The Writers’ Workshop: Videos for text analysis with your students
Secondary School students often struggle with text analysis. They not only find it difficult to draw out the themes of a text, it can also prove challenging to understand how literary devices and techniques are used to deepen meaning and produce a riveting story for the reader.
What better way for students to develop their text analysis skills than by hearing authors talk about the writing process? By understanding how an author develops and constructs a narrative, students can then use that knowledge to deconstruct a given text and improve their literary analysis skills. The creative writing process is also a key focus throughout with great tips and ideas for young writers.
I interviewed four Australian authors to ask them about the writing process and the way a text is constructed. The result is an entertaining and insightful four-part video series, The Writers’ Workshop, now available on ClickView.
The videos will help students develop skills to better deconstruct and analyse texts that they are studying. The importance of characterisation, theme, and genre are stressed throughout the videos and will give students a strong grasp of these writing concepts. Students learn how to identify and draw these concepts out of texts, which will assist in their next essay or text analysis assignment.
Character Analysis, Genre, Theme and Creative Process
The Writers’ Workshop includes four videos, each covering a key element of creative writing and textual analysis:
1. Character Analysis
In the first video, the authors explain the techniques of characterisation, narrative point of view, and character function. Students learn about the importance of character roles or relationships from a writing perspective. By understanding how authors use these techniques, students develop skills in character analysis.
A significant element of any text, the genre shapes the way in which any book is written. This video will help students understand that books are written with very different conventions and styles. Students will further their text analysis skills by understanding different genres, including structures, tone and mood, and how a particular text conforms to or challenges the generic conventions. It’s interesting for students to see how much time and thought an author puts into their writing to achieve the desired genre.
This is something that students often struggle to draw out of a text, and therefore an important video in this series. Our third video in the series looks at theme from the authors’ perspective and how it affects their writing process, so students can learn to identify the underlying theme of any text. It’s interesting for students to see that different authors decide on and identify the theme of their writing with very different approaches. We also take a closer look at the theme of Australian identity.
4. Creative Process
The secrets of the creative writing process revealed! Understanding how a text is constructed informs the students’ own creative processes. Authors talk about the way they write and where they find inspiration. An important takeaway for students is that there’s no right or wrong way when writing creatively. From this video, students gain skills and advice to help them embark on their own creative writing.
Using These Videos to Analyse Texts with Your Students
The Writers’ Workshop addresses Secondary School English students, Year 10 – 12, who will gain direct insight into the world of authors and learn how they use these literary devices in their writing.
The videos are a great resource for teachers and students to be watched collectively as a class to learn and familiarise themselves with these textual analysis concepts. Alternatively this new series is a great opportunity for teachers to embrace the flipped classroom approach and have their students watch the videos at home, in preparation for a class where students will be expected to analyse and discuss a new text together.
You’ll also find detailed teacher resources along with each video including comprehension questions, creative writing activities, character analysis, and more, which take the videos’ key concepts one step further and make sure the students have engaged with the video subject matter.
Interviews with Four Australian Authors
The Writers’ Workshop series includes interviews with the following four Australian authors: Amra Pajalic, Gabrielle Wang, Tony Wilson, and Angela Savage – a special thank you to each author for contributing so much to this series and assisting us in exploring the fascinating world of writing.
You can now find all four videos on ClickView Online. Alternatively, as a small preview of what to expect from the videos and the key learnings, below are a few highlights. In the full video series, the authors explain important aspects of writing such as creating a unifying vision, the question of identity, establishing a sense of reality, creating the appropriate tone and mood, and a lot more. To watch the full series, log into ClickView Online.
We hope you enjoy the new series and that it assists your students in better understanding textual analysis concepts.
Series Preview: The Writers’ Workshop
When asked about characterisation, Amra and Tony explain how using different types of speech, vocabulary, and behaviour helps build believable characters.
Amra: I think the most important thing is the voice of the character; being able to really create that sense of how a young person talks and thinks and reacts, because we know that at that time in our lives, we’re a little bit less cautious, we’re a little bit more impulsive. But it’s also looking at the descriptions that you use, about really creating that sense of, somebody being able to see, smell, hear everything that’s happening in the book, and feeling like they are actually there.
Tony: Sometimes you look for speech affectations. Sometimes you look for dropping of vowels. I had one character in Players who left a lot of pauses in his speech, and you do get a sense that he’s a slow, boring guy. Rapid-fire speech, where words run together, that can work really well. Accents can work quite well. I gave one character a ‘hiss’, who speaks with a ‘sss’, and I’ve got a friend who does that. Characters that finish your sentence for you – anything where you can grab a thing that they do in speech can be very useful in terms of giving the character a voice.
Fundamental questions and structures play a pivotal role for authors to reach the desired genre of their books.
Angela: When it comes to crime fiction, the question that classic detective fiction writer’s pose, is of course “Who done it?” In classic adventure stories, it’s “What happens next?” When you put “Who done it” alongside “What happens next?” You get suspense, you get the thriller. Most stories essentially come down to the idea of planting a question in a reader’s mind and then delaying giving them the answer. Charles Dickens put it beautifully, he said, “Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait.”
Amra: The romance genre, like every genre, has certain conventions and certain things that need to happen. For example, we have the beginning and the orientation where we’re finding out about the characters. That would usually happen in the first three chapters. The hero and heroine need to meet very early on, in order for that to develop. There has to be all these different obstacles that are keeping them from not declaring their love or being able to be together. Then we’ve got that moment where everything explodes and with romance, that’s that black moment where it’s like ‘nope, not going to happen’. Then, there is the falling tension and some way of this being resolved and then we’re going to have the happy ending.
The theme is the central idea behind a story, however it isn’t communicated directly, but through characters, action, and setting. Some writers start with a theme while others are less guided by it.
Tony: I think it’s almost the first thing that’s decided. Or at least when the idea comes, what identifies it as a good idea is that it has a theme that resonates with the author. I had been thinking, can I do a book about the twenty-four hour news cycle? That’s where the theme is leading the story. For me, it’s been: ‘There’s the idea, what if this happened?’
Gabrielle: I don’t determine the theme. The novel determines the theme. Once I’ve done a lot of work on the book, themes will come out. For me, they’re usually the same themes. I don’t do it on purpose but they’re usually things that I have always wanted to explore.
I realised that my themes were reoccurring and they were identity, because I was always looking, “Am I Chinese? Am I Australian? What am I?” Identity is always a theme that runs through all my novels.
Finding a good idea for a story can prove challenging. Gabrielle and Angela open up on where they get their writing inspiration from.
Gabrielle: First and foremost, my ideas have come from my childhood memories, and then they also have come from my family history because my great grandfather came out during The Gold Rush in the 1850s and I was able to put him in a book, in the Poppy Series. Imagination is a muscle. If you don’t use it, it just withers and dies. But if you use it, the more you use it, the more ideas come. That’s what’s exciting about being an author.
Angela: I sometimes get ideas from stories and newspapers. Sometimes it’s just a fragment of the conversation, sometimes it’s a person I pass in the street with an unusual face or an unusual gesture, and then my mind starts asking the classic writer’s question of ‘What if…?’ What if that person had just come from a tragic kind of occasion, what if that person was on their way to murder someone? So, I think there is a degree to which the ideas come through a combination of luck and work.