English - Monster writing task

9th December 2011 at 00:00
Tap into spine-chilling similes and open a little jar of horrors

It carried no government health warning. As far as we could tell, it had been subject to ratification neither by the Food Standards Agency nor the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. And yet the dangers were clear: the message on the label stark and unequivocal.

"Nathan's Nightmare Pills. Guaranteed to cause sleepless nights, cold sweats, ghostly manifestations and uncontrollable terrors. Must be taken with care on a dark and stormy night. Active ingredients include: vile verbs, nightmarish nouns, appalling adjectives, abominably awful adverbs and a deadly selection of spine-chilling similes as ominous as a bell striking midnight."

Normally you would not go near the stuff, but this week we are writing our winter ghost stories. And to make them extra spooky we have decided to use a selection of ingredients from the Shop of Horrors.

A quick browse reveals that Nathan's Nightmare Pills is not the scariest product on sale. Right next to it is an extra large box of Coffin Sweets, described as a "cadaver-filled crypt of deadly metaphors". Beside this is a tub labelled Ice Screams.

Want your children to cook up the best ghost stories this winter? Well here is a simple recipe. First, choose the grimmest of ingredients. Collect some suitable containers - jars, cartons, boxes - cover them with papier mache and paint them black. While you are waiting for these to dry, collect the most ghoulishly grim books and ghost stories you can find and scour them for wicked words and fearful phrases. In grave-robbing fashion, steal the best and set aside for filling your containers.

Do not worry about the ethics of this. Remember that stealing (let us call it borrowing) words, phrases and ideas from other writers is what writers do. It is also what teachers do. I borrowed the idea for my Shop of Horrors from Monster Supplies at the excellent Ministry of Stories (www.ministryofstories.org).

Now come up with the most horrible product name and product labelling you can think of. Pallid puns and awful alliteration will ensure a rictus-like grin; as for illustrations, you cannot beat bony skulls, hovering ghosts and collapsing gravestones.

To write the most chilling winter ghost stories imaginable, close the curtains, light the candle and let the shadows dance.

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield

What else?


Try a lesson plan from Louisa28 that shows how to use complex sentences and other authorial styles when starting a story.

- Noreen Bashir has put together a useful vocabulary selection for creepy stories.

Watch a Teachers TV video for a spooky literacy idea - a ghostly figure in an underground lair.

In the forums

- Good ghost stories or ghost story ideas for key stage 3.

Tips to help one English teacher with a lesson exploring the concept of fear.

Find all links and forums at www.tes.co.ukresources013.

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