|The Rep Theatre and the Library of Birmingham|
This blog briefly shares parts of a recent exercise with students.
The first aim was to undertake reading and writing exercises in order to gain a better understanding of techniques of persuasion.
The second aim was to turn the exercise upside down by writing a highly critical review, or a letter of complaint.
We also deployed speaking exercises in the form of radio-style interviews, a phone-in, and social media interactive engagement such as short text and tweet responses.
The underlying aims were vocabulary building and confident use of language.
Our first task was to study the vocabulary used in advertisements and marketing/advertising material. These were drawn from a Children's Guide to Leisure Activities in the Black Country (West Midlands, UK); Rewriting the Book - Discovery Season - Library of Birmingham; and What's On at the beacon Arts centre, Greenock, Scotland.
Initially students were asked to selected the best 10 words, and then add to the list and pool/share their findings.
This is the list of some of the persuasive language used in those publications:
fascinating, encouraged, connections, impress,
discover, enjoy, celebrate, meet, experience, love,
understand, beautiful, fabulous, inspired, collaborate,
offer, unusual, brainchild, magical, new, leading,
opportunity, diverse, hands-on, intriguing, dynamic,
aesthetic, unique, vision, adventurous, vibrant.
Next students invented a new attraction: a play, a park, a tourist or leisure activity and wrote their own advertising copy. The aim was to deploy as many words from the list as possible.
This was also an opportunity for art work and design skills.
Working in pairs, students were next asked to write a highly critical review of the other person's event or tourist attraction. Some students wrote letters of complaint. Students were asked to be either bitterly critical or absurdly humorous in their approach.
To assist with this exercise we used a thesaurus and brainstorm to find antonyms for our list of persuasive vocabulary. Some of the critical words included
tedious, disappointing, unimpressive, lost,
distressing, torment, overworked,
squandered, hate, confused, worn-out,
unrequired, neglected, exploited,
predictable, dispensed with, unsuitable,
tiresome, expensive, mismanaged, impractical,
under-utilized, derelict, obsolete
The vocabulary also served as a prompt for building and developing a creative critique.We also sampled literary reviews and user-generated social media commentary available within online newspaper reviews.
The old library is Birmingham was considered by some observers to be a wonder of concrete brutalist architecture. Others, such as Prince Charles, who lacks a training in architecture, quipped that is was more like a place to burn books, than to read them/ a place where books were incinerated, not kept.
Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)