Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Slow Writing eBook - Secondary Section

This is a bit of an oddity for my blog. For once, it isn’t a collection of mindless dribblings from my brain. For once, it has a purpose. Yes, a real genuine purpose! David Didau ask me to oversee the secondary section of an eBook (non-profit making) looking at the practical approaches to using his ‘Slow Writing’ process in teaching. The book will provide examples, approaches and ideas of how it can be used in the classroom. Therefore, I am searching for some examples and approaches to using ‘Slow Writing’ in the classroom.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of ‘Slow Writing, here’s a brief overview. Like Ronseal, it does what is say it is.

Students slow their writing down by focusing on specific elements needed for a particular sentence.

Sentence 1 – Start with an adverb

Sentence 2 -  End with a simile

Sentence 3 – Include a list

 
Students write one sentence at a time. Rather than rush ideas out like a nasty dose of food poisoning, students ponder and think before they move on to the next sentence. The benefit of this approach is that a student crafts the writing rather than blurt everything out. It teaches students the benefit of thinking before they write.

Anyway, back to this eBook. I have been tasked to organise the section for the secondary teachers. Now the primary teachers have probably made a display for their section already, including lovely, colourful laminated handouts - I am only jealous of the primary teachers ability to turn everything into something glitzy.  I need people to contribute to the non-profit making book. I need ideas, examples and contributions of any kind. Three ‘need’s in one paragraph makes me sound needy. Well, yes, I am needy. I am not just focusing on English lessons; I’d like to hear how it has been used in History, Geography and other subjects. How have you used it?

 If you fancy writing a bit, then this is the current format I am working to.   

Description of approach.

Explanation of approach - step by step

Benefits of approach

Possible extended tasks
 

I am looking for contributions of 100 – 400 words. Here’s an example written by me to give you an idea of how it could be approached:
 

Slow Writing

Approach 1: Writing slow with emotions

A Year 8 class were writing a horror story and I was trying to move their writing away from their usual approach of describing blood and guts. So, I got students to write a paragraph about going up a flight of stairs, describing the experience to the reader – with the hope of scaring someone! Initially, I gave them some pictures of stairs and students collected some adjectives for describing things in the picture. Then, we wrote a paragraph together; however, the sentences created must show the protagonist feeling the emotion or the reader must feel it. The golden rule was that they couldn’t mention the actual word given for the emotion.

Sentence 1: Confused.

Sentence 2: Cautious.

Sentence 3: Scared.

Sentence 4: Happy.

Sentence 5: Scared.

 
An example:

The stairs were before me and for some strange reason the steps were smooth, tidy and neat while the rest of it was blackened and crumbling. When I started climbing, a creaking sound was made by my nervous footsteps, highlighting my presence to what was in the house. A shadow brushed my face. A moth landed on the bannister on the top step, making me laugh with my own stupidity and nervousness. Then, a hand shot out and crushed the moth.

 
By doing this, most students were able to avoid some predictable writing and they presented some ‘fresh’ way of producing something that is usually drenched in clichés and stock phrases. It made students think hard about how they could create the feeling rather than chuck a load of adjectives to make things seem creepy. They often make every sentence scary, thinking that that is the secret to good writing.

 

Possible variations

·         Using it for non-fiction writing. Students build up the emotional gradient with each sentence. Start serious and build that up to a climax in the last sentence.

·         Students alternate two opposing or contrast emotions aiming to build cohesion in a paragraph.

·         Develop originality by taking a typical piece of writing and get students to fit in incongruous emotions into their writing. Create a persuasive text with the following emotions – disgust, fear, isolation and indifference.  

I am hoping to put the secondary examples in some the following categories: creative writing, non-fiction, analysis, explanation, Geography, History, RE, Science, MFL and many more.

Don’t worry if you haven’t used ‘Slow Writing’. I’d like people to experiment with it next term. As it stands there isn’t a definitive deadline for the eBook, but I’d like to get things done for the October half-term. This will give people time to try things out. Or, experiment.

So, if you fancy being part of this excellent project, then DM me on @Xris32 or visit this page and leave your details.

Thanks for reading,

Xris

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