S4 Personal / Reflective Writing It’s all about ME! 5 adjectives which describe me best 5 adjectives others would use to describe me 3 of my strengths 3 of my weaknesses 3 major experiences that have shaped me Which of these experiences reveals something essential about me? What is that something? Details and descriptions Because your memories are important to you, when you bring them to mind they will be full of tiny details, things you noticed at the time. Many of these details might not be very important in themselves, but they become important because they bring that memory to life. The most forbidden of places was my father’s bedside drawer. I had never been told not to go there; I just knew it was out of bounds. A secret place. An ivory coloured drawer set in a glossy black table, gold handle, its perfect patina interrupted only by a ring burned in the top by a hot mug. My mother’s, on the other hand, was an open book. A jumble of tissues and hairpins, powder compacts and sweets. Home to one of the many Ventolin inhalers tucked discreetly around the house. His drawer was neat, and smelled of the cortisone cream he smoothed into his hands in the autumn when each year a weird rash would flare up. There were several opened tubes of Setlers. There were several menus of dinners he had been to, often with the signatures of those who had attended inside. Setlers were as much a part of my dad’s DNA as his pipe and his Daily Telegraph. The chalky white tablets went everywhere with him; half and quarter packets were in every jacket pocket, including the one in his suede waistcoat, and in the glove box of the car. Ten times a day he would rub his sternum and tear another strip of wrapper off his indigestion pills. This short passage is stuffed with tiny details. We know exactly what each of Nigel Slater’s parents kept in their bedside drawers, and what one of the table tops looked like. We know all about his father’s addiction to indigestion tablets. TASK - Now try this… Read the following extract from Chris Stewart’s book The Almond Blossom Appreciation Society. As you read it, highlight the small details which make it seem vivid and convincing. Annotate where you come across any use of: Visual Imagery Sound Imagery Long sentences, short sentences, lists etc… Exciting verbs, adjectives Use of the 5 senses At the beginning of the year, my daughter Chloe and I decided that we had to get fit, and that the best way to do this would be to create a running track in the riverbed. We go there every evening now and our pounding feet have marked out a fairly clear circuit. The grass is long and makes a pleasant thripping noise as you race along, and in spring the ground is sprinkled with dandelions and daisies which grow so dense that, through half-shut eyes, you might be running though a field of cream. The track, however, remains just a bit too rustic for a good sprint. You have to be careful to hop over the thistles, skip to avoid an ankle-cracker of a stone, and cut close to the broom bush on the third turn while ducking to avoid a poke in the eye. The second turn is between the third and fourth euphorbia bushes and the start and finish is at the tamarisk tree where we hang our sweaters. The going is soft sandy turf. As we returned from our run the other night Chloe called me excitedly to the gate. I turned back and looked where she was pointing. There, battling its way across the track was a dung beetle. This particular beetle had lost its jet—black shine under a thick covering of dust. It was steering a ball of dung with its back legs, while it scrabbled for purchase with its horny front legs. Progress was unthinkably difficult as the ground was rough, and of course it was quite unable to see where it was going, head down, facing away from the desired direction of travel. The ball kept going out of control and rolling over the poor creature, yet without so much as a moment to dust itself down, the beetle picked itself up and patiently resumed rolling on its intended course. Choose one of your major experiences from the beginning of the lesson. Write a list of words/ phrases you could use in your writing of the event to help make THE SETTING descriptive. Homework Bring in an object which brings back memories Photograph Foreign coin Postcard Old toy Old item of clothing Show and tell Show each other your memory joggers and describe the memories they recall. In a grid make notes of what you remember thinking about: Who, what, why, where and when Laurie Lee extract Read pages 91 and 92 of the Higher language books. Read back through the passage noting all the similarities and differences between Granny Trill and Granny Wallon. Answer questions (a) and (d) Task Think about a time during your childhood that is vivid – you could use your memory jogger to help you. Try to remember a time before you were ten years old. Questions are going to be asked of you: write whatever comes into you head. Think about this vivid time, write down: Think about this vivid time, write down: Someone who meant a lot to you Someone you admired Your favourite teacher Someone or something you were scared of Someone who was your friend Someone who was you enemy Something you remember wearing A game or toy you remember A place which meant a lot to you An event that sticks in your mind A visit you remember A food you liked A food you hated A TV programme you watched A song you remember A smell you associate with that time A colour you associate with that time A sound you associate with that time Now take one of these memories and expand it. For example, take your favourite teacher. Ask yourself the following questions. Again, write down the first thing that comes into your head. Write down three ways that describe their eyes Write down three ways that describe their hair Write down three ways that describe their face Write down three ways that describe their build Write down three ways that describe their voice Write down three ways that describe their clothes Write down something they used to say often Write down three things you associate with their classroom Write down the most important thing they taught you (reflection) Write down three things to describe how they made you feel (reflection) Write down three reasons why they were your favourite teacher (reflection) Monday 10th Go over homework Practise planning The reflective part of writing… What the examiners (and Miss Wood) are looking for… 1. “Write about a favourite toy you remember from your childhood” You must use a least five homework. of the sections you filled out for Remember, you do not have to write something which is historically accurate! You can embellish! Toy – My Sylvanian family bus. It had a little picnic basket and benches you could tuck away on the bus. Used to lay it out with all my other Sylvanian toys to make a massive village. Given by someone who meant a lot to me – my grandparents couldn’t get to the island that Christmas. Lived in a house where I was sometimes scared – was in the attic where I could hear with wind howling at night and I was afraid of eyes watching me. Present was given to me on a Christmas that sticks in my mind. Wasn’t my best Christmas – grandparents couldn’t make it up North so only four of us –me, brother, mum and dad. Dad read “A night before Christmas to me” which was my favourite family tradition but I woke up in the middle of the night when a balloon popped in my room (when I KNEW that Santa didn’t exist). Christmas day mum and dad had steaming row over Balldersdash! Resulted in not really playing games again! Favourite teacher, Mrs Mackay, asked us to bring in best Christmas toy. At break time someone I was afraid of, Mhairi Finlayson, took my toy away from me – I called her baby face Finlayson after a character in the Dandy and got I trouble. Think I was being rather clever at the time! Still have the bus – I can’t bring myself to get rid of it. Have a large collection and like the idea of handing it onto a child of my own. Sentimental reminders of childhood in Harris – no computer games, just very imaginative. On your own plan the following personal/reflective essays. You must use a least five of the sections you filled out in activity one. Remember, you do not have to write something which is historically accurate! You can embellish! 1.“Stage Fright” Using this as a title, write about a personal experience. 2.. “A gamble that paid off?” Write about a time you took a chance….. The Reflective part of writing Have a look at these two examples of text. I had arranged to meet my friends at ten o'clock. I left the house at half nine and walked to the bus stop. I had to wait twenty minutes because the bus was late. Eventually I got to town. __________________________________________________________________________________________ It was with excitement and some nervousness I set off to meet my friends in town at the agreed time. As luck would have it the bus was late - this day of all days! What is the difference? The two texts are about the same experience. Yet the second one has a sense of reflection, thinking back over the event. It is not just a list of I did this, then this, then this happened. Insight To think in depth about what the experience meant to you. “I realised that he wasn’t really trying to annoy me – he was trying to attract my attention.” Self-Awareness To be aware of your own feelings/reactions and understand why you have reacted, behaved or felt that way. “I know now that I was overreacting because …” Reflective Phrases Looking back… On reflection… With hindsight.. In retrospect… Nowadays I feel/think/believe… If I could do this again…. I learned… I realsie…. I could have… I wish that…. Because of this I am…. Since this happened…. When I think back on this…. At the time I…but now…. Now that I’ve been through this… This made me think about…. This experience shaped me by….. Re-writing an example essay Together let’s look at an example essay. We are going to break up and re-write it sentence by sentence and put it back together. REMEMBER: SHOW don’t tell Add descriptive detail – setting/characters Reflect where appropriate What would be an effective title for this essay? As I stood boarding the train I felt hot and dizzy because it was a cold winter day. My mum took my hand and led me onto the train and to find our seats. We were going to Glasgow for the day. Our seats were opposite an automatic door and I sat at the window seat. There were frosty leaves on the trees like a light dusting of icing sugar. There were lots of birds dancing about on the leaves shaking some of their icing sugar down to the ground to cover smaller plants. The train stopped a lot to pick up passengers from places I didn’t know existed. The door opposite me opened each time and I listened to the noises it made every time it opened and closed. We came to a place that was the middle of nowhere, when a voice from a speaker said that we were to feel free to get up, out of the train and stretch our legs. I didn’t know if I needed to stretch my legs but my mum wanted to. She got up first and I followed. We didn’t have far to walk because the door opposite us was open again. I felt a breeze. Mum made a joke of jumping off the train onto the grey platform and I was going to follow because it seemed okay but then came sound, of the train starting to move. I was confused. She put her hands on the doors and tried to talk to me. I started thinking about what would happen next. An older woman on my right tried to calm me down and reassure me. There was also a woman standing next to my mum trying to find someway to open the doors. She looked like she was trying to reassure mum. I just stared at my mum and although she was trying very hard to hide her worry I could tell she was just as worried as me. I couldn’t move. The sun was shining making me agitated. Then the doors opened and my mum leapt onto the train. She hugged me tighter than I can ever remember and I was happy. The woman who was outside with my mum came onto the train and asked if I was alright now but I just nodded because I was safe now and held mum tight as if I was worried the whole incident might happen again. When we got back to our seats I became very aware of how many people were watching but I didn’t care. Mum and I talked about what could have happened and joked a little bit about each others reaction but I will never forget the day because, even though the train doors opened, my mind had taken me to a place where my mum was lost, I couldn’t find her and I was able to see what it would be like if the train did move away from the platform to begin my journey alone. MARKERS GUIDELINES Try to make the reader (the marker) share in the experience or feeling you are trying to describe. Write your essay with an overall emotion in mind happiness, excitement, fear, sorrow and plan language and structure to match. Don't weaken the impact of your writing by including boring details. If it's not going to add to the feeling or insight you want to create why put it in? As with all types of writing the marker will look at overall standard of language so don't forget the basics - spelling, punctuation, sentences and varied paragraphs. Marking Criteria Grade 1 will be a well crafted, stylish account and will deploy a range of skills to express perceptiveness and self-awareness and to achieve or create effects. Grade 2 account will be soundly constructed and show a measure of insight and self-awareness expressed accurately. Grade 2 may not be succinct but will be substantial. Have a go at being a teacher.. Using the marking criteria: Read over the essay once. Re-read the essay. Decide on a more fitting title. Mark the piece, taking time to praise where it is successful, but, more importantly, highlighting mistakes and suggesting improvements. You should select any experience which lets you go beyond a simple retelling of events and allows you to reflect on what happened, to show "self-awareness". Possible Topics Myself as others see me. The strangest thing that has ever happened to me. I wear what I like and I like what I wear – what does your image mean to you? My attitude to money and how it has changed. An event/person which has most shaped who I am. A time when I felt vulnerable. Planning The most important point I want to make is…. The effect I want to have on the reader is….. I want the tone of my writing to be: ❏ serious ❏ humorous ❏ narrative ❏ descriptive ❏ expository ❏ other TASK - Now try this… Take a new sheet of paper, at least A4 size. At the top write the task you have chosen. Then divide the rest of the page into 4 squares with headings as shown on the next page. Your title goes here The basic story Start Thoughts and feelings Middle End Details and description Reflection Now… Then use the four squares to plan what you want to put in to your piece of work. Key words, phrases or bullet points will do fine. It’s probably easiest if you start with the top left box, where you slot in the rough outline of the story that you’re telling. Then go on and fill in the other boxes. Successful Openings … Begin with a dramatic or unusual first line; Immediately grab the attention of the reader; Set the tone of the piece of writing; Begin at an interesting moment in your personal experience; Make the reader want to carry on reading! 1. Make your reader imagine … Imagine that you’re supposed to be enjoying a nice lunch with your mum. You haven’t seen her for a while and she’s chattering away, telling you the latest gossip from home. Meeting up with her is like finally reaching a water-hole in the desert. You drink up the little snippets about the neighbours’ dog Max, who barks all morning and scares the little girl down the road. However, you can’t escape the feeling that there’s something more going on behind her animated tales. Her fingers are locked together tightly, as if she’s holding herself together. She’s been in bits since he left, it really hasn’t been very long and the initial wound is still raw. She looks so small and vulnerable. Imagine that this fragile little woman finally let it all out. Imagine that she told you the truth about what happened. That’s the situation I found myself in at the end of my first year at university. 2. Set the Scene The ham sandwiches had just arrived and the waitress was placing them on our table, when my world changed forever. We thanked the girl and watched as she zig-zagged through the bustling café. Mum had been giving me a run down of the latest gossip from back home. I’d been doing my best ‘wow, I’m-so- glad- you- told- me- about- the- oldlady- from- down- the- street- who- used- to- pat- meon- the- head- when- we- passed look. I’d simply been trying to change to subject when I mentioned that I’d seen dad the day before. I shouldn’t have mentioned his name. I should’ve seen it coming. I heard mum’s quick intake of breath and then was caught by her doleful look. 3. Describe How You Felt The punch to my gut seemed to come from nowhere and caught me completely off guard. I stared at my assailant; my mum’s face was frozen. I knew that I should be saying something, thinking something, but I was unable to produce any reaction to the news. A thick blanket seemed to have wrapped itself around me, it’s protective warmth was close against my skin. My fingers clung to the edge of the table, holding on for dear life. I gave up on searching for a suitable, or even honest response to my mother’s previous statement. Instead I observed the strange thrum of blood through my temples and the trembling that had begun in my fingertips. 4. Writing a Reflective Opening A lot of people would probably say ‘success’ is measured in pounds. Big houses, shiny cars, jumbosized TVs. Open any magazine and you will see it: plastic celebrities showing off their latest bling and living it up. For a while, I thought that achieving something meant having lots to show for it. Then I had an opportunity to do something which made me realise ‘success’ is much harder to measure, but means so much more. In other words… Refer to what you think ‘most’ people would consider the meaning success/fear/failure etc. Begin to introduce what it means to you. LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE – THEN MAKE IT PERSONAL. Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport. General opinion makes out that we live in a world of hatred and greed I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy but it's always there. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, none of the phone calls from people on board were messages of hate or revenge, they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.' Checklist for the opening Is it clear that this is personal? Have you made it clear what idea/emotion is the focus of your writing? Is it clear what lesson you learned? Make sure that you have used key words/phrases e.g. happiest, most frightening etc OR responsibility, pride, friendship, team work. Reminder – Show not Tell As I looked up at him, he seemed to grow taller. The shadow he cast over me was cold and unwelcoming, made even worse by his icy stare. I was certain my head was about to explode. Looking at him, I clenched my fist so tight that my nails were digging into my palm. He looked so smug, that grin snaking its way across his face. I wanted to wipe that grin off his face. It seemed like time had stopped. I stood there, unable to accept what had just happened. It was my name they called, wasn’t it? Could this be real? As I put my hand to my face, I was almost shocked by the size of my smile. Someone was shaking my hand, and it took a moment for me to get a grip and utter, ‘Thanks!’ Reading our own openings to an audience. TASK: ‘Myself An entire dramatic company.’ The roles I play in life. Cast List (note the aptness of the title) OPENING: Shakespeare gives a man seven roles to play. But he’s considerate; they come one by one, not all at once. They each have their little space of time allotted to them. Me- my roles contradict, my repertoire is vast. I can play them all at once or one after another; I can give you whole speeches extempore. ‘All the worlds’ a stage’; but the audience will gladly ignore you if you don’t play your part. I won’t play to an empty house, I won’t be on my own. I can play a clown, a hero, a lover, a wise man, a fool. I can sing and jig, I can sermonise and weep, I can tell funny stories and have you laughing at me, with me, for me, against me. I know my part so well that I believe it implicitly – a keen student of the Method, I, I get inside the skin of every role…… ENDING: Am what’s my role just now? A combination of them all? Or is the writer another of them, are these really my thoughts here? I think they are, but I’m an imperfect judge. They may be thoughts of a character I’ve created – the best drama is the one we write for ourselves. My people dance around my brain; when I’m writing They take turns who shall guide the pen, who shall wave their hands in front of my eyes. There must come a time when I can play myself. It’s not come for years; it may never come. And can I do it anyway? I’ve been acting for ten or eleven years now. It becomes a habit. When I take all my make-up off, drop my accent, stop the character walk, what will be left? I’m frightened. I don’t know what’s there.