About Robert Johnson

English teacher since 1997. Worked in High Schools in Yorkshire till 2005. From 2012 have worked in FE establishments. From January 2015, worked in Adult workplace training delivering Funky Skills Maths and English.

The Art Of Revision

How do you revise? We all do it differently, don’t we? There is no right way or wrong way, but there is one immutable truth and it is this. When it comes to an end is an important decision.

Let me explain.

You can cram and cram all you like, but if you are daft enough to think that having your text book in front of you 5 minutes before the exam starts is a good idea, then forget it, because revision is like dusting!

What narcotic is he taking? That is what you are thinking, I know, but check this photo out.

When you revise, it is like when you dust a room. You can see dust particles in the air as you step back. It takes time for that dust to settle before you can hoover or wet clean a surface.

Revision is a similar thing, because the more you read and try to cram, the more knowledge dust is scattered through that brain of yours. The analogy is therefore, a good one.

The way to counter this problem and to ACE every exam you will take, assuming you are revising well, is to have a totally strict agenda for revision. Let us say the exam is on the 12th of the month. You revise up to and including the 10th. On the 11th you go and do what you love doing; football, Xbox, Alton Towers, having a drink, whatever your loves are. You go nowhere near your studies after that time and till the end of the exam.

No swotting 5 minutes before with the nose stuck over the top of the page of notes.

It is a total waste of time.

You have crammed to the 10th and the dust (info) needs to settle, so that when you sit down to the exam 2 days later (or less) it feels as if you might be sick, but it is the information waiting to be accessed and used.

Try it out and see. Your grades will increase by 2 grades if you have such a strict agenda as this.

Happy exam taking!

A Level English: Language Paper 2

A Level English: Language Paper 2

Language Diversity & Change

Section A

A typical question, based on the reading of two texts, might be as follows, which was taken from an exam paper recently! The insert used in the exam concerned itself with  the role of Standard English and the role of Political Correctness in our society now and how it is seen by some, as being wrong, divisive, or just illegal or immoral, as the writer claimed it went against our most basic of human right, to a voice and the freedom to use it freely! 

These were the questions…..

Evaluate the idea that British Standard English is superior to other varieties of English used around the world. [30 marks]


Evaluate the idea that the English language has been decaying over time and continues to do so. [30 marks]

The thing is, how on earth do you answer such a divisive bruiser, as this? But the first question I ask, is which one would you do? 

For me, the answer will always be to choose the one that allows you to write the most! By going for the Standard English one, you limit yourself to the subject matter itself, how it has changed over time, how accents and dialects are forever changing and how, since the 1950s, language change has also affected Standard English users. 

You could use ideas from the media, for in 1957, we only had a single channel (I think) in the UK, (BBC1). I may be wrong, but by 1986, we had at least four, if not more, and how regional accents, in the news, were now starting to be used! All this plays into Standard English, which in essence, is a myth anyway, for it is a forever changing thing, as language changes every day, emerging into a consciousness in 2021 that is now as politically correct as it can be in an effort to appease those who get offended more than most. 

But with question two, you get a much broader playing field in which to write! The question asks you to evaluate the idea that the English language has been decaying over time and continues to do so, which is an obvious thing to say, in a way! The question then arises as to how you are going to support your views! Yes, you use the two articles and I have purposely not added them into here, to keep my explanation more open, but let’s assume you agree, as I do, that the English language is forever changing! 

Then let’s assume that you understand how such language change has taken place; invasions, immigration, new words coming into the language through technology, the media, the arts, Hollywood and the likes and use a framework to write an answer from. One way to do such a question is to choose three eras to write about! For example, a recent student of mine did an NEA on something from three different eras; 1957, 1986 and 2020. I suggested, when we looked at this one here today, that she adopt a similar method here. 

So, what was the English language like in 1957? We had not seen Rock and Roll yet! We were just realising who Elvis Presley was. Cliff Richard had not even had his first hit! The Swinging Sixties as they were known, were a pipe dream and English was being taught in tightly clipped, RP tongues, across the world! The BBC had presenters dressed in suits and ties, presenting using as much RP (Received Pronunciation) as possible and dialect words were more or less banned. The BBC were saying “this is how we must speak to promote British life!” 

But the truth of the matter was very different under the surface! Geordies said, “why aye man” and Yorkshiremen said, “Ayup our kid” (I still do) and yet, the normal working class voice was never heard! It was always middle class Britain who were shown off to the world. Watch any old newsreel or black and white news item to see what I mean! Words back in 1957 had their semantic meaning, as well as pragmatically! “Cool” meant relatively cold, until a year or two later, when “cool” suddenly meant “groovy baby” as some American singers once said. The Sixties and Bubblegum Pop was arriving in the world like a nuclear holocaust on the English language! The mushroom cloud would linger long into the 1980s. 

Then jump to 1986 as your second example of how language has changed and is decaying and you use multi channel television, like cable TV in the 80s (that was a giggle) with presenters with regional accents. There were only a few and they were from Surrey, or Oxfordshire, rather than the typical Manc accent or dare I say it, “Scortish?” Yes, the English language was changing. Words like “moon landing” were commonplace whereas in 1957, it had not happened yet! If it happened, at all! 

But so were words that you could use to argue that the English language was decaying! Standard English was no longer the dominant force it had been. The three percent RP speakers, the top three percent, were silenced by the wave of Beatles music and Liverpool comedians sounding off their Scouse accents, as glorious as they are! Just listening to Sir Ken Dodd or John Lennon at that time, was bliss on the ear! You could hear every nuance and syllable, but also the accent they grew up with! True representation of accent and dialect was coming, which is a great thing!

But you can also argue that for the clarity of the English language, it was losing its depth and clean cut image and instead, was being changed from within in ways that to some, who are the purists in life, would have said that this was all too intolerable! Once again, the media and the music industry paved the way and words began to enter the English language, like “Compact Disc,” a thing unheard of before that, when the world had Betamax and then, the greatness of VHS video tapes! 

Those were the days! (That’s a song title, my friends)

Words that meant one thing in 1957 now took on other meanings. “Cool” was out and “Hip” was in. It was the age of the “Yuppy,” with his Filofax, leather wallet and briefcase, who wore the obligatory “Sony Walkman” on his head, all new words into the English language! 

But take another quantum leap to 2020 and then see what we are now up to in terms of the decay of the English language! Suddenly, “cool” no longer means good, but the word “sick” means the same thing! Suddenly, it is “sick” to be so famous, or a new car can be “sick,” or a particular singer! No longer are the Americanisms of “groovy” heard, unless on old style TV shows. 

Language is and forever will be, changing! That is a fact that we can never get away from! But, to fully answer the question, you have to go one side, or the other! You can argue both, but definitely, end up one side or the other! And don’t let your own strongly held views hold you back either! If you can say good and bad and then, slam dunk (there’s an Americanism for you) a really good point at the end, you have done the job!

Section B

Section B has two tasks. One is analytical, so how do you compare and contrast the two inserts read and studied for the exam? The answer has already been shown to you, by any good teacher! To use a Yorkshireism I use all the time, if your teacher hasn’t taught you to write using this framework, then they are “crap” at their job, full stop!

The framework should have been the first thing you did in Year 12. Or at the AS stage! It includes words like, “Lexis, Semantics, Pragmatics, Graphology” and a few more! Look them up and see! Get the AS book from Heinemann or the likes and see! So, whatever the task, your first paragraph answers the question! The next explains how, using ideas about Lexis. Then another paragraph about Semantics, and so on. 

But then, you get the final task and here is an example, from the earlier paper!

Write an opinion article about politically correct 

language in which you assess the ideas and 

issues raised in TEXT A and TEXT B. You should 

refer to ideas from language study and argue your 

own views. [30 marks]

For me, this is where I would have fun!

Does that sound odd? It shouldn’t, because this is where you get the chance to really have a go at being creative! But what if you’re the analytical type? Well, that might be the case. But, it should not deter you from having a giggle either! For that task above, the chances to be creative are massive! 

PC: The Stain On The Nation! That is what an American TV Pastor called it four years ago! You could go down that route, or the exact opposite! The choice is yours! If in this case, it was offensive, but written in purely Standard English, (with dialect words in brackets) then it would be perfect.


Lit Paper – An Inspector Calls

Right folks! You’ve studied this hard and you get this in your examination, or end of Y11 assessment.

An Inspector Calls

The first and most obvious question I would ask in front of a class of thirty who had studied this play is this…

Which question would you answer?

Please, I cannot reiterate this, DON’T DO BOTH! There’s always one who will and it’s a waste of time and usually means lower grades!

Some think writing about a character alone is easy, but there’s a catch for the Level 3-4 borderline students I teach regularly. How many quotes can you write down right now, about the character mentioned above in 01?

My answer, having read it, studied it, taught it and tutored it recently, is very little. If that would make me struggle, then what will a fifteen year old do? 

The best question to do is the one which asks you to talk or write about that something special from the play, in this case, social class and how it is discussed in the play. 

Yes, there’s still two bullet points. Yes, there is a wider area of thought,  but I would do the following….

  • 1. Make a box plan, with 3 boxes, horizontal
  • 2. In the top box put UPPER CLASS
  • 3. In the middle box put MIDDLE CLASS
  • 4. In the bottom box, add the words WORKING CLASS
  • 5. In each box, add the name of a character and where they fit in
  • 6. arrows from one to the others
  • Try to reflect those who want to social climb upwards

Then begin writing your answer based on the social hierarchy of the time and how the writer (who was a socialist in real life) is making a social commentary about how we treat each other, usually badly. 

Use the chart to work your paragraphs out, following the two bullet points offered. 

Obviously, if you can write two or three paragraphs across the three social classes, then do so. 

Lit Paper – A Christmas Carol

Okay, so you open up the exam paper to the text you’ve studied for two years and are facing something like this.

How do you answer it? 

The answer is in the question, when you think about it.

Use the two bullet points to make up your answer. If you write two paragraphs for each bullet points and each paragraph is about half a page, then providing you use the PEED techniques found elsewhere on this website, all would be well with a perfectly written two page essay. 

Now, have a read of the text below…it’s actually called Stave 4, but never mind. AQA got that wrong!

Ideas…for planning

  1. 1. Make a list of all that Scrooge is afraid of in this extract
  2. 2. Link or four word quote to each item on your list
  3. 3. Then make a second list, maybe in a second column, about all the things that make Scrooge afraid in the story (Marley’s ghost, being rejected,  loneliness, Christmas, etc
  4. 4. Link a two word quote from the story to each
  5. Then begin writing.
  6. It is really that easy.
  7. Have a go now, using this text, even if you never did the novella in your GCSE studies.


Dear students,

I know that one or two of you, who I have met recently, will be wondering where I vanished to, so here, by way of an apology, is an explanation!

About ten days ago, after coming home from work at the beautiful Ampleforth College, something happened and for a week, I was unable to sit, stand, or walk a step! I still do not know what it was, so I apologize for my absence and beg your indulgence! I wanted to be there, to teach you, but when paralysis set in, which has not vanished, then something had to be done, so I was rushed to hospital.

I am on the mend now, but it is a slow process! Hopefully, one day, we will meet again!

With every blessing,

Mr. Johnson

2017 Language Paper 1 AQA

How do you answer the four questions and then write the task in Section B? The answer is to keep it simple!

Here is a sequence of video clips for you, to show you how.

The Text Insert…


Read again the first part of the source, from lines 1 to 5. List four things about Rosabel from this part of the source. [4 marks]


Look in detail at this extract, from lines 6 to 14 of the source:

Rosabel looked out of the windows; the street was blurred and misty, but light striking on the panes turned their dullness to opal and silver, and the jewellers’ shops seen through this were fairy palaces. Her feet were horribly wet, and she knew the bottom of her skirt and petticoat would be coated with black, greasy mud. There was a sickening smell of warm humanity – it seemed to be oozing out of everybody in the bus – and everybody had the same expression, sitting so still, staring in front of them. Rosabel stirred suddenly and unfastened the two top buttons of her coat… she felt almost stifled. Through her half-closed eyes, the whole row of people on the opposite seat seemed to resolve into one meaningless, staring face.

How does the writer use language here to describe Rosabel’s bus journey home? You could include the writer’s choice of:

• words and phrases

• language features and techniques

• sentence forms. [8 marks]


You now need to think about the whole of the source.

This text is from the beginning of a short story. How has the writer structured the text to interest you as a reader?

You could write about:

• what the writer focuses your attention on at the beginning of the source

• how and why the writer changes this focus as the source develops

• any other structural features that interest you. [8 marks]


Focus this part of your answer on the second part of the source, from line 19 to the end.

A student said, ‘This part of the story, set in the hat shop, shows that the red-haired girl has many advantages in life, and I think Rosabel is right to be angry.’

To what extent do you agree?

In your response, you could:

• consider your own impressions of the red-haired girl

• evaluate how the writer conveys Rosabel’s reactions to the red-haired girl

• support your response with references to the text. [20 marks]



Read the exam paper for the tasks please as it is too much for me to copy and paste. This video will explain the two choices for you.

It is really that easy!

Happy hunting in the exams…

Rob xx

An Inspector Calls – A Revision Booklet

An Inspector Calls – A Revision Booklet


Arthur Birling

Eric Birling

Mrs. Birling

Gerald Croft

Eva Smith

Inspector Goole

Plus other, lesser important characters in the plot!


  1. In the home of a wealthy employer in 1921, a visit from a mysterious Police Inspector happens
  2. He asks a series of questions to all present at a dinner party
  3. Each knew the young lady who died, by suicide
  4. Each had some part to play in her descent to poverty and death
  5. The Inspector, called Goole (same pronunciation as Ghoul) shows them each up, in turn, for the way they harshly treated Eva Smith, the victim.
  6. Just before the end, the guests realise they have a fake on their hands! They check the local Infirmary/hospital and there’s been no suicides so they think they’re all safe
  7. Then they get a call from the real Police, asking if they know someone called Eva Smith! She has just died, so this makes them scared!
  8. The audience/reader then wonders who this Inspector is.
  9. It is a mystery, a whodunnit, a ghost story and a play all rolled into one!
  10. But it does have links to other works of fiction
  11. Agatha Christie – Orient Express story (all twelve characters have a hand in killing their victim)
  12. In the end, the audience is asking who, or what, was Inspector Goole?

Analysis – Characters

Arthur Birling

Mr. Birling is a crude and insensitive man! The local employer, rich and ruthless, he is the boss, in every way! He is bombastic, rude and without mercy for anyone of lower class than he is. He is horrible to his workers and treats them harshly.

He is a Capitalist in every sense of the word, wants to get all the money and keep all the money and woe betides if anyone lower class tries to stop him!

He is the sort of man who Priestley uses, to make a point, or to make a “social comment” about. Such things are usually a criticism of the times we live in. So, if a story was written about how a country left the EU and its inhabitants all starved to death, the writer would be making a social comment about leaving the EU. BREXIT etc! That’s what writers do!

Mrs. Birling

Mrs. Birling is married to Mr. Birling and is just as ruthless with the lower classes! Her attitude is sometimes, the hardest to read about, especially how she treats a penniless Eva Smith.

Sheila Birling

Sheila is young, the daughter of the older Birlings and is naive when she wants to be, but can be assertive and insightful at the same time! She represents modernity, or the modern woman of the time, who wants to live outside the stuffy rules her father and mother are imposing!

Eric Birling

Eric Birling is the drunken fool of a son to Arthur Birling! He’s a man who has an affair with Eva Smith and he only seems to care about it after his wicked ways have been brought out into the open by Inspector Goole.

Gerald Croft

Gerald is a confident man! He is honest, but like most men, he can become evasive, not wanting to take the blame for anything or anyone if he need not do it!

He helps Eva Smith and represents the sort of man who would help someone when they are down. His nature is more like the gentleman that he should be, rather than the opposite in Mr. Birling, who assumes he’s a gentleman, when he is anything else but!

Inspector Goole (Ghoul)

The mysterious, imposing and prophetic inspector is the conduit for all the hidden truths about the Birling family and their friends to be brought out into the light of day!

He is secretive and mysterious, bringing ideas into the mind of the reader/audience as they watch or read. Most audience members or readers assume he is a spectre, a ghost, or some form of angelic being, or God-like person, because he knows everything about every person at that dinner party!  

He brings a sense of morality to this play because he expresses the hidden truths about everyone and lays them before everyone else, until they think they have figured out the Confidence Trickster and before he mysteriously vanishes at the end of the play!

A Typical Question

How would you answer that question? Here is an answer from the BBC Bitesize page!

How to analyse the quotation


Inspector Goole says to the assembled party, “But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone – but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, and what we think and say and do. We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.”

This suggests that…….

This could also infer that…..

This shows that the point he is making is a valid one, because……. (you complete these sentences now)

Then, he says, “there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us,”  showing the writer’s use of stylistic devices such as the repetition of “millions” emphasising his point that Eva is representative of many others.

When he says that, “their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives,” he uses emotive words to help us empathise with the victims like Eva Smith in the society which we live in. Because we are not alone, in our struggles, he is saying that we should help each other more.

Inspector Goole is the man who reminds all the other characters that, “we don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other” which is the use of three short sentences that have enormous impact and sum up his point very simply and clearly.

The use of words like, “fire and blood and anguish” by Priestley, are almost biblical, bringing a terrifying image to the mind of the reader. Unlike Mr Birling, Inspector Goole’s predictions are correct because Britain experiences two world wars. This makes him a more trustworthy character and also because he emphasises Priestley’s views.

Therefore, the Inspector’s use of language in Act 3 is very effective in getting his message across to the Birlings and the audience.

First he uses repetition ‘there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us’. This emphasises how many of these people there are in the world, that this was not just an isolated case. He then uses a number of emotive words ‘their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives’ and this again makes the audience sympathise with those less fortunate than themselves.

He uses short sentences to summarise his point ‘We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other’. The language he uses here is very plain, the short sentence sums up the idea that we are all responsible for one another, a message that Priestley wished to convey in this play.

Finally, he uses terrifying imagery, he talks about ‘fire and blood and anguish’. This is a Biblical picture of hell, of what the world will become if we don’t do as the Inspector says. All these language devices help to make his point effectively and are particularly powerful as this is the final speech by the Inspector.


 Birling Sr.          
 Birling Jr.          
 Gerald Croft          
 Sheila Birling        
 Eric Birling          
 Mrs. Birling          
 Inspector Goole          
Write between 3 and seven words, to describe each character.

Task: Make notes inside the boxes above, adding single words to describe each character, using the GCSE Bitesize information, as well as the information you can find elsewhere!

Inspector Goole – An Inspector Calls

An Inspector Calls

A student asked me recently about the JB Priestley play and how to answer the questions, in the exams, should Y11 do the exams because of Covid, so I emailed him back and said that if you first write it out, as planned, but without any quotes, as if you were just talking about the play, then it would like this, below.

I then asked him to do the task at the bottom.

I wonder, can you do the task at the bottom? Have a go and see.

Q17. What do you think is the importance of Inspector Goole and how does Priestley present him?

An Inspector Calls, by JB Priestley, is a play which acts as a social criticism of the time the story is set. At a time when there was no NHS and no benefits or welfare system to really talk about, in comparison to today, the play shows the differences between the rich and the poor and the brute and the gentleman and tells the story of Eva Smith, her downfall, followed by her rising and then, how society treats those who are less unfortunate than others. 

It does so via the intervention of the mysterious Inspector Goole, who comes to the Birling home, investigating a murder. As the Inspector conducts his questioning, it is clear that this officer of the law seems to know a lot more about each character before they even speak than they would care to share and it is the role of the Inspector, to bring forth the light from the darkness, the truth from the hidden lies and deceit. 

He does this with each character in turn, turning them inside out and revealing their true nature. For example, the senior Birling male of the family, the father, shows himself to be ignorant, obstinate and cruel, when he has to admit that Eva Smith used to work for him but he treated her harshly. His son shows himself up to be the sort of man who cares not for the welfare of those below him in society as well and Mrs Birling shows herself to be mean spirited, contemptible and uncaring of the poor on many occasions, especially with the time she comes face to face with Eva Smith.

Inspector Goole, whose name alone is interesting, because it reminds the reader, or audience of the other spelling of the word, (ghoul, or ghost) shows them all up for the mean spirited lot that they are, all apart from Gerald, who helps Eva and tries to rescue her from a future of homelessness in her near future.

The role of Inspector Goole therefore, is an important one because he acts as the conduit for truth and honesty to a family that is beset by greed, selfishness and contempt for anyone below them. Inspector Goole becomes the one true way the audience are shown the truth from every character’s perspective and is akin to another famous detective, created by Agatha Christie, who solves a similar murder on a train journey on the Orient Express. He is a type of character, therefore, used by writers to make the truth known to all present in the theatre, and is almost a narrator in the events surrounding Eva Smith.

At the end of the play, when Goole leaves the premises and the family find out that the Police are on their way, they are all led to wonder who this mysterious Inspector actually is.

There are several theories believed by many and they all depend on your own background, as a reader, or audience member. Some believe that anyone who knows everything about a man or woman, from the inside out, has to be divine, or in other words, Godly. This could infer an angelic being of some sorts. This could also mean all manner of things. Then there are those who see his surname and jump to the conclusion that being a Goole, he is more akin to a ghoul, so they make him into a phantom, or spectre, or ghost!

Whichever it is, and each reader or audience member has their own unique response to the text, in any age, so it is a valid one based on their reading, knows one thing is certain. The role of Inspector Goole in this play is vital for its success. 

Note: This is how I would write it without quotes. Now try to think of suitable quotes to add in, based on each point made. Remember. Point, Evidence, Explain, Develop!

Which One Do You Do?

Do you write like you speak, or do you speak like you write?

I can see hundreds of students all going “Huh!” right about now. But I ask this question for one inescapable reason and if you pay note to what comes next, then you will improve your grades no end.

If you write like you speak, then that means you automatically use something we call brevity which means you shorten things down a lot. An example would be as below:

Just been down to the shops to buy petrol.

Is there anything wrong with that sentence?

It makes perfect sense. It is spelt correctly. It conveys real meaning and therefore, is an accurate use of the English language. But the answer, of course, is yes, there is something wrong, because there are some important words missing.

You meant to write:

I have just been down to the shops to buy some petrol for the car.

When we use a laptop, or an iMac, or when we use our phones and we are on things like social media, we shorten things down all of the time. It is normal. There is nothing wrong with that, at all. But we can fall into the trap when we are writing, of doing the same and when it is a note to a friend, that is not a problem at all, to anyone.

But when it has to be something formal, like a letter for a job, or an examination paper, where we are being assessed on our use of correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, or SPAG, as you will have seen by now, it is an issue.

I see paper after paper, or answer after answer, that uses brevity disguised as correct Standard English, all of the time. I even do it myself from time to time and then see it and think horrible things about myself, for falling for it yet again.

So, what must we do?

If you are having an assessment to do, of possibly 2,000 words, then by all means, write it out in the way you would normally, but then, very slowly, go through it, using a reader software that you can download sometimes, for free, so you can ‘hear’ the words and the sentences. Your eyes never see the error but your ears, they are perfect (assuming you are not hearing impaired, of course) and you will notice the mistakes, so you can then make the necessary changes.

Be very careful, therefore, not to fall into this trap, when writing something formally, for it can make a very good 65 grade go below a 58 grade in one fell swoop, when you use too much brevity.

That is how important written Standard English use is, especially when being assessed formally.