Wednesday 28 April 2021

My 'secret strings' game to unlock 'texts' (stories, poems, plays, non-fiction etc)

 You tell the children/students that they are going to be poem or story 'detectives' and their job is find the 'secret strings' in a poem or story - or play or any 'text'.

Secret strings run within texts linking words, phrases, sentences and pictures or 'images'. The students' job is to find them. 

Sometimes the link is to do with sound - eg alliteration, assonance, rhythm, rhyme, repetition, long phrases, short phrases. 

Sometimes the links is to do with images - similar, contrasting. 

Sometimes the links are to do with repeated actions or 'motifs' or themes. 

Sometimes it's different words with a similar theme - 'lexical field', as it's called. 

Anything links to anything else if you can prove it.

Authors quite often don't know the secret strings that they themselves have created.

The longer you play the game, the more you find out about how a text is put together.

The longer you play the game, the more you start to come up with thoughts about what the text means and why it's been put together in a particular way. 

One example of 'motif': in 'Where the Wild Things Are' - Max says he'll eat his mother up. His mother sends him to bed with having anything to eat. The Wild Things say they'll eat him up. When Max gets home, there's something for him to eat. Secret strings. If we ask what is the symbolic meaning of 'eating', we might say, 'gratification'? 'Pleasure'? Then the secret strings tell us a little story about forbidden, withheld and granted pleasure...

Then there are the secret strings between texts - called 'intertextuality. You can apply the same method - echoes, allusions, shared themes, shared imagery, shared archetypes, shared plot lines, share genres...these are all the play of secret strings between texts. Looking for them, finding them, talking about them is a great way to discover how texts are structured and helping us to find out how themes and ideas are given to us. 

You can play these games by actually drawing on texts (if that's allowed!). I've seen children sitting on the floor with a poem copied in large format on to a sheet of sugar paper with huge margins all round. The children had different coloured felt-tips and drew loops round the items they were linking and lines for the 'secret strings'. Different colours for different reasons for the link is fun.