Show the pupils the Robert Westall film. In this film the group of KS3 pupils involved in the workshop discover part of the Robert Westall archive at Seven Stories. Ask your group if they can recall any books they have read that were based on the author's memories of their own childhood.
Show the video 'Introduction'. Reinforce the idea that the one subject matter everyone is an expert on is themselves.
Students are tasked to think of a favourite place, and to think of one object they associate with that location – the more unusual or 'random', the better. Share their results and discuss what their choices say about themselves as characters.
Students are tasked with walking around the room visualising their imagined place, trying to 'see' every detail of it. At a given signal, the pupils freeze and, when asked, describe what they are looking at. An alternative approach for a seated classroom environment could be for the pupils to mime putting on a virtual reality headset, closing their eyes and 'seeing' different parts of their chosen place by turning their heads.
Pupils continue exploring their locations, thinking first about the sense impressions; temperature, sounds etc. they perceive, then about the feelings and the emotional response the place produces.
Pupils are given a sheet of A4 paper and asked to record the object they thought of during the 'getting started' section. They can choose a preferred way of notating their responses to the object; prose, spider diagram, labelled drawing etc.
Pupils record their imagined place; a physical description, plus their impressions reactions to it. Again they can use their preferred methods of notation. Ask pupils to share their results.
20 years on
Pupils discuss their methods of recording their ideas and the comparisons with the apporach of Robert Westall are reinforced.
Pupils fold away their A4 sheet and imagine they are at a reunion in 2035. They describe what they have become and their reactions to what they recorded in 2015.
1. Set the pupils with the homework task of using their A4 notes as the starting point of a 150 word section of a story. It need not be the opening section, but should be a convincing piece of writing. 2. In the following lesson, handout the extract 'WestallEdit.jpg', from the Seven Stories archive of Robert Westall materials. Explain that publishers seldom print books exactly as the author has written them. The publishers use an experienced editor to offer suggested improvements where needed. Talk through the three comments made by Robert Westall's editor and see if the pupils can think of one word or phrase that explains what the editor is trying to improve in Westall's work. If you have a copy of the Machine Gunners to hand, you can track down the published version – most editions it is around page 14, or ask the pupils to take two sentences from the unedited section and google them. Not all the editor's suggestions were used. 3. Arrange the pupils into pairs, ask them to exchange their homework, and take on the role of editor and make pencilled suggestions for improvements. Let them know that if they make no useful edits, then you, as their Line Manager will want a convincing explanation of why you should continue employing them. 4. Ask each pair to choose one piece of their writing and editing to read to the rest of the group.