Sample Texts

Consider the four texts which follow, as normal school text-types or genres from each of the Imaginative, Personal, and Functional strands of the 5-14 Writing outcome. The texts are:
  • the opening of a short story in Scots language, aimed at pupils in the 10-14 age group, from a recent collection of prose by Scottish writers
  • a recount of a school trip to a farm, written by a Primary 5 pupil
  • a recount of a trip to Pisa by a P7 pupil
  • a typical information-bearing reference text as used by many pupils for project and Environmental Studies work, as well as for personal interest.

The texts will be printed separately from a comment that follows on their grammar and structure. They can therefore be used as staff development materials, where the first task is to read the texts not so much for what they contain as for how they contain it. There are details on all of the genres in the Booklets, and Position Paper 6 also gives advice on teaching approaches.

A follow-up task would be to select (or write) your own versions of the same genres, and bring these to your group for discussion of the extent to which the same generic features of language and grammar appear.

Finally, using the descriptions of other typical genres of writing given in the LILT Booklets (but not any of the four above), select an example of a genre, cut off the title, and allow your colleagues in pairs to discuss its type, origin and purpose, together with the way in which the language and grammar conform to this purpose.                    

Text 1
IMAGINATIVE Narrative
 

DAFT JACKIE

      Folk kent for miles aboot that Duncan Dungarroch wisnae hauf as bricht as the beer he brewed. Or tae pit it anither way, his heid wis twice as saft as his hert. He wis merrit tae a wife as daft as hissel, wha wis as guid a baker as he was a brewer. Sae atween them baith, they managed fine: hot baps an muffins, fruitcake an scones, aa washed doon wi glesses o beer that slid doon your thrapple juist like raindraps doon an aipple, leein a crest o white faem curlin roon your lips like the moustache o a laughin cavalier.

      An that was ony day o the week, no oan a special day like the day -- a waddin day. Their bonnie dochter, Jennie, was gettin merrit tae thon clock-mender, Wullie Jackeson. A gey smert move that on the pairt o oor Wulliam, for was he no gettin juist the nicest-luikin lassie in the haill o Nithsdale, but cakes an ale for life forby? An whit cakes! An whitna ale! Roon the big table at the steadin, folk were aa takin their fill, pledgin the health an wealth o the young couple until –

      Here, the jugs o beer were aa empty! But no tae worry, there was barrels mair in the cellar. Sae Duncan cried oot tae his dochter tae rin doon an draw oot mair jugs frae the farthest keg. An awa she ran, doon the stoorie cellar stairs wi her braw waddin dress trailin oot ahint her. Noo, ye micht think that this was a daft-like thing tae dae (an ye’d be richt) but I telt ye that Duncan wasnae that smert, nor his wife nor his lassie neither, for that maitter. But kinder-herted an mair willing neebours ye couldna want tae meet. Sae aff she rins tae draw mair beer for their drouthie freens.

      But while she was doon there in the mirk o the cellar, waitin for the jug tae fill frae the spicket in the keg, an watchin the faem (white as maist o her waddin goon) swirl roon the jug like cloods through a simmer sky, Jennie got tae thinkin tae hersel: ‘The day I got merrit. In nine months I’ll likely hae a bairn, a wee laddie, an I’ll ca him Jackie Jackeson. I’ll put a wee white jaicket on him an wee white shoon for his feet, an syne he’ll grow up intae a braw big laddie -- But, whit if my wee Jackie Jackeson dees? Oh, my puir wee son!’ An at that, the saft-herted lassie brast oot greetin an weepin like naebody’s business.

      Naebody heard her, o coorse, for there was that much lauchter an foolerie roon the waddin table upstairs. The daft lassie roared an grat in the cellar, an took nae heed o the jug that was gettin brim-fu o beer, an syne rinnin ower oan tae the cellar flair. Eftir a while, whan she was still no back wi the beer, her faither said tae his wife: ‘Gan awa an see if oor Jennie’s no fa’en asleep doon there.’ Sae the auld wifie ran doon the steps an fand her dochter greetin her een oot.

      ‘Whitever’s the maitter wi ye, lassie? Whit’s haippened at aa?’ . . . . . .  

This story was written by James McGonigal and published in
A Braw Brew: Stories in Scots for Young Folk

eds. Pete Fortune and Liz Niven,
[Watergaw Publishing, 1997, reprinted 2000]

Comment on Daft Jackie
In the Orientation of the two opening paragraphs, we can see that the ‘who’ and ‘when’ of the story are established, and a narrative tone set through past tense and relational verbs.

A (possibly false) complication opens paragraph three, with the empty beer jugs; a more serious complication threatens in paragraph four, with the thought of death in the midst of the festivities. Will this come to pass? Future tense verbs and linking words to do with time are used to convey the uncertain speculations of the young bride caught between present, past and future.

The use of Scots dialect through the first person narrative voice of a member of this Nithsdale farming community helps to create a ‘folktale’ atmosphere and tone. The linking of birth with death, broad humour with sadness, celebration with sly social criticism, might also be thought to be characteristic of Scottish culture, to some extent.  

Text 2
PERSONAL Recount (Primary 5)
   

OUR DAY AT THE FARM

The first thing Mrs. Dunbar did was let us see the cows and the calves and the calves were sucking our fingers. Then we saw the turkey. Peter the woman’s son, was in charge of the turkey and it was flapping its wings about. Then we saw the hens. They could give people two dozen eggs a week. After that we saw the horses in the stable. Their names were Vicky and Tara. Then Carol took us all one at a time a ride on a pony, it was a big one but Carol held us on. After that Mrs. Dunbar gave us a glass of juice and mallows and crispy cakes. Next she showed us the rat’s hole, and she told us that one of her chickens was killed by a fox.          

Comment on Our Day at the Farm
In this piece of writing, a P5 girl gives an account of her visit to a farm. It lacks the typical Orientation or scene-setting of this genre, although the title partly serves that function, perhaps. But the cohesion can be seen to be fairly effective for this genre of writing, and at this stage. Using cohesive conjunctions she creates a clear time-sequence for the story: ‘the first thing’, ‘then’, ‘after that’, ‘next’. The cohesion is also achieved by the effective use of pronouns, which build chains of clear reference throughout the text (‘we’, ‘it’, ‘us’, ‘they’, ‘one’). The ending seems abrupt: some Personal Comment might typically lighten or sum up the experience.

We would want to commend the pupil for the effectiveness of her writing here and we might also use this as an exemplar in discussing effective cohesion with other pupils, particularly those whose tendency is just to list events or experiences in an incoherent way.

(As a development of this kind of work with cohesion, we could focus pupils’ attention on examples of other genres of writing which also use temporal cohesive conjunctions, such as sets of instructions. We might go on from there to consider genres such as Explanations, which use causal conjunctions, such as ‘therefore’, ‘as a result’, ‘consequently’, etc. and examine the relevance of these for pupils.)

 

Text 3
PERSONAL Recount (Primary 7)  

A DAY TO REMEMBER

About six months ago when I was on holiday in Italy we went to visit the leaning tower of Pisa. Looking at it from the outside it was massive. I am positively sure that it is one of the seven wonders of the world. It was crooked and you would really believe it was going to fall, by the angle it sits in. It has 200 steps leading up to the top. I was quite pleased with myself as I was the first person to reach the top but I was almost blown off the side when I was nearly deafened by the sound of the bells. You were supposed to wear earplugs for the noise but we didn’t have any as we didn’t know the bells were going to ring. When the time came for us to go down again we thought we would go across the road to see a big round building which had a long round roof. While we were inside someone came in and they were talking very softly but it in fact made a loud echo.

Later we thought we would be sneaky and go down to the graveyard even though we had no permission. There were a few creepy graves that we thought we would find some bones in but we weren’t in luck. We looked in every grave that didn’t have a top on but we didn’t find any. Still, that made our day a thrilling one and one to remember.                                

Comment on A Day to Remember
This successful attempt at a Personal Recount was in fact adapted from a Listening activity. The class had heard a tape of a tourist remembering her visit to the Leaning Tower in the years when it was still open to the public. They were then asked to imagine that they were that young girl, and retell her story. The writing is therefore Personal in an Imaginary Context, like much writing in school.

The piece has a clear Orientation at the start, indicating the time and context of the visit to Pisa. A description of the tower follows, and then the actual Events of that visit. A second Event in the graveyard merits a new paragraph, and the writer then rounds the piece off by a Personal Comment linked to the last incident.

The text, then, has a good blend of description of places and narration of events, together with occasional elements of personal response, which combine to make it effective Personal writing.

 

Text 4
FUNCTIONAL Information Report

ELEPHANT
A class of MAMMAL, the largest creature on land, also distinguished by its trunk. There are two SPECIES: the Indian or Asiatic elephant, and the African elephant. The African species is larger – a fully grown bull can be 3.5m (over 11 ft) tall and weigh up to 4500 kg (10000 lbs) – and also has larger ears and tusks.

Elephants live in herds and are herbivores; but a few live solitary lives and are known as ‘rogue’ elephants. Traditionally the Indian species has been used for domestic purposes whereas the African has not. However it is recorded that African elephants were tamed and used in warfare by the Carthaginians and the Romans.

Comment on Elephant
The Opening headline is followed by a General Classification and some elements of Description (size, appearance, habitat and modes of work). The sentences mainly have linking verbs or the passive forms of the verb which are also typical of this genre, as is the mainly ‘universal present’ tense. There are some technical terms to provide an accurate picture, but also the typically vague or moderating expressions (‘a few live’, ‘over 11ft’) used in this genre to avoid over-generalising or inaccuracy.

This kind of reading is obviously important for children engaged in topic work. By having an awareness ourselves of how such texts are organised, we can teach them what to look for, and this should facilitate and improve both their reading or research activities and also their own attempts at writing in this genre. This seems a desirable alternative to copying information verbatim from reference books.