Analytical Writing: A Character Paragraph

From the Unit:

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.

Alignment with the GCSE Specification

  • 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

Notes to Teachers

  1. Choosing a Character

    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.

  2. Analytical Paragraph Model
    • 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.
  3. Marking Criteria Codes

    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.


Teaching Strategies

Suggested Activities and Steps

Step One: Brainstorm Ideas and Generate Claims

  • 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.

Step Two: Select Evidence

  • 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?

Step Three: Annotate the Evidence

  • 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.

Step Four: Develop Analytical Content

  • 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.

Step Five: Read a Model Analytical Paragraph

  • 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.

Step Six: Write an Analytical Paragraph

  • 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.

Step Seven: Respond to Feedback and Redraft

  • 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.


Democracy & Civic Engagement

Get Prepared to Teach this Scheme of Work in Your Classroom

Prepare yourself to teach this unit by reading about our pedagogy, teaching strategies, and the unit's content.

Lesson 1 of 23
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Building a Classroom Community

Students work together to create a contract with the aim of developing a reflective classroom community, which is conducive to learning and sharing.

Lesson 2 of 23
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Exploring Where I'm From

Students prepare for reading the play by considering the relationship between the individual and society, and by reflecting on identity. After discussing a poem about identity, they write their own.

Lesson 3 of 23
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Exploring Social Inequality

Students explore social inequality in the UK, discussing how an individual’s background can impact their opportunities before examining graphs that display social inequality and employment trends.

Lesson 4 of 23
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Priestley's World and the World of the Play

Students learn about important events that occurred during Priestley’s lifetime, completing a human timeline to understand their chronology, and are introduced to the concepts of socialism and capitalism.

Lesson 5 of 23
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The Treatment of Edwardian Women

Students examine various resources, including excerpts from Emmeline Pankhurt’s ‘Freedom or Death’ speech, to gain an understanding of how women were treated and expected to behave in Edwardian society.

Lesson 6 of 23
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Entering the World of the Play

Students begin reading the play, having applied what they have learnt about Priestley and the relevant sociohistorical context to make predictions about its content.

Lesson 7 of 23
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Understanding Class

Students explore class, status, etiquette and hierarchy to deepen their knowledge of the social expectations and values which guide the world in which the characters live.

Lesson 8 of 23
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Developing Character Inferences

Students are introduced to the concept of inferencing; they draw inferences from the opening scene of the play, and consider what messages Priestley sends through the language, character and setting.

Lesson 9 of 23
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Understanding Mr Birling

Students study the character of Mr Birling, critically assessing Priestley’s presentation of him, before using the character to reflect on how identity can influence people's views and behaviour.

Lesson 10 of 23
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The Cost of Labour

Students explore the moral codes of the world of the play, before being introduced to the concept of a universe of obligation and participating in a debate on workers’ rights.

GCSE Supplement
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Persuasive Writing: A Letter to Parliament

Students write a persuasive letter to Parliament concerning the gig economy, having reviewed persuasive devices, generated claims and content, and read a model letter.

Lesson 11 of 23
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Understanding Sheila

Students use the character of Sheila to further understand the interplay between identity and choices, before going on to analyse Priestley’s presentation of Sheila in Act One.

Lesson 12 of 23
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Act One Review

Students consider the lessons we can learn from Act One of the play, before adopting the perspectives of characters in both drama tasks and written tasks.

Lesson 13 of 23
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Differing Perspectives and Conflict

Students begin Act Two of the play, reflecting on the differences in perception emerging between the characters and considering how conflict can arise from such differences.

Lesson 14 of 23
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Analysing Gerald’s Character

Students develop their understanding of the character Gerald, exploring the differences between his treatment of Eva/Daisy and Sheila, whilst reflecting on Edwardian gender expectations.

Lesson 15 of 23
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Understanding Mrs Birling

Students consider what factors impacted Mrs Birling’s treatment of Eva Smith, and create a universe of obligation graphic representation for her character.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analytical Writing: A Character Paragraph

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

Lesson 16 of 23
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Eric's Decisions and Consent

Students consider the role power plays in the interactions between characters, focusing on the relationship between Eric and Eva, before discussing consent.

GCSE Supplement
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Persuasive Writing: A Speech about Consent

Students write a persuasive speech for sixth-form students on the importance of consent, having reviewed persuasive devices, generated claims and content, and read a model paragraph.

Lesson 17 of 23
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Inspecting Inspector Goole

Students create an identity chart for Inspector Goole, analyse his parting words, and look for clues to uncover who or what Inspector Goole is.

Lesson 18 of 23
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Social Systems and Individual Agency

Students identify the parts, people, and interactions of various social systems, thinking about what bearing they have on character choices and behaviour, before considering responses to injustice.

Lesson 19 of 23
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Putting the Characters on Trial

Students finish reading the play and participate in a court trial to decide which character is the most responsible for the death of Eva Smith.

Lesson 20 of 23
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Bearing Witness to Eva Smith

Students reflect on Priestley’s portrayal of Eva Smith and consider the symbolism of having a character who only appears in the narrative second-hand.

GCSE Supplement
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Analytical Writing: The GCSE Character Essay

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

Lesson 21 of 23
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What Lessons Can We Learn?

Students address the essential question of the unit in a people's assembly, reflecting on the lessons that we can learn from An Inspector Calls.

GCSE Supplement
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Persuasive Writing: A Letter to a Newspaper for a Caring Community

Students write a persuasive letter to a local newspaper, which outlines the importance of considering the needs of others and suggests ways to create a more caring community.

Lesson 22 of 23
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Recurring Themes in the Play

Students prepare to write an essay on theme by identifying and analysing the themes explored in the play.

Lesson 23 of 23
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Theatre as a Call to Action

Students consider theatre as a call to action, discussing its power and limitations to spark real social change, before plotting their own play inspired by An Inspector Calls.

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Alignment with Ofsted Requirements

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Alignment with the GCSE Specification

Read about how this unit is aligned with Ofqual’s subject aims and learning outcomes for both the English Literature and English Language GCSEs.

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