Writing task: students were asked to write an adventure story. (The class had been reading Treasure Island (the original version) together with Anthony Horowitz’s Stormbreaker. The class were to create their own adventure story (with a particular focus on the main character – Jim Hawkins/Alex Rider) concentrating on ‘action’ and creating strong characters. Child A spent about a week creating the text.)
CHILD A (Y6)
Writer deletions are indicated by brackets : [ ]
[jump to discussion]
His grimy vest was now covered in the sweat: that, when you get scared pours out of your body in galons. His eyes where filled with a mirky fear, he writhed and twisted on the cold hard floor – this is how much damage forsights do.
Theo Valcon had never known his parents, all he knew was that fifteen years ago (the day after he was born) they had been assassinated. He also knew that they had worked for the Croation secret service, that was pretty much it he would [had] have given anything to meet them or even see a picture, but he couldn’t and that’s the way it would always be.
Despite Theo’s attempts to stop his forsights he just couldn’t it was as if it was unstoppable. These forsights were slowly wrecking him, devouring him just a little bit more every night. Strangly it would always be the same sort of thing that he saw: creepy humans dressed infutureistic suits of some unknown metal, weapons that only our modern day inventors could only dream of.
One night Theo’s self devouring forsights were particularly [bad] obliterating, it was the same sort of thing. (but) However this time something far worse was upon him: the destruction the past. The destruction of him, and his natural world.
In his half sleep, he writhed more desparatly than usual and that’s when it happened …
It was as if a cold, skeletal hand reached into his era and draged him to the [future] distant future. A spasm of pain shot through him like a lightning bolt – as he slipped in to the far away generations. [Eventually this all]
Eventually this all stopped, however he still was extremely dazed and confused, it took him a couple of seconds to work out – rather take in what had just happened/happening.
As he was thinking this, a heavily fortified door opened, to reveal, something that was a human but creepy; dressed in a futuristic suit of some unknown metal and weapons that only our modern day inventors could only dream of…
A mysterious crackiling rose emerged from where he guessed was its mouth he was not atall sure weather it could see him. If he had known what was going to happen next, I’m sure he would have done the sensible thing (which was to reason with the alien [creature] human) but of coarse he didn’t know so he was tazored with some quite high voltage weapon.
Theo’s face went from the normal textured brown, to a murderous pale white. His forsights had unfolded, they where true, for he had gone forward in time.
Afterwards he found himself in the most pristeen of rooms, the screens of high powered computors flickered, making him feel dizy. A padded chair that was a colour that he didn’t even know existed slowly spun around, another creep came into his vision, however this one was obviously of a higher ranking than all the rest because it’s metal suit was painted gold.
“And your name is?” said the creep unexpectedly, it had a cold yet high piched voice but it was certainly did not belong ladies.
“Theo, Theo Valcon” he said helpfully.
“Ah, hello there, may name is Aracidious. I am the one incharge”
“Well, that’s nice to know, but can I get home now please?” Theo asked eagerly.
“Well there is the [catch] problem, you won’t be able to go back, for we are blowing the past up, and please forgive me but you to will be dead in,” he paused “Three minutes, fifty nine seconds,”
“Well that is a shame, but can I have one last request?” he asked.
“Ofcourse,” he replied
“For you to die!” he yelled, at that moment he thrashed around violently until, (a few seconds later,) the bindings came undun, completely and utterly taken by surprise the creeps just watched, this allowed Theo to reach in to his belt and draw out his knife.
It was a beautiful knife carved by his own farther just before he died. He swung it around slashing the cables in a most barbaric fasion, computers began to shut down – panic was upon them.
Theo felt a cold skelatel hand come down on him the same sensation rushed through: it was the same as when he entered. Time was lost. [Nobody]
Nobody noticed the Croation boy land face down on a back street of Paris, nobody cared. He picked himself up and nelt there, praying the end would never come.
MG I haven’t read Stormbreaker
JW It’s an adventure sub-James-Bond-type story. Lots of things happening.
UC I thought it was really sophisticated for a Year 6
JW I got some comments back from Claire Acevedo (sent by email). These are some of her observations, based on Genre Structure (Orientation, Complication, Solution)
CA Purpose: the child has used the story genre. With a focus on character. The text allows for a sharing of feelings. It does not require a resolution but leaves room for a sequel and is reasonably well-developed for Year 6.
Staging: the orientation is to character, but the reader is confused about place. The complication is quite elaborate with many phases but the evaluation of the complicating events is not substantial – was the child unable to resolve the complication (ran out of time?) that was originally intended in the narrative?
Phases: three problem phases in the orientation are designed to engage the reader immediately in the story.
Field: an adult reader can follow the plot of this story by inference in spite of lapses of coherence. The initial psychological profile is built up quite convincingly but the encounter with the aliens in the future and the final reflection make the plot less effective. The writer at times draws on literary patterns from reading, while at other times seems to lack sufficient linguistic resources to convey images in his mind into written text. Influence is action from movies?
Tenor: the writer understands the purpose of engaging the reader and succeeds in this endeavour to a certain extent with variations in phase types and a series of worsening problems.
Mode: the text uses literary descriptive language, including metaphors, but can lapse into everyday spoken-like language (e.g. the dialogue with the aliens)
Grammar: grammatical conventions are generally used accurately. The sentence and word group structures are sophisticated for Year 6.
Vocabulary: the vocabulary is quite ambitious.
Presentation: paragraphing could correspond better to the shifts in phases and would assist with engagement.
Those are some of the aspects that she picks up on.
UC Isn’t the purpose of direct speech to make it sound more speech-like.
JW I don’t think she means the speech itself, but the way it’s presented.
MB The child has caught the features of horror fiction really. I’m particularly interested in the subjects of clauses so I did an analysis of those and you get, particularly in the second page, you get… Sorry. To start with, spoken English would have very simple subjects and in a simple narrative the subject would usually be people but in horror fiction subjects tend to be things rather than people so you get a heavily fortified door, a mysterious crackling, his foresights, the screens of high powered computers, a padded chair so you’re getting all these things coming in and often when it’s people it’s not whole people it’s things associated with him so you get his eyes and his grimy vest. So, when you do get a simple subject, he, there’s usually something negatively associated with it: so he had never known; he couldn’t do this; he couldn’t do that. And when they carry out actions they’re the things that happen to him like he writhed and twisted, things he hadn’t necessarily intended to do but there’s a shift at the end so there is a development in the story because at the end you do get him doing things like he thrashed around and he swung it around he picked himself up where at this stage he is doing things that he has control over rather than things he doesn’t have control over. So. it seems to me there are lots of interesting literary features and there is a development in it moving from things which he can’t control to things which he can control and he wins in the end. I mean I think there is a resolution.
SJ In terms of task I was thinking about the level of mimicry. If I’m honest I haven’t read Stormbreaker but I have seen parts of the film. I’m aware of the first bit and I’m aware that the main character is also an orphan where he starts to tell you that his parents have been assassinated. He identifies very closely with the main character of Stormbreaker. I don’t know whether this idea of mimicry is a very positive or negative thing, whether it’s hindering their creativity or enabling them to go on and do it themselves
LF Did they have success criteria the way the others did so that they had to create their own adventure story, concentrating on action and creating strong characters so I wonder whether they’d been told how to create a strong character.
JW I think they were reading Stormbreaker
JS I was unsure what a strong character is
LF Well it’s obviously a man
JS Do they mean like physically strong or strong like the characterisation should be strong. There should be a strong sense of the character.
MG I took it to mean action-based so if you look at the verb processes they’re all material processes, well mostly. The character’s doing things, there’s hardly any description. That’s how I took it to be.
LF Mimicry might be a valid way to do it initially, an early response to how things work, giving them a text as a model. With the opportunity to do your own thing after that. What do we do if we play around with it.
SJ Yeah, I wonder about process, what they would then do with it, do they sort of work on it using the ideas that were there?
JW I suspect that, after doing this, that was it.
MG There’s this sense of implied readership, isn’t there? The first thing I highlighted when I looked at this was the use of the second person pronouns, which suggests a proximity between, or some kind of relationship between writer and implied reader and you get that coming back in little bits where you get more conversational forms such as I am sure he would have done and that’s the way it would always be, in opposition to some of the more polished rhetorical bits. You know, the end, for example, those parallel sentence structures. Nobody noticed the boy, nobody cared he picked himself up and nelt there. So, you’ve got very different kinds of positioning of the writer in relation to assumed reader here. That was striking in the first bit. I thought there would be a lot more of those second person pronouns but there weren’t.
SJ I picked up on that third line down you know when it says this is how much damage foresights do. You could argue that that’s like an example of free indirect discourse but I assume that that was not purposely done. It’s like who’s saying that. Just to link in with that slippage that Marcello mentioned between that second person and that first person. It’s a difference in voice I feel.
UC And what is foresights there. Should it be a capital F? Are foresights the race?
LF I thought they were prophetic visions?
JM I thought it was quite cool that it wasn’t defined.
UC This is how much damage foresights do. So, he’s seeing into the future. OK.
SJ I agree with Claire’s comments that we don’t know where we are early on, until it says in his half sleep. You are sort of aware that it’s something that’s happening at night, but other than that there’s no sort of world building as such.
MB Technically this child handles linguistic structures well. There are lots of connectives and he’s got them in the right places. We’ve one night, essentially. You’ve got connectives and you’ve got the fronting of adverbs etc. and they’re all very appropriate in their places. And he uses these things which Cardiff grammar calls enhanced theme: this is how much damage foresights do, that’s the way it would always be.
(See Fawcett, Robin (2008) Invitation to Systemic Functional Linguistics through the Cardiff Grammar, Sheffield: Equinox Publishing)
So he’s using quite complex structures, again using them in the right places.
JS I feel like he enjoyed writing this. I feel uplifted by this.
UC It was a boy wasn’t it?
JS I feel he’s brought his knowledge of the genre, of James Bond, to the fore. There’s little things like Theo Vulcan, it strikes me as like a James Bond kind of thing.
UC It has an energy about it.
LF In the most pristine of rooms, which is a lovely description but doesn’t have two adjectives. It’s a much more complex construction, and much more evocative than saying, in a (insert two adjectives) room. (see Alan Peat: www.alanpeat.com)
MG Also look at in a most barbaric fashion, so it’s really something he’s got in his repertoire and is a quirk or part of his style.