English Language And Literature At Learning Unlimited
English Teacher Profile:
Norman Bernard, English and English Literature tutor
Norman Bernard has a Masters degree in English, a two-year diploma in Book and Magazine Publishing, a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) Certificate, a CELTA (Cambridge English Language Teaching for Adults) Certificate and a TBE (Teaching Business English) Certificate.
As an English teacher Norman has for years derived great satisfaction from helping students prepare for International GCSE, AS and A Level English courses in both language and literature.
Since July of 2020 he has been both the English Language and English Literature teacher for Learning Unlimited and has taught all of IGCSE English, AS English Language, A Level English Language, AS English Literature and A Level English Literature.
Regardless of level or type of student (language or literature as the case may be), Norman has always given one-on-one private lessons or taught very small groups of students. He loves teaching in this way because it permits intensive work of a kind that is otherwise impossible and which he believes helps a student develop more quickly than any other circumstances permit. In his experience textbooks tend to mention topics rather than deal with them: this is where small-group private lessons and detailed work truly come into their own. Certainly in English Language courses, especially at higher levels, he thinks his main duty is to try and do what set textbooks do not.
Most of his teaching takes place online but students are welcome to come to his home if they prefer traditional face-to-face encounters as some still do. This has been true at all times, Covid notwithstanding, and it is not a policy that will change. So, provided the logistics of travelling are manageable, students will have the power to determine the form their lessons take.
We hope to provide a clearer idea of what IGCSE, AS and A Level English studies entail, whether for language or literature.
However, do not hesitate to contact the Director of Learning Unlimited, Sharon Levy, at [email protected] or visit www.learningunlimited.co.za or the English Language and Literature teacher Norman Bernard at [email protected] with any questions you may have.
Why Choose English Language Or Literature Subjects?
In many cases the simple and practical reason for doing so is that you need an AS or A Level in one of these subjects for the purpose of applying to universities. No doubt this is true of the majority of students who enroll.
However, there are more compelling reasons for taking an interest in these subjects and students tend to do better if they have such personal reasons because they make possible higher levels of engagement with the material that is being studied. Here are some thoughts of this kind for both English Language and English Literature.
Why Choose English Language As An A Level Subject?
In the first instance, to study a wide variety of texts produced for diverse audiences is to learn how to use language in a more versatile way.
David Crystal, an internationally renowned authority on the English language, has made an analogy with a wardrobe. If one has a wide range of clothing from the casual and perhaps even outrageous (depending on both personality and budget) to the dinner jacket one is equipped for all possibilities. Exactly the same is true of language and language is the cheapest and by far the most frequent expression of identity all of us use. There is no doubt that extending the ways in which one is able to communicate is useful, both professionally and personally.
Why Choose English Literature As An A Level Subject?
Nowhere is language used in more varied ways than in poems, plays and novels. Studying literature develops one’s understanding of language use as nothing else can because literature is language at its most powerful, complex and subtle. Therefore, literature is particularly fascinating to anyone interested in language for its own sake.
However, there are deeper and more satisfying reasons for engaging with literature which help account for the fascination it has always had for so many readers. An enormous amount has been learned in the humanities in all of history, sociology, political studies, psychology and much more but these subjects are not yet hard sciences and perhaps never will be. When it comes to thinking about and understanding people, literature provides insights where science has not as yet been able to penetrate and this is one of the principal sources of its power. Let us take just one example: not many people regard Freud’s work as scientific today, but you do not need to be a card-carrying Freudian to think there is value in the notion of an unconscious. Freud himself would have been the first to assure you that writers had been dealing with it in their way for centuries before him.
Let us think now of history or sociology. Even when one reads historians and sociologists of genius one is aware that there is a sense in which one can never know the past like the present. This is unavoidable and does not reflect poorly on the scholars in question. It is just that what Lionel Trilling called “the buzz of implications” that surrounds the present, what is conveyed by the tone of our greetings, our quarrels, our slang, our popular songs is missing. Nothing can restore this completely, but literature does so more than anything else can. Just read some ancient Roman love poetry even in translation to see the truth of this.
For these reasons it is remarkable how often a puzzling situation or person seems so much clearer once one realizes that it has been encountered before in the pages of Shakespeare, Balzac or Dostoevsky. This human dimension is what matters to literature lovers above all else.
What Is Covered In A Level English Language And Literature Studies?
English Language Topics
We read and write for many different reasons in a way that might not be obvious to us unless we stop to think about it. We do so to inform, persuade, argue, absorb or convey main ideas, identify specific details, sell, warn and entertain and much more besides. Whether as readers or writers and producers of texts we do all this in advertisements, brochures, news stories, editorials, articles of many different kinds, essays, letters, emails, social media postings, diaries, formal speeches and again in many other ways too. Depending on the document, purpose and audience our use of language is no less varied even if we are for the most part taking care to write in standard English. Our tone can vary all the way from the ultra formal language of a government report to the slang and colloquialisms on our social media postings. After all, the language in which one addresses a board of directors is hardly the same as that which one uses after banging a toe against a doorpost.
Even at IGCSE level and yet more so when one does AS English Language, one is made to read a large variety of text types and think about the different conventions that shape them. For example, what characteristic language features are to be found in speeches? Why are they there? How and why do they differ, for example from those of a report or a diary entry? Again, even at IGCSE level and yet more so in AS studies, one is also called upon to write a large variety of texts for different audiences and purposes. The result is that one becomes more sensitive to language use in a variety of contexts and is more able to read and write effectively across the board.
A2 studies presuppose all the skills talked about so far. There are nonetheless notable differences between IGCSE and AS studies and A Level English Language because the writing one does here is more technical. At a basic and introductory level one studies topics like language change, child language acquisition and the growth and spread of English as a global language. These topics, depending on which one you have in mind, intersect with history, sociology, developmental psychology, linguistics and more. Someone who has done A Level English Language will therefore have touched on topics that might be of some relevance to a fair number of undergraduate university subjects which might be pursued.
English Literature Topics
It is more difficult to state in general terms what is covered in English Literature studies because this will in large measure be determined by choices made either by the teacher or the individual student.
At AS level students have to choose one drama and make one poetry selection from a list of offerings. In the case of poetry it is possible to choose between looking intensively at the work of one author or studying a selection of poems from an anthology. The latter choice involves brief exposure to a wide range of time periods, styles and authors ranging from Shakespeare to the contemporary. These two fundamental choices are very different and make some allowance for differences in taste and temperament.
AS students also have to choose one prose text for study and again it is possible to select either a novel by specified authors or an anthology of short stories representing authors from the late 19th century such as Thomas Hardy to authors alive and writing today.
As might be expected, A Level Literature studies are a bit more specialised. It is now compulsory to study one Shakespeare play in depth and choose a modern drama in addition. The second major component of the syllabus deals with Pre-and Post 1900 poetry and drama. Here students have to make one poetry and one prose selection from a roster of choices that run all the way from Chaucer to late 20th/early 21st century writers like Margaret Atwood. The fact that it is now possible, if one chooses, to study Chaucer in the original Middle English testifies to the greater degree of specialization mentioned above. It is now expected that a student be capable of examining an individual work in greater depth and with yet more sophistication.
Having provided a brief overview of the contents of English Language and Literature studies, a more detailed breakdown for all Learning Unlimited offerings appears below.
Overview Of Learning Unlimited Courses In English Language And Literature
We offer full coverage of the new IGCSE English syllabus that came into effect in the year 2020, dealing with all of the task types found in both the reading and writing/composition papers. Coverage includes dealing with the following:
- Short answer questions that test understanding of both explicit and implicit meaning;
- Writing of summaries;
- Textual analysis training to deal with IGCSE questions requiring students to select powerful words, phrases and images and show how the writer uses them to shape meaning and create specific effects;
- Training in directed writing so that students can produce letters, reports, articles, diary/journal entries, speeches and interview scripts based on a set passage (see Question 3 of the IGCSE Reading Paper);
- Preparation for the more complex directed writing tasks in Question 1 of the Writing/Composition Paper which, in addition to requiring one to produce a specific text type for a particular audience and purpose, may require the student to synthesise information from two texts;
- Preparation for both the narrative and descriptive essay options of Paper 2 Question 2.
AS English Language
There are strong continuities between IGCSE English and AS English Language studies. Textual analysis and directed writing are central to both, but the AS student has to be able to work on a larger scale. For example, when it comes to textual analysis instead of looking at specified paragraphs one has to examine the form, language and style of entire passages.
The new syllabus which came into effect for the 2021 year is more demanding than its predecessor introducing both comparative and reflective commentaries which had not been seen at AS level before. The role of both directed writing and textual analysis has therefore been enhanced, textual analysis skills being tested explicitly now in three of the four questions across both AS papers in a way that had not been so before. The extended writing question of Paper 2 has also changed. In addition to the old narrative and descriptive writing choices, students must in principle now also be prepared to do discursive/argumentative and review/critical writing tasks. Students are therefore trained in all of the following:
- Textual analysis so as to enable students to structure longer commentaries of a different order of complexity. Work is done on the language features and style of many text types such as speeches, reports, articles of various kinds, diary entries, advertisements and promotional materials and travel writing to name only some examples;
- Extensive training for the directed writing/comparative commentary combination of Paper 1 Question 1 in which students have to produce a piece of directed writing and then compare the form, style and language of their own directed writing piece with that of the original passage on which the directed writing is based. In our experience this is the aspect of the entire AS English Language syllabus which causes the most problems for students and needs particularly careful treatment;
- Extensive work on the directed writing/reflective commentary combination of Paper 2 Question 1. Here the student first has to produce a piece of directed writing in a specific genre for a specified audience and purpose. Then he/she has to write a reflective commentary justifying the language and style choices that were made, showing how and why they contributed to fulfilling the task set by the examiner effectively;
- Extension of previous work on narrative and descriptive writing as well as coaching in the new discursive and review/critical options.
A Level English Language
The A2 English Language syllabus also underwent considerable modifications for the 2021 academic year with the study of language change becoming a full A level module for the first time. The syllabus contains four sections/modules, namely Language Change, Child Language Acquisition, English as a Global/World Language and Language and the Self. Not only is work on language change now rather more extensive but a new task type has been introduced in which students have to analyse how no less than three texts, Texts A, B and C illustrate language change. The student is therefore trained in the following:
- How to identify and then write about language change using a variety of texts from the beginnings of Early Modern English in the 16th century to the present day. Terminology is introduced to enable students to write about language change in a more precise way. The effects of the digital revolution on language in the last 30 years or so are also touched on in a basic way, as are theories of language change.
- In the Child Language Acquisition syllabus module students are first introduced to same of the basic features of spoken language and made to realise that speech differs fundamentally from writing in its organization. In order to analyse the transcripts of child/caregiver interaction that will feature in exam questions students must be introduced to the main stages of language acquisition, rival theories of language acquisition and how to relate the specifics of the transcript being analysed to more general theoretical ideas.
- For the English as a World Language module students must first understand what the designation “world language” implies and learn something about the history of and reasons for the global spread of English. The perhaps counterintuitive notion of “Englishes” in the plural is introduced in order to get students to understand that English as it has come to be spoken and used in many parts of the world differs substantially in both vocabulary and grammar from either Standard British or Standard American English. The similarities and differences between British and American English are also considered briefly as are questions of standard and non-standard English. The issue of language death and the possible role the spread of English plays with respect to it is also considered
- The Language and the Self module touches in a basic way on how language use and sense of identity are affected by factors such as social status/class, occupation, age, gender and geographic location. Accent variation and people’s attitudes to language change and language usage are also considered. As with every module of the syllabus, students have to practice analysing the specific details of set texts in such a way as to demonstrate wider reading and an ability to connect them with broader theoretical concerns.
AS English Literature
Both AS and A Level English Literature studies differ from both AS and A Level Language in that students have to deal with prescribed texts. As with AS and A Level Language, should you go on to do A Level English Literature your two AS exams will count for 50% of your final A Level marks. As was the case for AS and A Level English Language, the AS English Literature Paper changed in one vital respect beginning with the 2021 academic year: unseen pieces of poetry and prose, previously only found at A Levels, are now part of the AS English Literature exams. This has made the AS syllabus notably more difficult.
When dealing with students one-on-one, it is possible to allow them the freedom of selecting their own set texts. Nonetheless, advice will be given on the relative advantages and disadvantages of the various choices. For anything other than such interactions the texts to be studied must be selected by the teacher as it is impossible otherwise to give lessons that are relevant to both parties of even a group of two.
At AS level students have to choose a play to study and select from a list of prescribed texts for poetry: for poetry one can study either the work of individual poets or select an anthology from which 28 poets have been prescribed for study in the 2021/2022 academic year. Studying these choices—whichever they might be—constitutes the work required for Paper 1, the Poetry/Drama Paper.
For Paper 2 has to select a prescribed prose text and can select from either a list of novels or an anthology of short stories from which 15 stories have been selected for the 2021/2022 academic year. The second section of the Prose and Unseen Paper 2 consists of an unseen poem or piece of prose which must be analysed.
In the current academic year, we have offered the following in AS English Literature:
- The play All My Sons by Arthur Miller;
- A selection of 28 set poems from the anthology Songs of Ourselves Volume 2. A listing of the relevant poems can be found on page 22 of the AS and A Level Literature syllabus document at https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/Images/502967-2021-2023-syllabus.pdf. This syllabus document also lists the AS set text options for both poetry/drama and prose on page 10.
- A selection of 15 short stories which can be found on page 24 of the same syllabus document. This syllabus document outlines the AS and A Level English Literature syllabus in full for all of 2021, 2022 and 2023.
As far as skills are concerned it is vital to attend to the following:
- Developing the skills and introducing the terminology needed to analyse both poetry and prose in a precise manner;
- Concentrating on the conventions of drama specifically so that students can approach a play with an awareness of genre and how the fact that a text has been designed for performance and not merely to be read affects the way in which it should be read and studied.
- Analysing individual poems and stories in detail as this is preparation for one of the question choices in both Paper 1 and Paper 2.
- Practicing essay writing with respect to more general thematic questions which require one to analyse at least three poems or stories in relation to a particular theme. This too is a question choice in both Paper 1 and Paper 2.
- Working on analyzing stories and poems that fall outside the syllabus altogether, both in class and as homework essays by way of preparing for Paper 2 Question 2.
A Level English Literature
The skills spoken of above are simply presupposed at A2 level and will not be considered again. It is also assumed that by this stage students will have at least had minimal exposure to literature in a variety of genres and from a variety of periods ranging from the Early Modern period to the here and now. Perhaps for this reason the student cannot choose anthologies for his/her poetry or prose options: A Level work is more specialized, involving concentration on the work of a specific author. Paper 3 is the Shakespeare/Drama paper and Paper 4 the Pre- and Post-1900 Poetry and Prose exam. For an overview of the permissible choices, consult the earlier section on English Literature Topics.
As with AS English literature studies, students participating in individual classes are allowed to choose their set texts but are provided with guidance as to which options might be more/less suitable in each individual case. For any groups, no matter how small, set texts will be chosen by the teacher for the same reasons as given in the discussion of AS English Literature. The set texts for each of the years 2021, 2022 and 2023 can be found in the same syllabus document for which a link was provided under the material for AS English Literature.
In the current academic year we have taught the following texts:
- Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale;
- Stoppard, Indian Ink;
- Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway;
- Dickinson, a selection of 32 set poems. The set Emily Dickinson poems for the academic year just completed may be found on page 15 of the 2021, 2022, 2023 syllabus document. The link https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/Images/502967-2021-2023-syllabus.pdf is given again for convenience.
AS English Language
Being on an accelerated course, the task of not only completing my English qualification but doing well in it too was daunting to say the least. However, Norman made the process both remarkably effective and efficient. He has the ability to explain difficult concepts in the subject in an easily digestible way while still managing to communicate the precise details that can make English so challenging. Despite his excellent teaching ability, I value Norman most for his personality. His injection of humour made classes enjoyable, his thoughtful discussions on topics often helped my comprehension of the task at hand, and ,perhaps most importantly for myself, provided genuine support and advice when I needed it. He is the perfect mixture of professional and human and I couldn’t be more delighted to have been taught by him.
AS Level English Language in general – The subject can be divided into two separate sections. The sections being essay writing and text analysis. In the essay writing section you will cover a number of different text types and go into extreme detail with regards to how they differ from each other and what makes each text type unique. You will then learn how to replicate these text types. Speeches, diary entries, articles and descriptive as well as narrative as a few examples of the texts you will be learning about. In the language or text analysis section you will learn how to critically look at different phrases within texts and also whole texts. You will also be looking at why the writer chose to write things in a certain way. This helps you to understand what separates good writing from great writing and will also benefit your essay writing skills.
Mr Bernard as an English teacher – By far one of the best English teachers I have ever had. Mr Bernard is extremely knowledgeable and he explains things in a very easy to understand way. He is also always willing to walk the extra mile to insure that his students are benefitting the most from his lessons. He gives detailed feedback and positive criticisms that always helped me improve in every way possible. Mr Bernard is also a very understandable person and always wants to be sure that his students are not under too much academic pressure. So don’t be afraid to ask for a homework extension. He is also a great match for shy students who tend to disappear in the background of the classroom. He is very easy to talk to and on multiple occasions we found ourselves having fun conversations regarding the work and some of the other subjects that I was doing.
– Pierre Botha
Mr Bernard is a highly professional English teacher who knows the International AS English Language syllabus like the back of his hand which comes from his many years of teaching experience. He pushes his students hard so that they can achieve their very best and is always willing to put in the extra effort. Furthermore he goes through each essay with a fine tooth comb, careful not to miss even the smallest of details. He also asks probing questions to draw out insight from within the students and provides them with a greater understanding of the topic. I would highly recommend Mr Bernard to any student in need of an English teacher.
A2 English Language
I started working with Norman when I changed from the NSC curriculum to the International AS and A level curriculum and Norman was happy to teach both my brother and I AS and then A-level English language. Prior to the course I had no real desire to learn English – it was simply a subject that I had to complete in order to apply to the specific university which I intend on going to in Barcelona. However, I can honestly say that I have developed a passion and love for English. Norman not only helped me to achieve academic results but also helped me to develop an enquiring mind. The pieces that we studied in class were always well chosen and thought-provoking.
This has been an extremely demanding academic year due to the fact that I have had to complete both my AS and A level exams. Norman was able to compress complex topics into smaller pieces which really allowed me to grasp concepts which would normally be taught over a much longer time period, two years rather than slightly less than one. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with Norman and would recommend him to anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of English. Norman is exceptionally diligent and will never miss a deadline – even if that means sacrificing his sleep.
– Isabella Nicholson
I want to start off by giving an extra special thank you to Norman Bernard for teaching my sister and me throughout this year. It’s no easy task doing both your AS-level and A-level English language exams in one year but Norman was there to guide us and made it possible. There’s no doubt in my mind that without Norman it would not have been possible. I can honestly say that I’ve never before met anybody as hard working and dedicated as Norman.
Whether it be early in the morning or late at night Norman was always there to help. Although I consider myself a rather shy person, as I got to know Norman through online classes we developed a noteworthy relationship with each other that made interacting in class easy and fun. I always looked forward to classes as Norman always went above and beyond with his teaching in a way that led me to develop a love for English that I never thought I would have.
English language went from being a subject that I was not confident in whatsoever to being the subject that I expect to do the best in out of all my subjects. I cannot express enough how grateful I am for having Norman as a teacher, not only because of his amazing teaching skills but also because of his caring personality that led us to developed a strong relationship with each-other. I can without a doubt call Norman a friend as well as a teacher and I wish him nothing but the best for the future.
– Luca Nicholson
A2 English Literature
My experience of doing English Literature with Learning Unlimited, and more specifically, Mr Norman Bernard, has really exceeded my expectations.
I started doing Literature with Learning Unlimited at the start of 2021 to write my A Levels in October-November, as my school was not able to offer the subject beyond AS. Although I was initially worried about a change in structure and approach – specifically regarding contact hours – I ended up enjoying the journey. The one-to-one teaching style, the thorough preparation and knowledge of Mr Bernard, allowed me to enter the exam hall confidently. The fact that I was given the license to choose my own set works for the subject also motivated me and enhanced my passion for English Lit.
Ultimately, if you want a personalised learning experience with a teacher who undoubtedly shares a love for literature, then I would highly recommend Learning Unlimited.
– Jimi Tison