Saturday, October 13, 2007

Essay writing revisited

This year I'm going to be teaching a writing class and I thought I'd post this idea about how to make discursive writing a little more modern. Basically,the idea is that students have to produce a slide show which accompanies their essay. The concept comes from watching something similar on the Magnum agency website. Since the technical skills and software are readily available and easy to learn I thought that this would also be a great opportunity for my students.

1 Tell your students that they are going to see a presentation on war.

Be warned - some of the images are shocking. If you feel that this slide show is not suitable for your class then choose another podcast from Magnum's extensive list.

2 They have to make notes and write down as much as they can about what the narrator says. Please remind them that it is impossible for anyone to write down anything and they should just get what they can.

3 Show the video above.

4 Students then compare notes.

5 Ask students what they think is the message of the piece. Students write down their personal answers and then discuss in pairs/groups.

6 Elicit suggestions from the class.

7 Now play the video again and ask students to choose two images which they consider the most powerful/moving.

8 Students discuss this in groups and try to come up with a choice which they all agree on.

9 Now write the essay title on the board;

"Only the dead have seen the last of war."
Attributed to Plato.

10 Ask students what they think this means and if they agree.

11 Divide students into two groups according to what they think. Each group writes down 3/4 reasons and provides examples/reasons etc to support them.

12 Now ask each group to think of 1/2 reasons why the opposite side might disagree with their side's view and what we could say to counter such arguments.

13 Put students into two groups with representatives from each side.

14 Students discuss the question.

15 Students then write up their opinions in the form of an essay for homework.

16 After you've corrected the essays explain to students that they are going to create their own slide show that will accompany their essay in the same way that we saw previously.

17 For this students need to collect images from the internet that reflect their essays or illustrate their examples. Flickr would be a good place to start.

18 Next show them how to use either Windows Movie Maker (which is already on most PCs) or Photo Story 3 which can be downloaded free from Microsoft (click here). Make sure they understand how to record their own narration and add background music/sound effects.

19 Students the do this for homework and post their results on their class blog/wiki etc.

As well as providing students with a model to emulate this exercise also also gives them valuable speaking practice. Most importantly, they are required to listen to how they speak in English which is a must if they want to improve their pronunciation skills.

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