writing Archives - Education Matters Magazine
  •      
Australia-Post-Pen-Pal-Club-literacy

Boosting literacy through pen pal schools program

A new initiative by Australia Post called The Pen Pal Club aims to improve the literacy skills of primary school aged children by encouraging them to experience the joy of exchanging letters with other students across the nation.

Read more

More than just grammar

The lifelong work of a teacher fascinated by language, learning, linguistics, neuroscience and assessment, Gramatica aims to reverse the age-old dislike of grammar and instead re-makes it into something altogether innovative, simple, relevant and fun.

Read more

Putting the fun into literacy

To help tackle declining literacy rates, a Sydney start-up that transforms children’s handwriting into digital books has launched a fundraising campaign to bring its resources to primary students across Australia.

Read more

Originality in plot writing

The Quest for Originality – fun or folly?

Every author strives for originality. However, anyone who has ever tried to come up with a ‘new’ plot will know that it is not easy. Every plot seems to have been done before. Is it impossible to come up with something truly original or is a challenge worth pursuing?

Seven distinct story types

According to Christopher Booker, every story follows one of seven universal plot lines. In his book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, he gives a detailed outline of each story type as well as a wealth of examples from ancient myths, folk tales, plays and novels. Here is a summary of the seven story types with some examples from children’s literature.

  • Overcoming the Monster – The main character battles against the villain(s) or an evil force and eventually triumphs against all odds. For example, What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson.
  • Rags to Riches – The main character rises up from humble beginnings and gains everything they wanted before losing it and having to fight to get it back again. For example, The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin.
  • Voyage and Return – The main character travels to an unfamiliar place where they meet new people and overcome difficulties before returning with a newfound wisdom. For example, Greetings from Sandy Beach by Bob Graham.
  • The Quest – The main character sets out to achieve a particular goal, but they must overcome a series of challenges to succeed. For example, The Big Fish by Pamela Allen.
  • Comedy – A humorous story that centres on some sort of misunderstanding or confusion which leads to conflict, but is eventually resolved. For example, Grandad’s Teeth by Rod Clement.
  • Tragedy – The main character’s actions set in motion a series of events that lead to their downfall or death. For example, The Boy Who Cried Wolf by Aesop.
  • Rebirth – The main character has flaws, but is shown the error of their ways and eventually redeems themselves. For example, The Swap by Jan Ormerod.

Some stories may vary slightly from these basic plot lines or combine multiple plot lines, but they still bear the hallmarks of these seven overarching themes. Challenge your students to think of a book, film or play that doesn’t fit one of these seven story types.

One basic story structure

As well as following one of these seven plot lines, all stories also have the same basic structure:

  • Sizzling Start™ – start with an action scene or at a moment of change.
  • Back fill – the Who, What, Why is filled in as the story unfolds.
  • Gradual build-up of tension – pebble, rock, boulder.
  • Action climax – the main character almost fails, but triumphs against all odds.
  • Character resolution – the character’s inner story is wrapped up.
Story type: comedy
Example of one of the seven plot archetypes in action. Click to enlarge.

This basic structure is covered in more detail in a recent Education Matters article: ‘Narratives – the pattern that authors use’. The Narrative Story Graph mentioned in the article is a visual representation of this story structure. To demonstrate how the seven universal story types, tie in with the basic story structure, two of the examples above have been plotted on the Story Graph template. Go to www.sevenstepswriting.com/samples/free-downloads/ to download these examples.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

While being faced with such limited options may seem to hinder creativity, in the quest for originality writers can use it to their advantage. Rather that wasting time reinventing the wheel, great writers put a new spin on tried and tested plot lines and structures.

Encourage students to do the same by familiarising them with the seven plot types and the Narrative Story Graph. Switching the focus from the basic plot line and structure to the actual content of the story will increase the alpha brain waves which boost students’ creativity. As the saying goes, knowledge is power.

Related article: Narratives – the pattern that authors use

For more examples of completes story graphs become a Seven Steps Online member at www.sevenstepswriting.com/info-seven-steps-online/.

Sarah Bakker
Publishing and Content Manager at Seven Steps to Writing Success and a qualified primary teacher with over a decade of experience in creating educational resources.

Originality in plot writing

The Quest for Originality – fun or folly?

Seven distinct story types According to Christopher Booker, every story follows one of seven universal plot lines. In his book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, he gives a detailed outline of each story type as well as a wealth of examples from ancient myths, folk tales, plays and novels. Here is a summary of the seven story types with some examples from children’s literature.

  • Overcoming the Monster – The main character battles against the villain(s) or an evil force and eventually triumphs against all odds. For example, What the Ladybird Heard by Julia Donaldson.
  • Rags to Riches – The main character rises up from humble beginnings and gains everything they wanted before losing it and having to fight to get it back again. For example, The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin.
  • Voyage and Return – The main character travels to an unfamiliar place where they meet new people and overcome difficulties before returning with a newfound wisdom. For example, Greetings from Sandy Beach by Bob Graham.
  • The Quest – The main character sets out to achieve a particular goal, but they must overcome a series of challenges to succeed. For example, The Big Fish by Pamela Allen.
  • Comedy – A humorous story that centres on some sort of misunderstanding or confusion which leads to conflict, but is eventually resolved. For example, Grandad’s Teeth by Rod Clement.
  • Tragedy – The main character’s actions set in motion a series of events that lead to their downfall or death. For example, The Boy Who Cried Wolf by Aesop.
  • Rebirth – The main character has flaws, but is shown the error of their ways and eventually redeems themselves. For example, The Swap by Jan Ormerod.
Some stories may vary slightly from these basic plot lines or combine multiple plot lines, but they still bear the hallmarks of these seven overarching themes. Challenge your students to think of a book, film or play that doesn’t fit one of these seven story types. One basic story structure As well as following one of these seven plot lines, all stories also have the same basic structure:
  • Sizzling Start™ – start with an action scene or at a moment of change.
  • Back fill – the Who, What, Why is filled in as the story unfolds.
  • Gradual build-up of tension – pebble, rock, boulder.
  • Action climax – the main character almost fails, but triumphs against all odds.
  • Character resolution – the character’s inner story is wrapped up.
[caption id="attachment_3100" align="alignright" width="300"]Story type: comedy Example of one of the seven plot archetypes in action. Click to enlarge.[/caption] This basic structure is covered in more detail in a recent Education Matters article: ‘Narratives – the pattern that authors use’. The Narrative Story Graph mentioned in the article is a visual representation of this story structure. To demonstrate how the seven universal story types, tie in with the basic story structure, two of the examples above have been plotted on the Story Graph template. Go to www.sevenstepswriting.com/samples/free-downloads/ to download these examples. Don’t reinvent the wheel While being faced with such limited options may seem to hinder creativity, in the quest for originality writers can use it to their advantage. Rather that wasting time reinventing the wheel, great writers put a new spin on tried and tested plot lines and structures. Encourage students to do the same by familiarising them with the seven plot types and the Narrative Story Graph. Switching the focus from the basic plot line and structure to the actual content of the story will increase the alpha brain waves which boost students’ creativity. As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Related article: Narratives – the pattern that authors use For more examples of completes story graphs become a Seven Steps Online member at www.sevenstepswriting.com/info-seven-steps-online/. Sarah Bakker Publishing and Content Manager at Seven Steps to Writing Success and a qualified primary teacher with over a decade of experience in creating educational resources.]]>

Seven Steps to Writing Success

Exciting writing – Using multimedia in the classroom

Writing in a digital world is no longer just about the printed word. Writing now takes many forms and our job as teachers is to equip students with the skills to communicate effectively in this context.

Let’s start with some fun writing research activities:

  • Find examples of TV advertisements that tell a ‘story’ (e.g. Rhonda in the AAMI advertisements). Demonstrate how they follow the Narrative Story Graph to help students Plan for Success when creating their own stories.
  • Take a look at the ‘News’ page on the DogoNews website: www.dogonews.com/. Get students to find examples of Sizzling Starts™ that catch their attention and make them want to read more.
  • Watch the following video clip: www.youtube.com/watch?v=MX_jFK9Zf5k. Seeing Nik Wallenda walking in high winds on a tightrope over the Grand Canyon will teach students more about Tightening Tension than any textbook ever can.
  • Listen to an episode of the radio play The Archers: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qpgr/episodes/player. Explore how Dynamic Dialogue is used to convey information about the plot, setting and characters.
  • Use Google Images to find examples of advertisements from different charities. Use these images to demonstrate the power of Show, Don’t Tell.
  • Watch the following YouTube clip showing deleted scenes from popular Disney movies: www.youtube.com/watch?v=koK2YexYi84. Use them to prompt students to look at their own work with a critical eye and Ban the Boring bits that don’t advance the plot.
  • Watch the Miniscule Short Film, Picnic: www.youtube.com/watch?v=N00rA1aFwJI. Brainstorm alternative Exciting Endings – the crazier the better – to encourage students to get creative.

For many people, multimedia is associated with ‘play’ or recreation and as such is deemed not as educationally ‘worthy’ or ‘valuable’ as books. This is not the case. According to ACARA:

‘Texts provide the means for communication. They can be written, spoken or multimodal, and in print or digital/online forms.’

The use of multimodal communication in the classroom, therefore, is not only educationally valuable, it is in fact mandated in our National Curriculum.

I started life as an author – 23 books published and over half a million words in print around the world. However, welcome to the digital age! Some of my blog posts, Facebook posts and online articles have reached far more people – in a lot less time – than a novel that took me a year to write.

I’m not saying don’t write books, I think books will endure in either print or digital form for a long time to come. However, I am suggesting that students can now interact in the world in much faster and more innovative ways.

Chances are your students are already experiencing this for themselves. For most, any writing they do outside of school will be in the form of Facebook posts, text messages and emails. Reading and learning, meanwhile, will involve interacting with blogs, websites and YouTube. The question is, are we supporting this in the classroom by training them to write in all of these forms? Are we teaching our future leaders to differentiate between mundane recordings vs. significant sharing?

Ultimately it is important to show students how the skills they use to write a Narrative or Persuasive text in the classroom can be adapted to create other forms of text such as video blogs, speeches, advertisements, etc. In doing so we are opening their eyes to the real life application of these skills and the true value of writing.

The Australian Curriculum has an inspiring goal for writing:

‘Appreciate, enjoy and use the English language in all its variations and develop a sense of its richness and power to evoke feelings, convey information, form ideas, facilitate interaction with others, entertain, persuade and argue.’ (ACARA)

In a 21st Century classroom this means tapping into the power of multimodal literacy in order to better prepare our students for an increasingly fast moving and wonderfully interesting digital world.

Jen McVeity

Author of 20 books, creator of Seven Steps to Writing Success.

For more ideas on how to integrate multimedia into your writing lessons, become a Seven Steps Online member and download our Action Activities.

Want to learn in one day the easy program for teaching students how to write? Learn more about our workshops.