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4 Questions to Ask Your Child While Reading a GCSE Set Text

23rd Feb 2017

Works of literature can be tackled from many angles, and there are rarely any fixed answers at which students are expected to arrive. Instead, examiners typically look for analytical skills, so studying literature at GCSE level can really be viewed as less to do with finding the right answers and more to do with asking the right questions.

With that in mind, here are four questions you should be asking your child, and yourself, while reading through a set text.

  1. What is the Aim of Each Character?

Characters from literature are almost always fictional, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look beyond what is written on the page. One of the best ways to get to the heart of each character and the role they play within the main story is by asking what their aims are and why they are attempting to fulfil them. You will generally find that character aims tend to conflict with those of other characters or with the world they inhabit, which can make for fruitful discussion.

  1. Why Has This Setting Been Chosen?

Settings aren’t chosen at random, though they are often overlooked. Ask why certain settings might have been chosen and how those settings tend to be described. Characters will often be mirrored by or find themselves in conflict with their surroundings. For example, a character may enjoy things staying strictly ordered and yet find themselves in an extremely messy setting.

  1. Which Symbols, Phrases, or Images Are Repeated?

One of the key techniques that literary writers use is repetition. Certain characters may repeat strongly held beliefs through memorable phrases, and you may notice that certain images or symbols are repeated. Ask yourself how those connections are created, why they matter within the story, and how they could be related around key themes.

  1. How Does the Language Make You Feel?

Finally, don’t forget to consider how the language a writer is using makes you feel. Some writers tend to use very emotive language. Other writers like to use very sparse, simple language. It’s often easier to grasp these differences when you read the text aloud, so try doing so as you work through the set text with your child.

For further help with revision there are wealth of GCSE English Literature resources that can be found online. Don’t forget to also go through past papers, as these provide an insight to the type of questions that will be asked.

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