Inspiring Reluctant Writers

I teach a lot of boys who are reluctant to write. As the tutor, it’s my job to be flexible and adapt the way I work to suit them. After all, they will write much better if they’re feeling inspired and motivated.

So that’s where I was at recently. One of my pupils hates English – both reading and writing – so I was struggling to come up with something you he might enjoy when he suddenly suggested he might like to try writing an article for a car magazine.

My heart sank. I’d never read a car magazine in my life and it’s not something I’d ever planned to do in the future. I asked my husband what sort of style car magazines are written in. His reply, that if I’d ever heard Jeremy Clarkson speak I’d know what the style was like, made my heart sink further.

And so, with my heart trying to escape through the bottom of my shoes, I flipped over the first page of Car magazine. Sighing deeply I scanned through the first few pages, really not expecting to be inspired. However, within a couple of minutes I was scribbling away in a notebook, and within 10 minutes I had enough ideas to last most of the year, assuming we spend 1-3 weeks on each one.

My plan is to write a complete magazine using as many different writing styles as possible. First of all we’ll have a look together at the editorial and write one of our own in an over-the-top, over-enthusiastic, chatty style. Then we’ll get to work on writing various articles.

Obviously we will need to include a review of a car (opinion piece) and an advert or two (persuasive writing) but we can also include an article about a F1 or rally driver (biography) and one on how to stay safe on the roads (explanation). We can write a comparative text (comparing three cars by the same manufacturer) and a factual piece about a famous or classic car such as the Aston Martin or E-type Jaguar. And of course an article about stunt drivers covers non chronological reports nicely!

We can include some light-hearted styles too: we can do some good descriptions by writing lonely hearts ads for different types of car; we can match cars to celebrities, explaining why they would be suited; write a piece about cars in the movies; write a top 10 fastest/ugliest/whatever of cars and an awards page for the most overpriced, best value for money, car you’d be most embarrassed for your friends to see you driving…. and of course the “letters to the editor” page takes ticks the letter writing box.

If there is still time to spare after fitting all that in, we can write a speech to persuade the Dragons to invest in publishing the magazine.

These are just the ideas I came up with in the first 10 minutes of opening the magazine. I’m sure there are many more to be found so if you think of more ideas I would love you to share them in the comments below.

S is also for….. similes

SWe have already talked about using adjectives in your writing. Another good way to describe something is to use a simile. If you’re not sure what a simile is, think of the description of Snow White. She had “hair as black as ebony, lips as red as blood and skin as white as snow.

A simile compares two things, so instead of just saying her lips were red, the writer tells us how red. There are two things to bear in mind when using similes:

First – you need to compare to something that everybody knows, so “as white as a newly-fallen snowflake” is a good simile because everyone knows what snow is like when it first falls, whereas “as white as my dad’s car” is not a good simile because unless we’ve seen your dad’s car we don’t know whether is a bright, shiny white because he polishes it every day, or whether it’s a dirty-white because he forgets to clean it.

Second – you need to compare it to something that is always the same, so “as red as a ripe strawberry” is a good simile because all ripe strawberries are red, but “as red as a pencil” isn’t good because not all pencils are red.

Have a go yourself now. How would you describe the length of Rapunzel’s hair?

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