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The Close Reading and Textual Analysis NABs are testing your ability to understand the meaning and language of a passage. This means that you must show that you understand not only what the writer says but how it is said. Questions are split into three categories: Understanding: WHAT the writer has said. Analysis: HOW the writer has put this meaning across. Evaluation: HOW WELL the writer has conveyed this meaning.
• Read the passage through before attempting to answer the questions. • Look at the number of marks available for the question. • Do not waste time repeating the question in your answer – you do not have to write an essay! • Unless specifically stated in the question, you must USE YOUR OWN WORDS when answering.
• “Quote” means lift the answer from the passage. • “Refer to” means that you must quote and then explain. • “Use your own words” means that if you lift the answer from the passage you will fail! It means that you must rephrase the writer’s words.
• There are several different aspects of sentence structure which you must be able to identify and explain: Punctuation Length of sentence Sentence type Patterns
• Dash ( - ) Introduces an explanation or more information; can be used in place of brackets. The book was great – a really good read. John – who was the oldest in the class – finished last. • Colon ( : ) Introduces a list or quotation; introduces a summary. I needed three ingredients: flour, sugar and eggs. Churchill said: “ We will fight them on the beaches”. It was an eventful day: we arrived, set up camp, fished for our dinner then fought off a bear attack. • Semi-colon ( ; ) Links two closely related ideas together; can be used to separate items in a list. The children returned from their holiday; they had been gone for more than a week. The house was surrounded by giant creepy crawlies; enormous weeping willows; a colony of bats and a mysterious swamp.
• Inverted commas (“ “) Used for quotations; direct speech; to show a non-literal meaning; “so-called”. Mohammed Ali said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” Joe shouted across the room, “Stop! I need help!” Jenny’s mum called her the “golden” girl. Everyone thought that the school was one of the “good” schools in the area. • Exclamation mark ( ! ) Indicates urgency or excitement. Stop fighting now! It is only seven weeks to Christmas! • Capital letters are used for proper nouns; acronyms and to show importance. Celtic Football Club; Odeon Cinema; Ben Nevis; Livingston – Proper nouns BBC, DNA, MTV, DVD – Acronyms are words formed from the initials of the name of something ie BBC is British Broadcasting Corporation James thought that he was the Big Chief round these parts.
• Parenthesis means brackets (which are used to add extra information into a sentence). This can be in the form of brackets, commas or dashes. The information inside the parenthesis is always extra – the sentence still makes sense without it. The class were enjoying a poem (much to the teacher’s disgust) which was about boxing. • Ellipsis ( …) Shows that there is something more to come or that there has been an interruption. Perhaps there really is life beyond this planet… I was walking down the road when suddenly…
• Short sentences are used for emphasis. They are often used in contrast to longer sentences for stronger impact, to make the idea stand out from the passage. It had been a long, hot day, which seemed to go on forever. Then the rain came. • The short sentence underlined above is in contrast to the longer sentence. It stands out and shows how important it was that the rain comes on this long, hot day.
• There are several types of sentence which you must learn. You must be able to identify them and explain why they are important. Statement Command Rhetorical question Exclamation
• Statements are used to put across facts; to make the reader accept the writer’s point of view or to state an opinion. It has always been true that more boys go into engineering than girls. It is clear that engineering is still a man’s game. Unless we encourage more girls to do science at school, we will never bridge this gap. • Commands are instructions, which give the impression of authority. Go and read up on the subject. Sit down and listen.
• Rhetorical questions are questions which do not expect or require an answer. A writer will use a rhetorical question for effect. The answer is perhaps provided later in the passage, or the writer is wanting the reader to think about the topic. Would you expect your children to suffer this? How many times do we have to tell the government that we need a change? • Exclamations are used to indicate urgency or excitement. What a goal! It was fabulous!
• Lists are used to build up an impression of something; to convey lots of information; to make something seem long. John was one of these people who always seemed to be ill; his face was always pale, skin spotty, eyes blood-shot and nose dripping. The yellow-spotted lizard is a very dangerous animal – small, spotty, venomous and lethal. This journey was going on forever, with trees, houses, people, more trees, more houses, more people passing by each hour.
• Repetition is used for emphasis. It is used to make certain ideas stand out. Repetition can be repeating words, sentence type or any other feature that you notice being used more than once. How much can one man take? How many times had he sat here? How long was this going to last? The dog sat. The dog waited. The dog spotted something. The dog shot up excitedly.
• Imagery is literally pictures created with words. • Many techniques come under the umbrella of imagery, but there are three main ones.
• Similes are comparisons using like or as. • You are expected to comment on both sides of the comparison. The cat was prowling round the garden like the lord of the manor. This shows the cat thinks that it owns the place, as it is moving round the garden like the person who is in charge. • Remember that similes are a form of imagery! • Think about the simile as a picture and describe the picture.
• Metaphors are also a comparison but they are less obvious than similes. • Metaphors describe something or someone as if it actually is something else. It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. (Shakespeare) Juliet is being compared to the sun – this shows the high opinion the speaker has of Juliet. The sun is what keeps us alive, it shines very brightly and is a symbol of light and life; therefore Juliet is a wonderful person who the speaker obviously worships.
• Personification is a type of metaphor where an inanimate object is described as if it has human qualities. • You must comment on the effect of the personification. The straw breathed as the lion slept beneath. This means that the straw is moving up and down as the animal underneath is breathing – transferring the breathing to the straw is effective because it creates an interesting picture of the straw moving up and down.
• Other techniques which come under the umbrella of imagery are: Onomatopoeia Alliteration Assonance Euphemism Hyperbole Oxymoron Litotes Metonymy
• Writers use several techniques in order to give the reader a fuller understanding of their meaning. • Adding in sound effects is an effective way of emphasising the writer’s point. • Onomatopoeia are words which describe sounds, for example, bang, crash, squeak, yelp. • You might be asked what techniques a writer has used to describe a situation vividly. The glass door fell to the ground with an almighty crash. The onomatopoeia with the word “crash” emphasises the ferocity of this event and creates a vivid image of the door shattering into pieces; along with the dreadful noise this must have made.
• Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds close together for effect. • The effect is to emphasise the words. “Men marched asleep” The alliteration of the “m” sound highlights the metaphor, which emphasises how exhausted the men are. The sound is a long one, which adds to the impression of men so tired, they are practically sleeping on their feet as they walk.
• Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds close together in order to emphasise words. “we cursed through sludge” The repetition of the “uh” sound in “cursed” and “sludge” emphasises the difficulty of moving through the mud. • Remember, you are not just looking for words that are spelled with the same vowels. The important thing is the sound of the vowels. For example, tractor and trace are both spelled with an “a” but the sound is different.
• A euphemism is when you replace an unpleasant phrase or idea with a more pleasant one. • For example, there are lots of euphemisms for dead, fat and drunk. Dead: deceased, departed, passed on, passed away Fat: big-boned, plump, chubby Drunk: hammered, half-cut, four sheets to the wind • Euphemisms are used to be polite or to avoid saying something that could be offensive.
• Hyperbole (hy-per-boley) is exaggeration for effect. • It is a figure of speech which is not supposed to be taken literally. There were thousands of them swarming towards me! I’ve heard that a million times. There are not actually thousands or millions - it is exaggeration to emphasise the idea.
“It was giant!”
• This means understatement for effect, or the opposite of hyperbole. • For example: • She wasn’t exactly the brightest crayon in the set. • He’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic. • These would be used instead of saying, she’s a bit stupid, or he’s a bit mad.
• An oxymoron is a contradiction in terms. • It is a figure of speech which is often used for humorous effect or simply to emphasise an idea. bitter sweet deafening silence same difference All of these phrases are contradictory – they are opposites and therefore should cancel each other out.
• A metonym is a type of metaphor, where the name of something or someone is substituted by the name of something associated with them. • For example, the “suits” who make decisions means the people in charge. They are called “suits” because people in charge are usually in a suit. • Similarly, “the crown” is a metonym for the Royal Family, because they are associated with the wearing of a crown. • Other common metonyms are “the Whitehouse” for the American government; “Whitehall” for the British government; Hollywood for the American film industry; plastic for credit cards (ie I paid with plastic).
• Tone means the same as mood or feeling. • If you are asked about tone, you are supposed to think about the writer’s attitude. • For example, in this cartoon, the tone is sarcastic. The writer is using this for humorous effect.
• When you get a question on tone, look at the choice of words in the sentence/paragraph/passage. • Is there an attitude that seems to be coming through? • How does the writer feel about the subject? • Tone might be described as:
Sarcastic: Yeah right! Friendly: I would like you to join me. Angry: I absolutely detest this situation. Enthusiastic: What an exciting event! Sad: It’s been too long now for things to change. Formal/informal: Me and my pals/My friends and I.
• When you are asked about the writer’s word choice, you are being asked to explain meaning. • Words have different kinds of meaning. • The denotation of a word is its literal meaning (dictionary definition). • The connotation(s) of a word are associations – anything which comes to mind when you see a particular word.
DENOTATION (actual meaning)
Tough and Aggressive youth.
• You may be asked a context question. • This is when you have to explain how you can figure out the meaning of a word by looking at the other words around it. • There is a formula you can use to answer these questions – learn it! I know that “____” means _____. I can work this out because the passage also says “_____”. Therefore, “______” means _____. • In a context question, there will always be obvious examples of other words/phrases which mean the same as the word you are being asked about. If in doubt, guess!
• Another common type of question is a linking question. • This is when you are asked to explain how the writer has linked their ideas together. • You should look for linking words or phrases, for example:
However Furthermore In addition Consequently As a result But Then Yet
REMEMBER! When you are asked about a link, you must always discuss both sides of the link – what comes before AND what comes after.
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