Analytical Writing: A Character Paragraph | Facing History & Ourselves
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Analytical Writing: A Character Paragraph

Students write an analytical paragraph on character having generated claims, selected evidence and read a model paragraph.


This resource is intended for educators in the United Kingdom.

At a Glance

assessment copy


English — UK
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement
  • Human & Civil Rights


About this GCSE Supplement

This optional GCSE supplement gives students the opportunity to engage with one of the characters from An Inspector Calls and write an analytical paragraph on Priestley’s presentation of that character. This is fundamental preparation for the English Literature GCSE. 

This GCSE supplement is not a lesson and does not need to be taught as such. It is structured in such a way as to ensure that the various steps necessary for writing an effective character analysis are outlined in an appropriate order: 

  1. Brainstorm ideas and generate claims
  2. Select the evidence
  3. Annotate the evidence
  4. Develop analytical content
  5. Read a model analytical paragraph
  6. Write an analytical paragraph 
  7. Respond to feedback and redraft

Engage with the supplement in the way that works for your class, adapting it to their needs and skipping out any steps they will not benefit from completing. 

This GCSE supplement is placed at this point in the scheme of work as, by now, students have studied four of the seven main characters: Gerald Croft, Mr Birling, Mrs Birling, and Sheila Birling. We recommend that for this task students do not write about Priestley’s presentation of Mr Birling because students will be rearranging and dissecting a model paragraph for Mr Birling in Step Five of the writing process, as outlined above. 

Once students have written their analytical paragraphs, it is important to read and mark them (see the Marking Criteria Codes teaching strategy), giving students in-depth feedback as this will help prepare them to write an essay later in the scheme of work, and throughout English Literature GCSE.

  • Analysis (Lit-AO2, Lang-AO2)
  • Application of Contextual Information (Lit-AO3)
  • Clear and Coherent Writing (Lit-AO4, Lang-AO5/AO6)
  • Critical Reading (Lit-AO1/AO3, Lang-AO1/AO4)
  • Evidence-Based Reasoning (Lit-AO1–3/Lang-AO1–4)
  • Knowledge of Content (Lit-AO1/AO3)

Students prepare to write an analytical paragraph on character. As preparation for this task, students take a range of steps to boost their analytical skills, critically reading the text, applying their knowledge of context and using evidence-based reasoning. The range of analytical steps include: making claims, selecting relevant evidence, and annotating and analysing the evidence. Students also employ critical reading skills to rearrange, dissect and discuss models, before writing an analytical paragraph. When teachers mark students’ work using Marking Criteria Codes, students are able to engage with the feedback and redraft, which helps students improve their writing skills. The models and sentence starters also help students develop as clear and coherent writers. 

Learn more about this unit’s Alignment with GCSE Specification

This GCSE Supplement includes:

  • 7 steps
  • 4 teaching strategies
  • 4 handouts

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before teaching this GCSE supplement, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

We recommend giving students a choice on which character they write about. The reason being that if students are able to choose which character to focus on, then they are more likely to make a choice that feels relevant to them. Recent adolescent brain research reveals that students are more likely to retain information that makes sense to them and that they find relevant. Because the model paragraphs concern Mr Birling, we recommend that students have the option of choosing one of the other characters they have studied: Mrs Birling, Sheila Birling, or Gerald Croft.

  • There are two models and both concern Mr Birling. One is suitable for intermediate-level students and the other is for advanced-level students. Plan to select the appropriate model for your students. You may choose to use both intermediate and advanced models in the same class so that your students can access the content at a level appropriate for them. If you do so, you would need to decide how students read the model. You could group students according to level and have them read the models aloud or ask students to read the models independently. 
  • For Step Five: Read a Model Analytical Paragraph, you will need to print enough handouts for students to read in pairs, and then cut along the dotted lines to create statement strips, placing each set of strips in an envelope to distribute during class. Alternatively, as the paragraph is in a mixed order, you can give the handout directly to the students for them to cut up themselves. 
  • If your students are working with different models in the same lesson, you will need to think about how you will show students the models with the components identified. You could hand the different versions out, or project one version and hand out printouts of the other.

We recommend that teachers use Marking Criteria Codes when reviewing students’ written work to help them develop the structure and content of their writing, and their written English. These marking criteria codes enable teachers to nurture their students as effective writers by giving them in-depth feedback, which requires proactive student engagement.

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Suggested Activities and Steps

  • Inform students that when they are writing an analytical paragraph about a character, they will need to make a claim about that character and select two pieces of evidence to analyse in depth to support their claim.
  • Inform students that they can write about three of the characters they have focused on when reading Act One and Act Two: Gerald Croft, Mrs Birling, or Sheila Birling. Let them know that they will be working with a model paragraph for Mr Birling and that is why they should choose another character. If any students are passionate about choosing Mr Birling, let them know that they will need to generate an original claim and find different evidence from the models. 
  • To generate ideas about their character before they start making claims, have students respond to the following questions in their journals. Project the questions one at a time so students have time to develop their ideas. 
    • Who are you most interested in writing about and why?
    • In what ways do you relate or not relate to this character?
    • What lessons can you learn from this character that you can apply to your life? 
    • How does Priestley present this character so far in the play?
  • Next, have students move into groups of 3–4 based on their character. You might have more than one group with the same character. Invite them to share ideas from their journals, adding any new ideas about their characters to their journal responses. 
  • Then, have students move back to their seats and explain that they will generate some claims about their characters. Challenge them to write 3–5 claims so they can choose their strongest one for their paragraphs.
  • Circulate around the room as students write their claims either under their journal entries or in their exercise books.
  • Ask students to select one claim that they will focus on and explain that they will need to find the evidence to support this claim. Students should be aiming to find two pieces of evidence for their one claim.
  • To help students select appropriate evidence, you may wish to guide them through the Relevant or Not? teaching strategy. This should help them to distinguish between evidence that is relevant to support an argument and evidence that is not relevant to support an argument.
  • Alternatively, your students may be ready to start selecting their evidence. Remind them that they want evidence that they can do a lot with and that will be easy to remember. Let them know that it is best to avoid very long quotations. Have them select two pieces of evidence for their claim. Project the following questions on the board to help students during the evidence selection process: 
    • How does this piece of evidence support my claim?
    • Is it short, but rich? How can it be analysed in multiple ways?
  • Once students have selected their two pieces of evidence, explain that for each one, they must outline how their evidence supports their claim.
  • To do so, it is useful to first annotate the evidence, identifying any words or phrases to zoom in on and/or thinking about whether or not the evidence links to the sociohistorical context. Doing such a process can also help them identify the sorts of quotations that facilitate rich, in-depth analysis. 
  • First, model an annotation of a quotation on the board, thinking out loud to highlight the annotation process. You may wish to use the following questions to guide your verbalisation of the annotation process:
    • How does this piece of evidence support my claim? 
    • Is there a word or phrase that can be analysed in depth to support my claim further? 
      • What does it mean? 
      • How does this word or phrase support my claim about ______________ [character’s name]?
    • Is this evidence relevant to the sociohistorical context of the play, either when the play was set (1912) or when the play was written and first performed (1945)? If so, how?
    • How might the audience respond to this evidence? 
    • Is there anything else that stands out about this evidence? 
  • Then, ask students to follow the same process with their two pieces of evidence.
  • Next, explain to the students that they will be focusing on developing their analysis with the aim of writing an analytical paragraph that addresses the question: How does Priestley present [character’s name] in An Inspector Calls?
  • Give students the Developing Analysis Grid handout and ask them to fill in the sheet using their annotations to help them. 
  • You may wish to complete one row for Mr Birling as a class on the board, fielding ideas from the students.
  • To differentiate the activity, you could also provide students who need more support with partially complete handouts, with some of the columns filled in.
  • Before asking students to write their own analytical paragraph, it can be useful for them to read a model. In this instance, you need to cut the model into strips for students to arrange into the correct order (see Notes to Teachers, above). The arranging process can help them with their analytical writing skills as it gets them thinking about how to organise ideas and what sorts of linking words are used to join sentences and ideas together. 
  • Give students Part One of the handout Mr Birling Model Analytical Paragraph Sentence Sort (Intermediate) to complete in pairs. For advanced-level students, use Mr Birling Model Analytical Paragraph Sentence Sort (Advanced). Please note that the advanced model includes a reference to the impact on the audience, but this has not been included on the other handouts. 
  • After they have completed this task, ask students to identify the different parts that combine to make the paragraph:
    • Claim
    • Placement of evidence in the context of the play
    • Evidence
    • Analysis
    • Zoom
    • Link to context
    • Impact on audience
  • After students have attempted the task, lead a discussion to give students the chance to share their thoughts or any queries they might have about the model.
  • Then, project the relevant Mr Birling Model Paragraphs: Components Identified and give students Part Two of the handout, asking them to annotate the paragraph themselves. If you have coloured pens or pencils at your disposal, you might ask the students to use these and create a key.
  • Now, explain to students that they will be writing their own analytical paragraph that explores Priestley’s presentation of their character in the play. Ask students to use their completed Developing Analysis Grid handout and the model they have read to write their own paragraph, using the following set structure if desired:
    • In An Inspector Calls, Priestley presents [insert character name] as [insert claim]
    • When [insert when/what occurs], [insert character name] states [insert quotation] 
    • This quotation suggests [insert character name] is [restate claim] because. . .
    • The use of [word/phrase – select a phrase to zoom in on] reinforces this idea because. . . 
    • This interpretation is reinforced by [insert additional piece of evidence, if using, and analyse]. . . 
    • Priestley’s presentation of [insert character name] links to Edwardian England because. . .
  • Once students have finished their paragraph, it might be useful for students to work in pairs and use the Read Aloud Peer Review strategy, so that they can get some peer feedback on their work.
  • Consider reviewing the students’ analytical paragraphs using the Marking Criteria Codes teaching strategy to give in-depth feedback and to boost student engagement with marking.
  • Then, give students an opportunity to redraft their work, taking on board the suggested improvements.

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