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HSC English – Techniques

Techniques are key tools for students throughout their study of English. Techniques refer to the craftsmanship and expression of composers. They are a vital part of all texts and can be identified in works including; literary works, films, poems and plays. There are a plethora of techniques and it is through exploring texts and deconstructing these texts here at Master Coaching that students can develop and expand their knowledge of techniques. I often consider techniques as being part of a collection that students add to throughout their time at school and here at Master Coaching. It is extremely difficult for students to learn all the possible techniques required in the senior English courses during their final years at school. It is for this reason that it is vital that students work on extending their knowledge and ability to analyse techniques from junior years, it is never too early to start understanding examples and applications of techniques. 

What exactly are these techniques, and how can students identify and analyse these devices? Techniques range from the basic and most well-known examples to more complex devices. Literary techniques can be found in texts including novels, prose extracts and non-fiction extracts. These techniques may include similes, metaphors, personification and motifs; however, the list is extensive. The syllabus requirements expect students to be able to identify the techniques, demonstrate an understanding of their effect and evaluate how they aid the composer in crafting a sophisticated and meaningful piece of writing. An example of this process can be seen in all of the prescribed texts studied by students. For example, the prescribed HSC text, Past the Shallows (2011), written by Favel Parrett contains an important motif of the “free flying bird”. Students often find it difficult to understand the relevance and the effect of this motif and struggle with deconstruction and analysis in their essays. An expected response would read as follows; “Parrett channels the human experience of the protagonist Harry through the bird motif. This is illustrated through the descriptive image of Harry “free flying like a bird” which suggests that Harry is liberated and has broken free of the bonds of grief and trauma”. Students often feel overwhelmed and unsure as to how they should structure their responses and include an adequate amount of techniques. Often at school students are given information on techniques and examples however, are not fully equipped and capable of then identifying and elaborating on these techniques independently.

Techniques are also crucial when analysing films, however these cinematic techniques relate to camera angles, lighting and sound. For example, students are required to differentiate between diegetic and non-diegetic sound. Diegetic sound refers to sound that both the characters in the film and the audience can hear, however, non-diegetic sound are sounds that only the audience can hear. This is illustrated by the example of music or special effects utilised by directors to create mood and atmosphere. These are critical details that students often overlook and leave out of their writing and analysis of film. 

Students are most reluctant to engage with dramatic techniques which are found in plays. These techniques are particularly important for students as the works of Shakespeare are an integral component of the English course throughout high school. The difficulties students find when analysing plays often centre on identifying techniques and deciphering what they mean as Shakespeare’s plays in particular are written in Old English and are expressed in a way that students are unfamiliar with. When analysing plays students are encouraged to identify literary devices as well as dramatic techniques including asides, soliloquies, props and characterisation. For example, an aside is when a character speaks directly to the audience whilst on stage but cannot be heard by the other characters. These techniques are harder to understand as a play is designed to be performed and therefore is written in a unique form. Here at Master Coaching students are guided through the play and encouraged to discuss and explain how they interpret the play and the techniques used by the composer

This raises a key question; how should students prepare and learn to identify different techniques? Here at Master Coaching we focus on practice. Student often are taught to learn techniques in theory, meaning they learn what the technique does and a basic example of the technique. However, it is important that students know how to identify, analyse and use techniques in practice. Therefore, with the guidance of their tutor, students explore a range of techniques. This practice extends beyond just the texts they are studying at school but also include practicing technique identification and analysis in unseen texts. This is of significant importance as students are required to draw upon techniques when answering comprehension style questions in Paper One of the HSC. Here at Master Coaching our aim is to equip students with the tools and the knowledge to be effective writers.

English Tutor at Master Coaching- Melissa Gullifa

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