English - It just feels so real

16th March 2012 at 00:00

What the lesson is about

It can be a struggle to help pupils recognise that writing needs to give a sense of the real; that it needs to hold an audience and have a sense of purpose. One way of doing this is simulations, writes Barbara Bleiman.

Simulations offer opportunities to write in role, in different genres and for different audiences in quick succession. Pupils can discover what is special about each genre and how they relate to others.

The pupil who is writing a letter of application, followed by a script for a video diary and then an email home, is able to explore differences of style and address. If every piece of writing sounds just like the pupil's own talking voice, the teacher can explore with the pupils how to differentiate them.

The English Media Centre's Arctic Adventure offers a simulation based on a group of pupils who are young ambassadors for the Catlin Project, a science venture in the Arctic. Pupils are put in the roles of the few who have been chosen to visit the project. They must then write letters of application and blogs, reports, menus, emails and letters home - as well as engaging in several lively talk activities along the way. There are dilemmas to resolve and dangerous incidents to role-play and write about.

What else?

When the material was piloted at a school for pupils with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, teachers commented on the enthusiasm it generated, particularly among boys, and added that it provided good opportunities for cross-curricular work. It has proved equally successful with high-ability pupils in a mixed grammar school in London.

Go back in time with English Heritage's cross-curricular simulation. What was life like for a child during the Blitz?

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