Using writing to help pupils secure and extend their use of literary and linguistic features
The teaching approaches that follow suggest a range of ways of helping pupils secure their learning about key literary and linguistic techniques and devices, and move on to more challenging contexts and tasks. The approaches are based around applying what has been learned to their own writing in increasingly challenging ways.
Revisiting persuasive devices
- Ask pupils to devise a poster outlining some of the persuasive devices they have learned that help other pupils in their writing.
- Select a poem for paired discussion about meaning, such as Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen. Ask pupils to make linguistic and literary changes to the poem to change its mood and impact. You might select particular verses for modification, such as the excerpt below. The discussions can draw in ideas about sound effects (such as alliteration), rhythm and so on. You might like to look at Owen's own draft of the poem with Siegfried Sassoon's suggested alterations, which is widely available online (search for 'draft Anthem for Doomed Youth' to see sites showing the original handwritten version with Sassoon's suggestions).
What passing bells [sounds/blasts/tunes] for those who die as cattle [ants/rats/roadkill]?
Only the monstrous [awful/gentle/hopeless] anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle [pacy firing/sudden clatter]
Can patter out their orisons.
- Ask pupils to write about a text – for example, the poem Telephone Conversation by Wole Soyinka – demonstrating their understanding of the author's intention in his choice of vocabulary, sentence structure and literary technique.
Different letters, different tones
- Ask pupils to write three short letters of complaint to a shop or holiday company, experimenting with different linguistic and literary techniques in order to create three different tones (such as friendly, angry, sarcastic or ironic). This could also be set up as a group activity, with each pupil taking responsibility for writing one letter and the group then discussing all three letters, noting the effectiveness of the techniques used.
Newspapers and reporting
- Ask pupils to rewrite several headlines to reflect different editorial perspectives by selecting appropriate linguistic and literary techniques.
- Explore the use of cliché in verbal sports reports (for example, I was over the moon when we won), and then look at extended written reports and features by writers such as Henry Winter, Amy Lawrence and Paul Hayward, which use literary techniques to convey the mood and facts of a match. Ask pupils to imitate these by writing informed and rich reports of sports events that avoid cliché.
- Encourage pupils to experiment with techniques in their own writing, for example using emotive language when writing persuasively or using irony to achieve an effect.
Parodies and pastiche
- Pupils make a list of issues of extreme unimportance. They then choose one as a campaign issue and treat the task as a pastiche, modelling the rhetorical devices on those used in famous persuasive texts. For example: I have a dream that one day those who are at present languishing in the trough of using ballpoint pens will one day rise up and enter the kingdom of fibre-tip pen users. The challenge is to use as many rhetorical devices and persuasive techniques as possible.
- Ask pupils to write a summary of a set text in the style of a Hollywood action movie trailer with a commentary explaining the deliberate linguistic and literary techniques that have been used and parodied.
- Allow pupils to select their own texts to analyse (fiction or non-fiction), providing a detailed commentary that recognises the implications of linguistic and literary choices by the reader, and to apply their knowledge to their own choice of increasingly challenging tasks.
Applications beyond the English classroom
- Discuss with pupils how to apply their knowledge of linguistic and literary techniques in other subject areas. Ask them to consider how and why such skills will help them to improve their writing across the curriculum. For example:
- History – writing a tabloid and a broadsheet front-page story of a famous historical event, consciously crafting the writing to appeal to different audiences;
- Geography – writing a tourist leaflet or designing a tourist web page to persuade people to visit the local city or county;
- Citizenship – using their knowledge of rhetorical devices to write a formal speech to deliver on a contentious subject concerning civil liberties;
- Food technology – using various techniques to change a straightforward recipe for inclusion in a specialist magazine for food enthusiasts.
- Use a history visit to the Imperial War Museum or other military memorial or site to inspire the writing of a persuasive speech on a recent conflict around the world, using rhetorical devices to influence the reader and listener.
- Devise persuasive campaign literature encouraging all pupils to vote for particular candidates for the school council or mock national elections.
- Write an email to the editor of a local paper expressing strong views in response to a recent article.