As part of our exploration of The Castle for Standard Module A: Language, Identity and Culture, I created a series of imaginative writing activities so students could continue drafting in their journals. This approach provides countless opportunities to ‘find’ new writing ideas, as well as identify those characters and spaces that re-appear and possibly demand greater attention. I tend to utilise the double (two 50 minute lessons) each fortnight. It’s kind-of the way I write in my busy world, and I know many students are also time poor. Hopefully, too, these kernels will coalesce into writing gems for exam situations.
I began by reading There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury
Students read along, but no pens in hands for this first moment of sharing. Then, each student wrote
- one sentence as their first impression.
After my second reading, students were instructed to
- write five words – descriptive or emotive
- write ten words – descriptive or emotive: no repeats
- what was the story about? – five points you remember
- note language features you heard?
We shared and discussed individual words and ideas, and I asked ‘when was this story written?’ A student who reads sci fi knew, and was asked to keep quiet. The story, we all agreed, seems quite fresh and some images were unpacked – such as the shadows on the wall – to clarify the Cold War context. This also allowed us to make annotations of language features, although, I tend to consider some obvious examples that students select, rather than dampening creativity through a relentless deconstruction.
We decided that key emotions were fear and confusion, that personification, dialogue and onomatopoeia were effectively used, as was structure. Fortuitously, there had been quite a thunder storm the night before which we discussed as part of our free writing prep: consider your own home to be personified and feeling fearful during a wild storm. Time allowed for writing: 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of chat with a partner – consider language features and point of view – then 10 more minutes writing.
Next, we considered Teasdale’s poem within the wider context of a tumultuous 20th century and the huge impact of war on culture – the different emotions and perspectives revealed in all areas of art, music, writing, fashion …
For our second free writing, the focus was on contrast: student were given a moment to choose an image or line from the poem – quickly grab something positive. Just write for 10 minutes with this as your prompt and let the story take you where it wants to go.
As our double drew to a close, I challenged students to make links with what they know, asking if a room from The Castle could be included in a re-draft of this piece, perhaps add a character or work on the shift in tone through contrast.
There are no drafts to share: students know that their journals are for writing. Words and ideas can be shared, yet there are no expectations to submit their journals at any stage. For our upcoming creative writing assessment, they may choose to photocopy draft material as part of the reflection on their writing process, but this (itself) will not be part of the marking criteria.
The energy of the room and thanks at the end of the lessons tells me that this process, and these activities, were worthwhile.
*image fromSevere Weather Europe Oct 31, 2017