Year 12 Milly Highly Commended in English and Media Centre’s ‘Close Reading’ Competition

Congratulations to Milly in Year 12 who has been Highly Commended in the English and Media Centre’s ‘Close Reading’ competition. Entrants were challenged to write a 500-word close reading of the passage from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë in a competition which received a record number of entries this year.

We asked Milly about the competition and what is ‘close reading?’

What motivated you to enter the competition?

Milly: Miss Silvester had told my English enrichment class about it and I decided to have a go given that it would be good practice for my upcoming English course work which is also a piece of close reading. I felt that given it was my first time writing such a thing, I had nothing to lose!

What is close reading?

Milly: Close reading is the act of taking an extract of a piece of writing, and analysing the techniques and content of the writing. The act of close reading helps a reader to discover the exact techniques and form used by the writer, in order to fully appreciate the text as a whole. You can look at things such as the structure of a piece of literature, specific imagery used, what tone the writer creates through these, and how it links to the rest of their work.

What was tricky about writing it?

Milly: I had to work really hard to engage with the extract given, and since I had never written a piece of close reading this meant writing in a style that I did not know much about, and thinking in a slightly different way than I was used to. Instead of taking the piece of the novel as a whole, I had to really closely analyse each word and paragraph to identify intentional techniques used by the author to shape the extract in a particular way. I had never read the book (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte) and so I actually had to read it first so that I had a better understanding of the wider context as well.

What did you learn?

Milly: I learnt a lot from entering the competition. I learnt how to identify certain techniques used by writers, and also how to look at and explain the effects of different structures of writing. I also gained some confidence in the skill, and became better at engaging the more analytical side of my brain!

The competition judge commented that:

‘I was also asked to identify any entries that deserved to be ‘Highly Commended’, if I thought there were some who merited this, but no number was specified. I identified four entries in this category, a compact group running close behind the leaders, and deserving extra credit and recognition…. what I liked most about the shortlist as a whole was the ‘joined up’ quality of the responses to the passage. The students didn’t just identify literary tropes or explain isolated details – they joined up the dots of individual points to build a ‘reading’ of the passage. They were confident in using the technical terms associated with close reading, but not over-awed by them, so that they were integrated into lively and fluent accounts of the significance and power of the text.’

Please see here for Milly’s excellent entry.


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