Sunday, 24 July 2016

Time for a breather..

Chillax with a book

It’s the summer holidays for most English A Level students – time to relax after final or mock exam stress, stretch your legs and wiggle your toes.

If you’ve got a reading list for the next academic year, now is a fab opportunity to submerge yourself in those texts, to experience them as readers perhaps for the first time ... before you have to start analysing and writing about them!

Pausing for a while

At Crossref-it, we too are taking a breather. In just the past year we have added:
  • Four full-length text-guides on
    • The selected poems of John Keats
    • Othello, by William Shakespeare
    • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
    • The Taming of the Shrew, by William Shakespeare
  • Themed lesson sequences on each of these texts
  • Thirty-four new Big Ideas from the Bible
  • Revision worksheets on eight texts featured on site
  • Eight new articles exploring poetic form.
Not surprisingly, we are now taking a break from adding further material for the present, so don’t be alarmed at the absence of blogs.

Meanwhile, having been built up to contain over 20,000 web entries, we trust that the current information more than meets your A Level English needs, so please enjoy exploring all that continues to offer by scanning the green menu headings. And of course pass on details of the site to your mates and teachers.

Love literature, love life!

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Exploring the Big Ideas which run through literature

Cultural foundations

There are some themes and concepts which writers play with again and again through the canon of literature. They assume that their audience are familiar with the original concepts and so can recognise where each author has alluded to the idea or tweaked it for their own dramatic purposes.

Roald Dahl does the same thing when he takes the reader’s familiarity with well-known fairy tales, then suddenly challenges expectations by changing the narrative. His Red Riding Hood doesn’t get eaten (after whipping out a pistol!).

Reading enriched

Alluding to culturally embedded images and themes adds a whole new layer of meaning to our experience of literature, as readers bring their awareness of the source material to bear on the texts they encounter.

However, this all falls down once we lose our connection with what was once ‘common knowledge’.

  • For example, when Nelly accuses the elderly servant Joseph of being ‘the wearisomest self-righteous Pharisee’ in Wuthering Heights (ch 5), it means very little unless the reader recognises not only what a Pharisee is, but also the connotations of the term.
Often there’s not just one source for a concept, but it has built up through repeated usage. To explain the bigger picture, has a range of Big Ideas from the Classics and Big Ideas from the Bible. has just added to the latter as we encounter texts that refer to these concepts.
  • So in Rabbi, Pharisee, teacher of the law students can discover just why Nelly used the word Pharisee as term of abuse.
  • By exploring Poverty and wealth, readers will have a better understanding of Cornelia’s motivation in The White Devil, or the Old Woman’s homily in The Wife of Bath’s Tale, as they gain insight into ideas that run counter to our modern culture.

These are just a couple of examples. now features one hundred Big Ideas from the Bible. Exploring them over the summer holidays will really help you get to grips with your A Level Lit. texts come September.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Exploring The Taming of the Shrew: Lesson worksheets for A Level Eng. Lit. teachers

Last week launched a comprehensive new guide for A Level Eng. Lit. students examining Shakespeare’s problematic comedy, The Taming of the Shrew.

Now there is help for teachers.

New updates mean that the text-guide is now accompanied by two sets of freely downloadable worksheets:
  • Investigate The Taming of the Shrew handouts pose exploratory questions on each scene in the play, helping students build up a valuable bank of notes. Collated from the text-guide and covering:
    • Induction and Act 1
    • Acts 2 and 3
    • Act 4
    • Act 5
these are great timesavers for teachers, and can be used to help students revise, catch up missed work or simply to set for homework.
  • Exploring aspects of the play and its world in greater depth and breadth, there are six new collections of lesson ideas exploring:
    • The play’s unusual double opening of the Induction and Act 1
    • How Shakespeare employs – and deviates from – the comic conventions of his era
    • Whether Bianca really is a ‘perfect woman’
    • The ways in which Petruchio and Katherina are paired and opposed
    • How the theme of marriage is developed through the play
    • How issues of social order and disorder permeate the plot.
Complementing most of these explorations are easily photocopiable student handouts.

Text-guide links

Each worksheet suggests where students can find handy information to help them deepen their knowledge by linking back to relevant pages within the new text-guide on The Taming of the Shrew. From there they can follow other links or simply roam through the wealth of material provided.

Created by UK educationalists, you can trust resources!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

New, free A Level text-guide on The Taming of the Shrew

Shakespeare’s early ‘comedy’, The Taming of the Shrew, has posed a number of problems in production since its original performances from 1593 onwards.

A play of its times?

The play reflects three cultural strands of the late Elizabethan era, which Shakespeare weaves into a narrative that can be played in a variety of ways:

  • Since medieval times, there existed a rich seam of misogynistic stereotyping about women who defied the culturally desirable norm of female gentleness and obedience. Such women were branded ‘shrews’ or harridans
  • Arriving from Europe, the Commedia dell’Arte stock plots and characters influenced the English theatrical world and resulted in farcical comedies where young lovers sought to thwart self-deluding and/or authoritarian old men
  • Echoing late Elizabethan court life, upwardly-mobile young men dressed to impress so as to acquire status via marriage (or the personal attention of Elizabeth I). To succeed, elaborate versification and skillful social maneuvering were required.
Whilst drawing on this background, Shakespeare also challenges it. In The Taming of the Shrew:

  • The ‘shrew’ becomes the most desirable wife
  • The man seeking advancement is deliberately offensive in his wooing
  • The knockabout farce places the innocent in genuine jeopardy and discredits the lovers.

Launched today

Now students have got an invaluable free guide to the play, accompanied by an online text: The Taming of the Shrew text guide. Targeting the many A Level English Lit. students who are studying The Taming of the Shrew (which appears on the AQA and Edexcel specifications), the new text-guide provides everything a student needs to help them enjoy the play and answer confidently when it comes to assessment.

As you might expect, it contains:

  • Handy synopses and commentaries on every scene
  • Character studies
  • An exploration of the play’s language and the impact of its structure
  • Summaries of the themes and recurring imagery of the play.

There are also sections detailing contextual aspects such as sport and marriage in Shakespeare’s era, the prevailing patriarchal culture and how critics have responded to the play – all vital to understand for success at A Level.

Make up your own mind

The Taming of the Shrew is regarded as one of Shakespeare’s most problematic dramas. As well as studying the text, why not try and see a live performance to help you make up your mind about how to interpret it? There’s still time to catch the current production of The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London, running until 6 August (020 7401 9919).

For an entertaining cultural spin-off, devised in the twentieth century, you might also check out the Welsh National Opera Company’s musical, Kiss Me Kate, which is touring from September 29th until December 10th 2016 (see for details).

Will you want to laugh or cry?

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Color Purple: Lesson ideas for A Level Eng. Lit. teachers

A fortnight ago launched a comprehensive new guide for A Level Eng. Lit. students examining Alice Walker’s classic text, The Color Purple.

Now there is help for teachers.

As from today, the text-guide is accompanied by two sets of freely downloadable worksheets:

  • Investigate The Color Purple handouts pose exploratory questions on each letter of the novel, helping students build up a valuable bank of notes. Collated from the textguide in three handy worksheets, these are invaluable for helping students revise, catch up missed work or simply to set for homework.
  • Exploring aspects of the novel and its world in greater depth and breadth, there are six new collections of lesson ideas on the following areas:
    • Celie’s narrative voice, the way it develops and is depicted through the novel
    • The presentation of abuse in the text, through its various aspects
    • How effectively the ending of the narrative embodies the resolution of the plot and reconciliation of the characters
    • The way Walker’s characters defy gender roles and expectations
    • An examination of the significant female bonds through the story
    • An exploration of the impact of patriarchy and religion on the main characters and their culture.

Most are accompanied by easily photocopiable student handouts, saving teachers valuable time.

Text-guide links

Each worksheet suggests where students can find handy information to help them deepen their knowledge by linking back to relevant pages within the new text-guide on The Color Purple. From there they can follow other links or simply roam through the wealth of material provided.

As a teacher you can be assured that all material is written by UK A Level English teachers, examiners and academics – writers who want to open up the riches of literature, whilst understanding what the syllabus requires of students.

We also know how much pressure teachers are under. Here’s hoping that the resources offered here will make your life just that bit easier!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

New, free text-guide on Alice Walker’s The Color Purple

Launched today is a comprehensive new guide on Alice Walker’s classic text, The Color Purple. Spanning the first half of the twentieth century, the novel details two sisters’ experience of culture, racism and gender relations in the American South and in Africa. The stories of Celie and Nettie are powerful and raw, reaching out to readers of all ages.

The Color Purple features on the specifications of AQA, Edexcel and WJEC exam boards. As ever, 25% of marks awarded to students are based on their comprehension of the world the novel refers to and within which Walker was writing.

Context made clear

For readers in the UK, it may be hard to grasp the ramifications of the novel’s context. However, extensive sections in the new Crossref-it guide cover areas such as the Social / political world of the novel, with information about:
  • Colonialism and slavery
  • The black civil rights and black power movements
  • Women’s liberation and the sexual revolution.
Alice Walker had an individual take on mainstream religion, which is shown in the development of her protagonists. Sections about the Religious / philosophical background to the work include:
  • African religious beliefs
  • The use of religion to uphold racism and slavery
  • The role of the church to overthrow racist (and colonial) oppression.
Walker’s text is composed of a series of letters between the two sisters. Students need to know how it reflects a literary heritage of:
  • Epistolary novels
  • Slave narratives
  • Post-colonial writing.

Understanding the text

The text-guide on The Color Purple has thought-provoking commentary of each of the 90 letters, as well as helpful character studies. It contains an analysis of the novel’s themes and its dominant imagery, as well as an appraisal of the text’s narrative devices and language. There is detailed investigation of the text’s structure and how it is used to convey meaning as well as shape the story.

As ever, there is extensive help for students in writing about the text, their ideas joining the range of critical interpretations which have been brought to bear since the novel was first published in 1982.

All in all, this new text-guide offers everything a student needs for success in A Level Eng. Lit. as well as providing fascinating insights for the interested reader.

Make the most of it! --> Free text guide on Alice Walker's The Color Purple

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Othello and Keats worksheets

Help for A Level Eng. Lit. teachers and students

Those preparing for their A levels are now on study leave. However, a little later, those in the first year of their A Level Eng. Lit. course will undoubtedly face summer exams too, perhaps their first experience of what it is like to face the rigors of Advanced Level testing.

In recent weeks has been releasing material to help students studying the old specifications – but here’s something for the post 2015 students and their teachers.


Shakespeare’s shocking tragedy is being widely studied. If you have gaps in your notes or are getting confused about how Iago’s machinations work out for example, then going through the worksheet questions on each Act and scene can be a great way to sort it out in your head.

Markers always want students to show that they know the whole text, not just the beginning and the final scene. And there are only thirteen really key scenes, so don’t feel defeated before

you start – it really is do-able! You can find the worksheets here.


If you are revising the poetry of Keats, also launched today are handy worksheets setting questions to help you examine each poem and build up your notes on:
  • First impressions
  • Language and tone
  • Structure and versification
  • Imagery and symbolism
  • Themes.
They are also a great way for teachers to be sure students understand the poems – have a look at what’s on offer here.

Of course, all the detail you need to fully comprehend these drama and poetry texts is freely available at Just go to:

We’re sure you can do it!