The Sky’s the Limit in Creative Writing

Using writing strategies that are important elements in my writer’s toolbox, my senior English Advanced class engaged with a popular text from the ‘Changing’ stimulus (HSC 2001 and 2002). In a previous syllabus for Stage 6 English, the module known as Area of Study required students to consider texts through the framework of a specified concept.

I like to use Hannah Robert’s ‘Sky High‘ (Text 3) as an encouragement of what is possible as a teenage writer – Hannah was herself 18 when she wrote this vignette.

Once students have a copy of the story, I read the text aloud. I ask for comments, thoughts or ideas. It’s not important if many people speak up and generally students are unsure of what’s coming so they stay quiet. I might suggest they identify the strongest image for them, annotate an interesting passage or sentence but without discussion with nearby students.

I then read the story a second time and ask again for comments. There is often much more discussion at this stage – I remind students that they must read a set text up to three times – once to appreciate more than the actual narrative, and subsequent reads to note language features for analysis. Rich detail steps into focus once we accept Hannah is writing about about her memory of the hills hoist in her backyard, both as a child and as an older teen.

Students are lead through a brief visualisation exercise of their childhood backyard, and are given a few minutes to jot down words, ideas or phrases that capture their visualised memory. Students may like to share words at this stage and add to their word hoard.

Students are reminded of the sensual approach we have used as a focus of our reading and are asked to identify or nominate auditory language features. We also discuss images that rely key memory triggers, particularly those of smell and music.

Students then write freely according to the pomodoro technique – write for a set period of time, discuss their writing with another student for a short period of time, then write again. This draft will be used in future lessons as the basis of a setting for a longer imaginative piece that may form part of their assessment task for this module: an imaginative response and reflection on their own writing process.

Other suitable texts to extend Sky High include two of Deb Westbury’s poems: ‘shells’ or ‘blue‘.

*featured image from ‘Hills Hoist ownership changes hands but iconic clothesline hangs on to its place in backyard culture’

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