Both Semesters

In ‘How one should read a book?’ (1913), Virginia Woolf describes a library where ‘books written in all language by men and women of all tempers, races and ages jostle each other on the shelf’, and asks: ‘How are we to bring order into this multitudinous chaos and so get the deepest and widest pleasure from what we read?’ Attempting to answer this question is essentially the objective of Year 10 English at Geelong Grammar School.

The answer, in the first instance, is critical thinking, or what Roy Peter Clark (2006) has described as the technique of ‘X-ray reading’ – acquiring a ‘special vision’ that allows students to ‘observe the machinery of making meaning, invisible to the rest of us’ – or what Steven Pinker has called ‘reverse engineering’ through which students can ‘see the moving parts, the strategies that create the effects we experience from the page’. Through a close study of poetry, prose fiction, Shakespearean drama, film and media texts, English students at GGS develop skills in analysing and evaluating how language features, images and vocabulary create meaning and contribute to the development of writers’ and directors’ individual styles.

The second answer to Woolf’s question is one she supplies herself: creative engagement. She writes, ‘Perhaps the quickest way to understand the elements of what a novelist is doing is not to read, but to write; to make your own experiment with the dangers and difficulties of words.’ In creating their own texts, students at GGS experiment with language features, stylistic devices, text structures and images for different purposes and audiences. When creating and editing their texts, students demonstrate their understanding of spelling, punctuation and grammar, and vary vocabulary voices for intended effect.

The third (and final) answer to Woolf’s question rests in the fact that while reading may be a solitary act, learning is relational. The emphasis, therefore, in the English classroom at GGS is on creating a community of inquiry. Students practise their speaking and listening skills by reflecting on, extending, endorsing or refuting their peers’ interpretations of and responses to texts. They explain, in spoken form, different viewpoints, attitudes and perspectives, and plan, rehearse and deliver persuasive presentations.

The 2020 English curriculum begins by welcoming students back into ‘The Real World’ with a study of contemporary media texts, aiming to fortify students against the constant bombardment by media they will likely encounter in our technology-saturated world (and which they have been relatively freed from at Timbertop). Terms 2-4 will, through a series of electives, provide students and teachers with greater choice in the study of literary texts. Students will be allocated into classes at the beginning of the year according to the preferences they express in a survey at the end of 2019. Examples of these inquiry-based electives are listed below, but these are likely to change from year to year according to the teaching passions of our Year 10 team.


Does achieving success mean being happy?
A study of Macbeth.

Is there a place for incivility, riot and disorder in the world?
A study of Twelfth Night.

Can a play show us the very truth and nature of love?
A study of Shakespeare in Love and texts from the early-modern period.  

What roles do nature and imagination play in your life?
A study of Romanticism.

Does your country inspire you?
A study of different representations of Australia in poetry.

Do you think young people can make a difference in the world?
A study of Slam Poetry.
How often do you leave your ‘comfort zone’?
A comparative study of One the Road and Into the Wild.

Why is race so hard to talk about?
A comparative study of To Kill a Mockingbird and Mississippi Burning.

How important is the role of money, wealth and class in leading a good life?
A comparative study of Of Mice and Men and American Beauty.

Assessments for each of these electives will be common across the cohort. Accompanying these electives in Semester 2 is a lengthier research piece, entitled ‘Making a Positive Difference’, where students investigate how their study of English language and literature this year can help them respond to some of the issues they have encountered in ‘The Real World’.

The English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) curriculum runs parallel to the mainstream English curriculum, and essentially shares the same assessment schedule and modes of assessment. Special attention is paid to students’ communicating effectively in spoken and written English for social and academic purposes. Texts are selected and electives are designed to meet these students’ particular literacy needs and to promote cultural and plurilingual awareness – that is, to build students’ understanding of the cultural conventions of language use in Australia and to draw on the knowledge and resources of students’ first languages and cultures in order to enhance learning.

Assessment – Semester 1
1. Responding analytically to a literary text (45%)
2. Analysing and comparing argument (25%)
3. Presenting argument (20%)
4. Responding to texts in spoken form (10%)

Assessment – Semester 2
1. Responding analytically (20%)
2. Responding creatively  (20%)
3. Analysing argument (20%)
4. Comparing texts (20%)
5. Responding to texts in spoken form (20%)


Group 1 - English A: Literature
Year 11 and 12 - IB

Year 11 and 12 - VCE

Timbertop - Year 9

Middle School - Years 5 to 8