Thriller Whizz Cool

I am constantly amazed at the tools that are on the web and the fact that there are so many people out there willing to share them.  I found Thriller Whizz on Mark Warner’s wonderful site that includes Ideas to Inspire.  This one was on  Inspire Writing.

Thriller Whizz is designed to generate titles for thriller novels.  However, there are other uses that it can be put to.  To work the generator drag the words that you want onto the lines and press whizz.   A discussion about word classes would be interesting.  Are they all nouns?  What about when used individually and in combination?

If you are familiar with the Talk for Writing activity usual words in unusual combinations (watch the video) then you will find that this little programme can be used in the same way.  For instance I used just word A and word B and generated some great phrases: thunderbolt shuffle, humbug detector, stolen epidemic, chocolate dimension (I live in that one!).  Press the reset button and choose a different order.  Word B followed by word A gave duplicity charabanc and constellation spider.  So much to discuss in terms of meaning for these words individually and when combined.

Click reset again and this time try 3 words.  AAB gave me midnight American forbidding and quiet gorgon phenomonen.  With 3 words you sometimes have to make changes to  make sense but that is OK.  If you want to keep some of the words click on them and then press whizz again.

There are so many combinations to try.  This is a fantastic tool to support children in identifying unusual combinations of words that have a sense.  What’s the best combination that you come up with?

If only I knew how to use Flash, I would make one of these that allowed teachers and children to put in their own words and whizz them.  Maybe a little summer holiday task?

Warming Up the Word: Word Games and Picture Games

We quite often play a game on training days suggested by Pie Corbett in his book JumpStart! StoryMaking called Disasters.  Pie gives an example of 5 disasters for Superman such as his Dad tells him not to start fights or  his Gran gives him kryptonite pants for christmas.

In order to be able to play this game children have to have a good understanding of the story/character that they are devising the disasters for and have to be able to identify events that would cause a problem.

These posters must be the visual equivalent of the disasters game.  They were designed for a Star Wars Convention.

Thanks to @lindseyb16 and @dannynic for sharing.  MyModernMet has all thirteen posters.

Using Images in Literacy to Support Writing

Visual literacy is a vital part of life nowadays. It exists as an area in its own right but it can also be used to support the teaching and learning of  writing. This post is an attempt to describe how we do that. We:-

  • use images to support understanding of literary techniques, e.g. putting title slides in a film that has been run through Moviemaker to show where there would be paragraph changes if it was a written text
  • use images to demonstrate understanding, e.g. collecting a group of images that reflect the meaning of a poem or the theme of a story (focus on images that show not tell)
  • use images to support memory and create a shared understanding, e.g this is most frequently used after a trip or a visitor to the classroom
  • use images to suppport vocabulary development, watch the film for an example of this


Generating description from joy simpson on Vimeo.

  • use images to support understanding of text structure, e.g. through sequencing activities which can develop to show flash backs and other time management techniques
  • use images to help create the message for the reader, e.g. choice of image in a persuasive text or an explanatory text
  • create film

Warming up the word – part 2

Here’s a great activity for warming up the word.  Whenever you read to children get them to record phrases that stand out for them, particularly from poetry and fiction.  Record these and dipslay so that all can see.

Give children thirty seconds to choose 3 or 4 of their favourite and to put them together to create a short poem which they say out loud to the rest of the class.  The whole class identify parts that go well together because of the rhythm, the sound of the words, the images or whatever else. 

Remember – no longer than ten minutes on it altogether. 

Linked posts – Warming up the word part 1

Image by metrognome0 under the Creative Commons Licence

Warming up the Word – Talk for Writing

For some time now as a team we have been thinking about the role of talk for writing in improving writing.  This has been aided by Pie Corbett through attending training and reading his books.  It has become clear to us that there are several key points when planning teaching sequences that need to have talk for writing built in and they are:

  • book talk – talking as a reader
  • writer’s talk – talking as a writer
  • warming up the word
  • learning and remembering texts
  • playing with sentences, and
  • rehearsing and refining your own texts

Over the next year we will be exploring all of these in much more detail, but first I want to focus on warming up the word, or as one teacher describes it – awakening dormant language.

When talking about himself as a writer, Pie describes the need to concentrate or focus on a particular image in his head or feeling and to be able to turn that into words.  Ted Hughes in Poetry in The Making describes this same things by saying

‘by looking at the place in my memory very hard and very carefully and by using words that grow naturally out of pictures and feelings, I capture it.’

So if we want children to develop as writers, it would seem that this is something that we could support them with starting off with external artefacts moving on to internal ones .  In fact we probably do this by using images and generating lists of words.  However, we need to take this further because sometimes the list of words is not very exciting.  Hughes states that you must

‘keep your eyes, your ears, your nose, your taste, your touch, your whole being on the thing you are turning into words.’

So how about generating words for one minute in a quickfire way and record them.  Then as a teacher scaffold the image involving the senses – how did it feel when the wings brushed past you, what could you smell, are there any particular noises that you can hear?  Now allow 2 mins for children to jot down (or the teacher record if writing will hinder the learning) their further ideas.  Share these ideas, celebrate the ones that stand out and allow children to borrow those that they like.  You never know when they may turn up in writing again.  Some thought will need to be given as to how ideas can be recorded for future use.  This whole activity should take no longer than 10 minutes because as Hughes says

‘it should be short and sharp and create a crisis which arouses the brain’s resources.  The compulsion towards haste overthrows the ordinary precautions, flings everything into top gear and many things that are usually hidden find themselves rushed into the open.  Barriers break down, prisoners break out of their cells.’

In poetry and fiction we rely heavily on our own images and feelings as that is what we are trying to convey to the reader.  Non-fiction is slightly different.  Here we need to stick with the external image.  If I am writing a description of a blackbird so that others can identify one in their own garden, it is best if I don’t rely on my own image of that bird but use an image that is actually a blackbird.  The way of generating words and phrases however,  will be exactly the same.

Both writers ponder the same question.  What would happen to children’s writing if they had to write a quick-fire poetry idea every day for a year – ten minutes writing daily?  As Corbett points out, athletes train every day, pianists practice scales every day.  Shouldn’t children be involved in a daily tussle with words?

Ted Hughes learnt to focus through fishing.  He would spend many hours staring at the float pondering on the conditions, the liklihood of catching something and letting his mind wander.  If you would like suggestions for developing this type of quickfire activity then a copy of Pie Corbett’s Jumpstart! Poetry is a good starting place.

And if you enjoy reading blogs, then you might like Deb Renner Smith’s blog  Writing Every Day Works

How do you warm up the word in your classroom?  Please add an idea in the comments section.