This week we started off by looking at the gallery of storyboards from the last session. The children had finished their drawn versions of the Red Riding Hood story – either from the point of view of Red Riding Hood or from that of the Wolf. Here is an example of each.
And here are more of the storyboards as part of the classroom door gallery where we all took turns having a good look at all the different versions.
In many of the pictures we could imagine a scene happening and characters speaking to each other or to themselves. Several children agreed that one scene that seemed very dramatic was when Red Riding Hood first meets the Wolf. We decided to try and write that scene and the whole class got involved in creating the dialogue, which I wrote up on the board.
This was very dynamic and we changed some of the lines as we went along, to try and reflect the naive personality of Red Riding Hood and the cunning personality of the wolf. Once we had our dialogue, then lots of the children volunteered to get up in front of the class and play the parts. This was great. We had lots of different versions of the same scene then, played by different actors, which was great fun and really interesting.
So the story of Red Riding Hood and the Wolf is a very well known folk tale and it has in fact been made into films and plays by different people over the years, often with the writer changing something in the story to make it slightly different – perhaps setting it in a more modern time, or focusing on a different character – as we did when we told the wolf’s version. This is called adaptation – where an existing story is adapted for stage or film – like with Matilda.
But what about creating a new story? How do writers go about making something up out of their heads? I asked the children which they thought might come first when creating a new story – the characters or the plot? The people in the story or what happens to those people? There was mixed opinion – some children thought the character might come first, but lots of the children thought that the story would come first.
I said that actually it could be either – that sometimes writers get characters in their head and then they have to figure out what happens to those characters. And sometimes for some writers, those characters just keep popping up in their head, until the writer begins to see what the story is.
And then some writers do create the story first – they think up all things that might happen – and then they have to decide who the story happens to!
But often it’s a bit of both. A character starts to appear in a writer’s mind and then a bit of what might happen to them and then perhaps another character pops up and the imagination shifts between the story and the characters, back and forth, until the whole thing appears.
I explained that something that helps me to figure things out when I’m writing is to ask a lot of questions. To demonstrate this I introduced five containers holding different pieces of key information to help create a story and characters. The containers are labelled CHARACTERS, LOCATIONS, ACTIONS, DILEMMAS & PROBLEMS, PERSONALITY TRAITS.
You can use them in any order in theory, but personally, I do like to start with the characters when I’m writing a play, so I started with the character container and pulled out the name – LILY. I added some personality traits and we found out Lily was BRAVE, SHY and CLEVER, then the children asked lots of questions about Lily, but we didn’t answer any of them, we just let those questions exist as potential – How old was Lily? Where was she from? What hobbies did she have? Did she work? Was she rich or poor?…. We then added a location – which turned out to be a HOTEL, and an action, which was RUNNING. These additions generated loads more questions. What was Lily doing in the hotel? Did her family own it? Was she hiding there? Was she a servant? When in history was this? What is she running from? Is she an athlete?… We didn’t even get to add a dilemma or problem because there was so much information, (although we did have a great discussion about what exactly is a dilemma). From all the questions and their potential answers there was lots of story material floating around the room. The children worked in pairs then to figure out what Lily’s story might be and were very animated. They all came up with amazing variations!
Miss O’Connell added…
It was interesting to hear the children compare and contrast their interpretations of story in their storyboards. The children then engaged in a discussion on how the writer can use pictures to inspire dialogue. This idea will be reintroduced during book week when the children will explore how authors generate ideas. It is great to observe from week to week how the children are connecting visual art with writing and acting.
The children participated in a shared writing lesson where they wrote a script with Michelle on the board. Five boxes labelled dilemmas, actions, locations, personality traits and characters’ were placed on the desk, and each box was filled with ideas. This was excellent because it enabled the children to generate their own ideas but gave them a structure to do so which allowed them to think about their characters in great detail. The children began to realise that the location can affect the personality traits of the characters which in turn has an influence on the dilemmas and problems they face. They then reflected on how environments had affected and formed the characters in their novels ‘Matilda’ and ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree’.
From week to week, their story telling is slowly becoming coherent and sequenced without infringing on their imagination.