4 Box Approach
If the Organising
Principle method does not work for you then here is an alternative approach to
essay writing that you might try
note of title any significant information given at the end (date, genre,
reading: use a highlighter to mark any words / phrases that strike you as
important, powerful or significant
reading: draw lines across the page to mark changes in pace, tone, focus,
reading: pay attention to any sounds used including rhyme and rhythm
reading: look at the interaction between characters including pauses,
interruption, aggression, long sentences, short snappy sentences, etc
fill out the following four box grid
is speaking to us? Out of what circumstances? What do they want to
communicate to us?
this describe a scene / experience / state of mind?
and when is this set?
does the first sentence frame the passage? Does it suggest what might
have gone before? How does it set up the mood for the rest of the
key things are we meant to notice?
these concrete and specific things about characters/ the world or is
there some abstract stuff about themes in there too?
themes are there and how does the writer draw our attention to them?
gives the passage its central tension?
emotions underpin the writing?
at the lines across the page. How does the piece unfold? Is it
chronological? Is there a gentle progression or sudden shift?
it in Ďreal timeí or not
ground does the passage cover between first and last lines?
there any natural breaks? Focus points?
kinds of things are contrasted in the text and to what effect? This is
often a good point to start your analysis from
Nuts and Bolts
methods/ techniques/ specifics
(for concrete detail)
How to turn this into an essay:
Intro: This will involve establishing the Context and basic story and summing
up the Key Ideas
to identify a genre of writing where possible
in a few adjectives e.g. this is a poignant, powerful, effective, glib,
satirical, clichťd, philosophical, lyrical, descriptive, narrative piece
at the tone e.g. quirky, jovial, wistful, dark, sinister, ironic,
questioning, celebratory, uplifting
Body: This is an exploration of how writers use Movement and the other Nuts
and Bolts to achieve effects
the examiner has read the piece and does not need it paraphrased
to relate everything you say back to the Key Ideas or main
purpose of the writer
Conclusion: This should sum up your overall point but also
reflect upon where this passage leaves us
not merely repeat what you have already said Ė try to draw it together
into a conclusio
what the reader is left with?
how specific or universal the themes and ideas are?
- Donít! write about what might
come before or after this passage. You are meant to analyse it on its own
so donít try and guess what happens in the bits that we donít see
- Donít! make a list of
unconnected observations. Remember a commentary has to be fluent
- Donít! forget to relate things clearly back to the
writerís general purpose
- Do! watch your time. You
donít have much!
- Do! make sure your writing
is legible. The examiner canít reward what the canít read
- Do! read the mark scheme so you know what weíre