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Belonging reading task activities

This material was prepared by Eve Mayes, Condell Park High School.

Resources on the internet
Paper 1 Section I
Time management
How do I know what the question is asking me to do?
Text forms and features
Language features in written or spoken language
Visual literacy techniques
Key techniques commonly found in particular text formats
Describing the effect of a technique
Using nominalisation to make your answers more precise
The last question in Paper 1 Section I
Remembering the Belonging Prescription statements
Past Paper Analysis

Resources on the internet

Previous HSC examination papers (external website) and notes from the Marking Centre (external website) including Marking Guidelines are available on the Board of Studies website. These papers, notes and guidelines provide valuable information that will assist in developing understanding of ways to read questions and write informed and confident responses.

This English Teachers' Association resource (external website) has a good summary of print and visual techniques. It was written for a Standard/ Advanced audience, so take care to remember the structure of the English (ESL) course.


Paper 1 Section I

Paper 1 Section I is the reading component of the English (ESL) examination. All candidates undertaking English (ESL) complete this paper.

Hand with pen

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The format of the paper is not predictable. Since 2008, lines for writing have been provided in an examination booklet. These lines have provided an indication of how much you are expected to write.

Paper 1 Section I does not require you to refer to any texts beyond what is presented in this section. Including a reference to prescribed or related texts beyond those provided in the paper will not enhance responses or results. However, in the last question of Paper 1 Section 1, you may be asked to refer to your own ideas and experiences.

The known fact is that Paper 1 Section I will contain several texts where belonging is represented.

The unknown fact is the types of texts that will be presented and how belonging or not belonging is represented in those texts. This is a paper where the best responses will clearly identify and discuss language forms, features and techniques as the means for representing belonging or not belonging. A response which rewrites the question or just paraphrases the text does not reflect any knowledge of how meaning is created and represented.



All HSC examination papers are printed and formatted in the same manner. At the beginning of any question is the rubric, which defines the guidelines or criteria your response will be judged against in determining the mark for particular questions. It is essential that for every HSC question, in any subject, these guidelines are read and considered before composing a response to any question.

Look at English (ESL) Paper 1 (external website)

In 2009 the criteria for Paper I section I was:

In this section you will be assessed on how well you:

  • demonstrate understanding of the ways language shapes and expresses perceptions
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Time management during the exam

Time your responses well to ensure that all sections of the paper are completed with time allocation appropriate to the mark for each section.

Section I is worth 25 marks. You should spend 50 minutes on this section.


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Be aware of the mark allocated to the question and the answer space (where this is provided on the examination paper) to give you a guide to the length of the required response. Answers and quotations should be short, succinct, relevant and clearly explained. A question worth 1 mark only requires a brief answer. Perhaps one word, but at most two-three sentences is usually enough. Writing far beyond the allocated space will impact on your time to answer other questions. In particular, spending too much time on low-mark questions will compromise your time to answer the last question, which usually has the highest mark allocation.

You should download copies of past papers (external website) and work through the format of the questioning in Paper 1 and Section I. The allocation of marks is similar and by going over past papers you can develop an understanding of the time it will take you to respond to each section.

Timing of each section throughout Paper 1 as a whole is important and you should ensure you have a watch or a clear view of a wall clock to maintain a consistent and appropriate pace in completing all sections of the paper.

The paper builds in intensity and this is reflected in the mark allocation. Answering the questions sequentially will clarify the meaning of the texts, allowing you to develop new meanings in a personal, analytical manner for the final section.


How do I know what the question is asking me to do?

Respond - do not simply retell! Section I does not require you to retell or recount the included texts. It requires you to identify aspects of belonging or not belonging and consider how the composer has presented/represented belonging or not belonging through the language forms and features of the text/s.


"How" is a question word that is frequently used in English examination questions. This often requires students to explicitly refer to language techniques.

How = techniques

 'How' is one word, which can be expanded to read "explain what language techniques the composer uses to represent belonging in the text." You should never just copy out something from the included text/s as your response to each section.

Quotations can and should be used to support a response by considering how, for example:


The term way is also closely linked to the how and requires direct reference to the language forms and features (techniques) of the texts. Quoting from the text to support the 'way' is essential. A direct quotation from the text does not prove or determine the 'way' unless it is supported.


Questions beginning with "To what extent", "How effective", "Analyse the effectiveness…", "To what extent is the ____ effective…" require students to evaluate.

You should use evaluative language in answering these questions.Evaluative language includes words like:

  • Highly effective
  • Extremely effective
  • Exceedingly effective
  • Exceptionally effective
  • Greatly effective
  • Decidedly effective
  • Certainly is effective
  • Undoubtedly effective
  • Very effective
  • Partly effective
  • Partially effective
  • Moderately effective
  • In part
  • To a degree
  • To a certain/ some extent
  • Fairly effective
  • Reasonably effective
  • Quite effective
  • Moderately effective
  • Somewhat effective
  • Rather effective
  • Not effective
  • Successful
  • Effectual



Look at past Reading Tasks and write a list of the question words that frequently are asked. If there are any words that you are uncertain about the meaning, look up the Board's Glossary of Key Words (external website) and discuss these words with your teacher.

This explanation of terms is common to all courses. Anytime these terms appear in any paper they are used in the same context and meaning. A clear understanding of the meanings listed in this glossary will enhance your opportunities across all subjects.

Access and develop a thorough understanding through glossary of key words to ensure:

Some of the main words from this Glossary that are may be used in Section I of Paper 1 include:

  • Account - Account for: state reasons for, report on. Give an account of: narrate a series of events or transactions
  • Analyse - Identify components and the relationship between them; draw out and relate implications
  • Compare - Show how things are similar or different
  • Contrast - Show how things are different or opposite
  • Critically (analyse/evaluate) - Add a degree or level of accuracy depth, knowledge and understanding, logic, questioning, reflection and quality to (analyse/evaluate)
  • Define - State meaning and identify essential qualities
  • Demonstrate - Show by example
  • Describe - Provide characteristics and features
  • Discuss - Identify issues and provide points for and/or against
  • Explain - Relate cause and effect; make the relationships between things evident; provide why and/or how
  • Identify - Recognise and name
  • Justify - Support an argument or conclusion
  • Outline - Sketch in general terms; indicate the main features of
  • Recommend - Provide reasons in favour
  • Recount - Retell a series of events
  • Summarise - Express, concisely, the relevant details
  • Synthesise - Putting together various elements to make a whole


Text forms and features

The texts included in Paper 1 Section I can be in any form. It is important to be familiar with the elements that go together to produce each text. Some forms in past papers have included:

  • poems
  • song lyrics
  • excerpts from novels
  • excerpts from autobiographies
  • speeches
  • feature articles
  • advertisements/ posters
  • cartoons/ comic strips
  • photographs
  • websites

There is no way of predicting which textual forms will be included in the paper this year. You need to have an understanding of a variety of texts forms and the language and visual features/ techniques commonly used in each type of text.


Language features in written or spoken language

Think about language features including:

  • figurative language (simile, metaphor, personification)
  • repetition
  • sound (alliteration, onomatopoeia, assonance)
  • word choice (verbs, nouns, adjectives, words with positive/ negative connotations)
  • dialogue/ direct speech
  • authentication (quotations from known experts to support information in interviews, articles, extracts, speeches)
  • integrity (statistics)
  • cumulation (lists)
  • rhetorical questions
  • imperatives (commands)


Visual literacy techniques:

These techniques are as important as written language techniques. Become familiar with terminology such as:

  • layout (visual, written, language, font size etc)
  • images
  • body language (facial expression, stance, direction of gaze: demand - looking at the camera, offer - looking away from the camera)
  • frontal and oblique angles (frontal - body facing the camera, oblique - body turned away from the camera)
  • framing
  • types of shots (long, medium, close-up, extreme close-up)
  • composition (collage, layered)
  • symbolism (particularly consider this in 'how' a particular sign or symbol represents belonging)
  • reading paths (direction, positioning)
  • gestures (pointing, implied direction, signs).
  • light and shade
  • contrast (in colours, clothing, facial expressions)

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There is a Creative Commons license attached to this image (external website)Attribution http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/2966983310/sizes/s/ (external website)


A helpful glossary of visual technique terminology can be found at: http://www.slideshare.net/rjp152/visual-literacy-1992223 (external website)

A helpful glossary of techniques used in print and visual techniques can be found on pages 3-6 at: http://www.englishteacher.com.au/downloads/Area%20of%20Study%20ResourcesETA.pdf (external website)


Key techniques commonly found in particular text formats:

Text format Language and Visual Techniques commonly found in these types of texts
Poems Similes, metaphor, personification, alliteration, assonance, rhyme, repetition, onomatopoeia
Song lyrics As for poems. Repetition and assonance in particular are common techniques
Novels/ autobiographies As for poems. First ("I"), second ("you") or third ("he/she/it")
Speeches Repetition, quotations, statistics, alliteration, rhetorical questions, cumulation (lists), imperatives (commands), second person ("you")
Feature articles Statistics, quotations, passive voice, short paragraphs, words with positive/ negative connotations
Advertisements/ posters Most salient object, vectors, layout, imperative (command), first person plural ("we"), second person ("you"), cumulation (list), words with positive/ negative connotations, contrast, lighting, camera shots, camera angles, gaze, frontal/ oblique body angles
Cartoons/ comic strips Exaggeration/ caricature, contrast, body language, facial expressions
Photographs Most salient object, vectors, contrast, body language, facial expressions, lighting, camera shots, camera angles, gaze, frontal/ oblique body angles
Websites Most salient object, layout, vectors, hyperlinks, interactive features (games, videos), first person plural ("we"), second person ("you\")

Download a PDF version of these tables.


Describing the effect of a technique

Students' explanations of the effect of techniques are often too general (e.g. "This technique shows he is happy").

Improve your vocabulary to make your description of the effect of a technique more specific. Find other ways to say happy, sad, positive and negative.

In the following table, the adjective is listed, followed by the noun in parentheses.

Warning:Make sure you know exactly what the word means before using it in an examination!

LEVEL of INTENSITY Happy (Happiness) Sad (Sadness) Positive - Confident (Confidence) Negative - Angry (Anger)
Strong Ecstatic (ecstasy)
Excited (excitement)
Delighted (delight)
Thrilled (thrill)
Devastated (devastation)
Distressed (distress)
Eager (eagerness)
Keen (keenness)
Furious (fury)
Disdainful (disdain)
Angry (anger)
Moderate Merry (merriness)
Cheerful (cheerfulness)
Joyful (joy)
Disappointed (disappointment)
Let down
Expectant (expectancy)
Confident (confidence)
Certain (certainty)
Sure (certainty)
Self-assured (self-assuredness)
Cynical (cynicism)
Disillusioned (disillusionment)
Annoyed (annoyance)
Sarcastic (sarcasm)
Pessimistic (pessimism)
Sceptical (scepticism)
Mild Pleased (pleasure)
Satisfied (satisfaction)
Content (contentment)
Glad (gladness)
Blissful (bliss)
Dissatisfied (dissatisfaction)
Displeased (displeasure)
Discontented (discontentment)
Hopeful (hope)
Optimistic (optimism)
Encouraging (encouragement)
Helpful (helpfulness)
Irritated (irritation)
Frustrated (frustration)
Distrustful (distrust)

Choose 8 words that you are going to learn and try to use.

Download a PDF version of this table.

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Using nominalisation to make your answers more precise

You can improve your answer by nominalising your statements. This is particularly useful when you are asked to identify theeffectof a technique. "Nominalisation" is the process of making a word a noun. Nominalisation makes your sentences sound more precise, sophisticated and formal.

Fill the gaps of the following descriptions of effects by nominalising the word in italics.

Previous description of the effect of a technique Nominalised description of the effect of a technique (add "creates a feeling of…")
This technique shows that she is excited. This technique creates a feeling of her excitement.
This shows that he is depressed. This demonstrates his feeling of depression.
This makes us know that she is happy. This creates a feeling of her ________________.
The technique shows he is satisfied. The technique creates a sense of his satisfaction.
The technique makes him sound strong. The technique creates a feeling of his _____________________.
The composer describes topics that interest the responder. The speakers' ________________ of topics of interest to responders creates a feeling of…
The technique shows the persona is irritated. The technique creates a feeling of the persona's ___________________.
This shows the persona is not interested. This conveys a sense of the persona _________________________.
This engages the responder. This generates responder __________________.

For answers download this interactive PDF version of this activity.

Once you have mastered the process of nominalisation, you can then experiment with using other phrases instead of "creates a feeling of…":

Creates a feeling of… conveys a sense of creates a sense of

emphasises (makes stronger) her feeling of

engenders (brings about) a feeling of

evokes (brings up)a feeling of

generates a feeling of

highlights her feeling of

portrays (shows) a feeling of

suggests that


The last question in Paper 1 Section I

The final question for Section I may either require you to analyse the concept of belonging presented and/or compose a response for a specific audience and purpose, making reference to at least one of the unseen texts. You must be prepared to relate your own "ideas and experiences" to the texts.

Look at whether the question is asking you to write in a particular format. In the past, students have been required to write the following texts in answering the last question:

  • Description
  • Reflective journal entry
  • Creative writing
  • School magazine article
  • Speech
  • Introduction for a collection of resources
  • Interview
  • Letter to the editor

Think about the audience for your piece of writing and the purpose. The text format, purpose and audience will influence your choice of language and the structure of your piece of writing.

Ensure you understand the question by quickly summarising:

  • Purpose -What is the purpose of the text that I am being asked to write? (To persuade, recount, describe, compare…?)
  • Audience - Who is the audience for my text? (Students, teachers, community?)
  • Context - What is the context of my text? (School, workplace, community?)
  • Language - What language should I use to suit my purpose, audience and context? (Formal, informal, colloquial, persuasive, emotive?)
  • Structure - What is the structure of the text that I am being asked to write?

This can be summarised on your examination paper with the mnemonic:

  • P
  • A
  • C
  • L
  • S
  • (Or S-C-A-L-P)

Plan your response using these points to maximise your marks. This will be much more effective than rushing into writing and misinterpreting the question!


In the last question of Section I, you may be required to synthesise one of the reading task texts with your own experiences, or synthesise two of the reading task texts.
The HSC Glossary definition of the term (external website) 'synthesise' is "putting together various elements to make a whole". It can also be defined as "combine so as to form a more complex product" - wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn (external website).

Some questions will ask you to synthesise two of the reading task texts. To successfully synthesise, you must compare and contrast the texts, rather than simply retell or recount. Choose the texts that you are most comfortable with rather than thinking that a 'harder' text will 'get more marks'. Write in a formal manner using an objective voice. For example, instead of "I think text one…" try "It is obvious that text #…". This demonstrates an ability to construct a response that is considered and informed.

Direct reference to the texts is essential. Quotations should be appropriate and support the overall context of the response. The common link between the texts is the concept of belonging. Do not simply make a brief link at end. Integrate your connections throughout your response.

Use connecting words such as:

Compare Contrast
… akin to….
All the same
… analogous to…
As well
…. comparable to….
Just as…, so too …
In addition
In a similar way,
In like manner
… parallels
… mirrors
… reflects
… same as…
At the same time
…. different to…
… distinguishes itself from…
For all that
In contrast,
…. is not… Rather
… nothing like…
On the contrary,
On the other hand,
There is a difference/ gap/ distinction/ disparity between…

Prepared answers seldom answer the question sufficiently to expect full marks. The structure of this paper and the questions is designed to test your knowledge and understanding, not your memory.

Download a PDF version of these notes.


Remembering the Belonging Prescription statements

Learn the belonging prescription statements. You may be asked in the Reading Task in the HSC: "What is ONE idea about belonging that is expressed in this text"? In answering this question, you will need to explicitly refer to an idea about belonging from the Prescription statements. Knowing the prescription statements is also useful when writing your extended response in Section II.

Free hugs

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To help you remember the Prescription statements in the examination room, you should test yourself early on in your study of belonging. 'Mnemonics' is a study skill that can help you remember long lists.

Firstly, you should narrow each sentence down to one key 'trigger' word.


P: PERCEPTIONS of belonging/ not belonging vary (are different)

C: Perceptions of belonging are shaped within personal, cultural, historical and social CONTEXTS (places).

C: A sense of belonging can come from the CONNECTIONS made with people, places, groups, communities and the larger world.


E/ C: The INDIVIDUAL has the potential (ability) to ENRICH or CHALLENGE a group.

A: ATTITUDES to belonging are modified (change) over time.

C: There may be CHOICES NOT to belong.

B: There may be BARRIERS preventing belonging.

R: The RESPONDER can feel a sense of belonging to, or exclusion from, the TEXT and the world it represents.

B/ D: Studying belonging can BROADEN and DEEPEN the RESPONDER'S understanding of themselves and the world

P: PERSPECTIVES can be given voice in texts or absent from texts.

R/ A: The concept of belonging is conveyed through the REPRESENTATIONS of people, relationships, ideas, places, events and societies. There are ASSUMPTIONS that shape those representations.

Then, test yourself to see if you can remember the whole sentence from just the one word:

Trigger Word Big Idea

Then, make up a mnemonic to remember the list of key 'trigger' words. Use the first letter of each of the trigger words to make up new words that help you remember the trigger words:



Your words! ___________________________________________________________


Download an interactive PDF version of this activity


Past Paper Analysis - Reading Task

Analyse past HSC reading tasks papers for the types of texts and types of questions asked. These papers can be accessed on the Board of Studies website. ( http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/hsc_exams/hsc2009exams/index2.html#e (external website))

Fill in the table for each past paper.

Then, write a summary of:

Year Types of Texts in Reading Task Types of Questions Last question of Reading Task - Text Type to write Last Question of Reading Task - Question

Download this table in a Word document

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