Personal Recounts

We have just completed the unit on Personal Recounts, and I thought it would be helpful for you if I put together a sort of summary to get everything into perspective.

 We started out with Readers’ Theatre, where all of you got into groups and read out different parts from a scene in My Family and Other Animals. Apart from giving you valuable reading practice and the chance to hear each other read, the purpose of this activity was also to bring the scene to life in some way, so that when we used it as an example on how to construct a personal recount plan, you would be able to picture it, and understand what was going on. The scene we used was from the last chapter- An Entertainment With Animals. It started at the point when Leslie discovered the snakes in the bath tub and was understandably taken aback, and ended with the point where Theodore finished his hilarious recount of the fire engine episode in Corfu, Many of you put in excellent performances, and I wish we could have had more time for the best group in each class to have presented their reading to everyone in the class.

 The next stage required you to write some reflections on the activity. Writing reflections helps with being aware of your learning process, and in this case it also led you to think about how you might approach the scene if you were asked to recount it.

Thirdly, you constructed a personal recount question, given the theme you wanted to focus on in the scene and the character whose point of view you wanted to take. So, for example, if you chose the theme Animals Creating Trouble and took Larry’s perspective, then your question might be “Write about a time when animals wreaked havoc for you and your family”. On the other hand, if you chose to be Mother and your theme was Plans Going Awry, your question might be “Write about a time when things did not go according to plan”. The next step was to break the question into sub-parts, which would help you to organize your essay as you answered each of them.

 After all this, I felt you needed something concrete to cling to, so I printed notes from Graeme Spencer’s composition book for you, and went through some of the main points, before asking you to read the notes in detail and try out the tasks selectively. I can only hope that you realise that I asked you to do this because it would be beneficial for you. At some point the spoonfeeding has to end and you must take initiative for your own learning. I am sure many of you are aware of this, and have sincerely made the effort to go through the notes. The main learning point I picked out from the notes were:

  1. You can divide your recount into 3 parts- incident, complication and reflection
  2. Avoid melodrama, even if the question seems to call for it
  3. Stick with what you know- the key is REALISM. EVen if it never really happened to you, it should be possible for it to have happened to you
  4. The past tense is the predominant tense
  5. Look into what people say, what they do, and how you feel. So what you need to develop is a vocabulary of action verbs, speech verbs and mental verbs

 We took a step away from MF&OA when I showed you an episode from FRIENDS- the one with the resolutions. I would like to repeat at this point what I told you in class: that my showing you this episode is in no way to be construed as an endorsement on my part of the series as a whole for people of your age. I carefully chose the episode I showed you because of the relevance of the theme (resolutions) and the absence of objectionable content that could harm you in any way. We talked about making resolutions and how hard it can be to keep to them.

Lastly, you wrote a structured essay on resolutions- Write about a time when you made a resolution and failed to keep to it. Some of you found the pace very intense- each paragraph had to be written in 10 minutes. But rest assured- it is good training for the sort of intensity you need to produce a good composition in one hour.

Well done, my friends. We move on to narratives next.

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