We had a few days off!
Here is the prompt we used this weekend.
You are a customer lying face down on the floor during a bank robbery. Describe the robbery from this viewpoint.
Credit goes to this groovy book for today’s prompt.
We are back at school tomorrow – just 7 weeks left until we break up for the summer. But that means today is really all about homework. So it was a genuine quick write based on this:
If this chappie found his way to our house in London, I would be mightily concerned.
Happy Sunday, happy writing.
We are planning on doing loads of creative writing in our house this summer.
So to get the ball rolling, here is our first Summer Writing prompt.
The 24 hour dance competition: Describe the sensation of dancing for 24 hours straight. Focus on what can be seen, heard and also what is thought and felt.
I’ll post some of our writing. Keep checking as we will be putting up a new writing prompt everyday!
Thanks for reading
Revisiting descriptive writing as students mature is essential. Childish phrases and thinking are abandoned – but what replaces them?
Here is some of the work we have been doing on descriptive writing this term.
If you are looking to develop mature description with your students, check out my Descriptive Writing pack (May 2015).
Descriptive writing tasks, worksheets and activities to inspire, challenge and enjoy! No prep, 20 pages of descriptive writing activities – perfect for the month of May.
4 weeks or 20 hours worth of descriptive writing at your fingertips!
Revision madness hits – again. My view is that I’m lucky if the kids do any revision at all. Therefore if I can make it as painless as possible I should.
I’m not being cynical. I am imagine revision is like marking. I think I am doing it – but actually I’m searching for shoes on Amazon.
Here are this week’s revision charts:
Extended Reading paper:
12 Days of Revisions – Extended Reading (Word doc)
The fonts used are HelloHappyDays and HelloMummy – these are free to download.
Directed Writing Paper (or any descriptive writing question)
12 Days of Revisions – Descriptive writing (Word doc)
Same fonts as above.
Same fonts as above.
Finally – here are the PDFs in case Word is a bust.
Do let me know if you adapt for any of the Literature texts!
As that’s next on the to-do list.
Two articles prompted by the #HeForShe campaign for gender equality.
As ever with a set of questions and two transactional writing tasks.
PDF file is here: Gender – Emma W
Huge thanks to my very excellent colleague, Dr R, for providing sourcing these.
Thanks for reading,
This week’s collection are Primary Proms – two infomation texts .
What does good descriptive writing look like?
This was written by one of my year 7 students last week. It reads:
Bottles lay on the ground, infront of an unused bin. A small dark melancholy cat sat on the cold stone ground looking around for any sign of food. There was an eerie silence. Drops of water flushed out…
It continues in a similar vein for several paragraphs.
This is the picture the student was describing:
Most students arrive in Year 7 with the understanding that good writing is technique heavy. The overuse of adjectives and adverbs has replaced writing that demonstrates subtlety or sub-text.
When we being writing, we begin with simple sentences: The boy ran.
We develop these to add visual imagery – The boy ran quickly.
Later we add more precise adverbs – The boy ran sluggishly.
Modifying adjectives and verbs: The overweight boy staggered painfully.
We introduce different openers: Late again, the overweight boy staggered painfully onwards.
Vocabulary work adds: The corpulent man-child blunders unseeingly onwards into the grimly lit darkening streets.
When I ask my pupils what good descriptive writing looks like – this is what they seem to think I want.
The curse of “show and don’t tell” has meant that pupils as writers are spoon-feeding their readers on a whole new level. Don’t show and don’t tell is perhaps a better maxim. (A side note on this – when we teach students techniques like ‘show and don’t tell’ remember they internalise language and I end up marking GCSE exam papers that read “The writer’s use of show and don’t tell suggests…) As I said, don’t show and don’t tell is sometimes better.
It is disheartening to have to unlearn these skills but pupils must. Laborious descriptions that are laden with adjectives, adverbs and literary techniques (CRASH! BOOM!) are not good writing. Nor will they ever be.
On becoming writers who read
The literature that we study at school is only worthy of study if we have to study it. The reader’s interaction with the language of text – gleaning meaning where it is hidden is what we do when we analyse. It’s not easy to write an essay paragraph using the quote “He slammed the fork down angrily” as there is nothing to infer. The writer has set it out for us.
Pupils arriving in Year 7 though have been taught that when writing themselves, they must create such a vivid image for the reader than we have no work to do. Their writing is filled with subjective emotional language, but by placing this into the text, they have robbed the reader of their own reaction.
Writing as detectives
I am teaching a scheme of work studying Mystery and next week we are due to start reading Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue.
In order to get into the mystery swing of things – this week I wanted pupils to pare back their writing, by writing description as detectives.
The lesson began with this extract from The Road by Cormac McCarthy (at this point I would like to thank Dr G for championing McCarthy endlessly – and finding me this extract):
As detectives, pupils identified all the nouns and then explained what exactly was being described. I then asked them to remove all the grammatical words to force their focus on to the nouns and noun phrases. Finally we identified the adjectives.
By focussing on the nouns – students were more able to understand the ‘mystery’ in this extract. It almost sounds counter intuitive but this literal description allows for detailed inference – “the sagging hands”.
Students had to explain this forensic, scientific approach to writing, that did not use any emotional, subjective language. They described McCarthy’s landscape as realistic or ‘true’ as the students named it.
This image then required a detective’s eye to describe. We started with nouns – precise and detailed.
A few we listed were:
– a man, wearing a overcoat and hat
– a shuttered door
– four windows with six panes
– a building with high eves
Next I asked pupils to describe these nouns in the most scientific way possible and I asked why the sentence below is not forensic.
The shadowy, mysterious path went up to the crumbly, ancient building.
It was this part of the lesson that resulted in the most discussion and debate among students.
“You can’t use ‘eerie’ since when would a detective say it was ‘eerie’?”
“Gloomy is out – right Miss?”
“How can I say the building is old without exaggerating, it’s not ancient.”
By giving students the vocabulary ‘subjective’ and ’emotional’ they were able to critique their own ideas. Often writing down and then removing words that were weak.
The final 15 minutes of the lesson was spent writing just 10 sentences of scientific description. Here are some of their attempts:
“Walking towards the light, a man alone digs his hands into the pockets of a long overcoat.”
“Stretching away to the left, the uneven cobbles absorb the black and grey of night.”
“Four, six paned windows reflect the streetlight exaggerating the darkness beyond”
“Darkness to the left and to the right. Light cuts threw the centre”
On the face of it this ability to show restraint in writing allows students to write in a manner that is more ‘true’.
Subjectively, I think this writing is closer to ‘good writing’ than writing that is created via a checklist of word types, sentence types and techniques. It would certainly uphold more analytical scrutiny.
Thanks for reading
Here is this week’s gathering of non-fiction articles and questions.
Body Image is the topic: with one article on criticism of the Obama girls’ fashion sense and the second extract an NHS fact sheet on body image.
As ever I have included new GCSE style short and long answer questions, a comparison question and two transactional writing tasks.
Download here: Body Image – Obama girls and body image
Have a great week.