Category Archives for "Teaching tip"

How a visualizer transformed my ELA lessons

I have had a visualizer (document camera) in my classroom for a few years. I would use it once in a blue moon. Mostly to show the class something that I couldn’t copy. This year, I was thinking about how I could achieve 2 of my personal classroom targets. It turns out that my visualizer was the key to meeting both targets.

Target 1: engage the middle achievers

Quite a few of my classes contain groups of middle achievers, who have a tendency to sit in lessons not doing too much. They complete enough work to scrape by. They don’t cause trouble. They don’t answer questions. They are coasting. This year – I was going to change that. No more passive students!

Target 2: reduce handouts

I want to intentionally cut down on using paper in my classroom. As an English teacher, it feels like I do nothing but generate paper. Unfortunately, we have zero technology available, so that wasn’t an answer. I needed to find an alternate solution to the countless worksheets, printed articles, and practice tests I use.

visualizer and words saying how a visualizer improved my lessons

The unexpected key to success?

This IPEVO* visualizer/document camera proved to be the unexpected key to my success. My very no-techy explanation of what a visualizer is: it’s a camera, that plugs into your computer USB port and you can manipulate to point at a book, sheet, or whatever on your desk. It then projects the image onto your computer screen and thus onto your classroom screen / interactive whiteboard.

Perhaps you have a visualizer knocking around your department, here are a few ways you can put it to good use. If you don’t own one – I can’t exaggerate enough how much I love mine.

UK link* https://amzn.to/2OorlJh

Idea 1: annotate like a boss!

I ‘live annotate’ my literature texts with my class. All my classes have to do examination-style tests on their literature texts. It could be a 19th-century novel, Shakespeare, poetry – they are all tested by a cold extract exam. They don’t get their copy of the book with them. No notes. Just what is in their brain.

So they need a lot in their brains!

First up is ‘live annotation’. I essentially teach the skill of reading and annotating using my visualizer. I put my blank copy of the text under the camera and as we read, we annotate together. It might be comprehension details, word meaning, connotations, themes, or links to historical context.

Visualizer pointing at an annotated book

The unexpected upside for my coasting students was that this activity was so concrete and so easy at the beginning, that they got all the annotations down without even thinking about it. After all, at the beginning, all they were doing was copying.

As time passed, I asked more questions “what should we be annotating here?” and it felt much less like spoon-feeding my students. Everyone was so comfortable by then that they would be suggesting ideas. They had learned a skill which wouldn’t necessarily have come naturally to them!

Idea 2: no more basic worksheets!

I can’t tell you how many times I have printed and copied 30 blank table worksheet for my class to fill out. Just because I couldn’t be bothered to go through the hassle of explaining exactly how many columns and rows were needed. I admit it, I was lazy. I couldn’t deal with “I’ve run out of room!” or “It doesn’t fit in my column!”

Now I just use my visualizer to demonstrate exactly what I want the table to look like. I get a blank piece of paper, line it up under my visualizer, draw the first line – everyone copies – draw the next line. It probably takes about the same amount of time as handing out 30 sheets and getting them glued in books.

The secondary upside is my meager contribution to saving the planet by reducing copying!

Idea 3: Supported differentiation

In addition to my coasting students, I have a few classes that really struggle with English. Although these classes tend to be smaller and specialist, it is always hard for me to get around and spend time with every student.

worksheet, visualizer, and laptop showing work

I use my visualizer as a way to provide me with more 1-2-1 time with certain pupils. Let me give you an example: say we are covering the difference between showing and telling. We complete the first task together, on the visualizer (which means I can also model good handwriting etc). I leave the work on the screen, so my slower writers can take their time to write it down.

I can then circulate around the class to give individual support.

This works better than going through the work verbally because I don’t have to keep repeating myself.

It also works better than typing the work onto my screen / whiteboard because I can interact directly with the ideas – I can circle words, change them, highlight, put stars by things as I am explaining.

Idea 4: modeled marking and improvement

I’ve saved the best to last. This idea has made a huge difference to my students progress. I started ‘live marking’ in the same way that I did ‘live annotating’. My classes would complete a piece of creative writing or an essay. I would take responses from 4 – 5 volunteers and mark them live using the visualizer.

school notebook, visualizer, and laptop showing work

Let me break it down for you: say you wanted to work on thesis statements. I would ‘live mark’ those 4 – 5 pieces of work by placing them under the visualizer and looking at just the thesis statements. We would work out together which were the strongest, how to identify the weaknesses, and how to improve any that needed improvement. The rest of the class would then look at their own thesis statements and self-assess.

These are just a few ways that I use a visualizer in my classroom!

Leave a message in the comments if you use a visualizer. I’d love to find even more ways to use it in my classroom!

*These links are affiliate links, you don’t pay any more or any less by using this link. It does mean I get a small commission – which helps keep me in cups of tea!

The Perfect Review Game for High School

This review game is perfect to help your students demonstrate their learning for any literature text. You can use it while reading a text or after reading to have your students prove their learning.

In this blog post, I’ll show you:

  1. The basic idea
  2. The extra challenge
  3. What it looks like
  4. How to set up the game
  5. Why it’s not as complicated as it sounds!

Card game image with text "the perfect review game for high schoolers"

The basic idea

The basic idea is that students build a card tower. The catch is that each card on their card tower has to demonstrate their knowledge of the ideas, characters, and the plot of a text.

The extra challenge!

It would be too simple to build a card tower with just information on it. Nope – that’s not enough for us. Here’s what the key to the challenge is: Each card has a sticky note with information on it. But each sticky note has to link to every other sticky that it touches in the tower.

Let me show you what I mean

In the image below, each card in lower zigzag pattern touches. The cards that touch either at the top of the V or at the bottom of the V have to have information on that connects.

So the sticky that we can see on the lower level states “Macbeth does not experience guilt”. This means that the card propped up against it must link to that idea. Perhaps with a quotation that proves this, or a reference to an event that links to this idea.

Even more challenging – the cards that make the horizontal support across the lower level also have to contain facts and information that link the ideas on the cards!

Card Tower with sticky notes on each card. Each sticky note has a different sentence on it.

The overwhelming benefit of this game is that students have to think and think hard about all the ideas they wish to demonstrate before they try and construct their card tower. The tower itself becomes secondary to their knowledge and learning.

How to set up this review game

  1. So for this activity, you will need some packs of playing cards (although other cards will do) and sticky notes (mini ones if possible).
  2. I place students in groups of 3 – 4 and then I give each group about 8 – 12 playing cards.

As this is a literature review game. So your students will need to know about your text. It is essentially a 3D game of dominoes. Here are the instructions I give to my students:

  1. Your job is to make the tallest card tower, but you must follow these rules or you will be disqualified.
  2. Rule 1: each card must have a sticky note on showing information from the text.
  3. Rule 2: you must show information in the following order – plot, character, theme, then back to plot again. So each sticky note will have information on something from the plot, a character, or a theme in a series, in that order.
  4. Rule 3: each sticky note must relate to the ones on either of side.
  5. Rule 4: the tower must stand with no support for 2 minutes.

It sounds more complicated than it is

The first time I use this review game, students get all caught up with what is and isn’t allowed. So I give them this example. Here’s is what a sticky notes series might look like from Macbeth Act 1, Sc 1:

Plot – Macbeth fights bravely against rebels trying to overthrow King Duncan –
which links to – Character – Macbeth is shown to be bloodthirsty and violent from the outset – which links to – Theme – The theme of rebellion is introduced as Macbeth is given the rebel’s thaneship – which links to…plot! But this time because the theme is rebellion – you could include anything from the plot on rebellion!

Image of card tower with text "perfect review game for high school"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21st October 2018

5 creative writing lesson ideas you can use today!

If you are looking to liven up your creative writing teaching or your students need some fresh ideas to improve and develop their creative writing in class – then this blog post is for you!

Below are 5 of my favourite ways to mix things up a little when I am teaching creative writing!

  1. Slow writing
  2. People watch to write people
  3. Changes over time
  4. Opening lines
  5. Add meaning to your settings

Slow down writing

These writing prompts focus on s-l-o-w writing. Slow writing is the opposite of a quick write. The idea is to write slowlypreciselycarefully, selecting each word intentionally. Slow writing can take 5 minutes with one sentence and 30 minutes with a paragraph.

  1. Write this moment of action. Imagine it in slow-motion. Try and recreate this in your description.
    Imagine your family is eating a meal together. Someone knocks over a drink and it spills across the table. Describe this moment.
  2. It is sunset and you are waiting for your friends, who are late. This moment is slow. You are waiting. Probably bored. Perhaps a bit annoyed. Walk your reader through the tick, tick, tick of your watch as you wait.  Describe the setting as the day moves towards darkness.

People watch to write people

  1. Sit somewhere public (the cafeteria at school is perfect for this).
  2. Describe the faces of 5 strangers, show personality through expressions and gestures.
  3. When you have your 5 descriptions, create some conflicts between them.
    One character bumps into another character. One character asks another for help.
  4. How would your character react based on the personality you created for them?

Changes over time

This writing task is all about describing the same setting at three different points during the day. You can use different settings, for example, I sometimes use the grounds at my school.

  1. Write a description of a summer funfair as the workers are setting up the rides and stalls.
  2. Write a description of the same funfair – this time in the mid-afternoon, just as the first crowds begin to arrive.
  3. Write a short narrative set at the same fun fair – now write the fair and attendees as evening falls.

I use these 3 prompts in different ways. Sometimes I do gradual writing with students and they write each one, in turn, changing – shaping – adapting their own funfair as the day passes.

Another way is to put your students into triad groups and have them write one each. They can then share and improve based on the best bits of each other’s writing.

Opening lines

I love to use open lines as a writing activity with my classes because it always amazes me where students will go with the same opening. You could give them one line and end up with 30 completely unconnected stories.

Below are the 3 opening lines that I found to create an excellent and diverse range of stories:

  1. I covered my eyes but nothing …
  2. I said orange…
  3. Bad, very bad…

Add meaning to your settings

I started teaching Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns this week and it is a joy, an absolute joy to get stuck into such a beautiful piece of writing.

Re-reading the opening, I am always reminded of how much our landscapes shape who we are. Let me transport you for a moment. If you don’t know the novel, a shunned woman and her illegitimate daughter are sent to live in a shack isolated in the countryside of Afghanistan.

Here is Hosseini’s description: It was on the outskirts of Gul Daman. To get to it, one took a rutted, uphill dirt track that branched off the main road between Herat and Gul Duman. The track was flanked on either side by knee-high grass and speckles of white and bright yellow flowers. The track snaked uphill and led to a flat field where poplars and cottonwoods soared and wild bushes grew in clusters.

I love how Hosseini highlights their isolation, the mother’s ‘off track’ actions, the ‘uphill’ life they lead, and a hundred other details in his description.

It would make a great mentor text example for a piece of descriptive writing. For example: create a description of the landscape of where you live, the nature rather than the buildings. BUT as you describe it, give the details in the landscape significance to show something about your own life experience.


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10 stories starters for Halloween

Do your students just l-o-v-e writing spooky stories? My students cannot get enough of creative writing around this time of year. But if I’m honest, real talk here, some of their story ideas can be a little bit immature, a little bit samey. Sometimes I feel like they are doing their own versions of some of ‘those’ films. Does this happen in your classroom?

Today, I am going to let you in on my strategy for pushing students towards originality in their own writing.  *Yes! Happy Dance!*  The strategy: don’t use story prompts; use story starters.

What’s the difference?

A story prompt sets up a premise for a narrative. Generally a prompt sets up who the main character is and what the setting is, it might also prompt the key event. It would read something like “a student is walking home late at night, they become afraid”. You can see how 30+ really different students, might come up with 30+ really similar ideas with this prompt. You can imagine it now can’t you? The student hears noises, they look behind them and see nothing, they run, something / someone grabs them… it turns out to be a) an axe murderer, b) one of the parents, or c) a friend.

But a story starter. That’s different. A story starter provides the first line or couple of lines of a story. Something like “The phone rang. The door slammed.” You can see already that this story starter doesn’t provide the writer with any information, or least only a teeny bit. Enough to get the brain whirring. But not so much that it confines writers in the space of predictability.

This week I shared with my subscriber list “20 story starters” that are perfect for Halloween. Today I am going to share 10 with you right here!

Let’s get our writing on!

Love them? Me too. I surely hope you can use them in your classroom. As part of your daily writing, or perhaps as part of your creative writing unit, or as a Halloween special.

If you think these writing prompts are JUST what you need, then this is for you.  To save you time, to help claim back a tiny bit of ‘your life’ I have created 20 pages of Halloween story starters and 20 pages of writing instruction that is ready to print and go!

This ready-to-go resource contains 40 pages of Halloween writing activities. The story starters are totally fresh and new. No repeats. Each page is beautifully designed. In addition to these new story starters, each one comes with a page of planning, techniques and new vocabulary to help your students nail their spooky stories! This resource is available both as a >>>paper version<<< and as a >>>Google Drive digital edition<<<.


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Love Creative Writing in your classroom!

Are you ready for dynamite descriptive writing in your classroom?Download your FREE 3-step guide now!

*I send emails with teaching tips, tricks, and free resources to my subscribers regularly. I value your privacy and you can learn more about how I handle your data in our private policy. You can unsubscribe at any time.

19th September 2018

Teaching Biblical Allusions

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRVm_TAE24A
(Errr – don’t watch this if swearing offends you).

I’m from a very religious family.  My step-dad is a former RAF Chaplain (and served in the Falkland Islands) and is now an itinerant vicar (which is not the same as what George and Lennie were); my brother is a vicar.  I grew up steeped in religious tradition – from churches were the communion wine is golden to ones where they play guitars and dance. I am enduringly grateful for my upbringing.  Not least when it comes to teaching literature. You see – I can spot a biblical allusion at 50 paces.

*The purpose of this introduction is to contextualise some of mild irreverence below.*

Kids these days…

Have no clue about the Bible and why should they? Yet, this absence of knowledge results in pupils often struggling to identify and understand many of the deep running threads in literature.

I often describe the need for deep subject knowledge as being like a tapestry – it is complex and interwoven, creating an overarching picture with mini-scenes within.  Threads are drawn upon as needed but always remain embedded in and attached to the big picture.

Yet – if this tapestry is English literature – then much of what we study (if not all) was written in a time when religion and religious ideologies were key to moral and ethical outlook, social norms, thoughts on the creation of wealth, and society, and even the nature of life and death itself.  Rightly or wrongly identity itself, for much of history, was shaped by religion.

Some may disagree – but I would argue that religion was the predominant ideology of English Literature right up until World War I.

Thus over 700 years of written literature is interwoven into a tapestry where life and religion were twisted threads.

Therefore, to study, understand, and enjoy literature – knowledge of religion and the religious texts, such as the Bible, is essential.

How should we manoeuvre this camel through the needle’s eye?

It’s easy, as with all things historical context based, to bolt this knowledge onto a unit of work.

You’re teaching Great Expectations – you paraphrase the parable of the Prodigal Son.
The Lord of the Flies – well, that’s just one big Biblical allusion, although you could just summarise beginning of Genesis and then skip to the New Testament…
The Handmaid’s Tale – same.

Whilst this approach works for individual texts, it doesn’t allow students to develop an overall bank of knowledge that they can rely on. It robs them of the cultural knowledge that is part of our history, as well as our literature.

I like what ED Hirsch has to say in The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy (this is an affiliate link!):

No one in the English-speaking world can be considered literate without a basic knowledge of the Bible. … All educated speakers of American English need to understand what is meant when someone describes a contest as being between David and Goliath, or whether a person who has the “wisdom of Solomon” is wise or foolish, or whether saying “My cup runneth over” means the person feels fortunate or unfortunate. Those who cannot understand such allusions cannot fully participate in literate English.

But this piecemeal approach is not enough

Religious imagery (both positive and negative) pervades culture still.  By only teaching what is needed to tackle one text, we are not weaving the tapestry.

My long-term goal is to create specific units of work that study ‘allusion’ in KS3, knowledge units that study Biblical knowledge as well as mythology from Greek, Roman, English heritage. Not just studying the stories but also studying representations of these stories, characters, and ideas throughout literature.

I’m a while away from being able to do that, so here’s the stop-gap:

At the moment, I teach these as explicit, out-of-context starters in year 9.  Whilst I am aware this isn’t ideal – I do feel that some knowledge is better than none, for now.

Teaching Biblical characters who have become literary “clichés”

Here’s the list of biblical characters and stories that I teach, with some examples below:

Old Testament:

  • Adam and Eve
  • Satan…
  • Abraham/Isaac
  • Cain and Abel
  • David (and Goliath)
  • Jezebel
  • Job
  • Joseph (and his cheerful coat)
  • Lot and often more importantly Lot’s Wife
  • Moses
  • Noah (and the Flood)
  • Solomon

New Testament:

  • Jesus
  • John the Baptist
  • Judas
  • Mary (mother of Jesus)
  • Peter (the rock)
  • Paul (Saul)
  • Pontius Pilate
  • *The Holy Spirit*

Top Bible stories to know:

Old Testament:

  • Creation – Genesis 1 and 2, Adam & Eve, the apple, the snake, the Garden of Eden etc
  • Cain & Abel – the first death, the first murder
  • The Flood – the rain, the boat, the animals, the rainbow, the dove.
  • Jonah and the whale – I didn’t put Jonah as a character above because his story isn’t really all that without the whale. It’s a great narrative about rebellion, trust, and redemption.
  • The Tower of Babel – the arrogance of man and the birth of language.
  • Moses and the Ten Commandments – what happens at the top of the mountain and what happens when you get down again.
  • Job – misery loves company.

New Testament:

  • The birth of Jesus – rather than the nativity itself, I tend to focus on King Herod and the baby genocide, the astronomers and following a star and then the idea of the birth of a new humanity and the age of harmony with God.
  • The story of John the Baptist (or ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’)
  • The Beatitudes
  • The Good Samaritan
  • The resurrection of Lazarus
  • The Parable of the Prodigal Son
  • The “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone” story
  • The betrayal of Judas
  • The Crucifixion and Resurrection – again, where my students have the basic knowledge from their Religious Studies lessons, I tend to look at nature imagery and Christ figures.

Even more…

Also because Biblical allusion, among other things, is tested under the AP Literature curriculum – there are loads of fabulous sites that have lists of biblical phrases etc. I like this PDF because it has a bunch of useful literary, biblical and historical allusions.

What to test your knowledge of Biblical reference and allusion? Have a go at this BBC quiz!

 

 

 

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29th August 2018

5 ways to use lolly sticks in your secondary classroom

If you’re anything like me, you have drawers or even cupboards of things you have bought for your classroom – just in case. I have about one hundred thousand lolly sticks*. Over the last year, I worked hard to use all-the-things. In the post, I am going to share 5 ways you can use all those lolly sticks in your secondary classroom!

1. Still great for names

Lolly sticks originally made their way into our classroom as a form of assessment. We wrote our students names on them. Then used them as a simple, low-tech random name generator. Well, they are still great for that purpose. You don’t necessarily need to use them as part of your questioning strategy every lesson. But mix things up using them every now and again.

Here’s what I do:

Hand out the lolly sticks to students at the beginning of the year. Set them a homework to decorate their lolly stick with their name and at least 2 images that show me something about their personality.

I stick them in a cup at the front my room and use them to:

  • select students at random to answer a question or perform a task
  • randomly assign pairs or small groups
  • choose students at random for a positive call, email, or post-card home
  • monitor missed homework (they get a red dot sticker on their stick)

So don’t discount using your lolly sticks for names still!

2. Bookmarks

Another way I use lolly sticks is as bookmarks for our class novels. We generally don’t have enough copies of our class novels to allow students to sign them out and take them home. In fact, often our teachers are sharing class sets of novels between and we have to juggle who is using the books during hour 1, hour 2 etc. I also don’t see my classes every day. In fact, some of my classes are one hour a week classes and I don’t see them except for that one hour.

So, bookmarks are one of the things that make my reading teaching easier. I used to use post-it notes and to be honest that was fine. But my lolly stick bookmarks have a two-fold purpose: they make a great bookmark and they can be used as a reading ruler.

Here’s how it works:

  • Hand out a lolly stick to each student in your class.
  • Ask them to decorate it with either a short quote about reading (I’d rather be reading) or a book they would love to recommend.
  • Then when we start reading I ask every student to use their bookmark as a reading ruler. I model it. We practise. Rewards are given out for those who are doing it right.
  • At the end of the lesson, everyone puts the bookmark into the book (at the right place) and returns to book to my box.
  • The next lesson I hand out the books out and students get to discover a new bookmark. Each lesson they get to see/use a new bookmark.

It’s an easy and effective way to keep everyone on track. No issues with different page numbers in different editions of the novel and an easy differentiation tool.

3. To help your study of literature texts

I also use them the most for extending and developing student responses to literature texts. Let’s take Macbeth for example. At some point early on in studying the text, I will hand out my unused lolly sticks to the students and ask them to write on them the names of characters, events, settings, themes, and relevant historical context facts. Once I have these I use them in a number of ways:

  1. Handout to students and ask them to link any class discussion to their own lolly stick.
  2. Ask them to form a question for the class based on their lolly stick.
  3. Challenge them to use their lolly stick information in any analytical writing we are doing.

To take this further, I then start adding lolly sticks with key literary terms on (foreshadowing), with text-specific language (sycophant for example from Macbeth), or with essay writing challenge sentence starters (e.g. another way this could be interpreted is…).

By the end of studying a literature text, I normally have about 150+ lolly sticks to use for any number of quick quizzes, revision tasks, or extension ideas. Even better, when I move onto a new text but want to spiral back to review Macbeth (for example) then I can just grab a lolly stick and ask the class a question.

4. Awesome vocabulary

Idea 4 is one that I use throughout the year and I use across multiple classes. Simply, anytime we find a new vocabulary word that we love (last year one class was obsessed with the word incredulous), we write it onto 2 – 3 lolly sticks and put them in our vocabulary post.

5. Puzzle Paradise

The final idea for using up all those lolly sticks is to create puzzles for your students to solve. These are great ice-breakers, quick fixes for when you need 5 minutes, or discussion prompts.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Lay about 9 or 10 lolly sticks side-by-side and measure them. I use 9 lolly sticks across (the odd number makes it a little trickier) which measures to be about 12cm high by 17cm wide.
  2. Print your image so it fits the measurements above.
  3. Glue across all the lolly sticks and leave to dry.
  4. Use a craft knife to cut the paper and separate the lolly sticks.

I hope you enjoy using these ideas!

*This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something using one of these links, you won’t pay any more but I will receive a small commission!

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Pre-reading activity for any literature text

Helping students engage with and understand literature before they read is essential. One way to take the fear away from old-fashioned language or writing that is unfamiliar is to let students play with it before you read.

This pre-reading activity is deceptively simple. Here’s what you do:

  1. Before you read the text in class, select 4 or 6 important words or phrases from the text.
  2. Ask your students to divide a notebook page into 4 or 6 boxes (depending on how many words/phrases you choose – one box per phrase)
  3. Then they should write the 6 words or phrases as titles in each box.
  4. All of I do then is ask students to draw an image to represent the phrase. You can see my instructions below – this is for the war poem, The Drum by John Scott.

It always amazes me how varied, interesting, and deep my students’ interpretations of these words are. Remember they have no idea what they are going to be reading. Yet students are able to see the depth in the language so much more easily when they only have a handful of words to deal with.

Here are a few examples of my student’s work: from Romeo and Juliet and the task above on The Drum!

 

If you try using this activity with your class, drop me a note in the comments to let me know how it went! You can see all my Literature resources here.

 

 

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3 ways to improve descriptive writing

Writers can never get enough opportunities to write more detail. We live in the cracks on the pavement and the blank spaces between letters. Here are 3 quick writing activities that you can set your students to help them improve description and descriptive writing.

1. Find all the details

Here’s a quick-write task you can to practise the skill of ‘finding all the details‘. Choose one room in your house and list everything that can be: seen, smelt, heard, felt (and tasted). Write 100 words describing this room using only sensory imagery. When you have finished writing, ask yourself this question – were you able to create a sense of the room with this tightly controlled word count? If not, consider why? Look at your nouns and adjectives, are they specific and precise? Did you waste words? Make just 5 changes and see if this improves your writing.

2. Look beyond the surface

Description isn’t always just about giving an accurate observation of something. Sometimes it’s about seeing it deeply. Perhaps we need to look into the heart of things before we can describe them well. Use these quick-write tasks to practise this skill:

  1. Sit somewhere public (the cafeteria at school is perfect for this).
  2. Describe the faces of 5 strangers, show personality through expressions and gestures.
  3. When you have your 5 descriptions, create some conflicts between them.
    One character bumps into another character. One character asks another for help.
  4. How would your character react based on the personality you created for them?

3. Slow your description down

Slow writing is the opposite of quick writing and quick writes. The idea is to write slowlypreciselycarefully, selecting each word intentionally. Slow writing can take 5 minutes with one sentence and 30 minutes with a paragraph.

Imagine this scene: It is sunset and you are waiting for your friends, who are late. Describe the setting as the day moves towards darkness.

So how can you slow your writing down? you are waiting, probably bored, perhaps a bit annoyed. Now,
s-l-o-w your writing down, exactly like time seems to have slowed down while you are waiting. Walk your reader through the tick, tick, tick of your watch as you wait.

If you enjoyed these writing tasks and prompts then you should check out my writing prompt sets on TeachersPayTeachers. You can find them here.

 

 

 


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Create a BANG this fireworks night in your ELA classroom

Pop Quiz! Which of these best fits you?

  1. My students love debating.
  2. I want to push my students to apply their learning to the real world.
  3. I think we can learn lessons from history.
  4. My students struggle to link literature to life.

If you answered “me, me!” to any of these 4 statements, then today’s blog post is dedicated to you. Here are 3 engaging classroom activities that: give your students a chance to debate; challenge students to stretch classroom knowledge to become real world knowledge; and help them link history and literature with their lives!

1. Research the man Guy Fawkes

It’s easy to forget that Guy Fawkes wasn’t the instigator of the Gunpowder Plot, the man and the money behind it was Robert Catesby. A wealthy farmer and Catholic, Catesby persuaded many of his friends that James I was a weak king and could be easily removed from power.

Guy Fawkes, however, was also not the bumbling fool often portrayed in cartoons. He fought in the Spanish wars against the Dutch Republic and was an experienced soldier.

If you and your students are interested in finding out more about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot – then check out my Guy Fawkes Hero or Villain resource on TpT.

After you have researched Guy Fawkes in detail, use these debate prompts (a sneak peek from above resource) to spark some deep discussion in your classroom.

2. Watch and discuss V for Vendetta

**Now a big disclaimer is needed here: V for Vendetta is rated a 15 here in the UK. The whole film is not suitable for classroom use.**

How do I use the film in my lessons to help discuss Guy Fawkes then?

Introduce the story: V for Vendetta (1998) is a graphic novel by Alan Moore. The story is set in a dystopian future where the United Kingdom is ruled over by a neo-facist regime. One night, 5th November, a freedom fighter attempts a revolution. He takes over the national media and makes a speech encouraging all citizens to join him the following year (on 5th November) again to start a rebellion.

Watch the clip:

Read the speech and discuss persuasion:

I have attached a file with V’s revolutionary speech here. We discuss rhetoric and persuasion here and compare it to other political speeches. Then we discuss V’s use of 5th November as a sign of positive revolution.

I pose the questions:

  • Is V rewriting history?  What is the evidence for your response?
  • Can we trust history? Can we trust historical evidence and facts?
  • What happens when history is altered or parts of history are forgotten?
  • How is history dangerous?

In his dystopian novel, 1984, Orwell writes, “who controls the past, control the future” – we discuss this and the truth of it in our world today.

If your students love V as much as mine do then I often let them watch these two extra clips: The 5th of November Overture and *spoiler* the finale scene (note this contains swears) and will also spoil the film for them – so beware!!

3. Write your own nursery rhyme

One of the best things about nursery rhymes is that they are all pretty gruesome in nature. If they aren’t warding off the plague, they are accusing you of being a witch.  The nursery rhyme written for the ‘celebration’ of failed Gunpowder Plot is just as brutal.  We study it for ‘historical accuracy’ and rhetorical techniques and then we create our own Gunpowder Plot nursery rhyme. Sometimes we cast Guy Fawkes as the hero. Sometimes a hapless fool deserted by his comrades. Sometimes we write about James and the Lords in Parliament. Occasionally we imagine the horror if it had succeeded. If all else fails – we create a visualization of the original rhyme with lots of gory detail.

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!

Guy Fawkes, guy, t’was his intent
To blow up king and parliament.
Three score barrels were laid below
To prove old England’s overthrow.

By god’s mercy he was catch’d
With a darkened lantern and burning match.
So, holler boys, holler boys, Let the bells ring.
Holler boys, holler boys, God save the king.

And what shall we do with him?
Burn him!

An extra sweet treat…

Check out this interactive Guy Fawkes game on the BBC History website.  Go to the Powder Plot Game here.

Ok friends

If you wanted to get your students debating; brief history and literature into the real world and challenge your students to really think, then this post was for you.

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