Sunday, 22 September 2019

Resource for analysis

Three times a year we test students on their knowledge of literary terms. To do this, we use a range of tasks, including matching definitions and labelling a text. Here are just some of the extracts we have used. Students have to match the term to the number in the text. 

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog[1] down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping[2] into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient[3]  Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly[4] pinching the toes[5] and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping[6] over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon[7], and hanging in the misty clouds.

Gas looming through the fog in divers places in the streets, much as the sun may, from the spongey fields, be seen to loom by husbandman and ploughboy. Most of the shops lighted two hours before their time — as the gas seems to know, for it has a haggard and unwilling [8]look.

The raw afternoon is rawest, and the dense fog is densest, and the muddy streets are muddiest[9]  near that leaden-headed old obstruction, appropriate ornament for the threshold of a leaden-headed old corporation, Temple Bar. And hard by Temple Bar, in Lincoln’s Inn Hall, at the very heart[10] of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.

Extract from Charles Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’.

Terms: Personification, Personification, Adverb, Metaphor, Repetition, Adjectives, Simile, Superlatives, Pair of Adjectives, Verb,  

A big greyish rounded bulk[1], the size, perhaps, of a bear, was rising slowly and painfully[2] out of the cylinder. As it bulged up and caught the light, it glistened like wet leather[3].

Two large dark-coloured eyes were regarding me steadfastly. The mass that framed them, the head of the thing, was rounded, and had, one might say, a face[4]. There was a mouth under the eyes, the lipless brim of which quivered and panted[5], and dropped saliva. The whole creature heaved and pulsated convulsively. A lank tentacular appendage gripped the edge of the cylinder, another swayed in the air.

Those who have never seen a living Martian can scarcely imagine the strange horror of its appearance. The peculiar V-shaped mouth with its pointed upper lip, the absence of brow ridges, the absence of a chin beneath the wedgelike lower lip, the incessant quivering of this mouth, the Gorgon groups of tentacles, the tumultuous breathing of the lungs in a strange atmosphere, the evident heaviness and painfulness of movement due to the greater gravitational[6] energy of the earth--above all, the extraordinary intensity of the immense eyes--were at once vital, intense, inhuman, crippled and monstrous[7]. There was something fungoid in the oily brown skin, something[8] in the clumsy deliberation of the tedious movements unspeakably nasty. Even at this first encounter, this first glimpse, I was overcome with disgust and dread.

Suddenly the monster vanished[9]. It had toppled over the brim of the cylinder and fallen into the pit, with a thud like the fall of a great mass of leather[10]. I heard it give a peculiar thick cry, and forthwith another of these creatures appeared darkly in the deep shadow of the aperture.

Extract from ‘War of the Worlds’ by H.G. Wells 

Terms: Pair of Adverbs, Simile, Simile, Repetition, Noun Phrase, List, Pair of Verbs, Common Noun, Alliteration, Verb 

He was a rich man: banker, merchant, manufacturer [1], and what not. A big, loud man, with a stare, and a metallic[2] laugh. A man[5] made out of a coarse material, which seemed to have been stretched[3] to make so much of him. A man[5] with a great puffed head and forehead[4], swelled veins in his temples, and such a strained skin to his face that it seemed to hold his eyes open, and lift his eyebrows up. A man[5] with a pervading appearance on him of being inflated like a balloon [6], and ready to start. A man who could never sufficiently vaunt himself a self-made man. A man who was always proclaiming, through that brassy speaking-trumpet of a voice[7] of his, his old ignorance and his old poverty. A man who was the Bully of humility[8]. A year or two younger than his eminently practical friend, Mr Bounderby looked older[9]; his seven or eight and forty might have had the seven or eight added to it again, without surprising anybody. He had not much hair. One might have fancied he had talked it off[10]; and that what was left, all standing up in disorder, was in that condition from being constantly blown about by his windy boastfulness.

Extract from ‘Hard Times’ by Charles Dickens

Terms: repetition, simile, list, exaggeration, adjective, exaggeration, verb, metaphor, comparative adjective, sound effects,  

She was dressed in rich[1] materials -- satins, and lace, and silks[2] -- all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white.[3] Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling[4] on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks, were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing for she had but[5] one shoe on -- the other was on the table near her hand -- her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a prayer-book, all confusedly[6] heaped about the looking-glass.

It was not in the first few moments that I saw all these things, though I saw more of them in the first moments than might be supposed. But, I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow[7]. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes[8]. I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded[9] figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung[10] loose, had shrunk to skin and bone.

Extract from ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens

Terms: adjective, adjective, adverb, conjunction, list, lighting effect, noun phrase, pair of adjectives, repetition, verb

In an old house, dismal dark and dusty[1], which seemed to have withered, like himself, and to have grown yellow and shrivelled in hoarding him from the light of day, as he had, in hoarding his money, lived Arthur Grid. Meagre old chairs and tables, of spare and bony make, and hard and cold as misers' hearts[2], were ranged in grim array against the gloomy walls; attenuated presses, grown lank and lantern awed in guarding the treasures [3] they enclosed, and tottering, as though from constant fear and dread of thieves [4], shrunk up in dark corners, whence they cast no shadows on the ground, and seemed to hide and cower from observation[5]. A tall grim clock upon the stairs, with long lean[6] hands and famished face[7], ticked in cautious whispers; and when it struck the time, in thin and piping sounds like an old man's voice[8], it rattled, as if it were pinched with hunger.

No fireside couch was there, to invite repose and comfort. Elbow-chairs there were, but they looked uneasy in their minds, cocked their arms suspiciously and timidly[9], and kept on their guard. Others, were fantastically grim and gaunt, as having drawn themselves up to their utmost height, and put on their fiercest looks to stare all comers out of countenance. Others, again, knocked up against their neighbours, or leaned for support against the wall — somewhat ostentatiously, as if to call all men to witness that they were not worth the taking. The dark square lumbering bedsteads seemed built for restless dreams. The musty hangings seemed to creep in scanty folds together, whispering among themselves, when rustled by the wind[10], their trembling knowledge of the tempting wares that lurked within the dark and tight-locked closets.

Extract from Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby.

Terms: personification, simile, sounds, pair of adjectives, personification, alliteration, simile, personification, alliteration, adverb  

 A slag-heap is at best a hideous[1] thing, because it is so planless and
. It is something just dumped on the earth, like the emptying
of a giant's dust-bin[3]
. On the outskirts of the mining towns there are
frightful[4] landscapes where your horizon is ringed completely round by
jagged grey mountains[5], and underfoot is mud and ashes and over-head the
steel cables where tubs of dirt travel slowly across miles of country.
Often the slag-heaps are on fire, and at night you can see the red rivulets[6]
of fire winding this way and that, and also the slow-moving blue flames of
sulphur, which always seem on the point of expiring and always spring out
again. Even when a slag-heap sinks, as it does ultimately, only an evil
brown grass grows[7] on it, and it retains its hummocky surface. One in the
slums of Wigan, used as a playground, looks like a choppy sea suddenly
'the flock mattress', it is called locally. Even centuries hence
when the plough drives over the places where coal was once mined, the sites
of ancient[9] slag-heaps will still be distinguishable from an aeroplane[10].

Extract from ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ by George Orwell 

Terms: adjective, adjective, alliteration, alliteration, noun, noun phrase,  pair of adjectives, simile, simile

It was market-morning. The ground was covered, nearly ankle-deep, with filth and mire; a thick[1] steam, perpetually rising[2] from the reeking[2] bodies of the cattle, and mingling with the fog[3], which seemed to rest upon the chimney-tops, hung heavily above. All the pens in the centre of the large area, and as many temporary pens as could be crowded into the vacant space, were filled with sheep; tied up to posts by the gutter side were long lines of beasts and oxen, three or four deep. Countrymen, butchers, drovers, hawkers, boys, thieves, idlers, and vagabonds of every low grade[4], were mingled together in a mass; the whistling of drovers, the barking[5] dogs, the bellowing[5] and plunging[5] of the oxen, the bleating[5] of sheep, the grunting[5] and squeaking[5] of pigs, the cries of hawkers, the shouts, oaths, and quarrelling on all sides; the ringing of bells and roar of voices, that issued from every public-house; the crowding, pushing, driving, beating, whooping[6] and yelling; the hideous and discordant[7] dim that resounded from every corner of the market; and the unwashed, unshaven, squalid, and dirty[8] figures constantly running to and fro, and bursting in and out of the throng; rendered it a stunning and bewildering [9] scene, which quite confounded[10] the senses.

Extract from ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens

Terms: adjective, list, list of verbs, list of adjectives, pair of adjectives, pair of adjectives, personification , verb, verbs, verbs relating to sounds 

The room in which the boys were fed, was a large[1] stone hall, with a copper at one end: out of which the master, dressed in an apron for the purpose, and assisted by one or two women, ladled the gruel at mealtimes. Of this festive composition each boy had one porringer, and no more—except on occasions of great public rejoicing, when he had two ounces and a quarter of bread besides.

The bowls never wanted washing[2]. The boys polished[3] them with their spoons till they shone again; and when they had performed this operation (which never took very long, the spoons being nearly as large as the bowls[4]), they would sit staring at the copper, with such eager eyes, as if they could have devoured the very bricks of which it was composed[5]; employing themselves, meanwhile, in sucking their fingers most assiduously, with the view of catching up any stray splashes[6]of gruel that might have been cast thereon. Boys have generally excellent appetites. Oliver Twist and his companions suffered the tortures of slow starvation[7] for three months: at last they got so voracious and wild with hunger, that one boy, who was tall for his age, and hadn't been used to that sort of thing (for his father had kept a small cook-shop), hinted darkly[8] to his companions, that unless he had another basin of gruel per diem, he was afraid he might some night happen to eat the boy who slept next him, who happened to be a weakly[9] youth of tender age. He had a wild, hungry[10] eye; and they implicitly believed him. A council was held; lots were cast who should walk up to the master after supper that evening, and ask for more; and it fell to Oliver Twist.

Extract from ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens

Terms: adjective, adjective, adverb, alliteration, alliteration, alliteration, exaggeration, pair of adjectives, simile, verb,

Putting phrases on to stun!

Currently, I am teaching gothic horror with my Year 8 before we look at ‘Great Expectations’. We are doing the usual stuff and working towards writing a piece of creative writing.  Over the summer, I finally managed to get around to reading one of the Descriptosaurus books. It is book mostly aimed at primary schools, but I do think it has some use in secondary schools. The book offers example phrases and words to use in a context, when writing. This got me thinking and experimenting with my Year 8 class. 

Often, when preparing students we get them to look at good sentence and vocabulary, but what I like about the Descriptosaurus book was that it was about specific choices at specifics moments in a story. For example, it would list all the verbs a student could use when describing a character’s feelings when seeing a ghost. Students could decide the best word, in their opinion, for their piece of work. The book also contains phrases and sentences too.

No disrespected to the books and the author, but the level of sophisticated needed at GCSE surpasses the suggestions in the book. The suggestions provide a strong base, but we need more nuanced and original choices and combination. That’s why I have adapted the book’s approach to my teaching of gothic horror. I have told students that they can have one A3 sheet of notes to help them when they are writing their story. After we have read each of texts, students find words and phrases and add them to their sheet. The key thing here is phrases.

We spend a long time on vocabulary and sentence construction, but do we spend enough time on phrases? We chuck words at students until they are bloated and their writing is suitably bloated. A phrase is easier to knit in to a sentence, than a cumbersome word. In fact, I’d argue that sophisticated readers aren’t necessary good at words, but better at recalling phrases and the syntax surrounding a word. We largely refer to students having a clear voice in their writing, but in reality it could be that they have a vast knowledge of phrases in their heads. They pick them off the shelf and use in their writing.

Take a phrase a student picked up from a text we were reading:  

supress a shudder

If we were teaching things, we’d focus on ‘supress’ but here it is the combination of words. Once you get what supress means, then you can play with the sentence.

                                                                                supress a smile
                                                                                supress a smirk
                                                                                supress a scream
                                                                                supress a yawn

Then, you can develop the rest of the sentence. 

I tried to supress a scream as the shadow fell across the window.  

Supressing a scream, I watched helplessly as the figure inched closer.

I have been largely influenced by ‘The Writing Revolution’ and this focus on phrases links to their approaches to writing, looking at getting students to create sentences from a collection of phrases. Instead of the teacher finding the phrases, I am getting students to find and knit the phrases together. In fact, I’d say that I am mimicking what I suppose good readers do: store phrases and combinations of phrases. This time it is on paper, rather than in their heads.

Recently, I have been looking at Tier 2 vocabulary and the KS2 papers. In my exploration of the texts and the reading quality of the texts, I noticed how actually it wasn’t always vocabulary that confused students, but the combination of words or phrases that insecure readers struggle with. Take the phrase ‘blood boils’. We know it means to be angry, but is it obvious to somebody with inexperience to language. The student could know the meaning of both words, but it is the combination her that creates the meaning. Yes, a student could use their imagination to jump to the idea of being angry, but is that the first inference they’d make. I’d say they’d probably come up with a large variety of options before they get to anger. Our overfamiliarity with phrase means we don’t have to think.

Looking at texts through the microscope of ‘phrases’ has made for securer bits of analysis too. We often tell students to talk about words and techniques, which they zoom in on like hawks. We rarely look at phrases. When you move to looking at the phrases across an extract, you stand a better chance of understanding the whole text and picking up on effect and structure. You see an emphasis on emotions, rather than actions. Or you see emphasis on character, rather than setting. You see patterns. You see the craft better. Thing are clearer.

I think we don’t put enough store on phrases. We jump to questions about words and meaning, but we leave phrases out. We’ve been looking at gothic fiction and looking at the following phrases:

Phrases to describe the character

Phrases to describe the character’s thoughts and feelings

Phrases to describe the setting

Phrases to describe action

Phrases to suggest something bad is going to happen

Phrases to create mystery

And, this has led to exploration of words, but it has helped students make the leap into analysis. It is far easier to spot a phrase and a specific technique. Plus, you say much more about there being lots of phrases to do with setting than you can about there being seven examples of personification.

The GCSE unseen extracts stump students with language analysis, because there’s too much store on words and techniques. A lot of the language features in the texts relate to phrases. Take the following phrases from a past paper.

‘ran like gazelles’

‘imagination soared’

‘pounced like tigers’

The phrases are more interesting than the techniques employed. Pick the phrase and then the analysis follows. Maybe, we need to be looking at GCSE texts and spotting the phrases rather than the words and techniques. Phrases route the meaning to the rest of the text. Pick the word ‘tiger’ and you miss the fact that it ‘pounced’. Pick the word ‘run’ and you miss the fact that it is ‘gazelle’ running and not Mr Fisher. Pick the verb ‘soared’ and you miss out that… you get the idea. When looked at as phrases, you see imagery to do with animals and movement.

I think we need to readjust how we look at things and not to forget the humble phrase. We should be exploring the phrases that are set to stun.  

Thanks for reading,

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Google me a lesson!

We live in the age of Google. A time when we can access any knowledge we want, supposedly. We often hear that students need 21st century skills as new technology has made the old ones defunct. The problem is, and most adults know this, that whilst the internet is good for finding small bits of knowledge, like what is the most popular name for a kitten, but it is pretty much useless when finding information about large ideas or nuanced thinking. 

Ask any normal teacher and they’ll tell you that they’ve had an eleventh hour search for a lesson or resource and found nothing. You may hit the odd gold seam, but rarely do you find anything of merit. In fact, you often find a PowerPoint with forty billion slides and each one contains lurid colours and the clip art circa 1990. The Internet has a glut of information and it takes time, not 21st century skills, to find the right information. In fact, it often takes hours.

When you have a few hours a week (or in some cases one hour) to get information and knowledge into the heads of students. An hour ‘researching’ in an ICT lab is dead time. You end up getting students to find the first thing they find and copy and paste that on to a Word document. The academic flavour of your studious exploration of academia becomes a sophisticated exploration of fonts. The colour and the size of the font matters more than the quality of ideas. 

As a teacher, my job is about explaining complex ideas. Whatever text I am teaching will have some level of complexity and I am the puppet master who helps convey that complex information to students. I think the Internet gives teachers, parents and students false confidence. It presents the idea that every crumb is accessible, easy and digestible, yet it largely isn’t. Since the increase in technology, I haven’t since an increase in geniuses. A teacher is needed to help with explanation.  

As teachers, we need to think about what, how and when we introduce ideas and concepts. For my department this year, I have been looking at how we impart knowledge and concepts. For each unit, I have provided a PowerPoint. A very simple PowerPoint.

Each PowerPoint contains a list of the concepts / ideas.

And, for every concept there is one page explaining the idea / concept. Just one page. I have thrown some dual coding in for good measure. The main focus is explanation. 

Then, as the teacher is teaching and they feel it is appropriate and relevant for the lesson, they can introduce the concept and idea. The slides contain extracts, pictures, art and text to convey the idea, concept or contextual point.  

The great thing for me is that it so simple and easy to do, but it really helps with planning, pushing to the top and time management. You simply drop the slide into a lesson, when the teacher feels it is relevant and purposeful. This week we explored the use of uncanny in the opening of ‘Rebecca’. I hadn’t planned to explore the uncanny with the text, but it just came to mind, and there was a ready-made PowerPoint slide.

My overall plan is have a huge PowerPoint of all the slides from the various topics, so teachers can call on it when they feel a need arises.  As teachers, we often like planning, but the Google search is often a drain. This way we can cut down time ‘wasted’ hunting for inspiration or a YouTube video that conveys the idea, so the teacher can work on explaining it to the class. 

The great thing for me is that the whole process is organic. I can add slides and concepts as and when they are needed - or thought of. Or, it can build as you are going along. I am currently doing one for Romeo and Juliet and I am on my fifth slide so far. I have even used it for an Ofsted lesson observation last year.  

When reading examiner’s reports, there is a large emphasis on ideas. I think we need to work intelligently on raising the profile of ideas. However, we have to be careful and pick the best moment when to introduce an idea. That’s the problem with readymade schemes of work. They force the points. Ideas are often borne out of something that occurs in a lesson. I feed these through my lessons over a term in no particular order. Some I don’t cover. Some I do. Overall clarity is needed for good explanations. 

Oh, and did I mention how it saves time? 

Thanks for reading, 


Here's an example of another unit: 

Sunday, 8 September 2019

O Punctuation, Punctuation. Wherefore art thou Punctuation? Romeo and Juliet

During the writing of my book, I came across an interesting find and it was all to do with punctuation. I came across differences in how the prologue is punctuated in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. When writing the book, I wanted the extracts to be easily accessible for teachers to quickly Google and find. There was an issue with one extract on Project Gutenberg. We couldn’t secure copyright for the material because Shakespeare’s words may not be copyrighted, but the editing is. And it was in this area that I found interesting. There are several differences in how the prologue has been edited in terms in punctuation.


Source: William J. Rolfe (1879)

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life,
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage,
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

Line 6 – semi colon is now a comma

Source: Wordsworth Classics (1992)

Two households, both alike in dignity
(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene),
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which
, if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

Line 2 – additional use of brackets

Line 5 – introduction of a comma

Line 6 – use of a colon rather than comma or semi colon

Line 13 – an insertion of a comma

Now, I don’t have some magical answers for the differences, but I have some possible ideas.

The introduction of brackets makes the parenthesis stronger, given it is an authorial interruption and clarification– ‘we lay our scene’. It also separates the narrative from the performance. The Volta marks the shift between narrative and performance.

Two households, both alike in dignity
(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene),
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which, if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

When looking at the structure like this, it does make me wonder if ‘(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene)’ was just Shakespeare struggling with a line and a rhyme.

Then, there is line 6. The use of comma at the end allows for a sense of flow and continuation and consequences of events. Things are listed.  However, when you use a semi colon, there seems to be clear sense of connection. Semi colons link clauses together, so here we have a connection between the end of their life and their parents’ strife. For me, and that’s just me, I view the change to a colon to be an accusation. The colon isn’t just linking or showing the consequence, but instead show us the cause. Colons can be used to introduce an idea and here I view the colon’s usage as introducing the cause. They died; this is the reason why.  

We often use Shakespeare in lessons, but I’d say we rarely look at how the version differs in terms of editing. It is only when we have different page numbers in the book do we explore the different versions of a text. The simple use of a comma or colon can change the meaning of line. These subtle differences add additional layers to the text. It would be ludicrous to explore how every line and page is different, but occasionally it might be nice to see how they are edited differently. The Arden version uses brackets on line 2, but uses a comma at the end of line 6.

Thanks for reading,


Sunday, 1 September 2019

Mr C’s 5 Cs

Many moons ago, I used to teach literature texts with ‘Mr C’s 5 Cs’. When we looked at a text, students had to focus on Contrasts, Changes,  Comparisons,  Conflicts, Connections. It was a silly thing to get students to avoid retelling the plot of stories, when we had open book exams. Anyway, I was reminded of this little soundbite when reading the English Literature GCSEs exam reports. One overriding thing I got from them was the emphasis of ideas rather than techniques and critical readings of the text.  

The problem we have is the extract, because for a lot of students it is a boulder stuck in the centre of their thinking. I often say to the students that the extract doesn’t have the answer and it is only there so they can say something about the language of the text. I tend to say essays need a sprinkle of the extract and that the discussion should relate to the whole text. However, I got thinking about how we could use the extract more effectively and develop a student’s thinking of the whole text at the same time.

So, I thought I’d have a go myself. I’ve taken this extract from ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Mercutio is persuading Romeo to attend a masked ball.


Give me a torch: I am not for this ambling;
Being but heavy, I will bear the light.
Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance.
Not I, believe me: you have dancing shoes
With nimble soles: I have a soul of lead
So stakes me to the ground I cannot move.
You are a lover; borrow Cupid's wings,
And soar with them above a common bound.

Connections – What does the extract connect to?

Romeo and Mercutio’s relationship – we see later in the text how Romeo and Mercutio look out for each other

Mercutio’s attitude throughout the text – in opposition to Romeo

References to light – Romeo want to hold the torch – Juliet is viewed in terms of light

Repetition of ‘torch’ – ‘she doth teach the torches to burn bright’

The use of the verb ‘soar’ and ‘common bound’ reflects the incident on the balcony  

Romeo is referred to as gentle and his behaviour throughout the play is ‘gentle’ until Mercutio’s death

Conflict – what are the conflicts here? How does this extract conflict with events in the story?

Mercutio wants to go, yet Romeo doesn’t want to engage

Happy friends and he is unhappy

Internal conflict of Romeo - he is in love with Rosaline and doesn’t want to think of anybody else

Conflicts with Romeo’s behaviour in the next scene

Contrast  - what does the extract contrast with?

Benvolio’s relationship with Romeo and how he responds to Romeo’s lovesick attitude in Act 1

Romeo’s behaviour in the next scene – no sign of this negativity and hesitancy – lack of consistency in the play

Contrasts with the idea that love is natural – Mercutio forcing Romeo to find love  

Changes – what is the change here?

Romeo’s attitude

Comedy – this scene is more comic than the scenes beforehand

Comparisons – What does this extract mirror or compare to?

Capulet’s telling Paris to attend the ball

Lady Capulet telling Juliet to attend the ball

Nurse trying to cheer Juliet up after Tybalt’s death

Friar trying to convince Juliet not to take drastic action

I don’t intend this to be a comprehensive list, but these different elements help to shape our understanding of the relationship between the text and the extract. You could see how there are patterns. That the young characters are always being forced to do things against their own will, whether it is their parents or their peers. 

All too often, when we look at the extract question, we look at simply connections so maybe we need to be a little more specific about those connections. Perhaps, naming the connections between the text and the extract is the start. At least, it is an activity to do with an extract.

Thanks for reading,