Disneyland. I love that place. It was always my dream to go there and I’ve been lucky enough to go three times (once to Paris, the other times in Hong Kong). What’s the point of me telling you this story? My imagination runs wild when I’m there. I’m taken back to my childhood and a time when I had my head stuck in a book reading for enjoyment (which is rare these days thanks to teaching lots of books), but I also loved writing creatively. I was bad at it, but I still had an overactive imagination that needed an outlet. As I got older that outlet became more digital and visual and that’s why I studied media studies. Why am I telling you this? Because I was inspired by many texts and forms that allowed me to express my thoughts in different mediums and to an extent that’s what you will be doing in this area of study.
Semester 1 is the semester where the new study design really gets new. First, we throw the personal response at you and give you some freedom to write in a structure that you want to and then we make you craft a couple of different texts based on some that you’ve studied in class. Again, no real structure. How does that make you feel? As someone who likes structure and goes by the book and rules (most of the time), these two areas of study have really knocked me for six. But, I will conquer and hope to help you succeed.
What is crafting texts?
This area of study is about allowing students to craft their own writing based on the mentor texts and framework of ideas that your school has chosen for you. In Year 11 we are able to be more flexible with the framework and the mentor texts, but next year when you get to Year 12, the flexibility isn’t as flexible. But in Year 11 we can be experienced yogis and bend the rules a little to ensure we make this as enjoyable for you as possible.
Each school will have a different framework of ideas. My school, for example, has chosen to focus on the idea of the future, and that has opened up a can of worms for my team as we get super excited about what our students will be exposed to and what we can get them to write about. In fact, we are so enthusiastic that we have so many texts that we want our students to look at that we had to scale it back. Other schools might be focusing on ideas such as identity, belonging, conflict, freedom, justice, etc.
The mentor texts that your school chooses are completely up to them, but what they do need to ensure is that there is a variety of different texts that have a clear context, audience, and purpose. This will be studied in depth with you as you identify how authors are able to write to a particular audience and purpose. In order to do this you will need to be able to see how language features, vocabulary, and structural features are created to appeal to an audience to achieve a purpose. Once this is done, you will then use that mentor text as an inspiration to craft your own piece of writing with the same intent or purpose.
What do you mean by purpose?
The purpose is why it has been written. Is it to explain an idea, express a point of view, reflect on an idea, or argue a point? Your teacher will determine what purpose you will be focusing on and how that particular purpose is achieved through language features and structure. You need to know your purpose before you begin to write as this will determine the style of writing you will adopt and once you have decided on your audience, then you will employ the appropriate language features to engage with them.
What are mentor texts?
The mentor texts that your teachers choose will have a common theme and connect to the framework of ideas. The best bit about this new area of study is that you don’t necessarily have to read a whole book or watch a film and analyse it to its most minute detail. Instead, you will be reading extracts from novels, listening to podcasts whilst also reading the transcript, reading spoken word poetry, blogs (as you are doing now), online essays, etc. Not only will you be exposed to traditional texts, but this allows us to move into the more realistic world of digital texts as well. The traditionalist in me is scared to death, but not to fear, the digital texts are just as good if not better. They are so much more accessible and relevant for you and that’s what makes this exciting.
I love writing short stories, can I still do this?
Yes!! Absolutely, but what I love most about this is that you can be creative by developing hybrid texts so that you can write a creative essay, or you can write and perform spoken word poetry. This area of study allows you to focus on your strengths. Not every student is creative, you may be more of a person who just likes to lay out the facts, and you can do that. You may be more visual and that’s ok too. Some ideas that you could do according to the types of mentor texts and the different purposes that you will study could include:
- A podcast in the style of ‘War of the Worlds’
- Spoken word poetry expressing your thoughts on an issue
- An online essay that adopts both creative and factual evidence on a topic/prompt
- A video essay similar to the one above but using images and music as well as words to address a prompt
- A short story in the style of a writer of a mentor text based on the prompt
- A transcript of a persuasive piece
- An interview between two people discussing the prompt
- A feature article for an online magazine about the prompt
- A blog post
The options are endless, but it all depends on the purpose and audience and the parameters surrounding the task that your teacher outlines for you.
How much freedom do I have with my writing?
You have some, but, there’s always a but, you need to ensure that you have adopted the style of a mentor text and that you adhere to the purpose, audience, and context stipulated by your teacher.
What does this mean? Well, if one of your mentor texts is an essay and you have studied one in depth in class identifying the language features, its purpose, how it has been structured, specific vocabulary for an audience, etc, you should be adopting those elements in your writing. In order to do this effectively I use the following table to help my students unpack the mentor text and then they use that document to help them employ those same features within their own writing.
How many pieces of writing do I have to do?
According to the study design, you have to do two. I’m breaking mine up into imaginative, where students will be exposed to a number of imaginative pieces of writing and then given time to plan, draft, craft, edit, and produce their piece in response to a prompt based on the framework of ideas. They will conference with me and with their peers on their ideas and then submit them with a commentary that explains their writing choices (I’ll go through this in a minute).
The second part of the outcome will be on persuasive writing and students will do the same, but instead of giving them time to produce a text, they will complete this in timed conditions to a prompt based on the issues within the framework of ideas. They won’t need to submit a commentary with this.
The reason that we choose to do this in this format is because there’s talk and rumors that there will be a prompt that students will need to respond to in the exam in 2024 for this area of study, so this may prepare them for that if that is the case. Either way, the area of study allows you to develop and craft your ideas but also makes you think on your feet as is the case for exam situations because even if we like it or not, exams still happen.
You mentioned a commentary… what the?
Remember the good old statement of explanation/intention that you had to write previously? This is just the new language adopted in the new study design.
What do I need to write in my commentary? You will need to ensure that you address the following points in your criteria:
- Explain your chosen form of writing and why you are writing it (how have you engaged with the prompt and what is your purpose)
- Explain who you are writing it for and how you have used the language and structural features of the text to appeal to your chosen audience
- What is the process that you went through as you produced your text
- What word choices and style did you employ, and what is the impact of that on your audience
- How have you used the mentor text to guide your writing?
- How did you utilise feedback with teachers and peers and how did this impact your writing?
- Reflect on your choices and how the writing of the mentor text influenced you as an author.
So I don’t really have complete freedom with my writing?
No, sorry. There will always be limitations and parameters that you have to adhere to for control freaks like me, but you have more freedom than I usually allow. Remember that it is best to consult with your teacher in the planning phase to ensure that you’re on the right track and for that initial feedback, you don’t want to spend time writing a whole piece only to be told you haven’t done it properly. Your teacher is your ally, not your enemy.
As always, if you have any questions just ask by shooting me an email at email@example.com or on my insta page.
If you’d like a copy of the resource as a word doc, go to my page on teachers pay teachers
Keep it zesty!
Update: I have uploaded a document and planning guide designed to help write the commentary which is available on my teachers pay teachers page