The Writing Revolution in the classroom: post 3

In this series, I’m looking at one aspect of The Writing Revolution per blogpost, and how I’m using it in the classroom. Posts 1 and 2 are here.

I’ve seen ‘because/but/so’ written about online more than any other TWR strategy and I understand why. It works so well!

The idea is that students finish the same sentence starter three different ways with the conjunctions because, but or so. This is brilliant because it requires them to think more deeply about the content and to manipulate the knowledge they have acquired. Some of our students almost scoffed when they were first introduced to it, deeming it far too easy. It quickly became apparent to them that this activity is much, much harder than it looks. Particularly finishing a sentence that contains the conjunction ‘so’.

The first time we trial it with students, we explain it in very simple terms using an obvious example. I might use something like this.

I did not hand in my English homework because my dog ate it.

I did not hand in my English homework but I did hand in my Science homework.

I did not hand in my English homework so I got a detention from my teacher.

I’d explain how the conjunctions are different.

Because shows that you are going to give a reason.

But shows a change of direction – something unexpected compared with the first part of the sentence.

So can be read like ‘as a result’ – so shows that the writer will explain the consequence of the first part of the sentence.

I’d give them an easy one to do first. E.g.

I forgot my money for lunch because

I forgot my money for lunch but

I forgot my money for lunch so

Once they’ve got it, we move on to content-based activities. Here are some examples from our resources. Obviously, the older the student or the more familiar they are with this activity, the more you can ramp up the difficulty.

Used to check comprehension of  the ‘Oliver Twist’ plot after reading a chapter

Example:

Bill Sikes tries to escape because he does not want to get caught.

Bill Sikes tries to escape but cannot immediately find a way out.

Bill Sikes tries to escape so goes through a window and climbs on to the roof.

Your turn:

Charley Bates is afraid of Sikes because______________________________________________

Charley Bates is afraid of Sikes but_________________________________________________

Charley Bates is afraid of Sikes so__________________________________________________

You’d expect responses such as:

…he brutally murdered Nancy

…courageously tries to get him caught by shouting to the angry mob.

…’retreats’ from him as soon as he sees him.

Your turn:

Nancy has a terrible life because___________________________________________________

Nancy has a terrible life but_______________________________________________________

Nancy has a terrible life so_______________________________________________________

You’d expect responses such as:

…she has always lived in poverty and has had to turn to crime.

…still appears to love her abusive husband.

…sees no hope for her future.

Used to focus on the main ideas in a poem

 This one was done by my HoD:

Example:

Duffy’s war photographer finds his work difficult because he cannot forget the memories of those he photographed.

Duffy’s war photographer finds his work difficult but knows that it is his duty to report back on the things he has seen

Duffy’s war photographer finds his work difficult so tries to impose ‘order’ on the photos in order to cope with what they contain.

Your turn:

Duffy’s war photographer feels guilty because_______________________________

Duffy’s war photographer feels guilty but____________________

Duffy’s war photographer feels guilty so_______________________

You’d expect responses such as:

…he does not help the people whose suffering he takes pictures of.

…tries to persuade himself that he is carrying out his duty.

…his hands ‘tremble’ as he develops the photographs.

A harder one for Romeo and Juliet

Example:

At the beginning of the play, Romeo sees love as a ‘madness’ and a ‘disease’ because his unrequited feelings have completely taken hold of him.

At the beginning of the play, Romeo sees love as a ‘madness’ and a ‘disease’ but completely changes the language he uses to describe love when he meets Juliet for the first time.

At the beginning of the play, Romeo sees love as a ‘madness’ and a ‘disease’ so Benvolio suggests that he forget about Rosaline and attempts to ‘examine other beauties.’

Your turn:

When he meets Juliet, Romeo compares her to a ‘holy shrine’ because___________________

When he meets Juliet, Romeo compares her to a ‘holy shrine’ but______________________

When he meets Juliet, Romeo compares her to a ‘holy shrine’ so________________

You’d expect responses such as:

…he sees her as a deity who is worthy of worship.

…he does not yet know that she is a Capulet.

…she responds with religious imagery to show that they have an immediate, strong connection.

This exercise works so well because it’s versatile, it provokes deep and critical thought that is more focused than an open-ended question (e.g. ‘Why does Romeo say love is a ‘madness’ and a ‘disease’ at the beginning of the play?’) and it provides a precise and thorough check of a student’s understanding of the topic.

It’s very important to a) complete them yourself before giving the activity to students so that you can anticipate responses and b) only do it if you are confident that they have enough knowledge about the topic to be able to complete them successfully.

As ever, please do let me know if you have any thoughts or feedback!

the-writing-revolution-1

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