Over the last few years, I have joined a few writing groups. A few Zoom meetings too.
They all seem to be organized in different ways.
Some groups you are given a prompt to write and bring along to the next meeting; in another it was being given a set time and then to feedback on what you had achieved; in another it was a spontaneous prompt and after 20 minutes you were invited to share your work if you wished and maybe comment.
One of the groups I attended would invite people to lead, it took me a while but eventually I felt brave enough to give it a go.
This is my second lead of the writing group
I had decided to work with nonsense words.
This was inspired by my teaching experiences in schools where I would be asked to teach a phonics lesson.
The children in some schools are taught Read Write Inc (RWI).
Read Write Inc. is a phonics scheme. Like all phonics schemes, it teaches children the sounds in English, the letters that represent them, and how to form the letters when writing.
But they will also come across ‘Alien Words’ (non-words) which they are encouraged to sound out and say “What a load of rubbish”. Putting the words in the bin!
I was always a bit disappointed in this part of the lesson because it seemed to be encouraging children to discard a word if they didn’t know it or it was unfamiliar language.
I love words and nonsense can be a lot of fun.
But how would the adult writers feel.
What a load of Nonsense (Task One)
The first task was to choose a word or two and to write a definition that they might find in a dictionary. From here they would need to use the word/s in a given story.
We were given 20 minutes to write.
I wasn’t expecting the response.
The adults present all embraced the new words and were giggling along as they wrote.
(Certainly, an improvement on the tears from the last lead which had involved keys)
One or two writers did feel outside their comfort zone but all made attempts which were great.
We listened and giggled along to each person’s take on the given word and I’m sure Lewis Carroll and Spike Milligan would have approved.
It also sparked a bit of discussion about learning to read.
Nonsense Task Two
For this part of the writing prompt, I had brought along a few Lego Mixels.
Mixels are small creatures that can mix and combine with one another in creative and unpredictable story lines.
They are in family groups of three with colour and theme to match.
I had collected the names of each group; a few pictures as well. I had also four little Lego models to show as well.
I think Ricky Gervais who wrote 'Flanimals' would like these too?
I’m sure these names would have been in the RWI bin but they are the names of the little Lego Characters. Three in each troupe.
The task was to write a dialogue between a few of the little characters with a further suggestion that if you wanted to write in another language (perhaps even a made-up nonsense language) who would be able to say if it was real or not?
I had cheated and had already prepared a Google Translation in Spanish.
Again, the writers were giggling along, but they were also preoccupied in each of the Lego characters and wanted to know more.
After the 20 minutes we were again able to listen to each other’s take on the writing prompt and again there were lots of giggles and fun.
At the end of the session everyone agreed that this had taken them well out of their comfort zones, but that it had been a fun and enjoyable task.
I could breathe a sigh of relief.
Maybe this would be a good set of writing for our Annul Creative Writing Wordfest Booklet.
A load of Nonsense indeed!
The next time I teach phonics I doubt I would be able to say if it was an alien word. If you can sound it out and say it, I’m sure you can write about it and if you can’t? Well there are lots of words from other languages you might have trouble pronouncing and just because you can’t say it doesn’t mean it is nonsense.
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