Teaching: The Collective MH370 Novel

So as part of my school’s Writing Week, I was tasked with organising a special assembly for year 7, based around the theme of Writing.

Naturally, I decided to make life harder than necessary by opting to carry out an audacious literary project/ experiment: writing a whole novel about missing Malaysia Airline Flight MH370, in 40 minutes.

Naturally, it worked out wonderfully. How? Well, let me elaborate (via the slides and resources I used).

 

Step 1: Set the mood

novel

I started with a few ‘Thunk’ style questions as a segue into the next section. I asked the kids to pick one and reflect on it, before getting some plucky volunteers to stand up, and whittling down the volunteers until I had one kid to start the whole thing off.

 

Step 2: Talk about Truman Capote a bit

novel2

I had to let the kids know that turning a tragic event into prose is nothing knew. A few minutes on Truman Capote’s 1966 novelisation of a brutal 1959 multiple murder had year 7 suitably grave, and ready to write with earnestness and respect.

 

Step 3: MH370

novel3

The challenge is on. Thankfully, there were no cries of ‘Illuminati!’ to the triangle I inadvertently formed by connecting three of my schools core attributes…

 

Step 4: Sort out the sequence/ divvy up the plot

novel4

This is the messy bit that took a fair amount of forethought. I had to come up with six sections of narrative (one for each tutor group) that could be loosely tied to an overall story regarding missing flight MH370. (The question in red pertained to a big creative decision each group would need to make).

 

Step 5: Give each kid an opening line

novel5

Another labour-intensive section. I had to come up with 12 opening sentences for each section (one for each writer), loosely connected in an unwritten narrative that would be logical, but loose enough to allow for individual creativity. My efforts can be seen below, unlike all the frantic guillotining I had to do minutes before starting. Scroll down and keep scrolling…

Opening

People waiting to board Malaysia flight MH370

Big decision: What mood should this be?

 

  1. The man looked at his watch.

  2. Inside the airport terminal…

  3. Shuffling their feet with impatience, the passengers waited to board.

  4. The sun slowly vanished behind a cloud.

  5. A family ran to the gate, hoping not to be late.

  6. Slowly, the plane taxied on the runway.

  7. The whining of planes could be heard in the sky

  8. A bird circled in the sky.

  9. Again, the pilot checked his instruments.

  10. The flight attendants walked side by side down across the terminal.

  11. A woman nervously looked for her passport

  12. Outside the airport terminal…

Development

The plane takes off (decision: Who is the most dangerous person/ persons on the plane?)

 

  1. The engines began to whir…

  2. Outside the plane, there was a low rumble of thunder…

  3. Again, the man looked at his watch.

  4. The pilot hoped that…

  5. Light rain began to fall.

  6. Flight attendants busied themselves helping the passengers…

  7. Then the engines roared to life.

  8. The wheels lifted away from the tarmac.

  9. Suddenly, the plane was in the sky…

  10. Everything was calm…

  11. Sunlight streamed into the cabin.

  12. The engines hummed happily as flight MH70 continued its flight.

 

Complication

Something goes wrong (decision: What went wrong?)

 

  1. For the first few hours, everything was as normal.

  2. The pilot made an announcement.

  3. No-one noticed the man who…

  4. Then the pilot realised that…

  5. Something wasn’t right…

  6. Someone hadn’t told the pilot that…

  7. Suddenly, the plane lurched in the sky…

  8. Outside, there was a crack of thunder…

  9. The passengers began to wonder what was wrong…

  10. A woman noticed that…

  11. Meanwhile, another passenger noticed that…

  12. The passengers hoped that…

Climax

The most dramatic part (What happens to the plane to make it go off course?)

 

  1. It only took seconds for…

  2. Then it happened…

  3. There was a huge noise when…

  4. Suddenly, a woman screamed…

  5. The man sprang to his feet.

  6. The pilot knew he had to…

  7. There was another loud noise…

  8. With no warning, the plane began to…

  9. People started to panic…

  10. It was chaos!

  11. The pilot tried to call for help but…

  12. The plane began to dip in the sky.

Disaster?

An even more dramatic part (decision: What is the biggest thing that happens after the plane goes off course?)

 

  1. Then, the worst happened.

  2. The pilot tried his best to…

  3. The cabin crew tried to get everyone to remain calm…

  4. A flight attendant was…

  5. Two men tried to…

  6. The noise was…

  7. When the plane started to…

  8. Suddenly, the plane..

  9. With no warning…

  10. The passengers knew that the worst had happened…

  11. It was too late.

  12. Flight MH370 had lost communication with the world

Resolution

The end of the story (Big decision: where is the plane now?)

 

  1. Everything was still.

  2. The engines, once roaring, were now…

  3. The passengers looked…

  4. Most of the passengers were now…

  5. The plane was…

  6. All over the world, people were…

  7. The pilot was now…

  8. Luckily, some of the passengers had…

  9. Unfortunately, many of the passengers were still…

  10. The man with the watch…

  11. The night skies shone with stars over the Indian Ocean…

  12. Up above, planes continued to search for flight MH320…

Step 6: Write

novel6

I encouraged the kids to keep an open dialogue with their peers, in order to maintain some kind of coherence. Not sure if it worked, and some of them didn’t quite get that they were supposed to expand their sentence, but hey.

 

And that’s it. 20 minutes later, I had a collection of paragraphs that amounted to, sort of, a cohesive dramatisation of the missing flight MH370. It was nice to see how respectful the kids were with the subject matter (following my ‘humanity’ prompt).

Right. Until next time.

-Sir

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