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English Literature GSCE and DS (15) who doesn't read

(76 Posts)
longtermsinglemummy Mon 16-Jan-17 11:11:16

Does anyone have any advice on how I can try and improve my son's English results? He's not a big reader, in fact he would probably choose to do anything but read a book. I've tried different types of books, he tolerates an autobiography, generally sports related.

He's got over a year until he sits his GCSE. He's very bright, albeit lazy and doesn't apply himself. But he really needs English to get anywhere and is currently working at a level 3-4, which I think is D-E.

I cannot think of ways I can encourage him. We always fall out over homework and tests anyway so I'm conscious of not starting another row! Is it as simple as just reading more, or are there other things I can do?


Autumnsky Mon 16-Jan-17 11:18:26

I think it would be hard if you always fall out over homework. Hard working is the only key to improve. Beside reading, actual writing is quite important. But I am not sure how can you get him do the writing if he doesn't even want to read.If you can get him agree he has to work a bit harder, the quickest way to improve I think is to do the sample paper, Lets say 1 paper per week, he do it, you mark it and go through it with him. Or half a paper per week if he think it is too much.

Autumnsky Mon 16-Jan-17 11:23:11

Anything he want at the moment? Maybe 1 star per paper, and certain stars he can get the thing he want? I am not sure about if this is going to work with a teenager. Another way I used for my younger son who is 9 is he has to finish homework before he can play any games and watch any TVs.

IPokeBadgers Mon 16-Jan-17 11:35:26

What books/plays/poetry are on his GCSE Eng Lit course? Because those are what he will be marked on, not how many sporting star autobiographies he reads (not trying to sound bitchy, just trying to work out where your efforts are best concentrated!)

Do you that think looking at other ways to access the materials might help? For example, a frequent GCSE English Lit staple is Shakespeare's Macbeth. There are so many film versions of this, and some of them are quite cool. If you could encourage him to watch a couple of these type of things, and watched them yourself, then you could try compare and contrast/start discussions around those: might help his critical thinking.

I know at the end of the day, he still has to be able to express his ideas and discuss the literature in his own writing, but it might help him to engage with it in the first place?

Perhaps list here some of the literature on his syllabus and other people might have ideas. The school will be able to tell you what syllabus they are following, and maybe a word with his English teacher for ideas sooner rather than later would be an idea, if you haven't already?

IPokeBadgers Mon 16-Jan-17 11:37:59

And don't forget BBC bitesize!

longtermsinglemummy Mon 16-Jan-17 11:38:12

Autumnsky Thank you for replying. I've tried the rewarding, I've tried punishing, I've tried incentivising. He's working marginally better than last year but I find that Sciences and French are easier to coach him through than English is.

You're right that it's not just about vocab, it is about actual writing as well. I was thinking of trying to find the play on stage they are covering at the moment, as that might put it into context.

longtermsinglemummy Mon 16-Jan-17 11:42:32

IPokeBadgers Brilliant advice, thank you!

He's reading An Inspector Calls at the moment, that is the play I may try and find in the theatre to take him to.

I remember finding York Notes quite helpful when I was his age, so I might buy those for him. And I will speak to his English teacher as well. I think I need to go through the AQA website.

IPokeBadgers Mon 16-Jan-17 11:50:12

An Inspector Calls is actually quite a good one, as a play, it is quite compact and the themes are fairly universal: it questions how much responsibility we have towards our fellow man, and demonstrates how something small to one person can have snowball effect and devastate another person. Great play, and there are at least two film versions of it available. I like the 1950s Alastair Sim version, but there is a version that was done in 2015 as well, which I haven't seen.

I have also seen a touring production of it (think it was the Stephen Daldry version) and it was excellent. I am a big fan of seeing plays performed (either on stage or adapted for screen) rather than just trying to study them and make sense of it on the page.

longtermsinglemummy Mon 16-Jan-17 11:57:03

Thank you for that! I've found the production and I'll book tickets now. I'me just trying to find out the rest of the texts he is covering and will let you know smile

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Mon 16-Jan-17 12:02:09

Do you mean English Language op? That's the one people need with Maths as it shows English ability. He will need to be able to write well and in a variety of mediums. At least it used to.

He can get through English Lit without reading a book (sadly) so long as he can understand the themes and pick out relevant bits to back it up. Watching adaptations and plays helps.

Can you get a copy of the syllabus from the examination body?

IPokeBadgers Mon 16-Jan-17 12:06:26

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut makes a good point: I was responding to the original post purely thinking about English Literature.

MissTeriName Mon 16-Jan-17 12:07:49

Get the film! I've got the same issue with DD - her learning style is less reading, and more listening/watching. She went from 30% in a 'mock' to 70% in another 'mock' a few weeks later after I forced her to watch Merchant of Venice with me. During the movie I explained all the ins and outs to her (thankfully Lit is my 'thing'). She whinged, as usual, but it was non-negotiable and since her results and praise from her favourite teacher she gets it.

I've now got to find others on the list to watch with her.

insan1tyscartching Mon 16-Jan-17 12:14:30

Ds has never read anything outside of school reading books. He will tell anyone who asks that at 28 the last book her read was The Twits. He still has a degree and a Masters and passed English Literature GCSE with a B. He watched films, plays and performances of the books, looked up online reviews and plot summaries, memorised some quotes that he could use generally and still didn't read the books.
It worked for him, he knew the plot, could throw in a few quotes and so long as he could build an opinion with sufficient evidence it didn't really matter that his opinion wasn't the most widely held one and he hadn't read the books ultimately.
He read none of the suggested reading for his degree or Masters either in fact he didn't purchase a book or borrow from the library proving me wrong that he would eventually need to get over his hatred of reading books.

tutorwho Mon 16-Jan-17 12:35:24

I would suggest getting him to listen to fun audio books as well. My students like to listen to Frankenstein as it gets them thinking.

longtermsinglemummy Mon 16-Jan-17 12:40:08

I've ordered the 2015 DVD of An Inspector Calls, and the York Notes so that will be a start. I'll take him to the stage show as well.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut You're right, I was confused about Literature and Language.

I've no idea how he's doing in English Language though...

ImperialBlether Mon 16-Jan-17 12:51:36

I found the only way to make my son work was to remind him he'd have to spend an extra year doing it anyway, for a re-sit. That tended to help him focus!

Wolfiefan Mon 16-Jan-17 12:54:48

I would speak to his English teacher. Ask for specific targets. Is he adapting his writing to suit the task in language writing? Does he use quotations properly when doing a reading question? Literature. Can he comment on the intentions of the author?
Find out exam board. Get past papers. It may be more about planning and written techniques than how much he does or doesn't read.

MrsWhiteWash Mon 16-Jan-17 13:37:18

this thread references a study site for literature says it's good for Macbeth

I've just got An Inspector calls audio play CD - I can't remember if it was The Works or The Book People but it wasn't that expensive.

I'm a few years off this - but will have a similar issue as eldest hates reading - dyslexia is finally being looked into for her.

I was thinking Audio books - unabridged if I can find them and study guides for different texts would be they way forward with her. Might even stump up for audible when we get there.

Though see what the teacher suggests as well.

Sadik Mon 16-Jan-17 13:46:46

I agree with Imperial - point out to him if he doesn't get the required level (does anyone know what it will be? used to be a C) then by law he will have to carry on studying English at college next year. That might be the motivation he needs to pull his finger out a bit!

sayatidaknama Mon 16-Jan-17 14:36:28

My DS is the same age and sounds similar to yours OP. He's clever, a bit lazy and hardly reads anything other than football related stuff on the internet! He manages to do very well in both English lit and Lang because, I think, he writes well and has a good vocabulary. Where that comes from, I have no idea! I have also taught him a few tricks of the trade. A lot of it is stuff he had drummed into him when taking the 11+.

DS is also doing An Inspector Calls. They've read it in class and watched it too. This is probably enough in itself for GCSE surely but as others say, plays are meant to be watched, so see every version you can lay your hands on. His teacher said the other day there are only 5 potential questions on it, so it can't be that hard to swat up on them? They only do one other text.

I've no idea what the english language paper is like. During lessons, they apparently look at texts in an anthology and it seems to be treated more or less the same as English lit confused

longtermsinglemummy Mon 16-Jan-17 15:14:35

sayatidaknama It's painful isn't it? His verbal vocabulary is brilliant, but he's just lazy in transferring that to written.

TeaCakeLiterature Mon 16-Jan-17 15:18:17

I'm a head of English and can honestly say these new exams are incredibly tough.

He will need to work hard to do well. Maybe if work books and revision won't be taken up by him a tutor would? Focused work with one to one can sometimes really help as they then have to work in that time?

happy2bhomely Mon 16-Jan-17 15:34:16

I've found youtube very good.

My son is studying Macbeth, DNA and The Sign of Four, and between CGP revision guides, Mr Bruff and youtube he is doing ok. He's just got a level 5 in his mocks and is predicted a 6.

He has read the texts in class, but he said it is painfully slow because everyone has to read a bit.

He enjoys reading but he likes teen sci-fi/dystopian type stuff and can't be convinced to read much else right now.

I've made it clear to him that without English and Maths his options will be severely limited, and he will need to resit them anyway. I've shown him around the shitty colleges he will need to apply to if he doesn't get into his preferred 6th form.

Also, the threat of working as a labourer with his dad to earn his keep is enough of an incentive for him to pull his finger out!

BareGrylls Mon 16-Jan-17 15:36:22

My eldest was very clever at every subject but English. Could ace exams in any subject but English.He never read for pleasure.
I got a tutor in the end who taught him to play the game.
As MovingOnUpMovingOnOut says He can get through English Lit without reading a book (sadly) so long as he can understand the themes and pick out relevant bits to back it up
Much as it pained me that was the route that worked. Lots of sample notes and practise questions. He never actually read any of the books and got A in Language and A* in Lit.

Caveat. I am well aware (as a school governor) that the new curriculum is much harder.

sayatidaknama Mon 16-Jan-17 15:39:05

longtermsinglemummy, yes it is! DS has to read To Kill a Mockingbird and write an essay on it by next Tuesday for History. I asked him yesterday how he's getting on with the book and he said he's read 10 pages. Apparently it's really boring. After 10 pages you'd know this of course hmm grin

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