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 English curriculum opens with a study of topical issues in the media (like #BlackLivesMatter or social media technologies) and ways that a significant text (like To Kill a Mockingbird or Black Mirror) help us respond to this issue. In Term 2, students study Shakespeare’s Macbeth with focus on the inquiry question: ‘Does achieving success mean being happy?’ In Terms 3 & 4, students, in negotiation with their teacher, complete a poetry elective and a comparisons elective. 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.



What roles do nature and imagination play in your life?
A study of Romanticism. 
The helter-skelter life: crazy or full of incredible beauty? A study of Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, directed by Taika Waititi. 
The Worlds of Heroes. A study of war poetry from the ancient world to the present one.

Where can we find healing in times of hardship? A study of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and The Green Mile, directed by Frank Darabont.
Around the world in 18 poets. A study of poetry to emerge from six different continents.  ‘Surrounded by phonies.’ A study of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and The Truman Show, directed by Peter Weir. 

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 media.

The English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) in Year 10 undertake the Unit 1 & 2 EAL curriculum in alongside Year 11 students. 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 (45%)
2. Responding creatively (25%)
3. Speaking and listening (20%)
4. Language and grammar (10%)

Assessment – Semester 2

1. Responding analytically (40%)
2. Analysing argument (25%)
3. Comparing texts (25%)
4. Language and grammar (10%)


Timbertop - Year 9

Middle School - Years 5 to 8