16 January 2017

Writers' Craft: Exploring Setting

I have just started a new MYP Language and Literature unit called It's a Kind of Magic with my Grade 7s.

To begin thinking about the concepts, they conducted some research on the genres of fantasy and magic realism using Multi-Media Text Sets that I created for them. They then taught each other about the genre they had researched and completed a Venn diagram about the similarities and differences of the two genres.

Using this knowledge, they then wrote their initial thesis on our statement of inquiry:

Fantastical fiction helps us to understand complex, real world ideas and issues.

A few ideas about what creates scary atmospheres (Gr7, Jan 2017)

Next, we moved on to exploring setting and how writers craft
effective and evocative atmospheres. I began by asking learners to describe the scariest place they had ever been to their partners. I asked them to try to recreate the feeling they had using description (which we worked on in our last unit, Scraps of Me) to try to create a clear impression of the setting and why it was frightening. We shared our stories and gathered some common threads onto the board:

Ideas about possible
settings based on quotations

I handed out a selection of quotations and asked learners to read them aloud while we all thought about the impression we got from the words and recorded some ideas on the board. I then read the first paragraph of Chapter 2 of Skellig (David Almond, 2000) and learners visualised the 'garage' setting described. Using only the objects we had in our classroom, learners had to recreate the scene described.

As an exercise in using the text as justification for opinions and ideas (MYP Language and Literature Objective Aiii) it couldn't have been more successful. As they turned over tables or piled up boxes, I listened to them consistently referring to the text in justifying the decisions they were making about the objects they were including in their recreation and the things they needed to represent objects described in the passage. For example, tissue paper for "spiders' webs", drawing pins for the "rusty nails ... scattered on the floor", and my scarf for "rolls of rope and cable hung from nails".

 Grade 7 recreate the garage described in Chapter 2 of Skellig

Once the garage was 'built', the class stood around the outside of the space while six learners took a thought-tracking sentence stem and stood in the ‘garage’ space; they then read and completed the sentences to express their impressions and thoughts about the setting and atmosphere created. Ideas showed deep thought and consideration about their genre research as well as the text they had just read. Answers included:

"What if...the noise in the corner is something worse than I can possibly imagine in this world".
"I feel uneasy here because...I can't understand why a family would leave a building in such a state as this".
"I feel uneasy here because...the whole thing looks like it might collapse at anytime".
"Perhaps...there is a very good reason why people have not gone inside this garage for a very long time".
The lesson not only introduced the learners to how writers craft effective and vivid settings, but also engaged them with the text and placed them into the world of the protagonist. They enjoyed creating the 'mess' and demonstrated higher level analysis skills without even thinking too much about it. 

Next, we are moving on to reading the first few chapters, responding in character and then creating paragraphs using PEE sentences to explain the atmosphere created by the writer. This will lead into a more detailed analytical essay exploring symbolism in the novel later down the line.

"Mr. Hutton's English Site." Mr Huttons English Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2016. <http://blogs.yis.ac.jp/hougha/unit-1-illusions-and-insights-skellig/>; "Skellig Resources." Hodder Education - Learn More. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2016. .