Posts Tagged ‘read write think’

I have a secret. Tucked away in a not-so-quiet corner of our school (due to current rebuild!) is my classroom. (That’s setting the scene – not the secret). And among the many students who come and go during the day, is a Year 9 class of keen writers. I can’t name them because a) that’s unprofessional and b) they are so clever, they may just read this.  So, let’s call them, Class x. Next week, Class x and I will continue our learning journey together. Having just marked 28 x 3 pieces of their NZ poetry assignment, I know it will be fun.

Now over the years, I’ve come across a vast array of wonderful online tools to assist with the creative writing process, which, as we know, isn’t always an easy one, even for clever people. In the spirit of tilting the classroom and, safe in the knowledge that these students always bring their best to the learning table, I’ve developed a writing lesson (actually give they’re not superhuman, probably lessons) using tools I think will develop their skills, challenge their thinking and (most importantly) enjoy.

Below are the exact instructions these guys will receive via the school’s LMS. The laptops are booked, the links work, the tools have been tested and I’m quietly confident they’ll love this one. I’ve given them options for both online and paper planning and intend to discuss and model mind mapping as most are stuck in the focus cloud rut. We also discussed plot structure and plot types at the end of last term.

These students are working at Level 4-6+ of the NZC so my intention was to keep things open-ended. I’ll let you know how they get on!


In this lesson, you will use an interactive online tool to select key elements of a practice story. Even better, this tool uses tried and trusted tropes (click to find out what a trope is) so in terms of engagement, you’re bound to do well! Our learning objective is for you to structure your writing so there is a clear beginning, middle and end.

Part one: Planning

1. Read this page

2. Add trope to your glossary of literary terms

3. Go to the periodic table of storytelling

4. Note that tropes are organised by column into different aspects of storytelling

5. Have a play – click on different elements (boxes) to find out more about the trope

6. Add any new words you encounter to the class glossary on the whiteboard in the relevant column – I will take a pic and upload to ultranet page for future reference 🙂

7.The discs at the bottom of the page show combinations of tropes for some well-known stories

8. Pick a minimum of four tropes from at least 3 columns to use in your story, read about them, note them down

9. Plan your story using the interactive planner or on paper

10. Print it or take a photo of it on your phone

Part two: Writing

1. Mind Map ideas – paper (see me for templates) or online (try bubblus, mindmup) Note: when mind mapping you are not simply dumping down ideas. The connections are important – especially for writing as your story must have a thread holding it all together in order to flow and be engaging.

2. Start writing – online or in your journal (whichever you prefer)

3. If you are writing online, copy and paste your finished work here , the Analyse This tool will give you a break down of sentence lengths and type, repeated words and phrases and punctuation usage. You can use these stats when editing.

Extra Reading: now or homework: These sites offer more tips on structure in writing, showing not telling and character development

1. Writing Forward – Show Don’t Tell

2. Writing Forward – Developing Characters

3. Helping writers become authors blog – 5 Elements of Story Structure

4. Christopher Brooker’s Seven Basic Plots

Word are like sunbeams, the more they are condensed the deeper they burn.  Robert Southey

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Been a while.  This can only mean one thing – yup, I am on holiday of what appears to be a permanent nature due to not being offered a permanent position at the end of last year. Ho hum – back to the drawing board.  Despite the hugely disappointing end to my first year teaching, I would not change a single thing about the year itself.  I taught  students from Year 9 to 12 with a range of abilities.We had our ups and downs and our moments, some we made the most of, some we’d probably prefer to forget!   I will miss ALL of my students this year, am proud of how much we achieved together in 2011 and am very sad I won’t get to see their various learning progressions.

So, before I have to make some really tough decisions about what to do (and it looks as if teaching is simply not an option) I thought I’d share a list of links and brief comments about ICTs and digital technologies trialled last year.  As always these choices are dictated by environmental factors. The school I taught at did not have PCs or laptops for students in the class.  It used a book in lab system. It was tricky getting into the labs for some of my classes and there were never enough PCs for one computer each student. Mid-way through the year the school bought sets of netbooks (20 per set minus a couple that were generally out of action). These had limited applications installed and again had to be booked well in advance. Still a step in the right direction. 

So here’s the summary, take from it what you will and feel free to ask questions if you’d like to know more.  This is not a comprehensive list  – just what I can remember after far too many days off! I’ll start with Year 9 today and add others later.

Year 9 – lower ability class:

  • History of English – 10 short clips from the Anglo Saxons to Language of the Internet, worked really well.  Developed focus questions around each one so this can be used as a listening exercise too.
  • Grammar Skills Testing – Spent a session in the computer lab working through at their own speed. Good before creative writing. They could go back to problem areas and retest – also handy for diagnostic testing.
  • Persuasive arguments  – an interactive online organiser, used for speeches, would also work for formal writing  Because we didn’t have PCs in class, I developed an argument for them and then projected the template to copy.
  • Creative writing starter/poetry taster – pick an image then drag and drop words to create poems, see earlier post on PicLits.
  • Animate words from essays – the visual learners liked this, most failed to see the point, used for early finishers, similar application can be found at pimpapum.
  • Fractured Fairytales – another great interctive from Read Write Think, students create their own characters, setting etc to rewrite well known fairytales.

And when all else fails, I used social media sites they knew about as a basis for static activities.  For example, I created a Facebook profile template and used this for note-taking on key characters. I also created a template for a twitter feed (after showing them the basics online and tweeting them via my account) and used this to rescript a scene from a drama studied in class.  They weren’t convinced about this approach but some really enjoyed!

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