Watching me using Anthony Browne’s wonderful picture book Voices in the Park as a catalyst for character writing, Sue Fennell (a teacher of Year 5 students at Lower Hutt’s Eastern Hutt School) was inspired to use the text as a way into diary writing by her students. Sue loved the book; she assumed her students would love it as well – and they did.
Having read and discussed the book (what do we learn about the four central characters?), she developed the following task with them: to select one of the characters and write a diary entry about what happened at the park from that character’s perspective. Students were to add extra detail of what their character did, thought or felt whilst at the park, using the senses as appropriate.
Sue scaffolded the task very precisely over the period of a week. She:
- shared and discussed diary entries with them;
- provided them with a three-paragraph structure for their writing including possible sentence starters for each paragraph; [Click here to view the writing task document]
- brainstormed the characteristics of each character with them; [See Mother and Dad Jamboards below]
- led a process of devising speech or thought bubbles around each character for a pivotal moment in the story (as in this example of what the mother might be thinking as she screams); [See Thought Bubbles for Mother below]
- enabled her students to explore their selected character further through drama games, especially freeze frame (as in this example of students being all characters, including the lamp post, in this mother scene). [See below ‘Voices One’ of our freeze frame document]
The students loved doing this writing task and crafted and re-crafted their paragraphs lovingly before publishing them as part of a wall display. Here are five examples of students crafting, re-crafting and publishing a diary entry for their selected character: Dad; Charles/Charlie (2); Smudge; Mother. Note Sue’s feedback/feed-forward notes to each student on their draft texts. [View Voices in the Park writing document].
I was bowled over by some of the writing (as was Sue) – especially its beautiful use of sensory detail and language features – and it was not difficult to persuade a group of them (Violet; Ethan; Oriwia; Roman and Emily) to share their writing with me, and the wider world. Here they all are standing in front of the writing wall
And here they are, individually reading their texts. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.