In the English classroom, we tend to prioritise fiction – either reading it or analysing and writing about it. But this sort of writing represents only a fraction of the texts that we, and our students, are exposed to in the ‘real world’. Biographies, memoirs, recounts, podcasts, ads, documentaries, articles, opinion pieces, reviews, blogs, pamphlets, posters, recipes, instructions….the number of creative non-fiction texts we encounter is almost endless. And it’s getting more diverse daily.
We need to teach more of these in the English classroom. Of course, if you’re teaching Unit 1 of VCE English this year, you are already thinking about these text types for Outcome Two, but we all need to be thinking about these text types because they show us new ways of engaging our students and showing them how English, and writing, is so relevant for today.
Rather than always focusing upon teaching students how to write a formal essay (based on TEEL, or PEEL, or TREE, or whatever other acronym you normally use). You can show students how writing can help them to explore and clarify their own ideas.
To help students generate things to write about, it’s useful to get them to think about their own experiences, or experiences that they have heard about. This means that you might start students on a unit about ‘heroism’ for example, where you want them all to write a reflection about what this idea means to them. Rather than just letting them brainstorm on their own – where they might all start to talk about the latest Marvel film and how awesome it was, you can give students a worksheet about their own lives and experiences, like the one below. This will get students to think about the idea in much more interesting ways, generate new points of discussion, AND get students to think more reflectively, so that they can produce an interesting reflective piece of writing on what it means to be a hero (Of course, you can get students to write about any idea – just substitute the word ‘hero’ for any idea you’d prefer to focus upon in class).
(Download the example workshop below here as a PDF)