My brilliant idea - Enjoy, rewind

John Gallagher

English - Ages 11-16

Older teachers might remember Tiswas, the madcap children's TV show and its "Backwards World of Sport". This showed rewound sporting footage to create such events as catching the shotput. But the idea of a backwards world can inspire children to wonderful creative writing.

The idea is simple - and so is the planning. Pupils list chronologically the stages of an event or change. They then have to describe it as imaginatively as possible, starting with the last stage, not the first. The trick is to ban the word backwards or its equivalent. Focusing on the visual, they have to capture how this world would seem if this was normal.

It's best to ban bodily functions, unless you have a strong stomach. Pupils of all ages and abilities can then take this idea to different levels, as poetry or prose.

Sometimes the wittily simple works well: a rocket landing from space, sucking in clouds of smoke and flame, and then the "count-up" of "1, 2, 3 ..." as it settles on the landing pad.

Other pupils have described gardeners who weed out daffodils and other flowers, preferring thistles and nettles instead, or firemen who set fire to smouldering timbers and raise a house out of the ashes. I have even had a pupil describe a backwards school, where the job of the teachers was to eradicate all that pupils knew as the terms went by.

John Gallagher is head of English at Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School for Girls.

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John Gallagher

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