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hE Close Reading - Understanding

How to develop the skills for answering the understanding questions in the close reading paper in Higher English exam.
by

Deborah Kennedy

on 8 May 2013

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Transcript of hE Close Reading - Understanding

Higher English Close Reading - Understanding Close Reading Understanding Close Reading Understanding You have to show that you can work out the meaning of unfamiliar words by using the surrounding text. Context
Questions Link
Questions Summary
Questions Understanding questions direct you to parts of the passage for you to extract information and then explain it in your own words. Do not quote
Sometimes it is hard to put an idea into your own words
You may use single words from the original – but don't repeat phrases, and never repeat imagery
Marking instructions often say that 'blatant lifts' must get no marks Always change slang into formal English and explain any figures of speech used in the passage. Use bullet points to help focus your answers Pay close attention to the marks available
Detail answers as required Take care not to just substitute words as you will lose the meaning •Identify •Summarise •What was •What evidence •Why according to the writer •Explain briefly •Briefly state •Explain in your own words •How does the writer go on to explain •How does the writer demonstrate How does the context help you to understand the meaning of How understanding questions have been worded in past exams There are three steps to answering a Context Question:

State the meaning of a word form the text;

Demonstrate how you worked the meaning out by using a quote from the text (give 2 quotes if possible);

Explaining how the quote helped you work out the meaning of the word. Reading the appropriate lines (skim reading) Precisely identifying the information needed for the answer The context will always help because it will give examples of things which suggest the meaning of the word Always state the definition first before showing how the context helped you. Requires you to explain how a sentence or paragraph performs a linking function in the text The purpose here is to show you know the writer has reached a turning point in his discussion, and to show that you can summarise concisely the writer’s point preceding (before) and subsequent to (after) a linking sentence or paragraph; Must quote Must explain link Must explain quote Must identify any linking words/ phrases and explain the function Often the sentence will be the opening topic sentence of a new paragraph Usually, divide the sentence into two (often, a punctuation device or conjunction will indicate where). The first part relates to what has already been said, the second part to what will follow. Each part will contain a key word or phrase, which clearly relates to the respective points Can take several forms :
Briefly summarise the main points...
Summarise the main reasons...
Identify five benefits...
What, in your opinion, are the key reasons...
Outline briefly the main effects... You must use the marks as a guide.
5 marks = 5 points. This type of understanding question involves identifying AND explaining ideas and points being made by writers. This sort of question at times asks pupils to provide a specific number of points, although this may not always be the case. Again, using your own words is imperative! Task : Read the question and the marking scheme thoroughly. Then read the following answers provided by pupils and use the marking scheme to award a mark out of five. SQA Key Strengths The SQA has identified the following as key strategies in answering questions on Understanding: You must show that you understand key words and/or ideas in the section of the passage being questioned. You must answer “In your own words as far as reasonably possible”, which means basically that you cannot simply quote sections of the passage – you must demonstrate “understanding”. Individual questions do not contain the “own words” instruction, but there is a clear statement about it on the front of the Question booklet, and a reminder at the top of each set of questions. The “as far as is reasonably possible” is important: you dont need to find replacements for every single word (in the 2010 paper, for example, the word “city” didnt have to be changed to “metropolis”); use your common sense. The number of marks available is always a good guide to the number of main points you need to make. Answers to Understanding questions should typically be quite brief – you either understand or you dont. Bullet points are recommended. Past Paper Questions Explaining Writer's Point of View This type of Understanding questions usually directs you to sections of the passage and are then asked to explain the line of thought or the direction of the writers argument over the selected segment of the passage.

As always, using you own words is an absolute must! Remember that the first level of understanding should start with the headline of the provided passages.

Arguments and lines of thought contained within close reading passages often explain or elaborate on the headline statement. For example, 2001s “The Greatest Victim”, explores the contrasting fortunes of Muhammad Ali, with especial focus on his exploitation by unscrupulous individuals, hence Ali being termed a “victim”. Similarly, 2003s “Can Britain Afford to Keep Talented Immigrants Out?” focuses on the hysteria and controversy that surrounds immigration, particularly highlighting the value of immigrants to Britain. 2007s “Despite Google, We Still Need Good Libraries” is rather straightforward, and lucidly outlines the benefits and joys of traditional libraries. Close Reading Headings from Past Papers Try to therefore understand these headlines.

Also try to understand these headlines within the context of the passage, which usually outlines a particular angle to the writers argument or line of thought.

Punctuation of headlines, such as question and exclamation marks should also give you an idea of whether to expect a debate, definitive statement etc. Past Paper Questions Extract from Higher English Close Reading (2008):

Obviously, then we must look at more recent times if we are to discover identifiable traditional elements in the landscape we now see about us. Yet if we do that, further difficulties emerge. The retreat of the last glaciations almost 11,000 years ago was accompanied by a relatively rapid warming of the climate, which gradually converted the open Arctic tundra into dense forest. This presented a serious challenge to Stone Age man, who began to find that the grazing animals, which he hunted for food, were disappearing as their habitat retreated before the encroaching trees.

Question: Explain in your own words what the “challenge” was. Refer to the lines above in your answer. (2 Marks) The question asks you to explain the “challenge” faced by Stone Age man.

In this case, “challenge” is a relatively simple word to understand, and you would be expected to explain the test or difficulty confronting Stone Age man. The marking scheme identifies three points, any two of which provides you with full marks:

hunting became more difficult...

...as the grazing animals started to die out/became difficult to find

...because of increased afforestation Note how you should once again keep in mind the “using your own words” mantra:

“grazing animals, which he hunted for food, were disappearing” becomes “grazing animals started to die out/became difficult to find”;

whilst “..as their habitat retreated before the encroaching trees” becomes “because of increased afforestation.” Your Turn Here is the next section of the extract:

In order to survive, he was forced to turn increasingly from hunting to farming, with the dramatic effects on flora and fauna that remain familiar to us today. As the quality of prehistoric tools improved, some stretches of forest were felled to provide grazing for domesticated animals, while grasses and cereals were deliberately encouraged because of their usefulness to man. Even the shape of the countryside was changed as mining began to cut into hillsides, and in some places soil deterioration set in as the growing populations demanded perhaps the earliest form of intensive farming. In other words, the chief influence on the landscape of these islands was not nature but mankind. Question: Explain in your own words how Stone Age man responded to the challenge. Refer to the lines above in your answer. (2 Marks) The sections in red within the extract highlight the ways by which Stone Age man responded to the challenge. Select any two, for a mark each. Remember to explain them in your own words. Explaining the Development of Ideas In these types of Understanding questions, you will be asked to explain how the writer develops or expands an idea. The idea is usually contained within the topic sentence of a paragraph, and the rest of the paragraph will then be devoted to expanding on or developing said idea. Look at the following extract:

Chaos and violence ruled the streets of several Egyptian cities over the last week. Irate civilians fought running battles with riot police, whilst prominent government buildings, including the Interior Ministry were ransacked and set on fire. Eventually, with no police presence to deal with the consequences of the riots, spates of looting and vandalism broke out. Civilians in several areas were therefore forced into forming vigilante groups, dedicated to protecting their homes and property.

Question: How is the idea of “chaos and violence” developed in the rest of the extract? (3 Marks) Past Paper Questions At Higher English level, you will be expected to know what “chaos” and “violence” mean. The good news is that even if you do not fully know what these words mean, the extract should give you a pretty good indication as to the definition of the words Let us however break ourselves in gently with a definition of the words:

Chaos: situation in which everything is happening in a confused way and nothing is organised or arranged in order.

Violence: behaviour that is intended to hurt people physically. Now try and explain how these ideas of “chaos of violence” are expanded in the extract. The question is worth three marks, so three separate points should suffice. Using your own words is again imperative! Now try this question from the 2006 Higher English Paper:

“Evolution is mostly to blame.”
How does the writer go on to explain this statement? You should refer to the extract below and use your own words as far as possible. Extract:

Evolution is mostly to blame. It has designed mankind to cope with deprivation, not plenty. People are perfectly tuned to store energy in good years to see them through lean ones. But when bad times never come, they are stuck with that energy, stored around their expanding bellies. The Answer Explain in your own words how Stone Age man responded to the challenge. Refer to lines 61-69 in your answer. ( 2U)

There must be some attempt to use own words. Blatant lifts: 0.

Any of the following for 1 mark each:

1 Stone Age man relied more on farming than on hunting
2 he improved the efficiency of his farming tools
3 he created space for grasslands for animals and/or crops
4 crops were increasingly grown to serve man’s needs The Answer "Evolution is mostly to blame." (line 8) How does the writer go on to explain this statement? You should refer to lines 8-15 and use your own words as far as possible.

There must be some attempt to use own words. Blatant lifts: 0.

Any two of the following for 1 mark each:
1. acceptable gloss on "has designed mankind"
2. humans have the ability to survive shortages by storing reserves
3. in a period of continuous prosperity people become increasingly bigger How to Answer Understanding Questions Your Turn Try this question from the 2009 Higher English Paper: Summarise the benefits of technology as described in the following lines. (3 Marks) Never mind that the universal presence of adequate heating has almost eliminated those perennial scourges of the poor – bronchitis and pneumonia – which once took the very young and the very old in huge numbers every winter. Never mind that the generous use of hot water and detergent, particularly when combined in a washing machine for the laundering of bed linen and clothing, has virtually eliminated the infestations of body lice and fleas (which once carried plague) that used to be a commonplace feature of poverty. Never mind that the private car, the Green Public Enemy Number One, has given ordinary families freedom and flexibility that would have been inconceivable in previous generations. Note that the question is worth three marks. Also note that the extract has three sentences. A close examination of the extract reveals that each sentence highlights one benefit of technology. All you have to therefore do is explain each of these benefits, using your own words. Go for it! SQA Key Strategies Show that you understand the main point that has been made before the link sentence Pick out key words in the link sentence which refer to that idea Show that you understand the main point that is being made after the link sentence Pick out the key words in the link sentence which refer to that idea To achieve the first and the third points mentioned above you must show your understanding in your own words. Your statement must be specific to this link sentence and to these paragraphs. A vague statement that could apply to any link sentence will score no marks.
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