Considering the Advanced and Standard Courses in the New Stage 6 English Syllabus: Part II: Year 11

Deb McPherson, Jane Sherlock, Jowen Hillyer and Rosemary Henzell suggest some approaches to planning for the new Standard and Advanced Stage 6 English courses …


…Come, my friends,

‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world…

To sail beyond the sunset, …

Ulysses, by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

PART 2: Year 11

This report is based on the 2017 Centre for Professional Learning English Conferences, presented by Associate Professor Jackie Manuel, Jane Sherlock and Deb McPherson with teaching strategies and texts from Rosemary Henzell and Jowen Hillyer. It provides an orientation to the new Standard and Advanced Year 11 courses. It discusses the planning required for implementing the new Year 11 courses, including unpacking the Modules for Standard and Advanced, commentary on new texts and suggestions for Year 11 pathways. Click on the image to download

What’s new

The Year 11 course has new elements, with set electives and assumptions. There is a change from broad Electives to specific Modules. Now there are three prescribed modules with Area of Study removed and replaced by the Common Module – Reading to Write. It is mandatory to program the Reading to Write module first to further develop students’ skills to respond to texts and refine their writing.

There is a stronger focus on individual reading to inform, inspire and encourage writing. The Standard course has become more prescriptive; there is a requirement for Standard only that in Module A one complex multimodal or digital text must be studied. In Module B one substantial literary print text is required. In the Advanced course, teachers could consider a complex multimodal text for Year 11 as there are few opportunities in Year 12. Teachers should note that one assessment task for Year 12 must be a multimodal presentation. Click on the image to download

Teachers will need to consider the strengthening of a wide and independent reading/viewing culture to create a community of readers and viewers. Of crucial importance will be the planning of text choices, Cross Curriculum Priorities (CCP), past and contemporary texts, integration, wide reading and backward mapping.

Text requirements

Apart from the requirements listed above, teachers have other text requirements to consider for Year 11. The Stage 6 syllabus text requirements have similarities to the 2012 K-10 English Syllabus. Again, the selection of texts across the stage MUST give students experience of:

  • Quality literature
  • Intercultural experiences and cultures of Asia
  • Australian texts, including texts by Aboriginal authors
  • Cultural, social and gender perspectives and texts which integrate the modes

Students must explore a range of texts drawn from prose fiction, drama, poetry, nonfiction, film, media and digital texts. The Cross-Curriculum Priorities (CCPs) are also in Stage 6, and teachers need to be aware that the Stage 6 descriptions have clear distinctions from Stage 5. For example:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures …recognise the histories, cultures, traditions and languages of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for their foundational and central presence among contemporary Australian societies and cultures …read the Principles and Protocols….
  • Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia …studying texts from Asia, about Asia and by Asian authors is one way to ensure that a creative and forward-looking Australia can engage with our place in the region.
  • Sustainability …research and discuss this global issue and learn the importance of respecting and valuing a wide range of world views.

(Stage 6 English Syllabus)

The CPP are ‘lenses’ which teachers can use to plan to ensure that content is linked meaningfully to the real world, and many teachers may choose to explore these areas in Year 11 rather than in Year 12.

Challenges for Year 11 2018

Faculties will need to consider how to build on Stage 5, the introduction of new and more complex texts and ways to build readiness to cross the bridge to Year 12. Preparation for Year 11 begins with analysis of the new module descriptions and shortlisting of texts and resources to deliver the content. A bookroom audit should look at what already exists and may suit Year 11 (including previous HSC texts), what texts need to be increased in quantity and what should be discarded as well as identifying funding for new texts to implement the new syllabus demands from school and P&C sources. Teachers will need to consider a different way of thinking about class texts, especially in the Reading to Write module, where student voice and choice should be considered.

Putting in place pathways and texts that will build to and support the HSC study will lead to a more coherent and interconnected Stage 6 program. Consider a common thread in the pathway if the arrangement of texts allows and any links to the texts you will consider for Year 12 and the concepts you might explore.

Year 11 Common Module: Reading to Write

This module must be programed first in 2018. It provides an excellent opportunity to explore a range of types of texts drawn from prose fiction, drama, poetry, nonfiction, film, media and digital texts. Reading and viewing widely is what it is all about. Central to this module is developing student capacity to respond perceptively to texts through their own considered and thoughtful writing and judicious reflection on their skills and knowledge as writers. This module is a great place for exploring CCPs.

The Common Module: the key questions

  • How to structure a wide reading and viewing program using a range of modes and media? (thematically, aesthetically, stylistically and/or conceptually)
  • How will these texts broaden your students’ understanding of themselves and their world?
  • What reasons and opportunities to write will you give your students?
  • What creative and critical texts which meet their needs and interests can be offered for their choice?
  • How will you develop the skills that students need to extend their own writing? (For example, connections, reflection, comprehension, analysis, interpretation and evaluation?)
  • How will you model ways to explore ideas/relationships/endeavours/scenarios in texts?
  • How will you model the ways tone, structure, imagery, syntax, voice and image can shape meaning?

The module requires students to read a number and range of texts linked either:

  • Thematically e.g. speculative, crime
  • Aesthetically e.g. the nature of beauty and art over time as revealed in the books we read
  • Stylistically e.g. verse novels, voice
  • Conceptually e.g. perspective, authority, argument, character, codes and conventions, context, genre, intertextuality

Students need to read widely to find models of different styles and voices which can be used for their own writing e.g. 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style by Matt Madden is a series of engrossing one-page comics that tell the same story 99 different ways.

Writing is prompted by what is being read. Writers are readers – reading and writing are inseparable.

Some ideas for structuring the reading and viewing include:

  • Regularly read and write with your students in the classroom
  • Enjoy the experience as you read and view with your students
  • Legitimise and normalise reading within the school day as a critical component of what we do in teaching English
  • Make better readers by giving students what they want to read. Find their passion and their spark, their curiosity about a topic to build confidence and fluency
  • Establish reading and viewing groups with clear roles and scaffolds for what is required
  • Propose a quest/search/pursuit over time, concepts, genre
  • Provide and invite a selection of texts e.g. fiction, film, nonfiction poetry, drama, cartoons, essays, feature articles, to suit student needs and interests and diversity and allow choice by students

The first task is engaging students – getting them reading. It is essential that students be given some choice about the texts they can read and view.

The essential conditions for developing writing accomplishment and confidence are:

  • Time
  • Choice
  • Real purposes and audience
  • Craft knowledge and skills
  • Understanding writing as process (growing repertoire of skills, strategies, routine, reflective abilities. How does someone get started? What do they do when they get stuck?)
  • Response feedback
  • Community – writing is a social act; it requires the establishment of a community of learners

When planning a unit of work for the Year 11 Common Module the following template may be useful.

Planning Template for Year 11 Common Module: Reading to Write
What is your focus for this module? Big ideas? Consider a Project Based Learning style question.
Resources? Collect novels, short stories, films, poetry anthologies, plays, cartoons, trailers or visuals and make available in book boxes, devices or through the library.
Required reading and viewing? Consider at least six texts e.g. fiction + film/play script + poems + non-fiction texts.
Reading and viewing groups? What roles and expectations will you set up?
Ways into the unit to provide the initial hook? Consider 3-4 short and varied texts e.g. cartoon, poem, song, short story, film or book trailers, visuals to introduce some of the big ideas and how the reader/viewer’s response is positioned by the composer.
Timeline for unit? Structure unit with skills lessons/“masterclasses” on how to explore a text, mid-point tasks, reflection points, and progress reports and how these will be presented and reported.
Variety of writing tasks? Use a small, everyday notebook for reflections and trigger words.
Syllabus requirements? Make a checklist for Standard and Advanced for outcomes and content that match unit knowledge, skills and understandings. Assign numbers to the content points e.g. Outcome 1. Content point 4=1.4 so that you can pinpoint the content reflected in the unit and reduce the amount of syllabus text in your program.
Assessment tasks? Decide which of the Year 11 English School-based Assessment Requirements suits this Module.

The following four examples feature ideas and texts for units to engage students in Reading to Write:

1. Thematically: Dystopias

2. Stylistically: Connections in a Crowded World

3. Conceptually: First Voices

4. Aesthetically: World Literature.

Early lessons need to provide a foundation of how composers use their texts to explore the selected focus e.g. the future or relationships. Students need to be positioned for their investigation. Consider a selection of short texts in a variety of media which illuminates your focus and the conventions used by those texts and what students need to look for. Use an article which explores the focus to provide some background.

You will find elaborations of resources, texts and assessments for each example in Attachment 1 at the end of this article.

Year 11 Module A Standard Contemporary Possibilities

A reminder that there is a requirement for Standard only that in Module A one complex multimodal or digital text must be studied.

Year 11 Module A Standard: the key questions

  • What are the different communication technologies with which we interact in our world?
  • What are the features of digital, multimedia, multimodal and nonlinear texts?
  • In what ways do these different communication technologies shape the ways that we read, navigate, understand and respond to digital, multimedia, multimodal and nonlinear texts?
  • What are further creative possibilities of such technology?
  • What text will you use for your detailed study of one complex multimodal or digital text for example film, media or interactive narratives?
  • How will you develop students’ understanding of the nature, scope and ethical use of digital technology in their own responding and composing?
  • In what ways and with what texts will you develop your students’ deeper appreciation and understanding of the power of communication technologies to reach a broad audience for a range of purposes?
  • Using the selected texts, what strategies can help students appreciate the active roles of both composer and responder in controlling and choosing the reading pathways through texts?
  • How can students analyse and interpret the ways composers use and manipulate a variety of aural, language and visual devices to shape our understanding of what we listen to, read or view? Students may explore notions of hybridity and intertextuality.
  • How will your students individually or collaboratively design and create their own multimodal or digital texts to communicate and represent their ideas; understanding the importance of creating a responsible digital footprint?
  • What types of viewing, listening or reading experiences will you give your students to enable them to analyse and assess the text’s specific features and form?

Suggested multimodal texts for this module include Snow Fall: the Avalanche at Tunnel Creek, a digital essay by the New York Times; What they Took with Them, a film based on a rhythmic poem by Jenifer Toksvig; My Year 12 Life; The Dressmaker; and several SBS interactives including the Cronulla Riots, Exit Australia, The Boat and K’gari.

Jowen Hillyer’s work has explored how to deliver Contemporary Possibilities in a low SES school or context with limited technology. Details of this approach to teaching the unit can be found in Attachment 2 at the end of this article. Rosemary Henzell’s work explored a range of digital texts to be used in the classroom and how to set up a basic project in which students collaborate to build a website or interactive online experience. Students have choice and can consider a local event, place, person or history, or a social issue of importance to them. Rosemary’s article ‘Contemporary (Im)possibilities’ is also in this edition of the Journal of Professional Learning.

Year 11 Module B Standard: Close Study of Literature

The key difference in this module is that a substantial PRINT text is mandatory.

Year 11 Module B Standard: the key questions

  • What substantial literary print text have you chosen?
  • What strategies will you develop for students to study and respond to the text in its entirety?
  • How can you develop your students’ understanding of the ways that language features, text structures and stylistic choices have been used in their text?
  • What strategies will you use to help students identify, analyse and respond to the ideas in the text and the ways in which meaning is shaped?
  • In what ways will students examine the conventions that are particular to their chosen literary form, and the ways that authors use, manipulate and/or challenge those conventions?
  • What types of critical and creative responses to the text will students experience to develop their understanding of the use and effects of elements such as style, tone and mood?
  • How can students further develop their critical skills to analyse and assess the ways meaning is shaped and conveyed?
  • How will you enable students to engage with the text to further develop their personal connections with, and enjoyment of the text, enabling them to express their personal interpretation of its meaning and importance?

Classroom considerations and texts for Year 11 Standard Module B

It is important to choose an engaging text as students will be spending considerable time on it. Consider texts that will enrich students’ experiences and take them somewhere they may not have been or may not go to without support. While it is tempting to go to previous HSC Module B texts it may be useful to consider some better choices from recently published texts or previous Area of Study or Modules A or C.

Some suggested Year 11 Standard pathways are included in Attachment 3 at the end of this article. They include suggested texts for the Common Module, Module A and Module B.

Year 11 Advanced Module A: Narratives that Shape our World

There are distinct differences in this module from the previous syllabus. Students are required to study a range of narratives with a focus on story-telling and the diverse ways it can be explored in texts.

Year 11 Advanced Module A: the key questions

  • What narrative will frame your study?
  • What texts will you choose which will be a range of narratives from the past and the contemporary era that illuminate and convey ideas, attitudes and values?
  • What strategies will you employ to help students consider the powerful role of stories and storytelling as a feature of narrative in past and present societies?
  • Which of these are explored in your chosen texts: connecting people within and across cultures, communities and historical eras; inspiring change or consolidating stability; revealing, affirming or questioning cultural practices; sharing collective or individual experiences; or celebrating aesthetic achievement.
  • How will you help students deepen their understanding of how narrative shapes meaning in a range of modes, media and forms, and how it influences the way that individuals and communities understand and represent themselves?
  • What strategies will you develop to enable students to analyse and evaluate one or more print, digital and/or multimodal texts to explore how narratives are shaped by the context and values of composers (authors, poets, playwrights, directors, designers and so on) and responders alike?
  • How can your students investigate how narratives can be appropriated, reimagined or reconceptualised for new audiences?

Year 11 Advanced Module B: Critical Study of Literature

This module is more familiar to teachers and requires students to engage with the literary text in its entirety and to consider its textual integrity.

Year 11 Advanced Module B: the key questions

  • What literary text has been selected to suit the needs and interest of your specific students?
  • How will you help students develop analytical and critical knowledge, understanding and appreciation of their literary text?
  • How will you enable your students through increasingly informed personal responses to the text in its entirety, to develop understanding of the distinctive qualities of the text and notions of textual integrity?
  • How will you assist your students to explore how the author’s ideas are expressed in the text through an analysis of its construction, content and language?
  • How can students develop their own interpretation of the text, basing their judgements on evidence drawn from their research and reading, enabling the development of a deeper and richer understanding of the text?
  • In what ways can students consider notions of contexts with regard to the text’s composition and reception, investigate the perspectives of others, and explore the ideas in the text, further strengthening their personal perspective on the text?
  • What opportunities will you provide to enable students to appreciate and express views about the aesthetic and imaginative aspects of a text by composing creative and critical texts of their own?
  • Through what kinds of reading, viewing or listening opportunities will your students analyse, evaluate and comment on the text’s specific language features and form?
  • How will you provide opportunities for your students to engage deeply with the text as a responder and composer to further develop their personal and intellectual connections with this text, to enable students to express their informed personal view of its meaning and value?

Classroom considerations and texts for Year 11 Advanced Module B

Teachers can revisit previous Module B texts or texts from the Area of Study, Modules A and C. The time available gives you opportunities to vary the writing/ responding activities e.g. review, for a specific publication, imaginative re-creation or digital essay. There are opportunities here to explore Shakespeare and look at different interpretations and readings. You could include research into different productions on stage and on screen or look at different interpretations of characters, setting, and re-contextualisations.

Some suggested Year 11 Advanced pathways are included in Attachment 4 at the end of this article. They include suggested texts for the Common Module, Module A and Module B.

Some of the new aspects of the Standard and Advanced courses in Year 11 are challenging and also exhilarating. The Common Module Reading to Write will provide an opportunity to reset the way we do English in Year 11 and open students up to the excitement of reading widely and choosing what to read and view. The multimodal requirement for Standard (why not Advanced as well?) will encourage and validate the exploration of digital texts, websites and films in the classroom.

Deb McPherson taught English in NSW government secondary schools for 28 years as a classroom teacher, Head Teacher and Deputy Principal. She was a member of the committee selecting texts for the Higher School Certificate English courses for over 15 years. She worked as a Senior Curriculum Officer, English, at the Board of Studies and as the Manager of English for the NSW Department of Education and Training. She has been a lecturer and tutor at the University of Newcastle and at the University of Wollongong. She is an author of four anthologies for schools for OUP and co-authored Choices for English, a collection of recommended texts for the 7-12 English classroom with Helen Sykes and Ernie Tucker. Her review column, ‘Reading and Viewing with Deb McPherson’, appears in the AATE journal, English in Australia.

Jane Sherlock is an experienced, enthusiastic and passionate public education teacher of English for 40 years having retired from teaching as Head Teacher English at Kiama High. Currently, Jane is the NSW English Teachers’ Association project officer for HSC student days which are run throughout the year. Jane is also an author of a number of English textbooks, including the national award-winning Oxford HSC English. Jane is a presenter for the NSW Teachers Federation’s Centre for Professional Learning and with Deb McPherson has now presented at four English conferences for the CPL. In 2009, Jane received the Australian College of Educators award for her contribution to education.

Jowen Hillyer is currently Head Teacher of English at Taree High School (a Connected Communities school) in rural NSW. She has been a teacher, head teacher and teacher educator for 19 years, with experience in both rural and disadvantaged public schools, as well as 3 years as an Associate Lecturer at The University of Sydney. In her current role, Jowen leads a large, diverse faculty in new approaches, innovation and student engagement. Her research interests are centred on project based learning, boys’ writing in the middle years and mentoring programs for beginning English teachers.

Rosemary Henzell currently teaches English at Willoughby Girls High School. She completed her Master of Teaching in 2013, having spent seven years as an adult ESL teacher and TESOL trainer in Australia and Japan. Her MTeach Action Research Project investigated how to raise student confidence and agency in essay writing. Rosemary is part of her school’s Professional Learning Team, and is currently investigating how Project Based Learning and Teaching For Understanding frameworks can be utilised in the English classroom.