Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Level 1 Formal Writing exemplars

This excellence essay is from the 2006 exam ... what do you think ?

Exploring space wastes money that would be better spent here on Earth.

I absolutely agree that exploring space wastes far too much money that can be used in much better ways on earth. There is no need to worry about things billions of kilometres away from us because humans are the greatest threat to themselves. There is so much poverty and war in the world and prices on everyday household items are rising.
People are losing jobs and families are deteriorating. The cost of education is too high. All of these problems can in some way be linked to the loss of money and spending trillions and trillions of dollars on things that don’t even benefit the earth in really any way, has got to be a complete waste of time, and of course money.

First let me talk about the worldwide poverty epidemic. More than one third of the world’s population live in places of extreme poverty and live on less than $1 a day. Just last year George Bush announced that he would be giving $1 trillion dollars to NASA so they could design a rocket that would get men to Mars. The cost of providing the whole world with clean fresh water, sanitary needs, sufficient food and health services is a total $80 billion dollars, not even 1% of the funding that George Bush gave to NASA. Also the American Navy receive $800 billion on firearms alone per year by the American Government. Only 10% of 1 year’s worth of that amount could rid the poverty problem. I think its down right stupid and horrible to think that more money is spent on rockets and guns than the people that actually live in the world, and make them.

Secondly the cost of education is getting ridiculously high. If more money was given to students through scholarships, benefits and even their jobs, rather than thrown away into space, life would be easier on students on families and even in schools themselves. Some people aren’t even able to attend schools because of the cost.

Thirdly household prices of everyday needs are becoming outrageously high and families wages are not. Parents these days both need to work to receive an income high enough to support their families because of cost of everyday things, such as petrol, food, and clothes. If more money was given and kept on the earth prices would lessen and life would be easier.

In conclusion exploring space is a complete waste of precious time and money. It could be put to so many great uses here on earth, but people are just spending more and more of it on things that are unnecessary like rockets and guns. If something isn’t done about this problem soon life is just going to get harder and harder.

Excellence 456 words

Level 1 Film Essay

Here are a couple of Merit essay by last year's Yr 11 students - what do you think?

Describe an important place or situation in the text. Explain how visual and/or verbal features were used to help you understand why this setting or event was surprising OR important.

An important place in the film October Sky directed by Joe Johnson is the entrance to the Olga Mine. This setting is important because it helps the reader understand the theme of achievement within the film. Throughout the film the entrance to the mine is portrayed as an evil place, due to its role in the struggle of the main character, Homer Hickam, to achieve his dream of “going to college … [and] getting a job at Cape Canaveral.”

A feature of the film that helped me understand the role of the mine in the story is the physical structure of the mine. The mine is a shaft mine below the ground, with an elevator running to the surface. This can be taken as a symbolic link between the normal world and the underworld (Hades). When Homer is forced to work in the mine, his passage down into the mine can therefore be interpreted as descent into the underworld. This is very important because it shows the sincerity of Homers dream, as well as his sacrifice in working in the mine to support his family.

Another feature of the film that aids in understanding of the mine is the time of day shots are taken. Typical shots of the mine are at nighttime or on cloudy days, and this emphasizes the negative role of the mine in the film. Also, when Ike Bykovsky is killed, heavy rain is present, emphasizing this point. This may be taken as a symbol of “the earth weeping” for Mr. Bykovsky.

An interesting symbol of the mines influence is the telephone installed in the Hickam’s house. This is a link from the mine to the house, so that John can be easily contacted in an emergency. The phone itself is big and shiny-black, perhaps an allusion to the importance of the mine in the town and its nature (the phone is black, like the coal the miner’s dig). The telephone is therefore a symbol of the mines influence over John, which is immensely important in the conflict between John and Homer.

In conclusion, an important place in the film October Sky is the entrance to Olga Mine. Joe Johnson, the director, has used levels of light and weather to show the relation of the mine to the films themes of struggle and dreams. These visual features show the influence the mine has over John Hickam, and this is important because it is a factor in the conflict between John and his son, Homer.
418 Merit

Describe an important event at (or near) the beginning of the text.
Explain how verbal and / or visual features were used to show you what was going to happen in the rest of the text.

In the feature film Friday Night Lights directed by Peter Burg. An important event near the beginning of the text is the introduction and differentiation of the characters, mainly Mike Winchel and Boobie Miles. These verbal and visual features helped to show what was going to happen in the rest of the text.

Opening scene for Mike Winchel was driving his car to the Permain Panthers first pre season training he is show to be relaxed, calm and focused as he is talking calmly amongst friends. Opening scene for Boobie Miles was running up over the horizon very glorified and in slow motion. He is being followed by some children wearing his number on their football jerseys. He is listening to the radio on his head phones saying “Boobie is going to do it for us. Boobie is going to bring it home.”

Further introductory scenes for Mike Winchel show that he is much focused and also very modest. A lot of people look up to him but he fails to recognise his full potential he has a lot of added responsibility for looking after his sick mother and that just puts extra strain on his education and football playing. Mike is shown to be a mature well educated 17 year old boy although he says “I don’t feel 17.” He is a well known member of his community, school and football team and this leads us to believe that he will succeed in the rest of the film. Lots of close up film shots of Mike are taken to show his focussed expression. Also to show that he does not let his focus slip. He is always looking around, he is very observant. He has some rowdy friends which long shots are often taken of to show the comparison between the friends. This leads us to believe that Mike Winchell will succeed in a football or other career later in the film.

Further introductory scenes for Boobie Miles show that he is not very focused on anything and is very cocky and boasts full of himself. He thinks very high of himself and often looks down on other people. He has been taken in by his Uncle who is very loving and very encouraging of his nephew. He wants the best for Boobie and he thinks that Boobie is going to give that to him. Boobie is shown to be an immature person and a part from education is not educated at all. He said “I am a straight A student. There is only one subject, football.”

Boobie is shown to be uneducated while struggling to read a university opportunity paper he has been offered. This shows the viewer those Boobies only future lies in football and due to that skill it could be a very bright future. Lots of shots of Boobie topless are used to show that he is a very fit athlete. Also close ups of him boasting, for example “God made black beautiful. God made Boobie beautiful.” Bobbie is compared academically as lower than his friends but sportingly top of his game. This leads us to believe that he could succeed in a sporting future and also do well however an academic future is not an option.

542 words

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Samples of Level 2 Exam Writing

Here are a couple of our own exemplars from last year - they give parents an idea of the standard of writing expected In Level 2 English AND the length of essay that the students write in an hour -

SHORT TEXT – War Photographer and Stealing by Carol Ann Duffy

For EACH of the texts, analyse how language techniques helped you understand
ONE or MORE main character(s) or individual(s).

In the poem Stealing written by Carol Ann Duffy the language techniques used helped me to understand the thief in the poem. The writer used colloquial language throughout the poem, enjambment, rhetorical questions and short sentences to help create a better understanding towards the thief. Another poem that used language techniques to understand the main character better was War Photographer also written by Carol Ann Duffy. This poem uses descriptive techniques such as similes and metaphors to help describe the photographer and understand him/ her better.

Carol Ann Duffy used colloquial language throughout the poem Stealing help us understand the thief and almost make it seem as though the thief is talking to someone in a normal conversation, telling them about what hes stolen. “I stole a guitar once, thought I might learn to play.” Another way the writer made the character understandable is the way she used rhetorical questions at the beginning and the ending of the poem. “The strangest thing we ever stolen, you don’t understand anything I’m saying do you?” This suggests that the thief is under some sort of interrogation and his telling his / her story about why he / she steals. “Boredom. Mostly I’m so bored I could eat myself.” This makes us understand that the thief has no real reason and steals just to do something that will make his/ her day pass quicker.

Another poem written by Carol Ann Duffy War Photographer is completely opposite to Stealing. She uses descriptive techniques to show how the photographer is feeling and what he /she does for a living. “A hundred agonies in black and white all lined up in a row, waiting for the editor to come and pick out the five or six that will be used for Sundays Supplement.” This explains to us that the photographer takes photos from war and the best photos will be chosen to be put in Sundays newspaper. The photographer hates his job but when hes there taking the photos, its his job he has to focus on not the “spools of suffering.” But when he gets back home he re-lives the memories and his emotions start flooding in. “Solutions slop in treys where his hands seem to tremble though did not back then.” The detailed descriptions of the photographer helps us to understand that he / she is a good, kind and caring man / woman and he / she hates his / her job, seeing all those people suffer, but it is a job and someone needs to do it.

Both the poems Stealing and War Photographer are written by Carol Ann Duffy yet they are both completely different. Stealing shows that the individual is a bad guy who steals things to make himself feel good and to take up time, while the main character in War Photographer is shown as a kind guy who cares about the world and is only disguised as the bad guy while taking the photos. However he / she is simply doing his /her job and nothing else. I think that the character in War Photographer was easier to understand as the persona explained the individual with more detail rather than in Stealing where the persona used a first person narrative and had the thief talking in a conversation, explaining his actions.

Achieved – 553 words
A straight forward response - a number of errors BUT they do not interfere with the meaning - Mrs C

For each of the texts, analyse how the writer(s) presented a
positive OR negative view of humanity and / or society.

In the poem War Photographer and Stealing by Carol Ann Duffy, the author presents a negative view of humanity and society in such a way that the readers emotions are drawn to these poems. Both War Photographer and Stealing focus on the inner turmoil faced by two different yet unique characters who have a different outlook on social issues such as war and social morality. Carol Ann Duffy effectively uses language techniques including metaphors, personification, clichés and emotive language to portray the characters negative views on society and humanity.

Stealing focuses on anti-social criminal theoretically male due to the lack of feminism throughout the poem. The thief is recounting his crimes to an audience, and begins by repeating a rhetorical question, as though thinking through his answer. “The most unusual thing I ever stole? A snowman.” The word “stole” immediately introduces the reader to the idea of anti–social criminal behaviour, leading us to immediately dislike this negative character. However as the poem develop, we find ourselves understanding and sympathising more with the thief, as the author encourages us to think deeper about the social reasons behind the thief to steal. The use of a rhetorical question to open the poem is effective as it introduces us to a negative aspect of society (crimes) which we would sometimes prefer to ignore.

Could society possibly be to blame for the thiefs negative persona and outlook on life? The thief in Stealing is a selfish uncompassionate character who steals to satisfy a lack of creativity and constructiveness in his own life. His comment “the best part of knowing children would cry in the morning. Life’s tough” shows the thief has no compassion for the feelings of others, only caring for his own wants. The cliché “Life’s tough” hints at a reason for the thiefs negative persona however readers find themselves wondering whether the thief possibly had a bad upbringing, leading to his criminal actions in later life. This cliché is effectively used by the writer to portray a negative aspect of humanity, in that our treatment of other people may impact upon the way their personality and sense of right and wrong develops.

Likewise to Stealing, War Photographer also focuses on a negative view of society and humanity. The writer uses many metaphors in War Photographer to vividly paint a picture in readers minds of the suffering occurring in these war torn countries. “Spools of suffering” and “All flesh is grass” evoke a strong emotional reaction in the reader, as we can see in our minds a war torn area where bodies litter the ground. These graphic metaphors are used to emphasise this darker aspect of humanity. We find ourselves thinking of the reasons that we could justify humans bringing pain like war to one another. The author dramatically uses metaphors to present a negative view of humanity to readers.

A negative view of society which is presented in War Photographer is that society seems not to care about suffering of other countries so long as it does not affect them. The writer has successfully structured the poem from an omnipotent narrator so we are able to see the characters thoughts and notions relating to the photographer and experiencing the pain he feels. The photographer comments that “they do not care” as he stares impassively at his home country safe from the horrors of war. These comments combined with the emotive line “the readers eyes prick with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers” tell readers of peoples momentary concern for the suffering of third-world countries. The writers use of emotive comments and an omnipotent narration effectively portrays this negative, uncaring view of society.

Both War Photographer and Stealing paint negative pictures of society, highlighting aspects such as war and crime which we would rather not think about. Carol Ann Duffy has effectively used metaphors, unusual narration and emotive language to draw on readers emotions. Both poems encourage us to examine our own conscience, to see if we too play apart in these negative aspects on society and humanity.

Merit - 677 words
This student clearly focussed on the question - something that many students forget to do - well done, Mrs C.

We'll try to post a few Level 1 essays in the next few days.

Friday, February 29, 2008


Came across this great site this morning and though it's not a totally educational site (in the school sense) of the word it does look fascinating.

Take a moment to have a look at it...

How to (do just about anything).....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Welcome back ......

Parents this site is for you .... to ask questions; to see examples of the things we are doing here at the English Department; to read some external examination exemplars; to hop on a link and checkout any sites that look interesting to you...

Feel free to contact Mrs Cleary or Mrs Hucker at school if you want any advice or just want to touch base with us...

Check out the new site I started for the Yr 13 English as Popular Culture course ..

Friday, November 23, 2007

A sigh of relief - Level 1 is over....

I'm sure that many parents will be breathing a sigh of relief now that the largest exam in NCEA is over.

48,000 Year 11s sat English yesterday and it seemed to go reasonably well.

The general consensus here was that the literature (novel, film and short texts) sections were fair and pretty straightforward. We felt putting an extract from the Queen's speech in a little odd. For the second year in a row unfamiliar text has featured South Island authors - perhaps it's about time the examiners moved their focus to where the bulk of the population is - the North!

Levels 3 and 2 today.

Monday, November 12, 2007

More study help -

If you haven't already looked at this site - take time to have a look now.
Expert teachers provide free advice, guidance and feedback to students in English, Maths and Science.....