It’s that time of year again when English teams promote Sixth Form courses to the current Year 11 learners at Sixth Form Options evenings. As all learners take English GCSE courses, they usually pop by to chat with their English teachers and to have a look at the English A Level courses as English, a core subject, is reassuringly familiar. How many times have you been asked if there is a “creative writing “ option on an Advanced Level course by a learner who loves the subject, has a sound analytical mind but is a somewhat hesitant reader, making this request into a deal breaker?
The OCR AS/A Level English Language and Literature (EMC) course offers learners the chance to develop their original writing skills in a non-fiction form. In the AS it comes as part of the first examined component and requires students to respond to one of three briefs to come up with their own non-fiction text. In the A Level it is task two of the NEA component which also asks learners to write their own non-fiction text.
Tess’ first blog discussed Task 1 of the NEA in which students are required to compare two texts (one of which must be non-fiction). Task 2 of the A Level NEA component is designed to extend the range of writing undertaken throughout the whole course and compliment the reading students have undertaken for Task 1. For Task 2 students follow the kinds of practices adopted by non-fiction writers, crafting responses that have a clear sense of audience and purpose appropriate to the intended context.
The six tips
1. Writing in an authentic “voice” seems to be the key here whether the original piece is a travelogue, memoirs/journal, a piece of life writing, a magazine article/news column, speech or talk, an editorial, a satire, a podcast, a piece of persuasive writing or blogs etc. Crossing over genres is acceptable, as for example in Jenny Diski’s “Skating to Antarctica”, which was a travelogue merged with memoirs.
2. The original non-fiction writing of about 1,000 – 1,200 words in total must begin with a short 150 word introduction, outlining the use of literary and linguistic techniques showing that the student has considered how their writing reveals understanding of the chosen genre with a few specific examples, indicating any cross-over aspects and establishing the chosen context.
3. The audience should be specific rather than broad if mentioned. The introduction should be written as if to a fellow writer (the actual audience being the teacher/moderator) who is familiar with the scope of non-fiction genres encountered over the course.
4. It is worth remembering that responses should avoid genres inappropriate to the task, such as using the spontaneously produced spoken genre - interviews, or electronic texts, such as Twitter, though responses could be based on electronic genres such as a highly planned, substantial website or blogs.
5. The content must also be non-fiction based or recollected from a real person’s memories. Diary entries from the perspective of a character in one of the texts studied for Task 1 would be inappropriate as this would be literary re-creative writing not original non-fiction writing.
6. Students should be discouraged from straying into territory that is fictional and imagined. An imagined interview with a famous person, dead or alive, would not be acceptable as the writing of the responses of the interviewee would be entirely fictional.
There are writing competitions out there now that focus attention on non-fiction as a genre that may inspire or galvanise students’ energies. On the Literature Works website there are a number of creative opportunities which are updated regularly. At the moment the Words and Women Competition, the British Essay Writing Contest and the Observer/Anthony Burgess Prize for Arts Journalism (for those aged over 18 years only) are seeking entries from non-fiction writers. Another inspiring website is Paper Nations for creative opportunities. Does anyone else know of any writing competitions or websites that could nurture and inspire creative non-fiction writing? Please share below!
To discuss this or any other aspect of the English suite of qualifications join us at the OCR English Forum. For more information on the OCR Language and Literature AS/A Level please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @OCR_English
Tess Knevett - Lead Moderator - A Level English Language and Literature (H474/04)
Tess Knevett has worked with OCR since 1992 on a range of examined and non-examined components, most recently as Senior Moderator on Unit F662/01 Literature post-1900 Coursework. Having led two English and Communications faculties and an English and Drama department, her experience in the classroom underpins her work as an assessor. Tess has eclectic tastes in literary and non-fiction texts and likes "really good writing" on any subject, written in any style and so regards the fresh and adventurous approach of the NEA Component 04 OCR Advanced Level English Language and Literature as an exciting development.