Just finished the first weeks planning of our new writing unit, and am really excited, having persuaded my collegue that the writing outcomes for work developed might be a series of short whole class podcasts. The unit of work relates to play scripts, and the obvious links within this are that as a written form scripts are intended for oral and visual performance. We discussed how it would be interesting to begin using the context of the unit as a vehicle to explore some of the ways in which speech forms are encountered multimodally within texts, as this links nicely with the way we have begun to approach punctuation for reading in class so far this term, and begins the students on a journey towards our could target.
Our starting point is a familiar story, and we have chosen to use "On The Way Home" by Jill Murphy. I love this text, a picture book based shaggy dog tale, about a little girl, with a "bad knee!" On her way home to tell mum all about it she meets various friends, who greet her, are told about her bad knee, and then subjected to an increasingly elaborate series of explanations and tales about how the injury was gained. What is lovely is the ending, "just how did she get her bad knee?" "Well.... I was p..." I don't want to spoil this and since we want the students to innovate on the story, perhaps you might visit our podcast when we publish to find out.
The page format for "On the Way Home" borrows many of its visual elements from the comic strip genre. Each double fold page being split into panes, that illustrate the story in beautiful and incredibly detailed visuals. The Character presentations in Jill Murphy's illustrations, offer fantastic opportunities for discussion not only around the written text but for developing inferential work, from gesture and expression to talk about feelings they may be experiencing, this inturn offers possibilities for unpicking how the words spoken by a character might be expressed. We have decided to use this as a platform to develop writing frames and Smart Notebook pages to encourage students individually, in small groups and as a class to discuss events, and consider what characters might be saying and how they might be saying them.
Using punctuation spotter activities with extracts from the book as a shared text, we want to extract character dialogue, adding these to the images through speech bubbles to present visual models of speech. Developments from this for students themselves to create their own page for a class book, replacing Claire the central character in Jill Murphy's story with a student from our class who meets friends from school on the way home. Over the course of the week, we intend the students to script a short passage of dialogue beginning in comic strip format, expanding this to think about how they and the friend they meet are saying things. Drawing on the rich visuals in the original text we want to draw out and develop a wordbank including new and familiar speech verbs, that can be applied as the students create there own dialogue, recording and adding these to our WOW word wall.
Since we are going to podcast our outcome, use of descriptive phrases and adjectives will be required to add depth and richness to the content our listeners recieve. Using "rub and reveal" activities, with the cover illustration from the book, we will begin by playing vocabulary games, to help extend the complexity of description given by the students. The WOW words used and collected can also be recorded and added to our WOW word wall for use as we progressively develop our short scripts over the sessions. Playing games the students will be encouraged to be "Claire" or the "class character" we have chosen, and to use sentence starters we collect from the text and develop such as "Weeeell!...." or "it was like this!..." "From nowhere a .... appeared!" "As I was...." and so on to rehearse and present exagerated descriptions, that we can draw on as models for writing in the dialogue we present. We use actions in our speech based activities, to mark punctuation types in spoken sentences and phrases as we speak and rehearse, and these will also form part of the development process through the games we play.
Throughout the week, while focussing on talk for writing within shared sessions we also want to use text book based materials to introduce and model how speech marks, are used to mark what is said by characters. Using speech bubble activities and punctuation spotter activities during shared work will help we hope to model the role they play, and also enable us to revisit prior work on special full stops such as question marks and exclamation marks. Usng student's written speech in bubbles, visual context cues and exercises we want to encourage the students to think about and rehearse speech; returning as we go on to consider how the choice of additional punctuation marks we have already worked on might influence how things are said, and how speech verbs will support this.
Our Big write on Friday this week will hopefully be a process of illustrating our class book and an opportunity for students to record their section of our podcast. Over the course of the week using modelled support the students will have gradually created in comic strip format, a short passage of dialogue between themselves and the class based "Claire" character, and an exagerated explanation of how they got their bad knee. These will then be recorded using the chapter tool in Podium as a dialogue between two children working in pairs, using the context sentences they produce as narration, to link additional dialogue created by other students as we build up the final podcast in chapters. The original story opener read by my colleague, and the close by myself to each story, having been modified to fit with the class characters chosen. The idea being that as we introduce play scripts formally next week, we will have an available class design to draw on helping us to make links between the text types used this week, the picture book, the comic strip and the podcast as we begin to discuss and identify the purposes that the formal structures of a playscript play.
I would like Podium to play a developmental role as a shared writing tool the week after next week, drawing on the "script writer" within the software enviroinment to help model how dialogue is organised within the play script environment. In a comment left by Doug, a couple of weeks ago about my post Reading With Expression: Punctuation for Podcasting With Year 3 he said:
"I would be really interested to hear/read about the role that the 'script writer' in Podium could/did play in this task. The move from text to speach through the study of punctuation strikes me as a very powerful thing indeed."
Hopefully as this unit unfolds I will be able to engage with some of these ideas in a practical context, and be able to provide concrete examples. For me becoming a reader or writer, is more than a process of encoding or decoding. In our multimedia world it is increasingly a journey towards gaining understanding of how text in a variety of forms is used to represent and share an inner voice or visualisation. One of the exciting things about using Podium with my class is that after the giggles and "barge" at the text approach we encountered at the beginning of term, students racing to complete their input; on hearing their own voice several students are beginning to think about what they say and how they say things when they are reading, and this is beginning to impact on how they approach the writing process too. It was exciting on Friday, as you can see from the photographs supporting this post, to see students for the first time rereading what they had written. One student in writing about how Henry VIII had married his brother's wife, asking "did I think he felt guilty about this?" Going on in the text he finally produced to hypothesise that he might have...?
The role or potential role of the Podium Scripting tool, in the development of understanding around the place of punctuation for reading is a potentially powerful one, and one which I am keen to explore and exploit, building on the current experiences we are providing with visual and oral textual models. It will be interesting to return to this as the writing unit progresses, and particularly as we begin to use the script writer as a dynamic resource to focus in on features of play scripts. Within this I am particularly drawn to providing an existing story imported to the scripting tool, to be reworked together as a class using the affordances of the interface to model how the format used by Podium in the allocation of roles, within a performance, mirrors formats we encounter in formal play script models we share. Using this to transform visually and dynamically the text on screen as we go, may help develop understanding of why inclusion of stage directions, or narration within the text we create will be neccesary, and seems to me a very powerful imaging role for the tool. I look forward to sharing this further as we explore the tool and processes involved.