More non-fiction high jinx

Morning all, happy Sunday or maybe you just need commiserations and a large glass of wine.  I’ll happily provide that as well – see you in the pub in a bit.

Lots of us are tackling the Language bit of the new GCSE full on this year. I have managed to avoid it for nearly a year. But we are back to school tomorrow and what is it they say procrastination is the thief of…

Anyho – these texts are for Edexcel Language Paper 2 exams. You will recognise some of the articles from old iGCSE text. But here they are with some lovely new questions.

The Edexcel spec does have a few variances from AQA – so by all means mock up your own questions for AQA.

We are using these with year 9.  Year 10 and Year 11 ones to follow in a separate post.

Body Image – Obama girls and body image

Gender – Emma W

Marathon de Sables texts

Patagonia

Primary Proms – two information texts

South Africa texts

Have a great week

Lou x

 

Personal narrative and developing a student’s own narrative voice

Writing

Many of us looking at the new GCSE language papers are having to again (or perhaps for the first time) tackle the ‘autobiographical’ writing question.

Write about a time when you felt fear.

Write about your first experience in a new place.

While there is no actual requirement to write in the first person in the mark scheme and I have yet to have an exam board answer the question – if a student wrote in the third person would they get marked down? – we do need to a way forward for autobiographical writing.

Unsurprisingly when teenagers write in the first person about their own experiences they sound like teenagers. They are young, they sound young. Even pupils who read widely don’t always have a strong internal narrative voice. Ask a year 7 boy, who has only ever read Diary of a Wimpy Kid and David Walliams books, to write a personal narrative and they will write about someone having their head flushed down the toilet. There will be lots of SHOUTY capitals and a million !!!!

So where to begin?

I have tried so many different ways to do good autobiographical writing in the last few years and this one has worked consistently. It’s not without danger though.

Write using someone else’s voice for a while, then write yourself.

In year 7 I have a mini-scheme of work looking at the diaries of Darwin and Conan-Doyle (during his adventuring years). One of the reasons I love these two writers is that they diaries are factual. Their writing style mirrors the what I hope for in narrative generally – more Hemingway and less Henry James. We have already taught our students to ‘write like a scientist’ and this gives them a new opportunity to try it out. We take the Darwin style and the Conan-Doyle adventure and have them report on a shark attack at sea, or being accosted by savages, or experiencing an earthquake at sea. We peel back all the emotive language, ignoring subjective commentary and make clear observations as Darwin or Conan-Doyle.

Here’s an example I showed at #TLLeeds of a piece of writing done in this style.

sneak peek 2

While it is not the student’s own history, it is a better example of personal narrative writing than I usually see in KS3. Here is our starting point.

Fast forward to Year 9 and Year 10, how do we do good exam writing preparation? Again we begin with writing personal narrative for others. Here (Personal narratives – blog version) is a series of lessons (I use it very flexibly as a collection of writing prompts) where students write personal narratives for a favourite character from an existing story. It culminates in a short story called The Search, where the character is looking for something.

As with all writing, I work alongside pupils. You can see my plan for Don T’s search for coffee and love at the end. I do have the written up version somewhere which I will dig out.

We had some fabulous examples of this from Year 10:

  1. Mr Utterson, working at a conference as an usher, is looking for a delegate to give her a message.
  2. An aged Draco Malfoy is looking for his 5 metre swimming certificate to take to a job interview.
  3. Tinkerbell, who works as a dental nurse, loses her bag on the tube.

So when we have a plan, we work out how we can withhold the character identity long enough to engage the audiences’ interest. Utterson became simply Gabe. Draco: Drake. Tinkerbell: Belle.

Once students are comfortable with writing personal narratives for other characters. We started writing ourselves. This lead to an uncomfortable few lessons where students were to intensively self-diagnose how the world sees them.

As ever, I am writing alongside them. Often with this one, I model on the whiteboard first so they can see what I mean.

IMG_20160517_164222

I go through a whole process of step by step developing a sense of self in writing. I model how when I write myself, I exaggerate elements of my identity and my personality. No one will know these are dramatic embellishments but for the purpose of personal narrative writing, it works.

The lessons I have attached here (Writing yourself – blog version) take students through a series of very simple activities where they write themselves focussing on their appearance, their actions, thoughts and dialogue. This gives them an opportunity to write numerous vignettes (which is less terrifying). It also allows them to build a holistic picture of how they can create their own narrative voice in a number of areas. They can be insecure, funny, cynical, upbeat. All of them, none of them. Then I present them with the scenarios at the end which they write, often reinventing some of their earlier writing.

I know I also promised stuff on mentor texts. This will have to be tomorrow now!

Flash fiction not flash bang (my presentation at #TLLeeds)

 

Slides

For those of you who attended my presentation yesterday at Teaching and Learning Leeds, here are the slides: Flash Fiction Not Flash Bang by Louisa Enstone

 

Before you open it – I need to get a few things off my chest (again)…

The government are controlling our students’ creative voices – this is wrong

DfE legislation has forced creative writing into a technical corner from which it is very hard to escape. I said yesterday that teachers are prisoners of the government legislation and while this metaphor is a tab hyperbolic, the constituent idea is true.  When creative writing is most frequently discussed (and marked) in terms of its technical components, then it is easy to see writing as only a technical exercise.  It is no surprise that these requirements have resulted in checklists, success criteria, targets and marking rubrics have reduced creative writing pieces to another form of gap-fill. This time each sentence has to have a different technique (a simile, prepositions, gerunds – yawn).

Ok – hold your horses. Writing is a technical exercise. Yes, I agree. But… what the DfE have done is take literary techniques stretching across several centuries (not to mention numerous forms and styles of writing) and funnelled them in what is a very modern form of writing: flash fiction. This is why it doesn’t work.

Flash fiction

Flash fiction (a term somewhat unfairly abhorred by academics) is any fiction that does quite make it to short story length. Flash fiction can be anything from 250 words to 7,000. Our students are writing a few pages. They are writing flash fiction. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the term. Call it a very short story. Call it concise narratives.

But don’t mistake it for a novel. It isn’t. It shouldn’t sound or feel like one.

Don’t forget that at GCSE this piece of writing is spontaneous, unplanned (because a 3-minute plan at the beginning of an exam is not a plan) and unedited. While this might mirror ‘real life’ writing scenarios (might), it does not in anyway mirror how writers of fiction (or indeed fact) work.

As part of my presentation I set out the main differences between novels and very short fiction. What we teach explicitly and what we intentionally avoid. I make the case the novels are long enough to absorb great literary flourishes. Short narratives cannot swallow them. The plot and characters become bogged down.

In my session, I also talked a little about developing a strong narrative voice. I didn’t get enough time to talk this through properly.

So here’s a whole new blogpost on developing narrative voice in writing.

Revision madness 2016

revision madness.PNG

“Awww Miss – I don’t know how to revise for English. You can’t just learn stuff can you?”

Funny you should say that sonny-boy because there is a whole lot of “stuff” you can learn.

While you mull over what we have learnt in the last 2 years that you might need to know, here’s some “stuff” to be getting on with.

Just 15 schools days until this year IGCSE exam, my friends. Let’s use ’em.

Here’s the first of my revision resources – it is aimed at the CIE paper 2 but is hopefully general enough that others can use it.

12 Days of Revisions – Extended Reading 2016

Best wishes

Louisa

 

A good thing

 

books-1163695_1280

This thing happened and it was good.

There are times when something spontaneous happens in the classroom and the results are so unexpectedly cool that it is hard not to stop and enjoy.

We have had a big push on reading with our reluctant KS3 readers over the last couple of weeks. You know the kids I mean. These aren’t the bright, top set kids – who are reading Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man at the age of 12 – these kids are the ones who declare proudly “I’ve never read a book” or “I’ve only read one book ever – it was George’s Marvellous Medicine in year 3”. My personal favourite: “I hate reading.”

This is my class in year 8. Unsurprisingly they are mostly boys, mostly the cheeky ones you see cutting in the lunch queue, mostly the ones who haven’t made much progress.

It became obvious, when I picked this group up, that our KS3 curriculum wasn’t going to cut it. We needed to read, read, then read some more and then read and keep reading. At first most were struggling to read a sentence fluently. Some were unable to read words with three or more syllables. Remembering what we read from one week to the next was an issue. Trying, and learning to keep on trying, even when it got tricky and embarrassing, was as important as learning how to do the reading thing.

So far this year we have read two novels. I won’t bore you with which ones; nothing fancy, books had been sitting in our book cupboard for a few years. Chosen to meet the criteria of being just hard enough to aid learning and with a storyline that was relatively easy to hook onto and remember. After that we read a translation of Grendel and now we are reading non-fiction texts.

I won’t sugar coat it. Reading extended texts with this class is still tricky. Decoding, comprehension and inference skills are improving, but reading has never felt fun in these hours. Reading is still hard. Very hard.

Fast forward then to last week and World Book Day. We start every lesson with 10 minutes of silent reading – most are doing the Diary of Wimpy Kid thing, some have borrowed from my extensive collection of Horrible History books. They are reading though. Not just holding the books and daydreaming. Eyeballs move. Hands go up – “what’s this word Miss?”. Spontaneous comments “This book is funny Miss”. They are reading.

The non-fiction text of the week explained how chicken nuggets are made. Yep, it caused a stir. We tackled the vocabulary – consumption, tempura, raised (as in chicks raised in factories for consumption) etc. Yum!

I then posed the challenge. “I have never eaten a chicken nugget. Can you create a clear argument that would convince and persuade me to eat a nugget?” After the horrific realisation that they were in the same room as a vegetarian, we looked at writing an argument.

The kids wrote. We peer marked. I have worked hard with this class to develop their basic literacy skills through peer marking. We have a set of criteria and use it every lesson, it has numeric scores (i.e. if they have started every sentence with a capital letter, award them 5 marks) and the boys seem to like the clarity this presents. We champion improving on previous scores. They usually get house points if they are in the top 10%.

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Here’s the thing that happened. It was World Book Day. I had been showing off some books that we had been sent and whooping generally about reading. Cheeky Billy piped up “Miss, I want that book. If I get top marks today, can I have it?”

My response was “Heck yes!” After all, what else was I going to do with these books?

Eight other voices called out – “Can I have one if I get good marks?” Affirmative from me.

And so the writing was on. The focus in the room was a notch higher than usual. Muttering could be heard “I need to use an exclamation mark”.

Writing done, peer marking completed, attempts to exploit the marking criteria were batted away and four books were handed out.

The whole class crowded around the box, giving their opinions on each option, helping the lucky four make their choices. Cheeky Billy lost out. His frustration was good humoured “I’ll give you my World Book Day voucher.” Then inspiration struck “Can I earn one tomorrow Miss?”

I grinned and nodded, booting them out the door to lunch and forgot about it.

The next morning, I was on gate duty, four of my gang of boys arrived after the bell shouting “I’m gonna earn that book today Miss.” And so last lesson on Friday afternoon arrived and the remaining gaggle of 11 kids proved themselves desperate to earn a book.

At the end of the lesson, there was pushing and shoving over the last two copies of Cuckoo Song by Francise Hardinge.

Let me repeat, these boys – self-declared haters of reading at the beginning of the year – were pushing and shoving over a book. A book. I could have wept with joy. My job is the best job in the world

Today a whole week later, they are still talking about it. Still telling me what is going on the books they are reading. Still telling their mates that I gave them a book. Still telling their parents that they earned a book at school.

This thing happened and it was good.

Non-fiction texts 2016 #2

morocco

I am looking at Question 2 with my CIE iGCSE groups this week.

So here is a new text that can be used for Q1 and Q2.

It’s a mostly-made-up-by-me travel blog about a women travelling in Morocco.

Travelling Tough – text only – this one is just the blog, with no questions.

Travelling Tough – iGCSE Q2 question – here’s a version with the Q2 on it.

Travelling Tough – annotated for teachers – here’s where I’ve annotated it with possible quotes.

If you are using it for Q1 as well.

I would suggest that you might set the following question.

You are Sara Jones. You are being interviewed by a representative from the Moroccan tourist board about your trip.  Write the words of the interview. Start with the first question.

  • What are your most positive memories of your time in Morocco?
  • What did you find most difficult during your trip?
  • What advice would you give to other women travelling to Morocco?

Be careful to use your own words as far as possible. Aim to write between 200 – 250 words.

Here is the source document for the blog, as you can see I changed it extensively.

Non-Fiction texts for 2016

Another term, another set of mocks are upon us.

Whether you are all in with the iGCSE (for the final time), prepping for the legacy non-fiction exam or even getting your head around the new spec non-fiction exam – I hope you can use this text (and the ones I will add over the next few weeks) with your GCSE classes.

Non-fiction next for w/c 11 Jan 2016

whales

CSI Whales:  the dissection of stranded or beached whales (dolphins and porpoises) reveals a variety of reasons for death and starks facts about the threat of human activity to marine life.

3 versions below:

CSI Whale – text only (no questions included)

CSI Whales – text and questions – CIE iGCSE Extended Reading paper Q2 included

If you are a non-UK teacher – this question forces pupils to read for comprehension and implied meaning and then restate the information in the fact on their own words and in a different format.

CSI Whales – annotated for teachers– highlighted for teachers for the above Q2 (not an answer key exactly but at least a guide)

Of course, you can use for Q3 as well for the iGCSE paper.

I will try and post a set for the new GCSE with short answer questions and a transactional writing task as soon as I can!  If my kids write good example answers, I will post those as well…(fingers crossed for this!).

Here is the source document for most of this text.

Have a great rest of your week!

Louisa