Combining team-building challenges with narrative writing – say what!?!

How do we ensure students remember the structure of text types? How do we REALLY get them engaged in a narrative? Can students truly collaborate when writing?

At the end of last term, Clare and I were confronted by all of these questions and more. We had already decided to base our literacy unit on The Lorax (one:  the movie is fabulous, two: our Matrix unit is about sustainability) and our text type was to be narrative writing.  I find that often in collaborate planning, we start with the activities and get carried away by these; inevitably losing focus and a clear vision for the end product. Thankfully, I work with Clare who helped to keep the focus on the main goals!

  • These were our main aims for the term:
  1. Students would know without a shadow of a doubt the structure of a narrative
  2. Students would be able to publish a narrative that had the following elements;
  • Excellent plot, flow and pacing all the way through
  • Captivating character development
  • An orientation and setting that drew the reader into the story
  • The inclusion of literary features, such as; alliteration, metaphor and onomatopoeia.
  • A satisfying resolution to the story

Clare and I wanted our students to be exposed to many excellent examples of narratives that included the above features. We wanted them to be involved in their narratives and desperate to share their plots. But here was the clincher – we only really had 5 weeks to work with. Hmmm…

By way similar, I imagine, to the immaculate conception, Clare and I came up with the following idea: to have a literacy immersion day in which students would participate in team-building challenges and then write about it. I know what you’re thinking – ‘Way to ruin a good PDHPE activity!’ – right? But wait, there’s more… Each group would be provided with a scenario (written like the start of a thrilling adventure narrative) upon reaching each challenge. Students would have 15 minutes to complete the challenge, incorporating the character names and acting out the scene. They then had 15 minutes to write, in narrative form, the rest of the complication and resolution according to what happened. From here, students would rotate to the next challenge.

Here’s an example of a scenario with the students’ resolution at the end…

Naturally, we stopped every couple of rounds and gave reminders about the semantics and syntactics (and appropriate communication in teams). The best part was that it didn’t at all matter if students completed the challenge or not. The real sense of completion was in writing the outcome of the challenge in the narrative.

Other incidental positives came out from the day. Not only did the students produce some wonderful narratives and learn to work more effectively in teams; but because they were completing the challenges incognito as characters from the scenario, they didn’t experience a huge disappointment if they didn’t complete the challenge.

Although, it was quite intense to organise, the day was a huge success and we are now on our way to achieving the aims we set out for the term. Hurrah!