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Character study

I like to use some workshop activities to help pupils produce imaginative writing. A favourite stems from using miscellaneous objects to stimulate the creation of a character.

If chairs are first arranged in a circle, it helps to create interest and focus. I place a bag of objects in the centre but refuse to open it yet.

Pupils then imagine a person at a bus stop. They write down adjectives to describe what the person can see, hear, feel, smell. They decide on the character's age and gender. I encourage them to think of someone different from themselves. The objects are then revealed - about 30 small items that might fit in a pocket: a lipstick, a foreign bank note, a packet of seeds.

They look at them for a few minutes before deciding on one that their character has in their pocket, and deciding why it is there.

They then answer a series of quickfire questions in role as their character. For example, what did you eat for breakfast? What would you do if you won the lottery? About 20 questions helps to establish a picture. We then share ideas by talking to a partner in role as the character.

Individually they return to the object in the pocket. Is it important? Where are they going? I usually find this is enough information to make them feel confident about writing down the character's thoughts in the form of a monologue. I find this useful in stimulating initial ideas.

Karen Lockney, head of English, Dallam School, Milnetorpe, Cumbria

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