Planning and time
The timing of teaching and learning of the
VCE English and EAL Study Design is a matter for schools and teachers. It is important, however, to note that each unit involves at least 50 hours of scheduled classroom instruction over the duration of a semester. Teachers are encouraged to reflect on the competing school commitments such as camps, excursions, sports days and cultural celebrations as they plan each semester’s work and assessments.
Each unit has two areas of study, which may not require an equal allocation of time. Allowing time for students to understand content, develop and refine skills is essential for success. When students are required to sit exams, it is wise to allow time for revision because content completed in February is potentially examinable in October / November. Students will have continued developing their thinking, reading, viewing and writing skills but may need revision classes on content to reassure themselves that they can apply their enhanced skills in the examination.
Outcomes and School-assessed Coursework (SACs) should be completed as near as possible to the area of study being completed. Schools need to provide these dates to students in advance and offer students adequate notice if dates change. Teachers should use these published dates to plan individual marking and cross-marking meetings so that feedback can be provided to students in a timely manner and thus support their ongoing learning in this subject.
Each area of study is designed to build thinking, reading, viewing and writing skills and there is an expectation of skill transference across the whole study design. In some cases, the connections between the skills will be evident – such as the capacity to use analytical metalanguage in text analysis and argument analysis or apply the skills of inferential reading to extended fiction / non-fiction texts and to texts presenting arguments. Equally, understanding the way in which others construct argument will support students in constructing their own arguments. Teachers are encouraged to make these connections with their students and to resist offering each area of study as a discrete set of skills, specific only to that knowledge and that assessment task.
Student voice and agency
The introduction of two areas of study, Crafting texts and Creating texts, is intended to offer students the opportunity to develop their skills in writing but also as a statement of the value placed on their life experience and opinions. Students should be encouraged to recognise their inherent capacity to comment on aspects of the human experience and the value of their knowing, understanding and considering the world around them. Part of this development will be for students to recognise and build their agency in society, and place value on their individual and unique voice. This sense of voice and agency is not limited to one section of the study and should be embedded across all units. It is vital that students build and value their explorations and understandings of texts in a respectful environment. Ultimately all students should have the opportunity to ‘find their voice’ in VCE English and EAL classrooms.
Storytelling, discussion, reading, writing and debate have long brought joy to people and enriched their lives. The VCE English and English as an Additional Language (EAL) study is designed to offer students access to these joys and pleasures. Students should be provided with the space to enjoy the study and the opportunity to engage with life-affirming activities, so they can develop skills that will offer them ways to interact with other people across space and time, and to develop not just a sense of voice but a sense of self.
Ethical scholarship means that students are supported in the production of work that is honest, reliable and credible. This means that they are clear with their reader or audience about what work is their own, and that they acknowledge when other sources are used. Ethical scholarship requires that students understand and honour the following:
- Honesty – students indicate clearly the work that is their own and the work that is someone else’s.
- Transparency – when quoting another author/expert from their research, students must do so accurately and cite each source used.
- Action – producing work for teacher assessment and feedback allows students to communicate their learning in their own words, and is both a right and a responsibility.
Each student deserves to be acknowledged and credited for their work. However, no student should be acknowledged or credited for work that is not their own including the work of peers and teachers. This applies to both individual and group tasks.
Claiming credit for the work of others is known as plagiarism.
Plagiarism is using other person’s work or words without any acknowledgement of that source.
The VCAA publish guidelines to mitigate against plagiarism in the
VCE and VCAL Administrative Handbook.
- Scored assessment: School-based Assessment (1.1, 1.2 and 1.4)
- Breaches in rules and regulation and / or identification of plagiarism are considered as serious by the VCAA. Information in the
VCE and VCAL Administrative Handbook can guide schools and teachers on how to address any breaches.
- School-based Assessment: Breaches of rules and investigations (Section 10)
Reading and exploring texts (Units 1 and 2) and Reading and responding to texts (Units 3 and 4) are the most recent iterations of long-standing areas of study in English. Deep study of, and student response to, single text is fundamental to subject English and this study design includes single-text study and response in every unit. Teachers should note the highlighting of the key skill of inferential reading in these areas of study; the inclusion of a personal response to text in Unit 1 for both English and EAL students; and the emphasis in Unit 4 on developing students’ capacity to explore the implications of a set essay topic using their knowledge and understanding of the text.
Inferential reading and viewing
A key skill in the Victorian Curriculum F–10: English and in the Victorian Curriculum F–10: EAL at Pathway C4 is inferential reading and viewing. This skill is further developed in the VCE English and EAL Study Design. At the senior secondary level, students are further developing or consolidating their capacity to engage with and critically analyse the underlying meaning in text. Central to developing and consolidating inferential reading are the skills of understanding the connotation of the vocabulary and / or images / film techniques of the text (connotations that can change and adapt through time); of accounting for the historical, social and cultural implications of when, where and who constructed the text; and of combining ideas and concepts drawn from the text to appreciate and analyse the complexity of the text’s fabric.
Teachers can explore how we might read and view inferentially by modelling how a paragraph or a scene can be read or viewed at a surface level, how we might engage more deeply with the connotations of the selected language or film techniques, and how we might overlay those understandings with additional information about the historical, social and cultural context of the text. Teachers can juxtapose the representation of characters and can compare the language or film technique used to evoke events, settings and conflicts to expose the views and values of a text. Demonstrating these skills to, and developing them in, students will equip them to become skilled readers and viewers holding skills they can employ beyond the classroom and throughout the rest of their lives.
Personal response to text (Unit 1 only)
The VCE English and EAL Study Design includes a new assessment task in Unit 1: a personal response to text. This inclusion is an invitation for teachers and students to connect with their reading and viewing in human and empathetic ways. Teachers can assist students to work in greater depth in their inferential reading and viewing by encouraging them to consider personal connotations and meanings they encounter in texts. Students can then link their own experiences with those they encounter in text, enriching both their links with the text and providing greater opportunities for discussion and analysis of texts.
In particular, teachers of EAL students may use this task as an opportunity for students to place their own experiences front and centre of the study of text. This opportunity to ground the study in tangible lived experiences and memories is another way to validate student voice and agency. It also gives teachers the opportunity to build on the familiar before delving further into the text, thereby developing students’ English language proficiency.
EAL students: Reading and responding to texts (Unit 3, Outcome 1)
Unit 3, Outcome 1 for EAL students is substantially different to English because it comprises a listening / viewing component for assessment, but knowledge and skills grounded in this outcome could also be of benefit to English students as a learning activity. If they are teaching a combined class of English and EAL learners, teachers could easily embed the teaching of the listening / viewing component into their classroom pedagogy, but only assess the EAL students on the knowledge and skills.
In Unit 3, Outcome 1 EAL students are required to listen to and discuss ideas, concerns and values presented in a text, informed by selected vocabulary, text structures and language features and how they make meaning. This involves the comprehension of an audio / audio visual text focused on historical, cultural and / or social values in the set text, responding through short-answer responses and note form summaries.
The focus of this outcome is to acknowledge that listening and speaking is the way that language is first acquired and to support the development of fluent listening skills in English language learners. The selection of material for the listening component of the outcome may be drawn from audio or audio / visual texts that relate in any way to the historical, cultural and / or social values in the text selected for study. The purpose of the text is to help build the field for students and to develop their understanding about its broader context.
Examples of suitable texts may include:
- interview with the author / creator of the set text
- audio / visual blog post by the author of the set text
- video clip that contains a summary and analysis of key parts of the text
- online lecture about the set text
- podcast about the set text
- online review with a focus on the context of the set text.
The development of the teaching and learning program for this outcome requires the inclusion of explicit teaching of some comprehension strategies to support engagement with audio / audio-visual texts. Assessment tasks should be designed that allow students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the historical context, and the social and cultural values in the set text.
Implications of a set essay topic
In Unit 4, students should be given opportunities to work with both the text and the key assessment tasks they face when demonstrating their knowledge and understanding of the text. Teachers should consider the skills of unpacking the implications embedded in essay questions and provide explicit teaching of those skills to students. This provides opportunities for students to demonstrate the knowledge and understanding of a text, and their capacity to make meaning from the essay question so that their responses are both relevant and accurate. It is the nexus between an understanding of a text and an understanding of what is being asked about a text that creates the most adept and considered student responses. Teachers should not neglect this aspect of the study.
The VCE English and English as an Additional Language (EAL) Study Design includes two new areas of study: Crafting texts (Unit 1, Outcome 2) and Creating texts (Unit 3, Outcome 2). These areas of study focus on the language mode of writing, with an emphasis on purpose, context and audience. They highlight the development of writing processes (including discussion, reading, planning, drafting and editing) and moving students’ writing beyond the generic conventions explored in the F–10 Victorian Curriculum: English and the text types and structures explored in the F–10 Victorian Curriculum: English as an Additional Language (EAL).
Through these areas of study, students should develop their writing process skills. Key to this development is exploring and experimenting with processes and strategies that empower students to produce texts outside the classroom and without the strictures of generic conventions. The key knowledge and key skills in the study design invite teachers to engage with:
- strategies to develop ideas
- discussion with peers
- reading and re-visiting mentor texts for inspiration, for mechanics, for guidance
- exploring and experimenting with text structures, language features and vocabulary
- drafting writing
- engaging with feedback in many forms
Teachers and schools are invited to explore creativity and writing as processes rather than as products. While there is a strong emphasis on generic writing in the F–10 Victorian Curriculum: English, and on text types and structures in the F–10 Victorian Curriculum: English as an Additional Language (EAL), and this emphasis is supported by the NAPLAN, in senior secondary English and English as an Additional Language (EAL), there is a shift to emphasise the application of this knowledge and understanding in consideration of purpose, context and audience. The generic conventions can be applied, but will likely be transformed to meet what is required in the context of the writing. Students can explore challenging generic conventions, can combine them into hybrid forms and, in doing so become skilled and empowered writers and communicators.
It is acknowledged that there will be many cohorts of EAL students (and some mainstream English students) who will continue to benefit from the explicit knowledge and application of generic writing forms and structures to support the creation of their own texts. Therefore teachers are encouraged to develop a teaching and learning program that is tailored to meet the specific needs of their cohort, and that provides the appropriate scaffolding to support writing development. However, the focus of the program must be on the consideration of purpose, context and audience, and not solely on generic text types.
Ideas (Framework of Ideas)
To focus on exploring writing processes, and to maintain cohesive classrooms, a Framework of Ideas has been included in the study design (for Unit 3 only) so that students in one classroom, or part of one cohort, can be discussing their writing processes and their texts within an agreed scope of ideas.
For Unit 1, Outcome 2, schools and teachers can select any idea they consider engaging, inspiring or important for their cohort. The idea selected is not the key focus of the area of study but, rather, shapes the discussions through which students can engage with writing processes, with the key concepts of purpose, context and audience, and with their own writing.
The study design requires that ‘no idea from the Framework of Ideas listed for study at Unit 3 can be studied at Unit 1’. The intention of this advice is to encourage teachers and schools to choose an idea for Unit 1 that is specific to, and connected with, their context and cohort. It is an opportunity for teachers, potentially in collaboration with students, to discuss ideas and to negotiate mentor texts.
While the statement ‘no idea from the Framework of Ideas listed for study at Unit 3 can be studied at Unit 1’ can be interpreted as ‘listed for study by the school’, which opens up the ideas from the Framework of Ideas in the study design to be studied in Unit 1, this interpretation is not in the spirit of the study design and would be discouraged by the VCAA.
Mentor texts and their use in the classroom
Mentor texts are sustained print texts that can clearly model effective and cohesive writing. They are typically shorter forms of writing – for example, essays, short stories, speeches, episodes of podcasts (transcripts), short biographical or memoir writing pieces and poetry.
Mentor texts should be aligned in some way with the idea selected for the areas of study. However, the mentor texts are not necessarily the primary sources of student engagement with the idea. The key connection between the mentor texts and student learning is through reading and revisiting the mechanics of the writing, such as how the text is structured, what language features are evident, how these language features contribute to the effectiveness of the writing or how the vocabulary has been used. Students and teachers investigate how the text is successfully engaging an audience, effectively conveying ideas and / or communicating a message.
Consider breadth in the mentor texts selected for classrooms and the reading practices of your students. There are a number of websites that publish interesting and contemporary writing and offer new voices for students.
BBC Short Stories
Science Gallery Melbourne podcasts
Kill Your Darlings podcast channel
Southerly (Long Paddock)
Suggested criteria for selecting mentor texts
When selecting mentor texts for classrooms, teachers can consider which key writing elements they are seeking to illustrate and inspire in their students. Teachers could consider whether the selected texts offer students:
- experiences of rich language – vocabulary that might engage them or offer them new insights into the ideas being explored
- powerful or innovative text structures that might show a hybrid example of form, or a circular structure, or a structure that is clear and cohesive and irresistible for that reason
- arresting language features including figurative language that could offer ways for students to consider the evocation of emotion or a convincing connection
- clear, authentic voice(s) that elevates the writing and invites the reader / audience into a rapport with the writer
- opportunities to discuss or explore writing processes.
Not all texts can or should meet all the criteria but teachers should have a sense of what element(s) will be clearly illustrated through the reading and revisiting of the selected text(s).
For an example of a selected mentor text and selection criteria (from ‘Food’) see below (MFK Fisher, ‘How to Boil Water’ from
How to Cook a Wolf):
- rich language and vocabulary: use of food and language associated with food, interesting constructions (‘ … prima ballerina in second-rate cities …’)
- innovative text structure: combination of recipes (informative) and reflection
- interesting language features: use of food vocabulary and food metaphors to explore larger ideas about the human condition
- authentic voice: combines an essentially personal voice (reflection) with a more authoritative voice offering advice (informative)
- opportunities to discuss writing processes: Fisher revisits her essays in
How to Cook a Wolf and provides editorial comments after almost every line (in square brackets) providing a clear opportunity to explore her thinking about her writing.
Examples of ideas (Frameworks of Ideas) and mentor texts
The VCAA has produced a Framework of Ideas to support the study of Unit 3, Outcome 2 only. Schools and teachers must select for their classrooms, one of the ideas from the four ideas listed in the Framework of Ideas for study. They must also select three of the four texts aligned with their selected idea and listed for study in the annual
VCAA VCE English and English as an Additional Language (EAL) Text List.
For Unit 1, schools and teachers (potentially in consultation with their students) are free to select the idea and the texts they will use for Unit 1, Outcome 2 (Crafting texts).
Teachers and schools are reminded to select the ideas for these areas of study with close attention to the experiences and needs of their cohort.
The following ideas and mentor texts represent advice only. Teachers and schools are free to select any idea and any mentor texts for study (other than those listed for study for Unit 3).
Idea and mentor texts: example 1
The ways in which we produce, prepare and consume food speaks deeply about our cultural practice, our connections and relationships, and our histories. American author, MFK Fisher, who is known for her writing on and about food, once wrote: ‘Like most humans, I am hungry...our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it...’ In her words, food and our relationship with it, tells us much more than just what might be on the dining table.
The absence of food is also a consideration here, as is the transformation of food – highly processed foods for example, or meat grown in a laboratory.
Examples of mentor texts
Charlotte, ‘Life in the bush is great, but camels are destroying precious country’ (Heywire) (A)
Nicholas Jordan ‘A banquet fit for royalty’ (SBS) (A)
Elizabeth David, ‘Pleasing Cheeses’ from
An Omelette and a Glass of Wine (published 2014, Penguin)
Nigel Slater, ‘Birthday Cake’ from
Toast (published 2004, HarperCollins)
Michael Pollan, ‘Breaking Ground: the call of the wild apple’
MFK Fisher, ‘How to Boil Water’ from
How to Cook a Wolf (published 2020, Daunt Books Publishing)
Michael Pollan, ‘Apples’ from
The Botany of Desire (published 2002, Penguin Random House)
Elizabeth Alexander, ‘Butter’ (published 1996, Tia Chucher)
Idea and mentor texts: example 2
A concept that occupies the minds and hearts of students (and others), the idea of the future can engage students personally, politically, emotionally and culturally.
Future, the final piece of the human trinity of past, present, future, can be a site of optimism, of despair, of possibilities. Not fixed like the past, and not immediate like the present, the future can excite and terrify in equal proportions. Long a place for wild imaginations, the future is also a place for improvement, for renewal and for the end of times.
The simple ‘what next?’ can be an invitation to consider the future, as can questions like ‘what does the future hold?’ and ‘what can possibly come from this?’
Examples of mentor texts
Jennifer Mills, extract from
Kill Your Darlings(A)
Science Gallery podcast series, ‘Greener on the other side’ (A)
Tim Flannery, ‘After the Future’,
2012 Quarterly Essay (A)
Forest 404 (episode or extract)
Amanda Gorman, ‘The Hill We Climb’ (poem)
Idea and mentor texts: example 3
As an aspect of the human condition that continues to disrupt our homes, our communities, our countries and our world, conflict appears to be a challenge we must continue to face. But conflict, in some forms, can represent ways to resolve stasis and complacency, and can change how we see our world – often for the better.
In its most violent and prevalent form, conflict looks like war. War has been part of all human societies and can consume an entire ‘world’ – as we see with Alexander the Great’s campaigns more than two millennia ago, or the two world wars that engulfed Europe only last century – or it can overwhelm a small area as neighbours come to blows over trees and dogs.
But conflict takes many forms – from Gandhi’s passive resistance to Greta Thunberg’s weekly silent protest on the steps of the Swedish parliament, to the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on the lawns of the Australian parliament.
Examples of mentor texts
Bruce Pascoe, ‘Franks is dead’, from
Salt (2019, published by Black Inc) (A)
Lost and Found (ABC, Radio National) (A)
Julia Gillard, ‘Misogyny Speech’ (2012) (A)
William Shakespeare, ‘Once more into the Breach’, from
WG Sebald, extract from
On the Natural History of Destruction