Cecil Slack
The Great War 1914 - 1918

English Writing Teaching Resources

This is the English resources section where you will find teaching activities for English - especially writing.

These are intended for use by teachers and pupils at KS2 and KS3 of the National Curriculum for England and Wales.

They may be helpful for teachers and students working at other levels.

Although this page concentrates on writing, most activities will require pupils to speak and listen and to read at different times.

If you are a pupil, you may be able to work on your own.

If this is too hard, your teacher will help you.

Remember that this site is written for children and grown-ups, in primary, junior and secondary schools, as well as teachers and other visitors.

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Choosing a Form

Every written (and spoken) text has a maker (one or more speakers or writers), a purpose (what the maker wants to do) and an audience (readers or listeners).

The maker should try to choose an appropriate form.

This tells the author things like whether to write I or he, put things in the present or past, and so on.

This helps the audience know how to read the text.

For the activities on this page, you may make use of the letters and diaries on this site, but you will write different kinds of text.

Some will be suggested to you, but you may come up with ideas of your own, or ideas your teacher gives you.

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When teachers get stuck they often ask you to retell a story as a newspaper report - perhaps because these are short and easy to mark!

Here are some other suggestions for writing tasks based on information in the letters and diaries:

  • Using details from one or more letters, write a script for a TV or radio news broadcast. If it's for TV, you may write what the viewers will see. decide whether it's to be on before or after the Watershed (ask your teacher about this!). If it's later, you may show more graphic violence.
  • Write a scene or episode for a feature film, based on Cecil's and Dora's story, as told in their letters. It is acceptable to change details, if the story is broadly true. You must use screenplay format. Your teacher will advise you how to do this.
  • Suppose that after the war Cecil met a German soldier who had fought against him. Write, as an episode in a story, what would have happened. Your teacher may suggest a beginning for you.
  • Make a comic strip, based on one or more of the letters on this site. Don't worry if you are not good at drawing, but think about the text beneath the picture (caption) and what will go in speech or thought bubbles.
  • Write a letter to Cecil's and Dora's descendants. Your teacher can select the best of these, or you may write one letter from your whole class. When you have checked it, your teacher can post or e-mail it to the Slack family. (Send it to the author of this Web site, who will forward it!)
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Planning and Drafting

Computers are excellent tools for composing your work, as you can make notes, check, revise and cut and paste.

When you use this site, you can copy text from the letters or diaries, and paste this into your own work, before making alterations.

Depending on the system (network) you are using at school (or home) you may be able to send drafts to other people - friends, parents or teachers. They can make suggestions and send it back.

If you use a word-processor, there are many tools you can use to improve your work.

Use spell checking, grammar checking, and cutting/pasting, for example.

Use find and replace commands to improve your work.

Use highlighting to show your friends how to correct theirs.

Below are more detailed accounts of how to write for particular purposes.

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Writing to Entertain - Imaginative Writing

Use the information in the letters and diaries to write texts which have a real historical background, but which you have made up.

Some possibilities are scripts for plays, screenplays for feature films, short stories and poems.

To draft these, read a range of letters, and copy and paste things into a word processor or text file.

Don't take too long over this - if you like it, grab it.

When you have enough (you or your teacher must decide when this is - it depends upon how much time you have for the work), stop.

Look at what you have collected, and use the drag tool to move things around.

Add connecting words.

Write the bits you need to make the story/poem/play you want to create.

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Writing to Inform

This may be hard because the original letters were written mostly to inform.

But you can use different forms of writing.

For example, you could write a report on Cecil by his commanding officer.

Perhaps the report would praise him, or perhaps the report writer would complain about something - for example, that Cecil makes jokes about things, or that he writes too many letters.

The report could be on something specific, like Cecil's training as a sniper.

Another idea is to make a letter shorter - suppose the writer was only allowed 50 words or 100 (you or your teacher may choose the exact figure).

Which would be kept and which would go.

Before faxes and e-mails, people sent urgent messages in telegrams.

Because they paid for each word, they kept them short. 50 words was a lot.

So you can make Cecil or Dora send a telegram instead of a letter.

Write a short article for a chidren's encyclopædia about the Great War, or some aspect of it.

You must not put in things that are not appropriate, or too hard for them to read.

What pictures will you have?

How much detail should you give about people being killed?

Your teacher should be able to give you guidance on this.

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Writing to persuade

Imagine you are going to debate whether fighting is ever a good way to solve problems between countries.

Make notes of things you can say on either side of this argument.

Advertising: design an advertisement for the Yorkshire Post, persuading young men to join the East Yorkshire Regiment.

This will be published in the first months of the Great War, in 1914.

You can also design an advertisement for the Regular Army or Territorial Army today.

You can develop this idea further by writing scripts for TV, cinema or radio advertisements.

Write a letter to the Prime Minister, to support either greater or reduced spending on weapons by the UK.

You must have reasons for your arguments, and write in a suitable style.

You should look at some real letters, like those to newspapers, and ask your teacher for suggestions or writing frames.

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Reviewing and Displaying Your Work

When you have completed some of these activities, you can look over your own work and that of your friends.

You may wish to change things in your work, because your friends have some good ideas.

You should also think about what your teacher says to you or writes on your work.

You can e-mail or post work to other people, of your age, or older, for their comments.

If you have a place where you can show your work, ask your teacher for permission.

Sometimes the teacher puts up the display, but you will enjoy doing it much more, and the teacher has less time than you.

Remind your teacher of this and tell him or her not to work so hard!

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Suggest an activity

If you have an idea about how to study the Great War, or war in general, please let us know.

If there is something you think should be here but isn't (yet), tell us.

If you are a teacher, and you would like a particular exercise, so your class can use this site to study English and use Information and Communication Technology, let us know.

To make a suggestion, use the e-mail address at the bottom of the page.

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Except where otherwise stated, the copyright in all of the archives and letters on this site is held by Robert Slack (grandson) and the Slack family. Copyright in teaching resources and materials on this site belongs to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council. Please acknowledge intellectual property rights by giving the URL of any pages you use, and/or include the © copyright symbol. Thank you.

Robert Slack - "I am very happy for (the letters) to be used by others. If teachers ever wanted to see the original letters for teaching purposes etc, I would be very happy to loan them, or send good copies of the originals."

To contact Robert, or to comment on this site, please e-mail Chris.A.Brown@eastriding.gov.uk

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EAST RIDING of YORKSHIRE COUNCIL School Improvement Service, County Hall, Beverley, East Yorks. HU17 9BA.
Tel: +44(0)1482 887700   Fax: +44(0)1482 887700   Website: www.eastriding.gov.uk