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Hit the box office: Reading for GCSE English Literature

Tackling the English Literature plays, books and poetry is a challenge for some children. It’s not about being a poor reader, some children just aren’t ‘into’ books and facing a full-length book is daunting.

Then there’s the Shakespeare. It doesn’t matter how great a playwright he was, the language can be mind-blowing and takes some concentration, even in the comedies.

Of course, the teacher will take them through these in the classroom, but they are expected to be familiar with the set texts in order to answer questions intelligently in the exam. What can you do to help?

Hit the box office!

Most of the novels that are set for GCSE have, at some point, become a film. Shakespeare’s plots have appeared in a wide variety of films, from West Side Story (Romeo & Juliet) to 10 Things I Hate About You (The Taming of the Shrew), quite apart from the original film versions (check out Kenneth Branagh’s back catalogue).

Watching a film as a family on a wet weekend can be fun – and even better if you can persuade your resident GCSE student to explain how that fits with the play they’re studying. The best way to learn things is to teach them to someone else, so it’s an opportunity for you to become the student!

Do some research into the film adaptations of the novels they are studying and add those to the viewing list. If you show an interest, your child is much more likely to respond and may surprise even themselves with how much they do know.

Good questions to ask are around new characters. Ask who they are and why they’re important. Ask what the impact of the main characters’ actions have on the story.

Books set for GCSE usually include both modern and 19th century novels; Animal Farm and Far From the Madding Crowd crop up regularly, but there are some more unusual ones, depending on which examination board your child’s school is subject to.

The current texts for the current curriculum can be found here.

Be creative in helping your kids to get really familiar with the texts they have to study and they’ll find the exams much easier, with less cramming needed just before exams.