.
The new Paper 1 is a significant departure from what has traditionally been set for students:
It is now 1 hour and 30 minutes long, rather than 2 hours and 10 minutes
It has two sections rather than three
There is no creative (don’t get too excited, the creative for English Advanced is now much harder and is part of Paper 2!)
It will be sat by English Advanced; English Standard, and English Studies, but
Only some sections of the Paper will be common to the other levels of English
It will be worth 40 marks.
Let’s take a quick look at what the different sections involve.
Section 1 is a short response section. It will include several different questions totalling 20 marks.
There will be a series of unseen texts that students must read and analyse in the 10 minutes reading time. The texts in this section can be visual, prose (both fiction and non-fiction), or poetry.
The texts for the HSC Sample Paper 1 include:
Two film posters;
The poem “Looking in the Album” by Vern Rutsala;
An extract from Hillary McPhee’s autobiography Other People’s Words;
An extract from Benjamin Law’s The Family Law;
An extract from Neil Gaiman’s fantasy/horror novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
There will be between three and four questions (and possibly more). Two of these questions will be common to both Standard and Advanced.
Students will be instructed which text to use in their responses to each question. For example:
Example A (4 marks) English Advanced only
Use Text 1 to answer this question.
Compare how each of the two posters creates a sense of shared human experience.
These are the posters:
An answer to this question will require you to offer a detailed analysis of the two posters. You will need to contrast the techniques that the different composers have used to convey meaning to the viewer. NESA has also provided a sample marking criteria and sample 4/4 response.
Common Module: Texts and Human Experience Marking Criteria (NESA)
Compares skilfully how each text creates a sense of shared human experience
Compares how each text creates a sense of shared human experience
Describes a sense of shared human experience that is created in the texts
Provides some relevant information about the text(s) and/or human experience
Below is the sample answer from NESA:
Both posters represent the idea that despite our diversity we are united in our capacity to share and receive stories about our experiences through film. The Sydney Film Festival poster represents a collective emotional experience through its composition of the multicoloured symmetric figures that fill the frame and this is supported by the text, or tag-line, that reinforces a shared experience with the word ‘together’. The Miami Film Festival poster centres the silhouette of a single figure with symbols of film reels revealing the interiority of the individual, suggesting the power of film to express private thoughts that can be illuminating when shared through stories. While the Sydney Film Festival image represents a collective experience and the Miami Film Festival represents the personal experience, both suggest that telling stories through film is a positive human experience.
The above answer addresses the 4 mark criteria because it:
Introduces the student’s argument clearly and concisely
Analyses both texts for “shared human experience”
Presents that analysis to compare the two texts
Makes a concluding statement connecting the two texts back to the question and Module.
Clearly, to get 4 marks, you would need to present 3 to 4 examples and connect them back to the question. Then compare how these examples reflect the concern of “shared human experience”. The response would need to be structured with introductory and concluding statements.
NESA has also said that other answers could include:
The symbol of the film reel and the colour yellow represent light shining on the open mind, suggesting the positive experience of sharing stories.
The images of butterflies that represent freedom, supported by the text ‘let’s stop the stigma’, suggest the importance of sharing stories about mental illness.
The bright colour palette of the Sydney Film Festival poster conveys the positivity of shared experiences told through film.
There will be at least one question that is worth 6 or 7 marks. This response will require a structured miniature essay. The answer for the 6 mark question, for example, would be clearly structured and contain 250 words.
We recommend taking the time to look through the whole paper to get a sense of what is required.
Section 2 is more conventional. It will contain an essay question for your text. The question may include a stimulus and will possibly include an unseen text.
It might be the case that the question is specific to your text. The sample questions focus on ideas specific to the text or techniques specific to the texts:
Example A (20 marks) How has your understanding of the challenges of the human experience been shaped by the director’s use of mise-en-scène in your prescribed text (Billy Elliot)?
Example B (20 marks) Analyse how the representation of the natural environment shapes your understanding of family in Past the Shallows.
These questions will require a specific and detailed knowledge of your text. They will not be the kinds of questions that you can memorise an essay for and recite on the day.
NESA has provided some generic criteria for a Band 6 response:
Expresses deep understanding of complex ideas about human experiences represented in texts
Presents a skilful response with detailed analysis of well-chosen textual references from the prescribed text
Writes a coherent and sustained response using language appropriate to audience, purpose and context.
Unpacking this marking criteria, a Band 6 essay will require:
You to demonstrate a detailed understanding of the Module and the complexities of human experience. You must demonstrate your understanding of how these complex ideas are conveyed in the text you have studied.
Your response must be logically structured and systematically answer the question. Your choice of evidence must be consistently relevant to the question. You must discuss your examples in detail and convey their importance to your argument.
You need to produce a sustained argument. A sustained argument requires you to answer the question consistently and use signposting throughout to orientate your reader. Your response needs to demonstrate exemplary mastery of grammar and spelling.
It is important to start thinking about essay responses and practising them early in the year.
Just because you might not have an essay task for Common Module, doesn’t mean you can be complacent. You will need to produce a Common Module essay for your Trial HSC and you’re going to need to be on top of your short answer skills in readiness for unseen texts in both the Trial and HSC papers.