Creating an impact

With an increase in vocabulary, students are able to utilise literacy devices such as irony, symbolism and foreshadowing, to create a greater impact for the reader.


Explicit teaching

Students need to understand the impact of literary devices and when they are best used.

Irony – a contrast between what is expected and what happens. This is often used in humorous texts.

Symbolism – where an object or situation represents something else, e.g. a wilting flower may be symbolic for illness, death or the end of something good.

Foreshadowing – providing clues as to what is going to happen later. (Think of the suspense music before something scary happens in a movie) This does not state what is going to happen but allows the reader to try and predict what is going to happen. This can also be used to create a surprise when it is not exactly as the reader was expecting.

For students to use these effectively they need to further develop their vocabulary. Whilst this should align to the type of work specific to the KLA, it is more than just developing content words.

General strategies

Exposing students to synonyms through a variety of formal and informal processes can greatly improve their vocabulary. This can include simply paraphrasing a student’s statement with different words; individual investigation of synonyms for commonly used words; joint construction of a synonym wall/word cline.

Depending on the type of text and its purpose, some of the literary devices will be more relevant. Students need to be provided with a variety of examples of these devices in context and analyse when, where and why they are used. Students also need to be provided with an opportunity to express using these devices in their own writing and reflect on their effectiveness. This will allow students to be strategic with their implementation of the devices.

Activities to support the strategy

Activity 1: rotational brainstorm

Place large sheets of paper on the wall around the room (the number can vary depending on the amount of focus words and number of students). Divide the page in half and write the focus word at the top of the page. Students will rotate around the sheets and try to add new synonyms to each page. In the left column students can write synonym examples and on the right column they can show the synonym in a sentence. For example a topic on sustainability might have focus content words such as grow, sustain, environment, waste, as well as general writing words such as help, bad, cause.

Teachers to facilitate the learning and utilise effective questioning to verify students’ understanding. At the conclusion of the activity, a class discussion is vital to clarify the responses. The sheets of paper may be left around the room to assist students with their future writing.

This activity caters for the diverse ability of students in your class and they can learn from each other in a non-threatening environment.

Variation: Students can be in pairs/small groups as they move around so they can discuss possible ideas; the activity can be timed with a signal for when to move onto the next station; if students are not able to move around the room, they can stay seated and the sheets of paper get moved from group to group.

Activity 2: word clines

This can be a follow up activity from Activity 1 or students can be provided with a list of synonyms.

As a class, discuss the slight differences with a list of synonyms in relation to their intensity. Using an IWB or with strips of words stuck on the board, demonstrate how words can be placed along an incline to show their intensity. (There may not always be a clear distinction between them all but encourage discussions around the reasoning). Discuss the purpose and impact of the different words and when they might be used.

In small groups, students are given a set of synonyms to sort onto a word cline. Students are then to choose two (or more) words, create a sentence for them each and write when it may be used. They will report this back to the class and discuss their reasoning.

Activity 3: show don’t tell

To develop the skill of foreshadowing, provide students with a variety of examples of when an author has provided clues about what is going to happen. This can include printed texts, songs and movies. Stop the viewing just before the event and ask students to predict what they think will happen. Discuss the different options and clues that they have been given to come up with their predictions. Choose one example where the author has used foreshadowing to trick the reader into predicting the wrong thing.

Questions: Why would they do this? How do you feel when it happens? Can you go back and see the subtle clues that could lead to the correct predictions?

In all examples, discuss how the author let the audience know that something was going to happen. What type of words did they use? (Recognise a focus on emotive language and drawing on the audience’s senses).

To allow students to develop using foreshadowing in their own writing, provide them with the sentence ‘something bad is going to happen’. In pairs or individually, students are to use the foreshadowing planner (see below) to develop a more sophisticated paragraph that shows the reader what might happen.

Students to then include the clues to individually write a paragraph that uses vivid, emotive vocabulary to direct the audience.

Variation: students can present this information in a variety of ways. For example, as a cartoon, movie or voice recording. If students are having difficulties thinking of an event, these can be provided and targeted to suit the current topic in class.


Australian curriculum

ACELA1571: Expressing and developing ideas: Refine vocabulary choices to discriminate between shades of meaning, with deliberate attention to the effect on audiences.

NSW syllabus

EN5-3B: Outcome 3: selects and uses language forms, features and structures of texts appropriate to a range of purposes, audiences and contexts, describing and explaining their effects on meaning  (EN5-3B) - Understand and apply knowledge of language forms and features: refine vocabulary choices to discriminate between shades of meaning, with deliberate attention to the effect on audiences

NSW literacy continuum

VOCC15M2: Vocabulary knowledge, Cluster 15, Marker 2: Uses a range of vocabulary for precision, clarity, cohesion and effect.

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