At this point in the year, everyone needs a little refreshment in their teaching. What follows are some ideas for approaching the Paper 1 commentary. Some will be familiar (but maybe forgotten?) and some may be new. We all know we need differentiation in our classes and maybe some of these will advance that goal.
1. The double entry approach. Using a vertical divide on a single sheet, have students enter items, (phrases, words, images, rhymes and the like) on one side of the page and on the other comment on why the item is striking, effective, memorable, and what effect it has on the context or the whole poem or passage.
2.Group analysis, annotation. First read the passage or poem aloud. Then everyone annotates the selection in pencil. Discussion follows and students add new ideas, annotating now in color, to add to their sense of the writing.
3. Finding patterns: another entry point. Have everyone start out looking for absolutely anything that forms a pattern: letters, words, lines, line lengths, images, colors, spacing, rhymes, metrical repetitions. The discussion that follows should lead into analysis of content, coming from the angle of form rather than the conventional way of seeing how form complements meaning.
4.Connotation maps or charts. Choose 5 significant words and see what possibilities exist for connotations. Move into seeing what seems to be operative in a given poem or passage and how meaning is layered and enriched through connotation.
5. SPEC/SLIMS. This is a popular acronym and a favorite mnemonic device for many. There are a number of links on the web and here are a couple:
Whichever direction you choose to follow, one really important thing to remind your students is that there is no single formula or set of features that will work for every passage or poem they will find in Paper 1. Your practice in class and your evaluation of their practice commentaries will do well to affirm this.