Y10 Literature coursework

The other day I got a very impressive email from a student:

As I am hoping to begin on the coursework at some
point soon, I have been just creating questions for
which I think would suit the task as a title. I have
looked at how they may meet the strands of the
assessment criteria and am seriously stuck on which
to choose. Could you please just have a look through
these and tell me if some have strayed too far away
from what the task is really asking for, or if it is ideal
as a task title.

•How does Steinbeck and Miller end dreams in the way
they began?

•How do M&S leave death as the only option for s
uccess/relief?

•How do M&S present toleration and empathy and would
this toleration and empathy be able to be implied in the
world today?

•How do M&S show that vanity/self-image is mostly
based on lies?

•How do M&S approach failure differently?

•How does M&S approach hierarchy and power shifts
differently?

•How do M&S use specific examples of tragedy to
make tragedy more relatable in a broader sense?

•How do M&S show that our own pasts are often
the reason for failure?

•How do both M&S take different takes on the
conventional genre of tragedy?

•How do M&S use supporting characters as a sense
of false hope?

Here is my response:

This is quite a list, and shows some really impressive consideration of a range thematic ideas. Tasks are best to include the word ‘compare’ (or the equivalent) and something that focuses on authors’ craft (eg. using a word like ‘present’).
Moreover, it’s probably best not to choose a title that presupposes a particular conclusion which several of your suggestions do. For example, to take your first suggestion:

•How does Steinbeck and Miller end dreams in the way they began?

I might not agree that they do, so a better title for that might be something like:
Compare how, and to what extent, Steinbeck and Miller present their characters’ dreams as remaining unfulfilled.
but it would probably be better remaining even more open-ended to allow you to explore the theme in whatever way the evidence and your interpretation takes you. For example:
Compare how the theme of ‘dreams’ is presented by Steinbeck and Miller. 

or for this topic (which I like the sound of):

•How do M&S use specific examples of tragedy to
make tragedy more relatable in a broader sense?

you could go for:
Compare how Miller and Steinbeck use features of the genre of ‘tragedy’ to allow their audience/readers to explore the human condition. 

That task would encourage you to consider key issues that are characteristic of the best candidates such as:

  • the specific characteristics of the different forms of drama and the novel (‘tragedy’ is typically thought of as a dramatic genre: does this mean that a novel cannot be a ‘tragedy’ in the same sense? What difference does it make to how the writer presents things if they are designed to be see and heard externally in a theatre alongside other audience members, compared with being played out internally in the reader’s mind, alone? (Moderator’s report said: “Moderators appreciated the sustained and detailed exploration of themes and ideas but judged that some students would have been more successful in addressing AO2 if they had been more mindful of authorial craft and the genre of the text, particularly when their interest in characters was at the expense of their appreciation of characterisation.”)
  • how do the specifics of particular characters and events, presented in a particular social, historical and literary context, relate to people encountering them in a different context? (Moderator’s report: “Of all the Assessment Objectives, AO4 tends to be the least successfully treated, especially when addressed by “bolting on” some historical or biographical facts without links to the writer’s ideas, craft and audience. Contexts are best addressed as ambient attitudes, beliefs, philosophies or values represented by or challenged by an author. Comments on such contexts are best done by relevant comment at appropriate places within the response to the two texts.”)
I hope that helps your thinking. I’m going to use a modified version of your question and my response as a blog post to share more widely: it is so useful to have this kind of student input that I want to celebrate and use it for the benefit of others, too.
So there you go. I hope that will help more of you as you plan your coursework.
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