My top set are an absolute delight. They are able, enthusiastic and engaged. I could pretty much ask them to do exercises from a text book every lesson and they would, willingly and with a smile on their face. Compliance doesn’t give you that thrill of really stretching a top set, however.
They’d recently grown so bored of the reading and analysis of Jekyll and Hyde (which they do, as it happens, exceptionally well) that I decided that I not only wanted them to approach the text in a different way but I also wanted to really stretch them.
I decided to develop a creative writing workshop, aimed at engaging them with the chapter The Carew Murder Case. Below, you’ll find an outline of the activities with which they engaged, the rationale of including these activities and the results from the lesson.
This class already have a pretty excellent vocabulary. They are able to vary their vocabulary for effect and make adventurous vocabulary choices. I needed them to use vocabulary that they hadn’t come across before and that was exceptionally sophisticated. I provided them with the vocabulary bank:
Metamorphosis – transformation e.g. The metamorphosis saw him change into a monster. Bloodlust – a desire to see bloodshed e.g. Only then did her senses register the three men before her, the alley, and the familiar bloodlust in their glowing eyes. Barbarous – cruel and vicious e.g. His barbarous behaviour shocked and appalled me. Baleful – threatening or menacing e.g. She shot be a baleful look Glowering – scowling e.g. They glowered at me as I stood alone in the corner.Gimlet-eyed – a sharp or piercing glance e.g. His face was set in a grimace and he was gimlet eyed. Decrepit – crumbling or decaying e.g. The decrepit buildings towered over me Dilapidated – run down e.g. The dilapidated building had smashed windows and no door. Squalid – dirty and filthy e.g. The conditions were squalid.
Not only did the students use all of these words, their desire to improve their vocabulary was really increased after seeing the complexity of the words in the vocabulary bank. One student described Hyde as “a behemoth like monster”.
I explained that good creative writing had to use the 5 senses. I provided them with an image of Victorian London and got them to write for 3 minutes using only their senses. The rationale behind getting them to write for such a short time was to get them to write and write straight away. So many students find it difficult to start or put up mental blocks to prevent themselves from having a go, so fearful that they won’t produce something beautifully written.
The timed task gave students the push they needed to get writing and many of them, who had previously shown a reluctance to write, were able to produce a short, effective description which could be re-worked into a much longer piece of descriptive writing.
Before they began to write, I also talked to them about the use of figurative language. Again, these students could identify and use these language techniques with ease. The challenge was to get them to create sophisticated and unusual imagery that avoided cliché. I modelled a clichéd metaphor – “His teeth were like daggers.” Then, I modelled a much more sophisticated and unusual simile “The deep fog spread like a pool of quicksilver”.
Again, I used an image as a stimulus for students to work from. They had three minutes to produce a simile, a metaphor or personification based on the image.
The last task they were given was simply changing two sentences from ‘tell’ to ‘show’, with the aim of building up more engaging descriptive detail.
They were shown :
I was nervous – My nails had been bitten until my fingers were sore and my legs were trembling.
And asked to re-write:
I was scared –
Lastly, the students were asked to write in pairs to produce two descriptive paragraphs of the murder. Each student was responsible for one of the paragraphs and, thus, they had to make sure they fitted together. Not only did this ensure students worked well together and helped to consolidate and concrete their ideas, it also ensured that students were able to discuss interesting ways to make links between their paragraphs.
They were provided with a success criteria:
There was such a ‘buzz’ in this lesson. This was a result of working with others, the pressure of timed tasks, the challenge of the task, and the clear success criteria made this a really successful lesson.
If it’s at all useful to you, click below to download the lesson’s PowerPoint