Oxford English Faculty launch a collection of free resources to support English teachers with GCSE 19th century non-fiction

Diseases of Modern Life Resources

The new 9-1 GCSE specifications set great store by nineteenth-century writings, both in the literature and language papers of all specifications. This poses a particular problem to today’s GCSE candidates who are increasingly distanced from the socio-cultural norms of the nineteenth-century, not to mention the idiosyncrasies of Victorian modes of expression!

It is not hard to find plentiful examples of nineteenth-century fiction to use as extracts in the classroom, but what about non-fiction? AQA – the most popular specification among schools – has an unseen 19th century literary non-fiction extract as part of Paper 2 (the exam which constitutes 50% of the qualification as a whole).

To help teachers, members of the English Faculty have developed a range of sample texts from primary sources. The extracts they offer are formatted (as far as possible) as they would appear in an AQA exam script: in 11pt Arial font, with a brief introduction to the source and a glossary of vocabulary students couldn’t be expected to know.

They only provide ‘Source B’ (the 19th century literary non-fiction) because this is where the Faculty’s own research aligns with the needs of the classroom, and because they see these extracts as a way of getting students more familiar with reading nineteenth-century non-fiction. However, they are on topics (such as exercise, hygiene etc.) where modern accompanying texts could easily be found to pair a Source A with our Source B.

These resources are designed to be used with students from National Curriculum Year 9 onwards, to help them prepare for the unseen 19th century literary non-fiction extracts they’ll see on their exam papers. They aim specifically to help the following:

  • to increase students’ reading speed when reading 19th century non-fiction: the whole Paper 2 exam lasts 1 hour 45 minutes, with only 15 minutes of that time recommended for reading the sources. Therefore, the quicker students can read and understand 19th century non-fiction, the more time they can spend formulating strong answers
  • to allow students to practice the skills tested by Assessment Objective 2, which can fall by the wayside when students are busy just trying to understand the gist of the text:

Find the resources online here: https://www.english.ox.ac.uk/diseases-modern-life-resources

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