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Thread: Q and A tonight 730 pm

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    Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Hi all,

    I have had a number of requests to postpone my Eng Adv session due to students currently completing their mid yearlies, so I will now be holding the Q and A on Wednesday, 23 March. Please keep the questions coming; if we don't get to them on Wednesday I will post as a separate attachment and answer subsequently.

    For those currently undertaking English Extension 2 or interested, I will, however, still be running the Extension 2 forum tonight.

    Start time: 7:30 pm
    Format: Q and A I will focus mainly on questions which I have received this week, and also those that come up perennially with my students. I will post these sequentially and numbered - if you wish to reply or further inquiry about one of the questions I post, please refer to it by number at the start of your post/response.






    Cheers,
    Dave

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Hello and welcome to all the HSC English Extension 2 students reading this tonight and in future.

    Tonight's thread will be a discussion of some of the main issues that have arisen for Extension 2 students under my tutelage, answers to questions submitted to me over the last week, and problems I faced during the process.

    I hope its helpful and informative. These things always take a bit of effort, so if you enjoyed it, please like or send me some feedback - I'll try to reply. And as always, happy to answer questions you might have through the year, so long as you are mindful of my busy teaching (and work, and social) schedule.

    Cheers, and good luck,
    Dave

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Q1. Who are you and why should I listen to you?

    My 'qualifications', so to speak, are 50/50 and nomination for showcase for Extension 2. As well as this I have tutored 11 students in Extension 2, all of whom have received an E4 result. This has included, predominantly, the Short Story and Critical Analysis mediums, alongside one Film and two Poetry responses. I have also informally contributed to works in other mediums.

    I have completed an LLB in Arts (philosophy)/Law at Sydney University. Suffice to say I have done my fair share of extended and Major Works

    But this thread isn't really about me. I hope to facilitate you, as I do my students, wherever possible to just do your best. The main thing is to find away to set aside unnecessary anxieties; if you are doing Extension 2, you (should) have the talent and passion to carry you through, but you need to understand the constraints of the unit. I find this is surprisingly uncommon - people make fundamental errors with their choice of medium, time management and SO often Reflection Statement. I will discuss this tonight.

    This is obviously not gospel. I merely draw on my experience and offer you advice. If you disagree, you are welcome to argue or simply disregard.
    After all, learning to think for yourself is a fundamental aspect of 4 unit English.
    Last edited by phaedrus900; 16 Mar 2016 at 9:28 PM.

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Q2. I am really struggling with my (Short Story/Critical Response etc.) medium. Is it too late to change? What's your advice

    Believe it or not virtually every student I have had has asked me this, and some much much later than where we are at. The simple answer is no its not too late to change.

    I myself changed from poetry to short story and, finally, to critical analysis about two months from where we are now. Further, as I will discuss later, the bulk of what actually constituted my MW was written in the T3 holidays - pretty late! If you are struggling (and this is a tip for a lot of things in life) don't just try to force your way with the same thinking through the problem (cf Einstein quote) - go back to the drawing board. The questions you need to answer about your medium are:

    1. Why have I chosen this medium?
    a) Am I talented in this form and style of writing?

    For me, a good short story can be the apotheosis of intellect and creativity - my best friend was a gun and his stories were amazing. The problem was, I just wasn't that good at creatives. I could read them, appreciate them, write some good sentences, but the fundamental creative intuition and underlying fundamentals weren't for me. Particularly compared to other brilliant people statewide [don't forget you are competing with the best of the best]. I had an analytical mind - EMBRACE YOUR PERSONAL SKILL.

    b) Does this form/style enhance my fundamental concept, idea and message?

    While I think any message can be contained by any form, clearly some are much more amenable than others. A philosophical treatise on the inconsistencies of Marxism in modern discourse can definitely be done well creatively, but its clearly more suited to an essay format. Conversely, your intuitive love for music and the way in which it bears out your deeper feelings for life and its role as a placeholder for your memories may be better held within a short story, or probably better still, poetry. Why try to fit a square peg in a round hole unless you have to (definitely more on this later)?

    2. Do I understand the traditional origins and conventions of this form?

    You might feel you're a gun poet, and perhaps you are. Your free form might be beautiful. But how much do you understand about poetry? Will your poetry have a significant literary context and a strong underpinning in the form?

    Time and again students forget this is 4 Unit English - its not just free rein to see who can come up with the best MW. You need to 'show your working'; you must evidence clear literary and academic research and merit, particularly regarding your form.

    And finally,

    3. Am I struggling because of my form or my ideas?

    If the problem is ideas, there's no problem. If you already have your ideas sorted at this stage, its unlikely they are nuanced/complex/interesting enough. Don't feel bad at all if there's still a lot of confusion. But if the form is restricting you, then you genuinely have problems to think about and the advice above should help you clarify the issue a little.


    ANSWER to the QUESTION: Change your form. Its far better to change than to stick with something that doesn't work. You may easily funnel all your great ideas in a new form into something brilliant, but if you're stuck with a form you don't properly understand/like or aren't proficient in, you won't do well in this unit. Your work will be contrived, you'll hate the process, and nothing genuinely good, creative and real will come out of it.
    Last edited by phaedrus900; 16 Mar 2016 at 9:45 PM.

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Q3. Am I behind? What stage should I be at/How many words should I have written?

    In your heart of hearts you know the answer to this question. You will have read about the 'creative process' a hundred times - the ostensible serendipity of authors, directors e.t.c coming up with the perfect solution, right when it seemed most out of grasp. Their stories going way over time, only to be rescued by some chance event.

    This actually happened to me. More on that in a sec. But basically there is [B]no stage whatsoever[B] you need to be at, especially now, which is actually [U]relatively early[U].

    This is almost certainly contrary to what teachers will urge you. This is for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because they can't afford to say to your parents later in the year, that they did nothing to help you with management. But the reality is you need to work to your own clock on this one.

    Having said that, saying there is no stage for your writing/recording to be up to is not the same as saying you don't need to worry about (working for) this subject till later in the year.The only way for creativity and brilliance (or indeed just great, clear, insightful analysis) to arise is through the sifting and sorting and drawing process that your brain undergoes through extensive research, reading and engagement with your genre, form, medium.

    It may look like some of the model answers are 'out there', bull*** e.t.c but generally they got to this creative leap by doing the hard yards first.

    For me, I did literally hundred + hours of solid, dense (and at times unintelligible) reading of French and Italian philosophers, Italian postmodern novels and literary critics. In the end, having written absolute garbage for 6 days x 6 hrs every day of the T3 holidays, I (finally) took a break and went to the gallery. This catalysed the use of artwork in my MW which, integrated with my talk poetry (look it up) style allowed my critical analysis to have some life and move beyond a dry and banal exposition. It was definitely the insight to cut through my writer's block. I wrote the bulk of my MW in 2 days. BUT none of this would have happened if I didn't do the work first.

    It's really just about who you are, how you work and how you [I]like[I] to work. Many students prefer to chip away in an organised way, and do very well. I had one student who finished their draft by now. It was very average, but she had the nuts and bolts and systematically edited, reworked, added in as she read through the year, and achieved an E4. Another laconic student I had, who was super passionate about JD Salinger, just read his (and other works in the genre) through the entire year, built a huge mental catalogue of his work, discussed his ideas at length with me and his family, and 1 month from the deadline wrote an absolutely brilliant draft which he barely edited to, again, receive a high band E4.

    Don't let anyone dictate to you where you should be at, and don't let undue anxiety build up over getting words on paper. Just back yourself, but DO THE WORK.
    Last edited by phaedrus900; 16 Mar 2016 at 9:30 PM.

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Q4. Are some mediums better than others? Do certain subjects and ideas do better?

    No mediums are better received than others - the showcase is, as you will see, generally a proportional and diverse collection. Likewise I have seen high and low marks across the spectrum.

    Likewise, at least from my experience, the markers are extremely tolerant with subjects chosen. While it is a cornerstone of my Eng Adv advice that you chose 'academic' texts, and write academically and with literary merit, English Extension 2 is a lot more tolerant of your personal predilections so long as they are well researched and explained (see below on Reflection Statement), and meet the criteria of the course.

    Doing something you have genuine passion and fire for is essential. Its by far my most strongest advice for doing well.

    However, I do think common sense would suggest that some topics may not be particularly amenable to a course set and marked by - let's face it - erudite, likely left wing (socially, particularly) people.

    If you'd like to write a piece on how the Stolen Generation or Holocaust never really happened - well firstly that's more a 'history' work than English anyway - you are definitely going to start well behind the eight ball. (Just for the record I obviously don't endorse these positions; they shouldn't really even be classed as political, but I am using hyperbolic examples - I think you get the point)

    Likewise something that's anti-feminist, potentially even anti-postmodern, critical of much loved authors' works (e.g. Shakespeare) are going to be harder to achieve (need a really incisive argument with detailed evidence), than more neutral or generally endorsed topics, such as post-colonial, post-modern pro-liberal values works.

    But ultimately most things can be done very well, with very good reception.

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Q5. How important is the logbook?

    It isn't. Please don't waste much time on it - it isn't marked. It simply records your workings, which are checked just, effectively, to ensure YOU did the work (i.e. mum and dad, or Dave the tutor didn't whip it up for you) and that you maintain some order e.t.c.

    I have seen the craziest stuff with logbook - people spending 10+ hours refining and editing while ignoring the RS which is worth 15 marks officially, and more like 30 in reality. Please please focus on the RS and forget the Logbook.

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Q6. What do you think distinguished the very top works from the rest?

    1. Quality of ideas/intuitions (Short stories: Intuitions with deep and broad implications, compelling characters. Critical: Brilliant, appropriately demarcated theses, complex sub theses/ideas that don't meander from thesis. Strong conclusions)
    2. Quality of expression (Short stories: adjectives, linguistic techniques seamlessly yet intriguingly integrated, great dialogue. Critical: Excellent, well used vocab, concise expression, clear and intelligible flow).
    3. Quality of research (Short Stories: Research that traverses genre, history (time period in which story set, for example), social context, character development, the short story form itself, other authors - their methods and influences. Critical Essays - Deep research into the philosophical/literary/paradigmatic context of the ideas expressed. Great research into philosophers that are contemporary/relevant to this paradigm. E.g. if you are looking at power relations you start with Foucault, but also show understanding of Derrida, Sartre as well as subsequently influenced authors, critics e.t.c.
    4. REFLECTION STATEMENT - I want to do this separately, it's so important.
    Last edited by phaedrus900; 16 Mar 2016 at 9:34 PM.

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Q7. (The question no student explicitly asks, but should) My students, tutor, friends, teacher don't understand my work, what do I do?

    While I said above that you have to back yourself, and this is true at a fundamental level, you also must remember that English and particularly the artificial exercise of an examined work, is about communication. If no-one understands your work, it won't do well no matter how brilliant. If a tree falls in the woods and noone is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Maybe. Maybe your work will one day be recognised for its brilliance, but it sure won't be getting an E4.

    Tbh though, if those you've relied on for feedback give it respect and read it properly and still don't relate, it almost certainly has some problems. Make sure you get good feedback, try to fix the common problem areas, and then, if you are still struggling, take a break. Come back to it with fresh eyes in a day or a week, try to read it as though you are reading for the first time with a critical eye, and ask whether it makes sense. Do you need to be in YOUR mind to get it?

    At the end of the day, you always have one more tool at your disposal - the reflection statement. Here you can clarify the intentions, resources and academic foundations of the brilliant insights that might not be so accessible to the average reader at first glance.
    I will now discuss this in Q 8.
    Last edited by phaedrus900; 16 Mar 2016 at 9:35 PM.

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Q8. Why do you make such a big deal of the Reflection Statement? Isn't it straight forward

    Generally, 'reflections' are soft, easy marks where you get to substitute your thoughts and feelings for analysis and relax a little. This is not the case for Ext 2.

    The Reflection Statement is your one and only chance to directly pitch the motivations behind your work to the marker. You get to explain how you got there, what you are trying to do, all the great research you did, all the literary merit your work has, all the brilliant and nuanced intertextuality (lol) you use, and why your MW satisfies all the criteria for an E4.

    I often tell my students the cautionary tale of a genius and good friend of mine who did ext 2 with me. He was clearly the smartest guy in the room, a great independent thinker, and genuinely creative. I didn't ask him much about his MW through the year, always confident he'd do something brilliant (also he was fairly a private guy).

    I first read his MW after he'd handed it in. It was a highly eccentric, confusing, intricate Short Story sort of on a 'Being John Malkovich' wavelength. While I didn't really get it at all (and obviously therefore found it painful to read), I looked to the Reflection Statement for it to make sense. Instead of a clear, well explained simple analysis of his MW, my friend had used an even stranger form - a dialogue between his two central protagonists, ostensibly explaining, and deepening the work.

    His MW got 22/50. At the time he was obviously very upset. Now he speaks three languages and tutors philosophy, linguistics and Japanese in Japan (HSC isn't everything). But here was the worst thing-

    Another friend of mine (A) and I reread it a few months later. It seemed to make a little more sense, and had some cool stuff under the surface. (A) asked my friend the author to explain it to him, which he did. A and I discussed it and read it again. The next time we read it, with that explanation, it was really good, really interesting, extremely original and just cool. Then we read it again and loved it.

    The point is, as expected, our brilliant friend produced a brilliant story. I can't guarantee it would've done well at HSC or got an E4. But had he explained it clearly (remember markers will have likely marked many other works that day, they have a short time for yours, and they have families and other things going on) I can guarantee it wouldn't have got 22/50.

    Please put a lot of effort into your RS. Clarity is absolutely everything. Don't try to be clever/original/cool in your RS, just clearly explain all the research, academic and literary content your work has and how it satisfies the criteria. Then let the brilliance of your MW do the talking.

    For anyone later in the year who wants more advice or help specifically with the RS component, you are welcome to PM or email me (dblo7401@uni.sydney.edu.au), or talk to your teacher. But don't underestimate the power of a quality RS.
    Last edited by phaedrus900; 16 Mar 2016 at 9:37 PM.

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Q9. How much time to dedicate to Eng Ext 2, compared to other subjects?

    Like other questions of this nature, it's a lot like asking 'how long is a piece of string'? Generally, HSC rewards consistency, but equally - for me at least - juggling your subjects depending on which was the most pressing assessment wise was a good way to go.

    As above, it depends on how you write, your anxiety levels, what your aims are, how hard your other subjects are (how many extra marks will the effort yield in Ext 2 as opposed to say Maths).

    I am a lowish energy person and I played sport and did 14 units for HSC, so I find it a little hard not to be dubious when people claim they can't put in the necessary effort for Eng Ext 2 with only 9 other units. But ultimately, everyone is different. I tend to think that if you are going to do well in Extension 2 English you need to be passionate enough (this isn't to say you enjoy the whole experience) to carry your work through to completion. As long as you don't get obsessed by it to the detriment of your other subjects, it should work out.

    I think generally, keep it ticking along, even if its just on the back burner, as your mind has a strange way of working things through while your focus is elsewhere.

    Ultimately, I think it works out roughly the same as 1.5 units of work (about 75 per cent of work of say 2UEng or 2U maths), which is par for Extension subjects, and for which you get the scaling reward (if you do well).

    On scaling, briefly, Eng Ext 2 scales v well (not as well as Maths Ext 2), but you must do well. Not insanely well (e.g. 49+) but certainly, if you're aiming for a 95+ UAI, you should be aiming for E4 for Ext 2. This is a really achievable goal. Again, if you are unsure, you are welcome to contact me.

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Q10. Final Advice on Extension 2?

    I would distil my advice to:

    1. Maintain the passion: If you get bored by your topic (which is not the same as being frustrated/tired by it/anxious) you aren't likely to sustain a very compelling MW, are you? Find a way to keep your insight into your area going, keep interested and passionate - after all, out of the myriad choices you had you've come to this, surely there's something there, right?

    2. Work HARD, and somewhat consistently: When you work, work hard. This goes for all HSC. Don't do an 8 hour ext 2 research session in the library comprised of 10 minute bursts of 'study' followed by 1 hr on FB, talking to mates, grab a quick coffee, contemplate how much better life will be when HSC over, back on FB. Do 2 hrs of genuine study and then do what you want without feeling guilty. Research deeply, and go a bit further than you feel is comfortable, push your intellectual limits. Thats what the course is about.

    Keep it consistent, but as per Q9, this doesn't need to be doggedly consistent and rigid. Do other subjects when you have major exams, and just read your MW/research 10 mins before bed, or have a chat about it with your parents. As long as you keep your mind ticking over, you're doing fine.

    3. If you are contemplating taking a risk with the content/style/form of your work, definitely do it.

    I haven't discussed this earlier, and if there's something specific you want to discuss feel free to email me. But, in general, the HSC - and Extension 2 certainly - rewards [U]well articulated[U] risks. Go for it; if you've worked hard, the chances are you are drawing on some insight, and it'll help you produce something with 'flair' (HSC E4 criterion). Something cool and original. There's no need to hold back with risks AS LONG AS --->

    4. Write a good Reflection Statement

    I've already talked about this above at length, so not going to repeat, only to say, this is absolutely critical. Don't skimp on time for this, give yourself a full couple of days, get multiple people to read it through, and make sure its clear.

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Okay guys,

    Thanks again to all those who participated in sending me your questions through the week. I hope this has been helpful. As I have said throughout, if you have any further questions building on these, please post in the thread, referencing the question by number where relevant. If its something of a more personal/private nature, or you just want advice or tutoring, PM me, you can text me on 0405836941 (mainly for tutoring enquiries) or email on dblo7401@uni.sydney.edu.au.

    While obviously tutoring comprises some of my living, I also do it because I genuinely enjoy the personal side, so please feel free to get in touch. I definitely hope this eases a few common anxieties. It's not that hard to succeed in Ext 2, as long as you're on the right track with your mindset, expectations and you understand the course.

    I will be running an English Advanced session next week, as posted in the Eng Adv forum. Feel free to send questions through for that, and tune in at the same time or read afterwards.

    Cheers and take care,
    Dave

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Just wanted to say thanks for doing this.
    Nailgun and phaedrus900 like this.
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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Fantastic Q&A! Thank you Dave
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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Thanks Dave! This cleared up a lot of things for me.
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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Thank you Dave.
    This really cleared some stuff up for me as well.
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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Hi guys,

    Sorry for the delay in putting the Advanced session through - I had an influx of student needs, and obviously current students come first. This break did, however, give me the idea to rethink the structure a bit. I have decided to do more of a slow-release Q and A to give students more time to private message with anxieties, queries and concerns. In turn I may amend, augment my answers. So I will now answer 1 questions per day, continuing on a necessity basis.

    As always if you wish to get in touch with me, either for private (individual or group) sessions, or simply to engage with the SR QandA process, you can pm me. Tutoring enquiries are better sent to dblo7401@uni.sydney.edu.au or my mob 0405836941.

    Please don't feel shy! I have really enjoyed connecting with students of all levels this year. HSC is a difficult time and it helps to have people to guide you.

    Thanks,
    Dave

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    Re: Q and A tonight 730 pm

    Hi all

    - The Advanced Q and A forum is now underway - for all those who can't find it, here's the link

    English Advanced QandA slow release

    Dave

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