29 MARCH 2019
Teaching Your Pupils How To Write A Mini Saga
One of the most useful activities for the English classroom is teaching pupils how to weite a mini saga. They make for an enjoyable and productive lesson for any age and ability level from upper primary to upper secondary, with a different emphasis and objective according to need. For example, year 8 could study narrative features, year 9 could be introduced to irony in literature and year 10 could practise writing concisely.
What is a Mini Saga?
Firstly, it's a good idea to clarify what a mini saga is. A mini saga is a short story compiling of exactly 50 words (not including the title). The 50 words must create a complete story.
Why are they good for students?
Mini-sagas are especially useful when working with reluctant writers, who are happy to attempt a story of 50 words but would be daunted by writing a longer narrative. You could build up the word count slowly, asking for 100 words the next time and so on. (Or you can make the task harder and reduce the word limit to 10 or even 6 words, e.g. 'No problem about Dallas, Mr President'.) Mini-sagas are a great stepping stone to writing short stories.
Mini-sagas lend themselves to paired, individual, group and whole class tasks, and include reading, speaking and listening as well as writing. This is an activity which can be attempted successfully by second as well as first language students, and one in which differentiation can be applied.
50 word mini saga writing task
Allow a double lesson. The stages for this 50 word mini saga task are as follows:
1. Listen to / read and evaluate some examples of mini-sagas. Ask students to define a mini-saga.
2. Draft two or three sagas of 60 and 70 words. Titles could be provided, e.g. 'The Lie' or 'Never Again'; or a proverb could be the stimulus; or a picture prompt, e.g. a famous narrative painting. Less able students could be asked to turn a film synopsis or urban legend into a mini-saga.
3. Exchange them with a partner to judge the best.
4. Reduce the saga to exactly 50 words the selected saga by applying some of these methods (listed on board):
- eliminating redundant words (especially adjectives and adverbs);
- using shorter synonyms (e.g. single instead of phrasal verbs);
- using active not passive verbs;
- using hyphens (correctly!) to form single words;
- using subject pronouns (e.g. 'they' instead of 'the family');
- using elisions/abbreviations (e.g. would've);
- creating one complex sentence to replace several simple sentences;
- using semi-colons instead of connectives (there is no need for 'and').
5. Improve structure/word order of the final sentence to enhance tension and give power to the ending (aim to use an ironic twist).
6. Add a title of up to 10 words to intrigue but not reveal (perhaps using a pun).
7. Read out mini-sagas to the class (possibly voting on the best).
8. Copy/print the edited final draft for display, with illustrations.
Now you know the best ways to go about teaching your pupils how to write a mini saga, you should be ready to give this a go in your class. For more on writing a mini saga and other writing tasks, view our English resources today.
Marian Cox is an experienced teacher and author of First Language English and Literature. She is also an examiner with experience of writing English exam papers.
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