We began our literacy unit by reading and reviewing a range of texts, posters, leaflets and letters, and using these to identify features of the text type that drew our readers in. These included visual and layout features such as
- emotive imagery,
- the use of rhetorical questions
- cause and effect and logical connectives.
- and looking at how these devices were used to support the expression of opinion
- What persuasive texts look and sound like?
- Who might write these and why?
- and How they work?
Persuasive writing is an interesting and complex sub genre, in that even though classified as Non Fiction, texts are constructed around the feelings of an author. They may appear to find their origin in "fact" but are usually driven by the emotions and opinions of an author based on their interpretation of facts as they see them. They may appear to be objective, but usually present only one side of a potential argument. Helping students to understand this, requires that they attempt to put themselves in the shoes of their audience and begin to develop some empathy with the other side of the case, inorder to choose relevant ideas they can express that appeal to both sides or those without their experience.
To help with this and our exploration of the genre we presented a simple "marking ladder" that we could use to help evaluate the texts we engaged with, and that could be unpicked and developed as we worked to reflect the key features of a persuasive text as we saw them. This included ideas presented above, but also set out to frame generically success criteria for the writing outcomes that students would develop later, and that could be used to frame comparison between their work and the texts we had explored. These texts we decided should
- Open with a strong statement of opinion
- Provide 3 key points to support this supported by facts
- Close with a reassertion of the opening statement using either a slogan, an assertion or a question.
Working Towards A Digital Writing Outcome
In building up to our final Writing Outcome, which was to produce a TV advertisement or Video Presentation, we also read these British TV advertisements with voice overs by Eddie Izzard and Jane Horrocks, as well as this interesting stop motion project by simondo89 I discovered on You Tube.
Refering back to our Marking Ladder and success criteria for "writing," we investigated how these videos used similar ideas to persuade. The students identified the use of slogans and Logos as key tools to stating opinion and asserting ideas, but also how the use of visuals such as gesture alongside music were used to persuade us that "recycling was cool." We used comparison charts to review the three videos gradually over several sessions, looking at one initially to identify features that supported our big idea. If the advertisements are telling us that recycling is cool how are they doing this? What makes us think or feel this way?
In The Eddie Izzard Example, the voice over was seen as cheeky and quirky, presenting a casual almost throw away idea. We got to this point via the expression by one of my class that the voice over was "idiotic." This invited discussion around what she meant by this, and lead to time spent unpicking the idea and why the voice might have been prersented in this way. In addition students mentioned the type of music chosen, the bright airy look of the scenes, the shiny newness of objects and the fact that the "new everyday objects" presented were highlighted in the video as the cans they were made from. This added to the "coolness" because no one would have anything like them in their homes. The young fellow who was the focus of the story told also had a slinky, casual way about him strutting about the scene, casually casting his can into the recycling bins, and going about his business as if it was everyday. I was really pleased when a number of students after several readings mentioned how the advert also began with the character throwing away his can and ended in the same way... The advert itself was "kind of recycling." As can be seen in the outcomes later, many of the ideas in this video were borrowed as available designs to use in the works that developed as a result.
Looking at the other 2 advertisements we began with these ideas looking for similarities. The Jane Horrocks Advert from the same series used very similar ideas, Here the character from the previous video was seen playing a computer game, skateboarding and collecting points as he collected bottles to recycle. As a result the "coolness" of recycling glass was expressed in almost identical ways, but also afforded the questions around the idea of audience and who the advert might be aimed at? Using clues such as continuity of the central character, the music and visuals we decided that the video was probably directed at us, and how we could persuade our parents and grandparents to recycle. Though the main idea that it was cool, the use of the game perhaps lead us to see how recycling needn't be such a big thing, or get in the way of how we usually behave.
The final stop motion project, I think really excited the students as they had recently done some stop motion work, and could see how this advertisement had been been put together. A fantastic tool in as it turns out for engaging them crosscurricularly with the oft neglected ICT curriculum strand 4 statements around "Reviewing, modifying and evaluating work as it progresses." In this video using simple visual tools such as the recycling symbol, items from the bin, an image of the world, lettering from an old newspaper, and a piece of carefully selected music, a really simple message was transmitted by reusing material that could have been found in our bin to persuade, no voice over just a litter dance using throwaways, slogans and captions. The message portrayed used a number of familiar processes, and as such enabled them to begin drawing on prior learning to begin discussing how this had been achieved. It also began to open up the task we wanted the students to carry out. Helping identify with them the transferable skills we could use from a variety of ICT based processes such as animation, podcasting, video storymaking to contextualise the writing outcome.
Getting Persuasive with PhotoStory
The final phase of our Literacy Project was to make a short TV style advertisement./video presentation aimed at persuading our parents and other adults that we should recycle. For this we decided to use PhotoStory, the reasons for this I hope will become clear as the process is outlined and you view the completed outcomes .
In making the advertisement the children worked in groups of 4.
- Firstly they planned and then scripted their voice overs using the structure and success criteria above.
- Using the script as a frame we used Flickrstorm and Google Images to locate and save 5 images that we thought would support and help express our ideas.
- These images were imported to Photostory and sequenced.
- The text tool was used to place our slogans or key message on the first frame and to add credits to our final one.
- The children then rehearsed there voice overs, considering how they would express their ideas before..
- Using the inbuilt voice recorder and microphones to record each child's contribution over the appropriate image.
I love the outcomes of which these are only three examples. They are starting points on a journey that I feel reflect the children's emergent and growing understanding of how these text types work.
- Slogans and opening statements include ideas like "Don't Turn Away," "Prepare to be Amazed," "Our World Could Look Like This." Attempts to grab attention!
- An appropriate choice of Emotive images or bold and borrowed ideas to open and close their advertisements.
- Use of simple cause and effect sequences such as, how composting feeds worms, who feed the birds and this is Good for them and must be "GOOD FOR YOU!"
- and assertions of ideas such as "It is up to you!"
- The sense of fun in the experience from a student perspective is also eveident as they attempt to include features they experienced in reviewing advertisements eg singing part of a script, and how their reading process is developing with experiences from storytelling and podcasting sneaking in as they find themselves inadvertently inferring and improvising through prediction rather than verbatum use of scripts.
In supporting the development of this unit, the immersion of the students in a theme,
- involving visitors,
- auditing classroom and staffroom bins,
- asking questions around school about what happens to our "rubbish,"
- discussing and exploring how materials can be reused, the process of recycling materials and the possible consequences of not doing so
As a result of a "bin audit" from the staffroom this week, students have suggested the need to create posters that offer advice to staff and other students about how they can improve their 3 Rs. Our completed advertisements have been placed on the VLE to share with our parents at home, though not being able to wait it seems one student arrived yesterday, knowing we were about to make our advertisements with a flash drive, so she could take her group's home to share after school. Another student out ill yesterday, but knowing we were going to be making our advertisements yesterday, used photostory on his home PC and sent the result to me by email. The students have clearly been excited and highly motivated by the projects with the images throughout this post reflecting the level of engagement and fun associated with developing the outcomes. Next week following the excitement of this process we hope to launch our campaign a little wider with a first public airing during assembly.
These videos also present themselves not as an end product but rather potential starting points for future work as reference tools for others as well as ourselves. I was privileged last week to experience some of our secondary students working on OCR Nationals coursework, and in addition to use within the Pimary Phase, have begun wondering how as an all through school, these could be used to promote and support continuity and progression, acting as evaluation tools and starting points for older students to evaluate and develop video based projects of their own. The idea of beginning with the work of other students regardless of age, in order to illustrate processes and identify steps for self improvement and development in the quality of outcome would be fantastic. In an all through environment such as ours it would be a really exciting to involve older students taking on and helping to move forward the work of their younger peers, extending work such as this and developing it for their own benefit, while perhaps sharing and presenting new resources that can further enhance the learning and experiences not only of themselves but other students and the colleagues who are learning alongside them. Perhaps in closing my thoughts truly are running away with themselves... However in recycling these videos the Possibilities do seem truly endless.