Tried and Tested - Writing styles

6th February 2009 at 00:00
Subject English, Lesson Killer Ducks, Ages 14 to 15. Supplied by Chris Firth, English teacher at Caedmon School in Whitby

1. What is it?

A fun revision lesson when pupils learn to match their writing style to different audiences.

2. Who is it aimed at?

Fourteen and 15-year olds as part of their assessment preparation, or with pre-GCSE standard grade pupils as part of their exam preparation process.

3. What do you want the lesson to achieve?

Build pupils' awareness of how sentence structures and choices of language differ, depending on story genre and who is reading it.

4. What happens in the lesson?

Pupils are given the outline of a story called Killer Ducks in which a mother and her baby visit the park. The ducks swim up to her to eat the bread she's offering. But then more ducks come. They have a strange, angry, hungry gleam in their eyes. Screaming in terror with the baby now crying, the mother retreats to her car. Ducks surround the vehicle and the mum has to reverse over them to get away. Ask pupils to write a story about it in a certain genre or style - perhaps a horror story or a letter of complaint to the council.

5. How do you know it's been successful?

The lesson should be judged on whether the pupils have enjoyed writing, even if their piece is not completed. For homework or an extension task, you could ask them to finish the story in the genre of their choice.

6. Why would you recommend this to other teachers?

It's effective at building audience awareness and it is an energetic and fun lesson to teach as well as participate in. Afterwards, pupils are pleased with the work that they have produced.

7. Give us three top tips

- Stick rigidly to a time limit per genre.

- Maximise ICT resources. Pre-book an ICT suite if you don't have enough computers in your classroom. Tell pupils that you don't want flashy fonts, titles or illustrations. These can all be added later if you decide to follow up the lesson.

- Keep the story alive and drip-feed extra details and thought-provoking questions or asides throughout the lesson. Suggest alternative outcomes - what if the ducks had knocked the mum over?

8. Point to some useful resources

- Google: look up "urban myths", "killer duck". There's a surprising amount of duck-attack material out there.

- Images of cute ducks on the whiteboard can be a useful juxtaposition for the horror story. Look up images of cute ducks on Google.

- Roger McGough's poem The Lake (for the sub-marine killer pigs).

- www.bbcbitesizeenglish has information and exercises.

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