Aiming for Levels 5 to 7 – Lesson 10



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Aiming for Levels 5 to 7 Lesson 10


  1. Lesson title: A recipe for gothic horror (part two)Learning objective:To explore and comment on how writers create tension (RAF5, RAF6)Learning outcome:Students explore a range of techniques a writer uses to build tension, and use these to build tension in their own text
  1. Success criteria

  1. AFLevel 5 / All students can …Level 6 / Most students can …Level 7 / Some students can …RAF5Suggest possible effects on the reader of particular words and styles of sentencesDraw tentative conclusions about the effects on the reader of particular words and styles of sentencesExplore the effects on the reader of particular words and styles of sentencesRAF6Give some explanation of the overall effect on the readerClearly identify the effect on the reader and explain how this effect is achievedShow some appreciation of how a range of specific techniques and devices affect the readerResources

  1. TextsWorksheets / OtherRebecca novel extract (Student’s Book, p. 42)Worksheet 10 (Levels 5 to 7, Lesson 10)Resource CD-ROM (see pp. 4–5)Additional suggestionsPowerPoint 10 (Levels 5 to 7, Lesson 10)


Rebecca novel extract – PDF and plain text PDF

  1. Image bankYou may choose to use clips from television adaptations of Rebecca to support students’ understanding.Related lessonsLevels 4 to 6, Lesson 10 pp. 26–27 – explores how a writer builds tension.
  1. Levels 6 to 8, Lesson 10 – pp. 94–95 – evaluates how a writer builds tension.Coverage


  2. Assessment focusesAssessment objectives (GCSE)RAF5 Explain and comment on writers’ use of language, including grammatical and literary features at word and sentence level

RAF6 Identify and comment on writers’ purposes and viewpoints, and the overall effect of the text on the reader

Eng AO2 (ii) / Eng Lang AO3 (ii) Develop and sustain interpretations of writers’ ideas and perspectives

Eng A02 (iii) / Eng Lang AO3 (iii) Explain and evaluate how writers use linguistic, grammatical, structural and presentational features to achieve effects and engage and influence the reader

Eng Lit AO2 Explain how language, structure and form contribute to writers’ presentation of ideas, themes and settings

  1. Summary

  1. Students analyse ways in which Daphne du Maurier builds up tension in an extract from Rebecca before using similar techniques to write their own passage, continuing from where the extract ends.Starter

Either Put students in pairs, and ask them to note down occasions when they have experienced tension; for example, waiting for test results at school, having an argument with a sibling, watching the results of The X Factor. Pairs should then decide what causes tension, and write a short definition of tension; for example, an intense sense of uncertainty or expectation. You may wish to agree a class definition and record this on the board for reference throughout the lesson.

  1. Or Set up a drama activity in which students have to imagine that something terrifying is lurking behind the classroom door. In groups of three or four, ask them to experiment with ways in which they might show their fear in how they approach the door. To break the ice, you could model creeping towards the door with a fearful expression.Main / Development


  1. Establish the learning objective and success criteria (see PowerPoint 10, Slide 2). Explain the background to the scenario in the extract from Rebecca (Student’s Book, p. 42): An ordinary young woman has just married Maxim de Winter, a wealthy aristocrat. He is driving her, for the first time, to his family home, a famous country mansion called Manderley. The new Mrs de Winter is very nervous about her arrival in her new home. Tell students that you are going to read the extract, and that as you read they should try to spot ways in which the writer chooses words and styles of sentence to make the reader feel uncertain or tense. Read the extract.
  2. Run a Think, Pair, Share activity: give students two minutes to note down their immediate thoughts about how the writer chooses words and styles of sentence to make the reader feel uncertain or tense. Put students into pairs to share their ideas and then snowball these pairs into fours for a further sharing of ideas. (For more guidance on how to run a Think, Pair, Share activity, see ‘Some active approaches to learning’ in the General Guidance section, pp. 108–126.)


  3. Take feedback and discuss students’ ideas about how tension is created, encouraging them to refer to the text as they do so. These could include: vivid descriptions; long, ‘breathless’ sentences; first person narration; making the reader wait; description of feelings; dark or sinister comparisons (also see PowerPoint 10, Slide 3). Display and annotate a section of text with the class, drawing out some of these techniques; for example, in ‘the dusty high-road was out of sight’, there is a sense of isolation as the main road disappears, but we have to wait for the house to appear (also see PowerPoint 10, Slide 4).

  4. Run a Rainbow activity: put students into groups of four and give each group one tension-creating technique. Ask each of these ‘specialist’ groups to read through the extract from Rebecca, note down any examples of where their technique has been used, and then write notes about how the technique affects the reader. Create new ‘rainbow’ groups made up of a representative from each of the specialist groups. Tell the rainbow group members to take it in turns to report on their technique, its examples and effects. The groups should then discuss and decide which techniques most effectively build an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty. (For more guidance on how to run a Rainbow activity, see ‘Some active approaches to learning’ in the General Guidance section, pp. 108–126.) Extension Ask each group to choose an envoy to take a summary of the group’s discussions to other groups.
  5. Model for students how you might continue the story, explicitly using techniques students have been exploring; for example: ‘They were more like advancing soldiers ...’ (continuing the military imagery) ‘... grinning cruelly ...’ (worrying word choice) ‘... as they advanced on both sides. As the foliage thickened I felt trapped; my breathing quickened and I felt faint.’ (direct expression of the narrator’s fear and confusion) (also see PowerPoint 10, Slide 5).

  1. Hand out Worksheet 10. Ask students to complete Activity 1, continuing the extract and using the techniques they have learnt to build tension. Circulate, identifying particularly good use of tension-building techniques.Plenary

  1. Review the learning objective and success criteria (see PowerPoint 10, Slide 2). In pairs, students should complete Activity 2 on Worksheet 10. Encourage students to make specific comments about techniques that contribute to the build-up of tension, making links with the success criteria given.Homework / Extension


Direct students to complete one of the following tasks.

Either Write an evaluation of the build-up of tension in the extract from Rebecca, analysing at least two of the techniques explored in the lesson and summarising the effect of the text as a whole.

Or Ask students to return to the story structure that they worked on in Lesson 9. Ask them to decide where the tension-building techniques they have learnt about in this lesson could be effectively used in their story structure.

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