Studying unseen fiction (part 1)


garden-gnome-523380_640One of the real pleasures of teaching CIE iGCSE Literature this year was preparing students for analysis of unseen prose fiction. Unlike the Language counterpart – the prose fiction selected by Cambridge have always unusual, interesting and challenging.

The new English Language GCSE sticks unseen fiction back in the game from this September and whether you have chosen a board that does contemporary or old, it will be something to tackle.

It’s a bit different, but the same as well.


Prose extracts whether they are from short or long fiction provide a unique opportunity to test students independent inference and deduction skills. After all, we aren’t in the room to clarify plot, character, themes and purpose. Nor is there the typical Unit 1 shouty headline and garish picture choice to help guide understanding.  Students are presented with part of a text, rather than a whole. They are literally in medias res.

How did I work it out?

Culture of strong readers

Now is this time – more than ever before – to look at the culture of reading in your school. It is clear that students who are strong readers – whether they read extensively for pleasure or not – will be more successful than those who aren’t. I have written before about the importance of developing readers who are confident. In this new exam, we cannot risk students who stumble through sentences struggling to decode individual words at the loss of whole passage meaning.

But how, here are a few things I have tried:

  1. Talk a lot about what I read. I don’t just mean the obligatory Miss L is reading posters. I have used whole school assembly time to talk about reading, struggling with reading, about books.  I regularly start my lessons with a book review, a mini-read (the bit just before the oh-shit moment is always a good one to read), a book trailer. Talk about books a lot.
  2. Article of the week. This is something else that I have written on before. The idea from Kelly Gallagher was first implemented to build cultural knowledge – to get students to think about current issues, to help them understand the world they are growing up. For part of the year – I did this. It resulted in some of the best classroom conversations I have ever had. See here for one.
    The idea is that each week you set an article for a homework task and students respond to it with some reflective writing. This can work just as well with prose fiction extracts and in fact, although I loved the discussions that resulted from the non-fiction articles I set, I loved even more the learning that resulted from the prose extracts.

Teaching unseen prose fiction – what, how and maybe why?

The process seemed pretty simple to me, at the beginning. We need to be able to pick up any extract and say what was going on, how the writer created these goings and why.

So working out what is happening in an unseen text is the first port of call. Basic comprehension seems obvious enough. Yet we don’t often tackle it in KS3 anymore, not cold, without any surrounding prior knowledge. In terms out that actions and events are easily misinterpreted.

Here is the process we came up with (minus the exam question hoo-ha):

  1. Read the text. Read it again. Read it a third time.
  2. Write a bullet summary of the WHAT covering – characters, events, relationships.  WHAT the writer is doing.

Seems simple enough doesn’t it? I challenge you to try it – perhaps even with this CIE old exam paper. Unseen lit paper – example 1 It’s amazing what different versions of the conversation between Dr Aziz and Mrs Moore I got. Were they arguing, were they flirting, are they friends, strangers?

We spent more time than expected get good and accurate at reading the WHAT in unseen texts.  This is where my prose fiction article of the week came in useful. But also 100s of paragraph long extracts as starter tasks.

Next came how – HOW is the writer are doing the WHAT?

    1. We would always start with dialogue for prose fiction, CIE are pretty reliable at choosing an extract with good dialogue.
      How does the dialogue reveal character, relationships?
      How does the dialogue move the action forward?
      How does the dialogue reveal history, background?
    2. Setting is another one that students can get their mitts on with relative ease – how does the writer bring the place to life?
    3. Mood is less easy if you haven’t done prior work on it. Mood in prose fiction is often connected with those awful vague adjectives like gloomy and eerie. I think mood and reader’s reaction are also sometimes confused.   This blog does a better job of explaining it –  I use the list of mood words here to study sentences and short extracts before we tackle longer ones. I have some lesson resources to share on mood shortly.
    4. Language, form and structure come more naturally – they are ingrained in our curriculum and students tend to be happy finding techniques. The above groundwork should ensure that they have something to say once they have found them.
    5. Themes and ideas can be another tricky one – while it might be possible to identify the theme of mortality or death in an extract concerning a funeral, it would be very difficult for a student to infer where the writer might be going with that idea.  We don’t have a long view.  We can hedge our bets “The writer might be suggesting” but before we go this far, we have to ask what are the expectation of analysing themes in an unseen text? It is not the same as looking at science and religion in Jekyll & Hyde.

Why – why is the writer up to all this?

To adequately look at themes and ideas, we must tackle the WHY. And if I’m honest – this was the area that I found most difficult. We are used to teaching the writer’s purpose, intention. After all every text has a message – we know that.   So tricky was the why, that it deserves it’s very own blog post. Soon, promise.

Thanks for reading

ps. You may want to ignore all of the above after results day next week.



Teaching restraint in descriptive writing

What does good descriptive writing look like?

L6 writing

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:

descriptive image

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):

descriptive writing 2

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.

descriptive writing 3

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


Skills transition 2 (KS4 to KS5)

In my post earlier this week I shared a number of stretch and challenge activities for helping students navigate the transition from KS4 to KS5.  These are a work in progress, but I mentioned a new set I am working on currently, also a work in progress, but here they are as they stand.

Teaching risk taking

Something that sets A grade year 12/13 students apart from others, is their ability and willingness to be bold (or risky) in their interpretation of the text.  I have really struggled to teach this skill.  Students are willing to taken certain risks, but not often true risks.

In Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw, the narrator describes the children she is employed to educate as “princes of the blood”.  Our conversation on this quote, went something like this:

Mrs E: She describes them as “princes of the blood” what could she be suggesting?

Student A: Royalty, doesn’t “the blood” suggest the royal family.

princes of the blood

Mrs E: Excellent what else, what about the word “princes”?

Student B: Princes is a masculine word, she is describing Flora and Miles using a masculine word.  Does this mean anything?

Mrs E: Errr… you tell me.

The gender term debate went on for some time.  Finally.

Mrs E: Does the phrase “princes of the blood” suggest anything else?  Forget the text, think literature as a whole.


Nervous student C: “blood” suggests violence, so if they are princes of the blood, then they are princes of violence.

Mrs E: Yay, what else?

Even more nervous student D: vampires…are princes of the blood, it’s a gothic novel, so it could be a vampire reference.

Mrs E: Wow, that’s fabulous.  Now we are beginning to be bold and take risks.  What else?

Student A: If they are princes, who is the king or queen? It suggests they are not in charge.

Student D: Who are they heir to?

Mrs E: Keep going.

Student C: If they are the heirs of Quint and Jessel, they were born out violence and also passion.

Mrs E: And…

Student D: Maybe they aren’t vampires, but they are monsters, they are like vampires as they suck the life blood from the governess.

This was probably the most risky conversation we have ever had whilst studying Henry James.  And I didn’t have to lead them to water.  I didn’t spoon feed the possibility or even hint at the interpretations.

This got me thinking, how can I teach independent risk taking skills.  I am slightly obsessed with my stretch and challenge activity cards at the moment and so here are a few “risk” activity cards, in an attempt to develop risky independence.  Download them here: Risk activity cards. I will add more as I go along.

Risk cards

A post on iceberg thinking cards to follow.

Skills transition (KS4 to KS5)

I really enjoyed the #Engchatuk discussion this week on KS4 to KS5 transition.  It feels like I spend more and more of my time thinking about KS5 and how I can improve my teaching, as well as developing strategies that we use in KS5 and can push back to the lower school.

Students have found my exam text particularly challenging.  I am in the third year of teaching it and it doesn’t seem to get any easier.  As I don’t have too much choice, I plod on.  Each year trying new ways to help students engage, to work independently and write eloquently.  If I’m honest, each year my results are a little disappointing (not horrific, but not amazing).

This, is the year.  I can feel it in my bones.  I think we have cracked the nut.  I can see the wood and the trees.  The pen is mighty than the sword etc, et al.  Something is different.  I don’t know what.  Perhaps our projects lower down the school are having an impact and therefore students arriving in year 12 are more independent, more knowledgeable and better equipped.  Perhaps this cohort are inexplicably drawn to Henry James and his craftiness.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I am seeing the payoff of three years of tinkering with skills transitions activities.

In case it is the tinkering that has helped, here is my journey to date:

Year 1 – obsession with Blooms

I was an NQT, terrified of having to teach KS5, let alone James’ The Turn of the Screw.  My solution was to ensure that students were able to access the text through the medium of Blooms Taxonomy.  Now the wisdom and sensibleness of this maybe questioned but for me it provided a reliable structure to ensure that we didn’t just talk about the story and the characters and for the students, it allowed them to develop a logical way to make sense of their thinking.

During this year, I created a set of Blooms activity cards and depending of my evaluation (or their own evaluation) of their strengths and needs, a student would pick a card from say the “comprehension” pile and carry out this task independently.  Below is an example of from the “knowledge” activities collection.


These cards and activities worked pretty well for a while, but it became apparent that I needed more and I needed to be more creative about the tasks I asked students to do.

Out came the “creative” activities cards.


Year 2 – Knee jerk obsession with assessment objectives

My tactic to cope with my results was to re-focus on the assessment objectives, and who can blame me?  The mantra became – “what is your AO4 Band 6 version of that?”  Sad, but true.  So, trigger new additions to my activity cards. The AOs.  Below is AO2.


Don’t forget students still have my lovely set of Blooms cards, so now the somewhat overwhelming option of 10 different colours to choose from.

But as the year drew on, I realised I was doing my students somewhat of a disservice.  So we ditched the cards and got whacky with string, and post its and youtube videos.  Most of my T&L activities are tried and tested on my amazing year 12s.

I wasn’t going to be kept prisoner by a bunch of AOs and some laminated cards.

Year 3 – Worth Taking a Risk

So, where now?  Less formulaic?  More?  Where is the balance?

Since making my AO cards, I have developed another obsession.  This time it’s with trees.


Each time we read Henry James, I have to ask myself this question – are we looking at a close up or the big picture?  The inherent ambiguities of the text mean almost any contrasting comparative works (fantasy or reality, truth or lies, beauty or beast).

So, of course, I started thinking about big picture and close up activities.  Although I don’t use the cards every lesson, students still enjoy the choice, the independence, the ability to achieve.  Below are some of my new, big picture tasks:

big picture

One of my year 12 classes has a saying – “the sky is not the limit”.  We were discussing what a lesson should be and one of my more conceptual students stated “a lesson should a journey beyond reality and dreams, beyond even the stars”.  I know, it doesn’t sound like a 16 year old from Croydon does it?

So, in the same way that we created our 50 things homework project, we are now creating our own sets of activity cards under the headings:

  • Risk taking
  • The sky is not the limit
  • Iceberg thinking (thanks to Caldies English for this)
  • The journey
  • Innovate then debate

I have added to this list a set on scholastic / academic language collection and use.  Students want this but don’t know how.  So I will endeavour to find some ways to develop this as well.

Part one of activity cards is now available on my free downloads page, more to follow soon – I am adding the scholastic language tasks at this very moment.

Any ideas on activities for our new cards, please let me know.

More than a bowl of spag (my Goldsmiths presentation)

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with PGCE students at Goldsmiths University, talking about literacy and working with students who struggle to access reading and writing.

Here is what we discussed.

If you are interested in the texts we used and the activities we shared, here they are:

The strategies handout – Handout – strategies

The poem – Auschwitz by Elizabeth Wise

The non-fiction text Auschwitz info

Getting spidey sense and peeling hexagons

Introduction lessons are always a conundrum – do you go in heavy with expectations and rules or do you go for something that explores more of your subject?

I find them even more difficult to get to grips with when it’s a new year 12 class.  Our classes tend to ebb and flow for the first week of term, so I can’t start reading the text.  I, therefore, have 3 hours to grapple with and not much need to lecture on contents pages and neat presentation of classwork.

So with one of my new year 12 classes this week, I decided to get all spidey.  Inspired (again) by @rlj1981

Getting spidey sense with your ideas

Lay a bunch of ideas out around your classroom.

Here are the ones I used.  They were specifically general (if that’s possible) as I hadn’t met the class before and I didn’t want them to assume anything.


Put students into pairs and give them string, blutac and sticki-notes.

Talk about making connections, giving examples, having a personal response.

everything is connected

Ask students to make a connection (any at this point) between two ideas.

They should use the string to make a physical connection and then hang a post it note from the string explaining their idea.

Chaos, talk, thought, connections ensue.  Arguments abound.  Critical thinking happens.

Spider web

As time went on, students found evidence from history, current affairs, art, literature, music (etc) to justify their connections.

Peeling hexagons

Anyone who teaches Edexcel Literature will know that the exam board have once again changed the mark schemes, this year it feels very on the down-low.

The Shakespeare CA goes from 30 to 40 marks, now with no marks for AO2 and 20 marks for AO4.  This prompted some quick rethinking for me.  As this CA has been fairly dull and formulaic up until now.  It has not provided much of a preparation for the Literature exam.   Students struggled with it as it sat slap in the middle of Lang and Lit skills, being neither one nor the other.

The new mark scheme provides a great opportunity at the beginning of year 10 to teach some proper Literature essay skills.

Here is how I started out:


We reminded ourselves of the purpose of essay writing and why we use PEEL.

Then in groups, students were given a bunch of different hexagons, each representing one element of a PEEL paragraph.

They used these to write an essay (in note form) and to connect their ideas in anyway they wanted.

White = Point

Green = Evidence

Blue = Explanation/Analysis

Red = Evaluation

Yellow = Context

Orange = Conclusion

hexagon peel

The challenge was for students to show visually and through their written ideas that Mercutio’s character is complex, multi-faceted and difficult to pin down.

As you can see, some of the groups really went with this idea – sticking hexagons on top of one another to create varied layers.  I like the one that uses the points to create Mercutio’s torso with the rest of the paragraph making his arms and legs.  The linear ones were fine too – interestingly the most linear one, was from one of my most creative thinkers!

Let me know if you try these activities in your lessons and how you get on.

Teaching x-ray vision


Teaching inference and deduction skills to low ability students is sometimes a minefield.  The whole point of inferring is that you can make connections, often beyond a text, this is a tough challenge when the words on the page are hard to decipher.

I believe it is key to teach inference and deduction early and to teach it explicitly.

In lessons I equate the skill to an x-ray.  Looking below the surface.  Seeing beyond the skin.  Understanding what is living in the bones of a text.

Task 1:  Inference pictures

The pictures below allow students to make simple inferences within a limited scope.  There are wrong answers to these questions, and although I do like to get carried away on unusual ideas, sometimes we need to start with the obvious and work from there.


  1. Using your observation skills, write down everything you can see.
    (The items are……)
  2. Using your inference skills, what can you figure out about the owner of the items.
    (I think the owner is…..)
  3. Write down (explain) how you figured out who the owner was.
    (I know this because….)

inference 1

In feeding back on this, students will refer to real life or other texts (film) and the connection is made.

Task 2: Text inferences


Read the example of inference below:
I wouldn’t eat after that two-year-old if I were you.
Inference: The two-year-old probably did something gross to the food you were about to eat or has a cold and you could catch it. Something bad will happen to you if you eat it!

This text allows students to explore different ideas but again there are some very clear wrong answers.  The negative language means it cannot be a positive emotion being expressed.

The specific reference to an age means that there is a limit to what might have happened.

I often ask students to imagine what a photograph going with this phrase would look like.  This generally describe something like this >>>

Now we could move onto other more flexible inferences:

  1. If she died, I wouldn’t go to her funeral.
  2. A woman walks into a hospital clutching her huge belly and cursing out her husband, who trails behind her carrying a large bag.
  3. You’re driving on the motorway, listening to the radio, and a police officer pulls you over.

The last one usually generates much debate on speeding and police officers’ favourite music artists.  It’s also funny how often students miss the meaning of “huge belly” on no 2.

I find myself using these activities time again when teaching some texts from Boy in the Striped PJs to Hamlet.

I will share my inference and deduction slides on my free downloads page.

Outside the box in a box

A hand-drawn mini unit on developing creative thinking skills (or what I did when I had finished all the schemes of work and the holidays were still two weeks away).

2013-09-03 20.26.06

Lesson 1: Kids probs

Ask students to come up will all of the problems they experience as kids.  Get a big class mind-map going on somewhere.

Around that mind-map put 4 sheets, titled:

  1. Outside the box ideas
  2. Bizarre and strange ideas
  3. Ideas from the future
  4. Friends and family ideas

Starting with “Outside the box” ask students to think about someone they know who has a very different life from them.  It could an elderly relative or someone who lives in a different country.  Students place themselves into that person’s shoes and answer the same question – what would this person say about kids problems?

Then you can get “Bizarre and strange” ask students to come up with the wackiest, craziest and most ridiculous problems they could experience (like being kidnapped by zombies on the way to school).

Next it’s “ideas from the future” students imagine childhood in 100 years time – what problems might these kids experience?

Finally, onto “Friends and Family” and this can be a nice think-pair-share-square activity or a fantastic homework.  Students need to gather other people ideas to add to their list.

2013-09-03 20.26.21

Lesson 2:  Solving the problem

Using the same style of expertly hand-drawn worksheet.  Students choose one problem from the previous lesson and attempt to solve it, using the same process.

Then you can get creative – make a homework machine, make the never-disappearing key ring, make the mum’s bad mood muncher.  Students can just design or they can design and make depending on time and resources.  Or get creative writing – use these ideas (sometimes all of them to together) to write the wildest, most hilarious adventures out there.

Lesson 3: Looking at my world

Now turn this way of thinking to analysis and criticism.  Using the same, now somewhat hackneyed worksheet ask students to spill onto paper everything they know about their school.  “Imagine you are a year 6 student, about to start at our school, what are you thinking, what do you want to know and what should we tell them?”

This can then form the basis of a piece of non-fiction writing (we made an A-Z of our school).

2013-09-03 20.26.46 2013-09-03 20.27.15

Sometimes thinking outside the box still requires boxes.

The Vampire Strikes Back

I have mentioned before my vampiric nature when it comes to borrowing ideas from other teachers.  This post is my experience of teaching Luke Neff’s “story keys” idea.

Luke’s original idea can be found here

Whilst I am bigging up Luke’s ideas – I would also highly recommend his writing prompts.

In the UK it feels like we have less classroom time for instant writing or journaling as seen in the US, but this year my yr 9 class spent the first 15 minutes of every lesson completing a piece of creative writing.  I used Luke’s prompts every time.  They are excellent.

Anyway, back to the story keys idea.

It all started with these which I found at a junk shop in Rye.  My girls and I spent a car journey thinking up all of the places the keys could unlock, which villains would steal the keys and how our heroes would snatch them back.


By coincidence, not long after that I saw Luke’s story key post on Pinterest and decided I wanted to teach this activity to our incoming year 7s attending summer school.

The only snag with this activity was getting hold of 60 keys.

I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I went and sweet talked a few people.  First the caretakers at school, who gave me a collection of old locker and door keys.  Then my parents, in-laws and friends and my collection grew,  Finally, as I needed to get my daughter a front door key I sweet talked our local locksmith and he gave me some old keys and some rather tragic broken keys.  I ended up with over 40 keys.

Then a friend of mine who organises weddings showed me some keys on Etsy and I feel in love.

Once you have your key collection, the rest is very simple, I used some of the tiny charm keys and some of the normal ones donated by friends.  You can make the tags from paper and string or buy some.  I got these tiny red ones to match the key charms.

keys 2

I used Luke’s story starters and added a few of my own:

  • The sign read “213 locked doors.  Which will you choose?”
  • 43 locks, 15 numbers, 9 seconds, 1 key.
  • The last page of the book contained two words “Page 45”.  Underneath was taped a key.
  • The cinema was pitch black, the exit locked.  Where was the key?
  • Claudia awoke and slipped her hand under her pillow, expecting a coin, she found only a key.
  • The lock was shaped like a gun.  The barrel faced towards me.
  • The lawyer spoke quietly, “His last will and testament stated you should receive this key.”
  • Since Jacob had disappeared, I no choice but to find the key myself.
  • “Regrettably, you cannot proceed without choosing a key” he declared.
  • Perhaps it was the rain, or the darkness, but should a key glow like that?
  • The blood dripped down, pooling around the tiny key.
  • Mary Jane promised she would never give away the location, but that wouldn’t matter if she couldn’t find the key.
  • Stumbling down the mountainside, the key guided me onwards.
  • The instruction read “The key is not the key.”
  • Despite the crowds in the museum, I was the only one who saw the velociraptor’s key.
  • Like Charlie, I was nervous as I opened the wrapper, would I get the last key?
  • Jamie slumped on the roof, where was the key?
  • “Whatever you do, don’t touch the key, it’s cursed.”
  • The soldier holding the gun, stepped closer, “Turn the key, now” he ordered.
  • The key’s tag said “Thank you” on one side and “Run!” on the other.

As you can see, each key had a different story starter, meaning I got a huge variety of amazing, funny, terrifying and adventurous stories to read.

I am falling more and more in love with teaching creative writing and this activity is particularly fun and engaging.

I hope you enjoy it too.  Don’t forget to check out Luke’s writing prompts.