Modules. They’re confusing, fast paced and a little tricky to get a grasp of until you’ve actually done them – which can make them pretty daunting.
This collection of Understanding HSC Standard English articles aims to make them a little easier to understand and a lot easier to complete as you work through your HSC year. In them we’ll break down exactly what each module looks at, including how each elective within Modules A and C differ, and show you what you need to know to tackles these topics.
You can find the rest of the articles over at our Standard English Modules Megapost, but for now keep reading to learn more about Module A, Elective 1: Distinctive Voices!
Step 1: Understanding modules
You’ve probably come to this article because you’re probably wondering what on earth Distinctive Voices are all about. What are they? What is a ‘distinctive voice’? What makes a voice distinct? How exactly does a distinct voice help me to experience through language? These are all legitimate questions!
In order to understand modules, you need to break down what it is and how you interact with your texts.
When it comes to understanding modules there are four key things to consider, which I like to call the Four T’s.Topic, Time, Texts and Tests.
Modules are essentially mini areas of study (with Discovery being your actual Area of Study). They’re shorter courses focussed on a specific concept or idea related to the study of English and/or English literature and always focus on a specific theme or topic. Their aim is to get you to think about English and texts in different ways and then respond to the ideas presented in essays that you’ll write both for class marks and in Paper 2 of your HSC English Exam.
Modules A and C have two electives each, meaning that your teachers will choose what sub-topic you study within that module. You don’t have to worry too much about electives – just make sure that you know which one you’re studying come exam time so you don’t end up answering the question for a different elective!
Simplified, this means that each module is a new topic, and each of these topics looks at a different idea about English and English texts.
As mentioned before your modules are shorter courses than your Area of Study.
While you spend 45 hours on Discovery, you spend a total of 75 hours on all three modules – meaning 25 hours per module. That’s almost half as much time as what you spend on discovery, making the study a lot more fast-paced and self-driven, so if you don’t keep up you could fall behind! But don’t worry; that’s what we’re here for – try these articles on making effective to-do lists and getting started on study notes to get ahead.
For each module you’ll be given at least one prescribed text that you’ll have to read pretty quickly – check out this article to make the most of reading it. Teachers are given a list of possible prescribed texts for each module/elective and then choose which one they will teach you, so you don’t get a say in what text you study.
Over the course of all three modules you’ll end up studying one of each text type. That means that you could end up being prescribed a film and novel for Module A, a set of speeches for Module B and a play for Module C (that’s what I got!). The aim of this is to make sure you learn how to interpret and analyse a whole bunch of different text types, so you won’t be able to slack off on any specific one! As you work through the modules you’ll have to adapt and learn how to write about and analyse each text type specifically – check out these articles for key techniques for written texts and visual texts.
Your HSC English Exam Paper 2 is made up entirely of modules-based questions and will end up asking you to write three essays – one on each of the modules you studied. The questions are usually pretty broad because they have to apply to all of the possible prescribed texts within the module and elective, so they tend to focus more on themes and ideas about the module than the text itself.
We’ll look more at marking criteria later, but the key thing to remember about the exam is that it wants you to answer the question with your module in mind! Make sure to always link your arguments back to the question and focus on themes that are important to not only the text but the module as well. You also have to remember to use sophisticated language, analyse the specific text type and present complex arguments, but I’m pretty sure that much is obvious by now!
Step 2: Breaking Down Module A
In order to tackle modules, you need to know what module you’re studying, as what you’re studying might actually be different to what your friends are studying. If you’re here, you’re here for the first of the two electives from Module A: Experience Through Language, and that elective is Distinctive Voices. Thus, you need to understand what Experience Through Language is in order for you to understand what it’s all about.
The best way to do this is by checking out the actual module and elective description on the BOSTES Website.
Let’s start by looking at the information we’re given about Module A.
Now let’s break that down into key words.
Awareness of language: You knowing what a composer is doing with their words and the effect it is having.
How our perceptions: The way in which we regard, understand or interpret something.
Relationships: The way in which two or more things, people or groups regard and behave towards and interact with each other.
Others: Individuals who are not ourselves.
World: Human and social interaction based upon the differing considerations of context, environment, location, individuals, culture, religion, spirituality.
Shaped: How this is created, developed and nourished.
Written: Texts designed to be in the written and read form, such as a poem, short story or essay.
Spoken: Texts designed to be in the spoken form, such as a speech or song.
Visual: Texts designed to be in the visual form, such as a painting, stage performance or film.
When you read it as it is, what they’re looking for can be very convoluted, which is why sometimes it is best for you to know it in your everyday language. That’s why I’ve written it below:
This module requires students to explore uses of a particular aspect of language. It develops students’ knowledge of the composer’s intention in what they’re saying and the effect it is having, and helps them to understand the way in which we regard, understand or interpret the way in which two or more things, people or groups interact with each other, individuals around them and their social interaction with different considerations. These things will be shaped by language in texts designed to be read, listened to, or visualised.
I know – that second sentence is huge! But break it down into bits and pieces and it becomes a lot easier to understand, especially now that it’s not in the lingo with which the Board of Studies loves to confuse us all.
Step 3: Breaking Down Elective 1 (Distinctive Voices)
Now that we have the focus of our study – Experience Through Language – broken down, now we have to understand how we’re supposed to experience through language, and that is through the overarching study of Distinctive Voices. But just like breaking down Modules, what do they mean by Distinctive Voices?
Let’s start off once more with what they say about Distinctive Voices:
And once again, let’s have a look at it with the key words to clarify the important parts:
Now let’s break that one down as well to help you understand it.
Voices: To express in words the specific values and opinions of an individual or group.
Various types: The different voices that can exist (i.e. your voice, the voice of a minority, the voice of a nation)
Function of voices in texts: The role in which voices play in giving a text life and meaning.
The ways language is used: The way in which a particular style of writing is gives meaning.
Create voices: How a values and opinions are developed and portrayed.
Affects interpretation: How does the use of a particular style of writing alter the way in which one regards and understands something.
Shapes meaning: How values and purpose are created and developed.
And in layman’s terms:
In their responding and composing, students consider how the existence of different voices plays a role in giving a text life and meaning. They explore the way in which a particular style of writing gives meaning in the creation of particular sets of values and opinions, and how it is developed and portrayed, and how this particular style of writing alters the way in which one regards and understands values and opinions, and how they are developed in the text.
In order to achieve this, the syllabus requires you to choose one of the following texts listed below to study this:
- Small Island – Andrea Levy
- Summer of the Seventeenth Doll – Ray Lawler
- ‘back to melbourne’, ‘hillston welcome’, ‘cobar, july 1993’, ‘eat’, ‘noura from narooma’, ‘thomastown talk’ by Komninos
- ‘‘Clancy of the Overflow’, ‘In Defence of the Bush’, ‘Old Pardon, the Son of Reprieve’, ‘A Bush Christening’, ‘Mulga Bill’s Bicycle’, ‘Saltbush Bill, J.P.’ by A.B. ‘Banjo’ Patterson
- Speeches (nf): John F Kennedy – Inaugural Address, 1961
- Indira Gandhi – ‘The True Liberation of Women’, 1980
- Severn Cullis-Suzuki – Address to the Plenary Session, Earth Summit, 1992
- Paul Keating – Funeral Service of the Unknown Australian Soldier, 1993
- Aung San Suu Kyi – Nobel Lecture, 2012
- Barack Obama – Inaugural Address, 2013
- Perkins, Rachel, One Night the Moon (f)
For the best part of the next few months, one of the above selected texts will be your favourite thing (note: sarcasm). The thing is that usually if you get to choose what you’re doing, you’re more inclined to enjoy what you’re studying when you beat it to death with a stick from all the analysis you’ll be doing. Unfortunately, you’re not given that opportunity and it’s likely that if you’re not conscientious with your studies, you might find yourself asking ‘wait, what part of the text is that?’ when they reference a line in class.
However, it’s not all that boring – you do get to choose your own text to study along side the selected text. However, as much as you love Harry Potter or the Hunger Games, they’re probably not suitable for your studies. To know more about how to select these texts, make sure you read these two articles on the do’s and don’t’s of choosing a related text and thus the easy 3 steps on how to find a related text.
It’s your duty to make sure you actually read the text. It’s you against a few thousand others, and everyone else will have the same copy of SparkNotes as you do, so maybe don’t just rely on SparkNotes, but the brain you know works pretty well when it needs to.
In order to familiarise yourself with your text, these ten questions will help you to better understand how the text came to be and why:
- Who was the author, what was their life like?
- How has this influenced the text’s content and perspective?
- When and where was the text made?
- What was society like at the time?
- What culture was it made in? (Western culture counts)
- How have these influenced the text and its perspective?
- What perspectives or points of view does the text present?
- What language choices are made to show this?
- How does the content and perspective of this text relate to the other prescribed text? (compare/contrast)
- How do you think the original audience felt about the text vs. how you feel about it?
All texts are written with a purpose, and it’s typically something about the author’s life and experience, and events in the world around them which gets them writing. That’s why getting into their head is a good idea, and by answering these questions, you’ll have a little bit more of an idea about who they were.
Step 4: Knowing Your Criteria
As much as students love to say that teachers aren’t marking to the criteria, it might come as a shock to some, but they actually do – especially when the HSC is based entirely upon sets of criteria.
If your maths teacher asks you ‘What is 12 + 17?’, you probably wouldn’t say, ‘Actually, I’m #TeamCaptainAmerica. I think Iron Man is overrated’ because it has nothing to do with what the teacher is asking.
A criteria gives you exactly what they are asking for, which is what you’ll need to then give them a relevant answer. This is by far the easiest thing you can do to get your Band 6. You’ll have probably seen these before:
It’s important to know the key words in the criteria, as this is the most fundamental part of understanding what they are looking for in your response:
Compares effectively: Highlighting the similarities and different in a thorough and analytical manner. This means that you need to delve into the thorough details of the text, selecting and discussing central themes and issues to discuss at length.
Variety of perspectives: Not merely looking at one point of view, but how distinctive voices offer multiple points of view about the world in one both your prescribed/selected text and the related text of your choosing.
Effective response: Just because you provide a response, doesn’t mean it’s effective. This essentially means that you need to have made your response based on relevant, detailed textual knowledge. What they are asking you to do is to know your text, the themes, language and components, and discuss it with relevance to the question they will be asking you in the exam. NOTE: This is NOT merely a knowledge dump!
Organised: This means to give a structured response. Imagine writing your conclusion before your thesis statement, or presenting your weakest point first. It’s a trainwreck waiting to happen. This means that your arguments are written in a clear and concise manner which can easily be read and understood.
Develops: This one relates to the question of how you got to that point of view. Places like SparkNotes offer you a position, but it does not often offer you how they got there and what elements were important in creating that conclusion. This means that when you offer your point of view, you can show how you got there.
Expresses… effectively: Are you writing in a way that anyone can understand what you’re trying to express? Are you conveying your message clearly and concisely, or are you repeating yourself and using overcomplicated words that you don’t quite know how to use? Your answers need to be structured and organised, and communicate your ideas relating to the Module and texts clearly.
Language appropriate: This means language relevant to what you have studied. This doesn’t necessarily mean having to use big words or complex language – it means using language appropriate to the topic of Standard English. For example, instead of ‘the time period which the author lived during’, ‘the author’s historical context’ would more appropriate.
Audience, purpose and form: Who is the intended audience of your response? What is the argument you are making? What kind of response is it? These are the three questions which will guide how you write your response, as your audience is obviously the HSC Markers, you are writing it to express your position in response to the question, and your response will depend on the HSC verb which has been used in a question. For example, if you were being asked to ‘Compare and contrast’, you wouldn’t give simply list your response.
Each school will have a different essay criteria, but now you know exactly how to break down a criteria, and what some of the key words they frequently use actually mean.
Understanding the criteria is just as important as breaking down the question, and to know how you can effectively break down any English question, you had better head over here to read exactly how to do it so that you know exactly how to answer the questions being asked.
Step 5: Start Writing
It’s easier said than done!
As you go through your text, you will be deconstructing different components and themes which make that text unique in Experience Through Language.
But nobody becomes good at essay writing overnight and no first draft is ever a masterpiece. Essay writers like George Orwell often wrote hundreds of pages which would eventually be reduced to just a few in the composition process. It all comes down to frequent and self-reflective practice. This means that you not only practice writing, but often and with awareness of your strengths and weaknesses.
For this example, I will guide you through a simple paragraph with the following question:
‘Distinctive voices offer a variety of perspectives on the world.’ Compare how this is achieved in your prescribed text and ONE other related text of your own choosing.
For this, I will be using Paul Keating – Funeral Service of the Unknown Australian Soldier, 1993 and the scene ‘Nixon Demoted‘ fromthe episode ‘Why We Fight’ in Steven Spielberg’s Band of Brothers.
S.T.E.E.L is one of the most effective essay scaffolds as it is easy to prepare, collate and compose a response. Within it, we have two styes; AABB and ABAB:
- A refers to a paragraph about the first text;
- B refers to a paragraph about the second text.
Generally ABAB works better, as it has a smoother flow, shows better integration and allows you to compare and contrast the texts as you go, keeping your essay balanced.
Refer back to the central focus of the discussion: ‘Distinctive voices offer a variety of perspectives on the world.’
When I review both Keating’s eulogy and the Band of Brothers scene, the first immediate position I assume is that a great loss is experienced as a result of of war. From here, I would develop my overarching thesis statement – the position I am going to take for this paragraph. As it is a compare question, I am going to frame my argument with the similarities of this position.
The Funeral Service of the Unknown Australian Soldier and the scene Nixon demoted are united in the exploration of loss during the war, but present these from the different perspectives of communal and individual loss.
The focus of my statements are how both texts explore the theme of loss during war, but present them according to a communal or individual consideration.
To give some background, the Funeral Service of the Unknown Australian Soldier took place on Remembrance Day (Armistice Day) on 11th of November 1993, the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of World War I. With this in mind, Keating now lives in an Australia which has been built upon the ramifications of the conflict, but did not directly participate in the event itself. Keating’s purpose is to commemorate the sacrifices made by our soldiers of the past and present, and remind Australians that war is not to be glorified.
HBO’s television series Band of Brothers was developed by Steven Spielberg and based primarily off Stephen E. Ambrose’s 1993 non-fiction book, Band of Brothers which explored the participation of Easy Company, a Company within the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, assigned to the United States Army’s 101st Airborne Division. Band of Brothers utilised many autobiographical accounts and memoirs to capture multiple views of the participants who reflected upon their experiences soon after the conclusion of World War II. Band of Brothers serves as a reflection of the moral, mental, and physical hurdles of the men, and the changing perspective of the war as discoveries, such as concentration camps, are made.
Technique + Example
This is the part where you have to bring in your literary analysis of your texts. You won’t be simply listing these; instead, you’ll be introducing the ways in which the composer uses techniques in the texts and what it does to give meaning. You’ll also be integrating your quotes and examples at the same time in order to give a nice, polished answer.
In the Funeral Service of the Unknown Australian Soldier, Keating utilises statistics to explore the losses made in conflict, ‘One of the 416,000 Australians who volunteered for service… 60,000 Australians who died on foreign soil’. By utilising statistics, Keating imposes a poignant reflection as he then places a perspective upon this number, ‘100,000 Australians who have died in wars this century’. By contrast, the conversation between Lewis Nixon and Richard Winters in the scene Nixon Demoted in Band of Brothers inspects the minutiae of war; a mere plane of men as opposed to a vast number. Upon enquiring about a parachute jump of Nixon’s own company, Spielberg emphasises the emotional impact of the loss of men by Nixon’s matter-of-factly and almost insensitive reply to Winters’ enquiry: ‘It was great. Fantastic. Took a direct hit over the drop zone. I got out. Two others got out… Oh yeah, they blew up over Germany somewhere. Boom.’
This part then answers, ‘What exactly did these things do to give the text meaning?’, and in this particular case, how do they show the exploration of loss during war? Essentially, you are to answer why you included them.
Keating did not meet the Unknown Soldier, and does not provide a personal reflection of the loss of an Australian soldier but that of a communal loss as then-Prime Minister of Australia. Keating’s very specific knowledge of statistical data invokes an emotional reaction in providing a scale of the impact and reach of war. However, this can also be perceived as sanitary, as it does not explore an individual loss, but a communal one as he has truncated the experiences of the Unknown Soldier into a mere statistic. This is drastically different in the way in which Spielberg inspects individual loss. Nixon, as an officer, was personally invested in men, and suffered the personal ramifications of loss during war. Nixon’s use of a dry, sarcastic tone to communicate the deaths of his men initially presents indifference to the issue, but in the absence of emotional grieving, instead has the viewed witness what is a highly emotional scene. To provide an additional tier, Spielberg presents this impact upon Nixon visually as he anxiously searches for Vat 69 to fuel his known alcoholism as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder.
In this section, you will need to link the two texts together in relation to your overarching statement. This is what seals the deal and brings them all back together.
Keating’s scaled eulogy presents a scale of loss, and imposes a duty to reflect upon the necessity of war at the cost of human life as the leader of a nation, whilst Nixon’s private grief which manifests in alcoholism displays the toll and impact of war upon an individual at war who experiences loss as it occurs. The contrast between both texts provides an exploration into how loss and grief can be experienced both communally and personally.
Voici et voilà! There’s 1/4 of an essay, without an introduction, 2-3 more paragraphs and a conclusion.
If we put all the sections together, you’ll see that it is a very large and chunky paragraph, but in fact, even as I write it, I had to write and rewrite sections in order to ensure that it is clear and cohesive. What you’ll notice is that I constantly refer back to the focus of the discussion: the difference between communal and personal loss, and thus, remain centred on the overarching essay focus: Distinctive voices offer a variety of perspectives on the world.
Give it a try, and let us know how you go!
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Flick us a message on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/artofsmart/), give us a call on 1300 267 888, or email us on email@example.com.
Elizabeth Goh isn’t a fan of writing about herself in third person, even if she loves writing. Elizabeth decided she didn’t get enough English, History or Legal Studies at Abbotsleigh School for her own HSC in 2010 so she came back to help others survive it with Art of Smart Education. She’s since done a mish-mash of things with her life which includes studying a Bachelor of Arts (Politics and International Relations) with a Bachelor of Laws at Macquarie University, working for NSW Parliament, and collecting bronze busts of famous world leaders to use as book ends on her shelf.
Elizabeth is on academic exchange at the University of Vienna, Austria until March 2016.
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Distinctive Voices Speech Essays and Research Papers
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