85 things Essay examples

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85 Things to do with Non-Fiction Texts
Geoff Barton www.geoffbarton.co.uk email: geoffbarton@mac.com

1. Take the opening of two biographies and compare the writers’ approaches – eg Forster's and Ackroyd’s on Dickens (eg Pair & Compare 2)
2. Rewrite the opening in a different style – eg as a conversation, chat-show interview, TV news report
3. Write about someone you know, admire, dislike and write the opening of their biography
4. Write about a moment in your own life as if you were the biographer: “At this stage Geoffrey hadn’t realised that a large dog was moving up behind him. As he stood there, gazing at the lake, he suddenly felt hot breath on his hands …”
5. Explore the ethics of unauthorised biographies – eg Kitty Kelley on Nancy Reagan, Tom Bowers on Richard Branson, Andrew Norton on Posh n Becks: “do they provide a useful service?
6. Compare the same event in an unauthorised biography with the same in an official biography or autobiography (eg Roald Dahl in Genres, Longman)
7. Write a letter from the subject of an unauthorised biography responding
8. Write your own autobiography based on 3-5 key moments, structuring them in reverse order: aim to show how you came to be the person you are now
9. Write an interview with yourself about a key moment in your life
10. Look again at Peter Ackroyd’s Dickens. Notice how he uses pastiche, interview, even a dream sequence to explore his subject. Do the same with your own or someone else’s life.

11. Cut up random bits from John Carey’s Faber Book of Reportage. Play Antiques Roadshow. What can we tell about when this text was written, who is speaking, what is going on?
12. Take sentences from a range of non-fiction texts. Play ‘spot the genre’
13. Compare an eyewitness account of an event with a newspaper report
14. Look at some reportage from the nineteenth century or earlier (eg Report from the Parliamentary Committee on Child Labour) and re-present it as a television insert for Newsround (text available in Genres, Longman)
15. Compare the text above with Dickens’ memory of the Blacking Warehouse (Genres, Longman)

Media texts
16. Compare a Radio 4 report with a Radio 1 report on the same story
17. Compare a radio cricket commentary with a TV version: is the radio language more descriptive?
18. Compare today’s main television news story with a newspaper front page
19. Slice the paragraphs in a newspaper story into bits and get students to reassemble them – a test of the pyramid story structure
20. Compare the screenplay of Jaws with an extract from the novel
21. Take the start of a screenplay (eg Gladiator) and create a storyboard for it
22. Watch a sequence of The Wrong Trousers and discuss how Nick Park conveys the character of Gromit without using words
23. Cut out five photographs from today’s newspapers. Discuss why they were chosen to illustrate certain stories. Invent captions to accompany them

Historical writing
24. Read an eyewitness account of an event (eg Titanic ) and compare it with a newspaper report
25. Take a historical event (eg eruption of Vesuvius) (see Reportage) and present it as a TV news story
26. Read Lyn MacDonald’s acco9unt of WW1 And compare it with a more formal style
27. Read the account of Eton by an anonymous schoolboy (Two Centuries) and write his mother’s reply, or a complain to the Headteacher
28. Create an anthology of texts to illustrate a specific month, day, year – use diaries, letters, newspaper front pages. Label them to show the distinctive language features of each genre
29. Write the opening of a history book about today
30. Take a history book and experiment with the style – eg change tenses, pronouns (to second person), formality, technical terms. Write a commentary on what you have changed and what the effect is.

Scientific writing
31. Read Delia Smith’s account of testing eggs. Think of another ‘trick of the trade’ and write a hints leaflet
32. Write a