My brilliant idea - Not so bleak

John Gallagher

English - Ages 11-16

Modelling good descriptive writing helps pupils improve theirs, so why not use some of the best? has hundreds of classics.

I've used Bleak House by Charles Dickens with all ages and it always lifts their writing. We start with a descriptive extract from chapter two from, "The waters are out ." to "their graves". In 231 words, Dickens paints a scene that is cold, damp and decidedly bleak.

Using this, pupils plan their own piece, describing a scene that is hot and dry and using the same appeals to the five senses. Dickens includes sounds, touch - "a cold sweat" - and even "a general smell and taste of the ancient Dedlocks".

Pupils work on synonyms using a thesaurus to build up the impression of heat and drought, saving repetition for deliberate effect - just as Dickens did.

The results are some of the best creative writing they produce.

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

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

John Gallagher

Latest stories

Coronavirus: Schools will be able to order 10 testing kits for every 1,000 pupils

Coronavirus and schools: LIVE 22/9

A one-stop shop for teachers who want to know what impact the ongoing pandemic will have on their working lives
Tes Reporter 22 Sep 2020