Let’s face it, studying for English in Years 9 and 10 can seem like a nightmare – where do you even begin?
You study films, novels and poems but have to write essays and creatives or even present speeches.
But don’t fret! We’ve created the ultimate guide to acing studying for English in Years 9 and 10.
There are four main components to acing English in Year 9 and 10, and we’ll be tackling them each individually: overall study, essays, creative tasks and speeches/presentations.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive right in!
How to Study for English in General
Almost every term, without fail, a new text is shoved into students hands, and more times than not, it is met with well… utter confusion.
What exactly are you supposed to do with this poem/novel/movie/short film etc.? Should you be making notes? Are you expected to view it? What do I need to take from the story?
These questions are more common than you may think and we’re here to answer them all, hopefully clearing up some of your confusion.
Step 1: Research
So before you read/watch your text, the first thing you should do is research.
Do a brief Google search of the text itself, noting its overall plot, main themes, important scenes and character analysis.
Make very brief notes on these so that when you do read/watch the text, you are doing it with an analytical mind.
Basically, you’re on the lookout for what will be important for upcoming assessments, rather than just simply enjoying the text.
Step 2: Read and annotate
The next step is to read and annotate.
This means that as you read/view your text, note down any important quotes, techniques or ideas that come to your mind.
If you’re studying a novel, a good idea is to assign each theme of your novel to a colour. Then, place sticky notes of that colour on pages where the theme is prominent. This makes it easy to come back to later.
If you’re studying a film, open up a word document and create separate subtitles for each theme. Then, as good quotes or techniques come up in the film, note them down under the relevant subtitle.
If you’re studying a poem, use multiple coloured highlighters to colour code the text according to the different themes it addresses.
Although, your teacher will provide you with some important quotes and techniques in class, your own reading gives you a unique insight into the text.
That way, when it comes down to writing an essay/creative/speech, you have quotes, techniques and ideas that no one else in your cohort has! This makes you stand out, leading you to higher marks.
Tip: It’s best to complete this task in the holidays before the text is to be studied in class e.g. If you’re studying Romeo and Juliet in Term 2, read and annotate in the Easter holidays. This gives you time and allows you to spend the rest of the term developing your ideas further.
If time doesn’t allow this, you can always read and annotate throughout the term as well – though your reading probably won’t be as thorough as you now have to also balance your other subjects.
Step 3: Participate in class
The final step is to participate in class. Your teacher knows a lot.
Listen to what they say in class and take notes on their ideas and analysis.
These notes can be arranged according to the themes you laid out while reading and annotating.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions! If one of the themes doesn’t make sense to you, ask about it! If you don’t understand the motivations of a certain character, ask about it!
You will never learn by nodding your head and pretending you get everything (trust me).
Teachers are also often open to marking or reading over first drafts or ideas for assessment tasks (though each school will have their restrictions).
Don’t be afraid to approach your teacher if you want to discuss a creative concept with her/him before you launch into the long process of writing it.
This applies for all assessment tasks, though remember, teachers also have a limited amount of time on their hands so be respectful if they refuse.
So that’s the general study that will help you in Year 9 and 10 English, but what about assessment tasks?
How to Study for Essays
We have a comprehensive guide on how to write an amazing essay in Year 9 and 10, available here.
How to Study for Creatives
Step 1: Read!
Creatives are often what students struggle with most and unfortunately, this is due to one resounding problem: they don’t read.
Convoluted plots, awkward pacing, incorrect wording, unrealistic character development and bizarre endings are some of the biggest issues that occur in high school creative writing – all of which can be solved by reading.
Throughout Year 9 and 10, it is a good idea to set yourself a yearly goal of novels or short stories to read (start at around 10) to develop your vocabulary and understanding of creative writing.
You often hear good writers say that when they write a good piece, it just feels right. This feeling is what we are trying to hone through reading so this creative style of writing becomes more natural to you.
Step 2: Draw inspiration from the stimulus
When it comes to writing the creative itself, the first yet hardest part is thinking of an idea/plot.
Draw inspiration from the stimulus (if you are given one) and the world around you.
Think of what you know well, be it your culture (built from the communities you participate in e.g. Sri Lankan culture, gaming culture, foodie culture), your relationships, or your knowledge (e.g. historical) and draw out a story!
Step 3: Brainstorm
A good way to get the creative juices flowing is to brainstorm and just jot down everything that comes to mind.
That way, you have a clear map of what you can write about and it allows you to develop your ideas further as you add new branches.
Next, plan out your general plot, assigning word limitations to each major plot point. This ensures you keep within the overall word limit and also helps with pacing i.e. if the scene is intricate and requires the audience to focus, it will use more words than a scene that you want to convey as fast-paced and chaotic.
Then, write, write, write! Write out your first draft, keeping in mind you are editing it later. The first draft is never the best but it gives you an opportunity to explore how exactly you want to word your story.
Once your first draft is complete, edit it. Go through and make note of where things sound awkward, where vocabulary can be better and any other problems you encounter. Then fix these problems.
A creative can go through multiple edits before it finally makes it to the teacher’s desk. Keep developing the story until you are happy (or until the assessment is due).
How to Study for Speeches or Presentations
There are two main types of speeches/presentations that occur in Year 9 and 10: analytical and creative.
Analytical speeches or presentations require you to present information about your text(s) using the analysis you have completed personally or in class.
Creative speeches or presentations give you almost free-reign to speak on the topic of your choice. The two have very different preparations.
Analytical Speeches and Presentations
These are very similar to the multimodal presentations that you will be required to make in senior years.
This helpful multimodal guide we’ve written up is super useful for developing speeches/presentations in this category!
Creative Speeches and Presentations
These are offered exclusively in junior years and often leave students stumped as to where to start.
Usually, you are given a stimulus, however, it is not really restricting, meaning you have free rein to talk on many topics.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Similar to writing creatives, a good first step is to brainstorm, jotting down any ideas you may have and allowing them to develop as you add more branches.
This enables you to settle on a topic.
Step 2: Make a plan
Once your topic is decided, you should establish whether you need to do any research (e.g. if you are talking about a scientific concept or historical event).
If your speech is more speculative or inspirational, research is optional.
Make a general plan of your speech so you can see exactly what you need to research and what points you want to make using it.
Step 3: Research and edit
Research if necessary before writing your speech/presentation’s first draft. It’s not going to be amazing, but it’s a great foundation to start on!
Then, like with a creative, edit, edit, edit until you are happy with the speech. Go through as many drafts as you need!
Step 4: Make the presentation
They’re easy and free to use, so don’t be afraid to give them a whirl!
Step 5: Practice
The final step is to practice. So many students neglect this crucial step (often due to poor time management) but it can often be your biggest downfall.
Confidence, eye contact and tone, are three keys to good public speaking and can’t be attained if a speech has been poorly practised.
Make sure you allocate time to practice the speech out loud.
Tip: practice in front of family, friends or a mirror to get used to presenting to a live audience. Recording yourself and listening back is also a good idea as you can pick up on certain issues you wouldn’t notice while presenting!
And that wraps up our guide on how to study for English in Years 9 and 10!
Year 9 and 10 English is a long journey with many demands and what seems to be very little time to meet them. But with these quick tips and guide, it should be just a little bit easier.
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Jacinda Yang graduated in 2018 and is currently studying a Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Advanced Studies (Media and Communications) at the University of Sydney. She has been an avid writer and reader for as long as she can remember, dipping into public speaking competitions, short stories, slam poetry and even the dark, unmentionable days of Wattpad fiction. These days you can find her bingeing Netflix comedy specials or guiltily still indulging in young adult novels.