Reading time: 5 minutes
This teaching plan predominantly targets AS Paper 2, question 2, which requires students to recast a text from the Paris anthology. The assessment objective in focus is AO5: demonstrate expertise and creativity in the use of English to communicate in different ways. The technique of recasting is an element of the ‘Writing about Society’ component of the A-level specification, and so this teaching plan can usefully guide A-level students through the processes involved. Some of the activities described below also incorporate other assessment objectives and so support learning more broadly.
The following sequence of activities centres around an investigation of the ways in which multimodal texts communicate meaning. While the scrapbook will not be a form that students are asked to recreate in an exam (given its physicality), it is a useful means of exploring how words and images create meaning. As multimodality is a feature of many of the texts in the anthology, and could also from part of an investigation within students’ NEA work, these activities are designed to support understanding of multimodality in general.
- Exploring multimodal meaning in scrapbooks
i) Set up discussion activity: Explore the scrapbook as a form of discourse. A physical example would be ideal, but pictures of scrapbooks can be found on the web (eg using google images). As a class, collaboratively create a list of the kinds of images, objects and text that can be included in a scrapbook.
Other points for discussion could include:
- the physicality of the form (related to AO3)
- the decrease in popularity of the scrapbook in the wake of the growth of digital media and the latter’s different affordances for capturing memories (related to AO3)
- the potentially ‘retro’ style and status of a contemporary scrapbook, how that ‘retro’ quality relates to context and what it contributes to the scrapbook’s meaning
ii) Homework creative activity: Over a weekend, students individually create two pages of a scrapbook representative of their experiences on one or both of the two days.
iii) Comparative activity: Students pair up, share and compare their scrapbook pages, answering the following questions relating to modes:
a) What kind of objects were used and what do they represent? (eg tickets, price labels, scraps of magazines, fabric, wrappers, printed recipes, leaves, etc)
b) What images were used, what do they represent and, if relevant, how realistic or stylised are they? (eg photos, drawn pictures, finger prints, arrows, borders, etc)
c) What text was created and how does it relate to the images or objects and to the overarching narrative of the discourse? (eg framing, connecting, explaining, providing descriptive or narrative detail, etc)
Students pair up and compare their scrapbook pages with respect to the following questions relating to genre and the ways in which narrative has been constructed:
d) How far is a narrative structure apparent in the pages? How is any narrative sequence conveyed (eg through layout, arrows, connecting adverbs, etc)?
e) In what ways are the elements of the scrapbook pages ‘tellable’ ?(‘Tellability’ relates to the qualities of a story which make it worth telling to an audience, eg its relative humour, relevance to the audience, entertainment value, suspense, surprise, irony, interest, etc.)
f) What kind of tone, if any, is apparent in the scrapbook? Are there any humorous, reflective, suspenseful or dark patches? Do the scrapbook pages function as a diary, a descriptive documentary, an adventure story, a comedy, etc?
iv) Re-creative activity: If the group dynamic allows for it, students could, in small groups, cut up and recombine elements of their individual scrapbooks to create a single, coherent, fictional few pages of an idealised day or event, or of a day or event communicated in a fashion representative of a particular genre. This activity replicates the recreative task at AS level (‘Remembered Places’ question 2, AO5.)
Each group then prepares to explain the choices they made in selecting and arranging the parts of their group scrapbook pages and share their pages with the rest of the class. This activity replicates the commentary on recreative writing task at AS level (‘Remembered Places’ question 3, AO2 and AO3).
- Re-casting verbal texts as multimodal texts
This activity builds on the prior creative work, applying the ideas and concepts involved to texts from the Paris anthology.
i) Re-casting activity: In pairs, students choose one of the following 9 texts from the Paris anthology.
- Mike and Sophia, ‘Visiting Paris’
- Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe (extract)
- Eurostar advert ‘Stories are Waiting in Paris’
- Personal Narrative: Anna
- Rick Steves, ‘Rick Steves’ Walking Tour of the Louvre Museum’
- Isabella, ‘La Parc Monceau’, from ‘Memories of places in Paris’ by Isabella and Sophia
- Wild Night Music of Paris, The Toronto Star Weekly, 25th March 1922
- Peter Lennon, Foreign Correspondent: Paris in Sixties (extract)
- Helen Maria Williams, Letter II of IV, from Letters from France 1790-1796 (extract from Travel Writing 1700-1830: An Anthology).
a) In their pairs, students re-read what is narrated and described in their chosen text, and collaboratively write a short summary.
b) Individually, students recast their chosen text (or a part of it) in the form of a few pages from a scrapbook (including drawing the objects they would include). This activity replicates the recreative task at AS level (‘Remembered Places’ question 2, AO5.)
ii) Reflective commentary activity:
a) In their pairs again, students compare their recast versions, and explain to each other what decisions they made in the recasting process. While not requiring a structured, written commentary, this activity prepares students for the commentary on recreative writing task at AS level (‘Remembered Places’ question 3, AO2 and AO3).
b) Having explained the choices they made, students can then reflect on what the nature of the recasting process and the decisions they had to make reveals about the nature of the base text, eg the relative tellability of elements of the base text, the point of view involved, the availability of images associated with the verbal content, the structural ordering and relationships between parts, etc.
c) Through whole class discussion, students can be guided to reflect on how images and words signify meaning differently, and how the two can interrelate to function communicatively together. This supports the study of multimodality and genre more generally in the anthology.
More material on recasting texts and on the related concepts and terms referred to in this teaching plan can be found in the English Language and Literature A/AS Level for AQA Student Book (Cambridge: University Press, 2015) and in Textual Intervention: Critical and Creative Strategies for Literary Studies by Rob Pope (Routledge, 1995).