I love, love, love using music songs to enable the children to write in role as a character. It is a little different than writing from the point of view of a character in a book and has previously been very successful. I'm about to start working with a group of year sixes to boost their writing ability, particularly their creative writing ability. I'll be using music videos as the main stimulus, alongside talk for writing and Alan Peat's exciting sentences. Along with these other music videos...
As can be seen from previous posts, I stop the video at certain points and we discuss the feelings, actions and descriptions of the characters/setting at different points. This is to ensure all children can verbalise their writing and have the chance to share and listen to ideas from all other children prior to writing. Scaffolding the learning of all by sharing ideas is essential for all children to progress in writing and is one of the key components of the approach I take during these sessions. Questions and further prompts will appear here soon alongside childrens work when it is completed on Friday.
Writing explanations can be tricky for children in my experience. Getting them to write how something works can be quite difficult based on getting them to write about a real-life thing which needs lots of technical knowledge.
Previously, I have used the 'Teacher Pleaser Machine' as the stimulus for this type of writing with some good writing gained from it. (http://www.teachprimary.com/learning_resources/view/pie-corbetts-non-fiction-magnificent-machines)
Prior to writing an explanation it is obviously important for them to partake in small creative writing opportunities like:
- Why does the moon have a face?
- Why is a rainbow like an arch?
- Why are snots green?
- Why don't clouds wobble in the wind?
Get the kids thinking creatively and using talk for writing (see article above for example) the children will be able to explain anything easily using their great imaginations. Yes, it is non-fiction but that doesn't mean it has to be based on real facts.
Anyways, Jonny Test - Cartoon Network. He's always up to no good and always asking his sisters to make him something to make his life easier. However, it always goes wrong. Watching this yesterday with my son I realised that nearly every episode I have watched with him include the sisters making some kind of invention which needs explaining. Yesterday was the lawnmower. It has so many buttons and gadgets on it that the children can't help but get carried away with writing an explanation on how it could help Jonny to win the Lawnmower race. This is just one example of how to write explanations in a much more creative way.
- Short phrases created using the questions above
- Talk for writing (including any Alan Peat Exciting Sentences) to get the patterns of language into their brains
- Use the video as a stimulus for them to write an explanation on the lawnmower (possibly have a boring lawnmower in the classroom that you could attach buttons to?)
If you try this in class please let me know. I can't wait for explanations to come up soon so I can teach this!
So as well as using videos to inspire writing I have also began to look at using different websites and APPS for writing. This list will be added to with pictures etc when I come across them.
Use this video below first to get discussion going about what might be out there.
What do they think the animals could be? Stop the video on each animal to discuss the possibilities.
Following this - get the children to work in groups or if you are lucky enough by themselves on the class laptops or I-pads. Go to www.switcheroozoo.com and get the children to create their own animals to write about.
The children can use the website to write a story involving the made-up animal.
They can use the animal that they create to write a short description piece using the show-don't tell method for descriptions.
They could also write a newspaper report about the animal, e.g. where it was discovered, eye witness accounts etc.
Another possibility is to write a non-chronological report about their animal.
The website is so much fun that the hard thing will be to get the children to only choose one animal to write about.
An alternative to this would be to give the children an already completed animal that you have printed yourself to do the writing tasks with. If you use this in your classroom please let me know.
Some examples of the first few paragraphs from today are shown here....
We used this powerful video to complete our unit on diary writing. Before writing we got our creative juices flowing with the following...
Stop at 00:04 What is she running from? Why is she running? What thoughts are running through her head at this point? Could you come up with a 3ed sentence to describe to the reader how she is feeling? How about a feeling, description sentence?
Stop at 00:06 Do a vocab boost to describe the woodlands. Similes, adjectives etc
Stop at 00:26 – What is going through her mind at this point? What choices does she have? Why are the dogs/wolves chasing her? What has she done? Who do the dogs belong to?
00:40 – How come she can hold her breath for so long underwater?
0:50 – What could the flashing lights be?
01:20 – What could happen here? Why are the lights getting stronger?
01:41 – Is she going to survive? If so, how will she survive? Does she have any superpowers that will help her here? Make sure to look at and pause on all the different scenes. This would be a chance for some more Alan Peat sentence work.
01:46 – It’s a giant hand. Who does it belong to?
2:02 – What is she thinking at this time? How is she feeling? What is this thing that has saved her life? Why has it saved her life? How could we describe it?
2:50 – What happens next?
Zedd – Stache
Discussion Points and Possible Writing Activities
Stop at 00:07 – describe the man you see. What super sentences can the children come up with to describe the man? What can we tell by his looks? What might he be about to tell everyone?
Stop at 00:09 – Who is this guy? What might he be doing?
Stop at 00:13 – What is he trying to do? (Children will come up with lots of suggestions here – run with a few and develop an oral story with the class – will they predict what he is actually doing?)
Stop at 00:21 – Why do the armed people want him? Are they police? Why is his location so hidden? What might all the piece of paper on the floor contain? Why is there no-one there to help him?
Stop at 00:29 Are there any clues here as to what he might be trying to do in this shot? Do the children think he is a good guy or a bad guy?
Stop at 00:59 What happens next? How is he feeling at this point? (Why do you think that?)
Stop at 01:03 What might the blue light be? Run with childrens suggestions again running with an oral story and perhaps adding in an ending that they can think of. Referring back to the fact that some people are trying to find him urgently.
Stop at 01:37 – What went wrong? Why won’t it work? What has he done wrong and what could he do to make it right again (this could lead to talk about persevering etc) – Can you think of an explanation that you could give him so he gets it right? How is he feeling at this point? What would you do at this point?
Stop at 01:47 – Why is this man back again?
Stop at 02:40 – What is he thinking at this point?
Stop at 02:53 – What happens next? Get the children to predict an ending to the video or even act one out. What will the blue light produce? Is it a new superpower? Is it the key to everlasting energy? Let their creative minds go free!
Stop at 03:14 – Now do we know why that man is on TV – What might he be saying to the public? Children could write a short speech about the blue flame/light and highlight their concerns to the public about it.
Stop at 03:50 Can the children explain what is happening (as creatively as possible). Follow up with what is going to happen next? What is the blue flame going to do?
Can the children write a newspaper report about the event?
Write a diary from the scientists point of view?
Can they write an explanation of how the machine works?
Write the ending to the story (stopping at 02:53)
Write a script to perform as the head of security addressing the public.
Write a police report about the event
Write a non-chronological report about the blue light/flame.
+ Lots of creative thinking and discussion.
A Day In The Life of a Pencil
You are probably sat reading this thinking how on earth can this be part of a writing lesson. I, myself was thinking the same thing. Last week one of my children in the middle of a piece of quiet time simply stated, I wonder what its like to be a pencil. BANG! Friday writing idea was born for this week.
If we sit here and think about a day for a pencil, its hard work. Sweaty hands, bogeys, ear wax, being chewed to death, the shredder of doom even cuts of parts of his body bits at a time.
Will the children be able to write about his feelings or will this be too abstract, will we'll find out tomorrow but I am hoping that they use their incredible creative thinking to create some mini masterpieces of writing. I'm going to use the video below to help them in case some become a bit stuck on ideas (although the role play of sticking a pencil up my nose etc should give them plenty ideas).
I will start by letting them explore what it is like to be a pencil and get them to write down events that the pencil might go through in a particular day. We will then discuss and note down how the pencil might view us. Are we known as the demon killers by the pencils of our classrooms? What is that stuff that we make them lose their life to? Then I will share my own thoughts before they have a go at writing their own.
My Hideous Life
So here I am again. Bored out of my brains, aching from yet another excruciating day of work. Laid down next to all my other overworked friends. Silent flows through the classroom now because all of them crazy people have gone home, which means that I can finally have a rest and recuperate from the long day. You see, I’m a pencil. That’s right, a pencil. I lay here all night feeling sorry for myself. Let me tell you why.
Well it usually starts as soon as the mini-beings stampede into the classroom. I’m picked up quite quickly and if I am lucky I don’t go immediately into the dreaded shredder of doom. My blood flows out of me quickly to enable these strange creatures to draw some crazy looking doodles onto some white material they call paper. For a moment I’m put down for a rest while this huge being stands next to this glowing temple of knowledge talking to the mini-beings. But then my day goes from bad to worse.
You might think being a pencil isn’t all that bad (apart from being put into the shredder of doom) – well let me tell you, it is! First of all it’s the chewing and saliva. I mean, I know I am yellow and black and look like a tasty sweet – I’m not! I don’t want saliva dripping down me, its vial and disgusting. Then there’s the times when I’m used to scratch peoples noses, I mean once I even had bogeys on my head for a week! On the table, the floor, back to my bed, into their germ infested hands, back to the table. I’m constantly being man-handled by these incredulous beasts who have no regard for my own personal well-being. As well as the bogeys and the saliva I even have to put up with being shoved into hair or on the giants massive hearing implements where I generally get left until the time comes to once again lose my blood.
Eventually, at the end of every day, a loud noise clatters after hours of being treat like a piece of dirt and I’m hurtled into my bed once more. Well, so far I have. I’m losing friends fast, they are losing their blood quickly. We are being overused and our life expectancy is down to four weeks. That’s my hideous life. It’s no fun being a pencil, especially a run of the mill boring pencil like me.
We used Alan Peat sentences to develop writing a description and to develop the children's use of : ; and -. Amazing results from my amazing children. The vocabulary and sentences developed were astonishing. If you are not using sentence books from Alan Peat, you are mad!
Lambton worm - part two
We worked on writing a description about the fearsome Lambton Worm using the many different sentence structures we have now learnt in class.
We learnt the story by watching an amazing video where an author retells the story in his own unique way. We also had a go at singing the song ourselves. See below for some of our amazing writing.
Examples of writing completed.
Using the above as a stimulus for poetry (Thanks to @redgierob and www.literacyshed.com for the idea) the children will spend time just thinking about the mountain and complete the following short activities before writing their own poetry imagining themselves as the mountain.
Focus – Poetry – Creating show not tell poetry about natural phenomenon.
Watch the opening to the Winter Olympic Games from the BBC (Literacyshed front page).
Watch it initially with no sound – (Stop at 53 seconds before athletes appear)
During this time children are to write down any nouns they might include in their writing (recap on 4 types of nouns here - proper, abstract, common, collective). Mountains, icicles, snow, wind, rain, mist, clouds,
Now they have done that get the children to add an adjective circle around each noun
Following this get the children to add another layer to their noun – VERBS – action words.
What could the wind, rain, mountains etc be described as doing? This is called personification.
Next - if needed do an adverb circle too. This will add to the word bank that children will have available. An alternative to this would be to do an a-z race and have them up around the room as an aid to the children when they begin their writing.
Examples of planning and vocabulary work.
We used a video called 'The Black Hole' to inspire the children to write a short story. This prompted many questions in class, particularly on whether they would use it for good or bad! Many were pinching chocolates from the vending machines (watch the video you'll understand) while others had all sorts of weird and wacky ideas on how they could use the miraculous black hole.
How I used the video to prompt many discussions and get their creative minds motoring!
- Stop at 00:07 - Why might it be called the black hole? What do we see in the picture that might give us a clue as to what might lie ahead? Where do we think the video is set? Is it a real or animated video? What could possible happen?
Stop at 00:13 - How is he feeling? What can we tell from the man? Build a character description here. Use show not tell (this is explained brilliantly by Alan Peat here http://www.alanpeat.com/LIT%20FILES%20900/lit2900.html)
Stop at 00:24 - What? What is going to happen with this Black Hole? What might he be able to do with it. (Make sure this is group discussion! How many different ideas can they come up with?)
Stop at 00:29 - What is the character thinking at this point?
Stop at 00:39 - What happens next? Again, lots of discussions on tables.
Stop at 00:55 - Would you put your hand into the black hole? Why/Why not? What might happen if you decide to put your hand in?
At this point you may want to stop the video and get the children to write the ending. What might he do next? How might he use the black hole? Where might he disappear to? What lives in the black hole?
Stop at 1:14 - What is he looking at? What is he thinking about now? How is he feeling at this point?
Stop at 1:28 - Is it stealing if nobody knows about it? THUNK prompt
Stop at 1:44 - What is inside the office that he wants so bad? Predict what it is going to be found. How is he going to use the black hole again?
Stop at 2:12 - What happens next? Predict the ending. Will he get caught? Will someone walk in?
Watch till the end.
How you might use this to inspire writing
Get the children to imagine they had found a black hole. How would they use it?
Model how to write a short story based on the video.
Find the black hole
Use it once
Use it again
Examples of writing from my awesome writers!
Rather than use something related to love and care because it was Valentines Day I went for the much grimmer, “Last Man” A video about being the ‘apparently’ last man on the planet.
The video starts with a simple introduction and then gives the chance for using a flashforward.
Prompts for developing writing (before they actually start!)
00:11 – Who is he? What is he doing? Who does he work for? What clues do we have that can help us distinguish what he might be doing?
00:20 – Who is at the door? How might the story unfold from here?
00:29 – What is the report on? Is it the next top secret mission? A new cancer drug?
(You could stop the video here and get the children to write what the report might be).
00:40 – Who is on the phone? Does this have something to do with the report? What could the conversation turn out like? (Role play the conversation in pairs and share with the class… See where their imaginations take them)
00:49 (Don’t overrun as this will spoil it) How could everyone be dying? What might have happened? What is he thinking?
Develop vocab and look at emotion word, (comma) sentence. E.g. Shocked, I dropped the phone and got home as fast as I could. Terrified, I stayed in my office and locked the door – I didn’t want to die.
From here get the children to make notes on the different things they hear him say and see him do. These will be discussion points at the end and will be needed for when they do their writing.
01:39 “Everyday is the same” – Why do we think everyday is the same? What types of things does he have to do everyday in order to survive? If he is all alone what kinds of things might he be doing?
03:28 Sometimes I think/wonder, “Why me?” Have a go at the ‘Many Questions Sentence’ from Alan Peats Exciting Sentences (http://www.thecepress.com/shop/index.php?route=product/category&path=60) Why me? Why not a scientist? A doctor? Why just me? How was I immune to the disease?
From here watch it till 5:29 – DO NOT GO PAST HERE!
At this point I plan for the children to begin writing their diary/story of the man and what his daily life is like.
Use the video to write the opening and the diary entry of a normal day. (Prompt the children to make sure they include lots of thoughts and feelings in a similar way to the narrator in the video)
It was a day like every other: phone calls, reports, meetings and unnecessary emails from colleagues looking to get one over me. Office work, not exactly what I dreamed of when I was younger. I remember it so vividly. My wife (Jane) had stayed at home that day (normally she’d be at work in the office with me). The new report about a potentially life-threatening virus had just been completed and delivered to me. That’s when it happened. The phone rang. Time stood still. It was Jane, “Everybody is dying, come home quick!” she pleaded. “Please hurry!” Without thinking, I picked everything up and ran home.
Everyone was dead, but not me. I still think about this every day. Why me? Why not a scientist or a doctor? A biologist? Why little old office worker me?
It’s been a few years since that fateful day that changed the evolution of the human race. Luckily, all the bodies have decomposed and vanished from the streets and houses around me. I’m the only one around…. Etc etc
Allow the children time to think carefully about the everyday life and enourage them to think about other things that he will have to do everyday just to survive.
Once all writing is completed (or they think is completed) Show the final part. Now it is up to them to write the ending.
Walking home after a long day rummaging for supplies, a light appeared in a house….. How can that be? Who is there? I thought I was the only one! Cautiously, I approached the house and broke down the door. What stood before me is something I could not believe.
Hope you enjoy this writing prompt. For other videos and prompts look further down my blog and also visit www.literacyshed.com
Please leave a comment and let me know how your writing goes in class if you use this prompt.
Prompts Used in Class (Alan Peat Sentences)
I'm a deputy head in Scarborough, England and love using media and tech to develop writing. I'm also a keen advocate of Learning Without Limits and believe in a games based approach to developing mathematicians.