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Building tension in narrative writing
The Strictly Come Dancing judges cast the votes that will lead to the dismissal of one dancing couple. Tennis player Martina Hingis and her professional dance partner Matthew Cutler are up against television presenter Rav Wilding and his professional dance partner Aliona Vilani. The judges comment on how the dancers have improved and the vote is evenly split - two votes each. However, the chairman of the judges has the casting vote and Martina Hingis is voted off the show. The tension is built as each judge makes their decision, and the losing couple perform a final dance before they go. This clip was first created on the Strictly Come Dancing website, bbc.co.uk/strictlycomedancing/. Please note this clip is only available in Flash.
Watch the clip with the children and then ask the class how they think the dancing couples are feeling at each part of the judging process. For example, before the judging begins, they may be feeling confident that theirs was the better dance or nervous about the decision because they think they have made some mistakes. As the votes are cast, confidence or anxiety will rise or fall and at the end of the process, obviously one dancing couple will be relieved and the other upset, or possibly not! Discuss emotions at different times with children and how the emotion and tension of a judging final can be translated into our writing.
Ask the children to imagine they are one of the dancers. Do they have an internal dialogue going on in their head? As each vote comes in, the chances of them staying in or going home rises and falls and this can be demonstrated in the narrative written.
Putting some examples on the board of first person narrative, such as 'No way! I can't believe he got the vote, I thought Bruno liked me!' etc., write an internal narrative that shows children how you expect them to write building tension. The class can work in pairs to build tension in their internal monologues. Can they contrast between different dancers to build the writing? Differentiation suggests that better writers should be able to do this whereas supported writers would be better focussing on just one dancer. When the children have finished, play some of the examples against the tape with the sound turned down. It will be extremely entertaining to watch the results with the dancers internal thoughts. Eventually this could be turned into a play.
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