Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Long-form Legwork

Plath the Poetic Minx
Preparing for Leaving Cert English is all about Shakespeare, poetry, novels and yet more literature - right? No doubt you're getting that impression from your hard-working English teacher who is stuffing your school bag with notes on all of the above in order that you won't be caught out with a tricky question about Banquo or stuck if Plath has the brazen cheek not to appear on the paper two years running.

In fact only 45% of your exam paper in June will comprise of literature that you have previously studied.  A whacking 55% of your marks will be graded on your response to material you've never seen before.  You can have studied Macbeth till the Scottish cows come home and still be floored by an unusual Paper One theme or composition titles that don't quite fit your amazing story about getting signed to Real Madrid.

Your English teacher does know this and will undoubtedly be practicing comprehensions, compositions and unseen poems with you throughout the year.  Wouldn't you like to have the edge over other students however? Wouldn't you like to know a secret that will make Paper One a doddle for you and, make study, dare we suggest it, fun?

Here's my answer: 

Read long-form journalism on the internet. 

Wha-form journalism?I hear you ask

Long-form journalism.

Basically it's the anti-soundbite - long, well-researched, well-written articles on fascinating stories, events and happenings that take somewhat longer to read than the average tweet but reward you with new insight, entertainment and hopefully something gruesome to tell the family over dinner.  This website will tell you a little of the value of long-form: ReadMatter.

There are tons of great articles freely available on the internet if you know where to find them.  Follow this 3 step programme and you will be well on your way to a mind-blowingly brilliant Paper One:

Step 1: Get the Pocket App for your computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone or digital sunglasses (you don't have a pair? they'll be everywhere in 2013).  It's a very simple but fantastically useful app that saves any great article, video or webpage that you stumble across but don't have time to read right that second to your device.  It displays your selected content in an easy to read manner and when you sit down with a nice cup of tea after dinner you can kick back and read a fascinating article the 50 coolest book covers ever, a profile of Aurora shooter James Holmes or watch a video about a father who made a home-made roller-coaster. Yes the internet is truly a wonderland.

Step 2: Set up a Twitter account if you haven't gotten one already and subscribe to newspapers, magazines and websites that feature this sort of journalism or track down websites and bookmark them or subscribe to RSS feeds where possible.  Some examples:
Great excuse for 'borrowing' parent figure's iPads

3: Make time for reading from your Pocket app at least once a day for half an hour and make it enjoyable.  Big cup of tea or hot chocolate, comfy armchair by the fire or sunniest spot in the house, tell your parents you're studying and want no interruptions (milk Leaving Cert sympathy for all it's worth this year) Believe me - it will beat Home & Away hands down.

***** Optional*****

Step 4: For the really hungry writers out there - why not have a go at writing in this style yourself? Very few students (not to mind professional writers) can produce a really good short story in 70 minutes in an exam and yet most attempt the story over any other form.  Reading an article on something a student has researched or is well-informed on is usually much more interesting and enjoyable to the teacher/examiner than yet another story about the time you got signed to Man Utd. (We really do get a lot of these essays).

And there you have it - 3 (or 4) steps to a better Paper One AND you get to drink lots of tea - Simps.  

Good luck!


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