What makes a true Champion? - The Derek Redmond story to inspire writing

I was asked by the wonderful Springboard Stories to write a article on using digital media in Literacy to inspire writing with a link to their latest issue - Sport.

Straight away I thought about a wonderful theme I used last summer in the build up to the Olympics. I am a big believer in using sport in the classroom as I find it a great way to inspire and engage boys but also to teach some of the life skills sport wonderfully promotes and encourages children to develop. I have previously written other blog posts about using sport for Literacy - Using Football and iPads to engage reluctant writers or Sport adverts to inspire writing and I also helped to build The Sports Shed on the Literacy Shed.

Sport has played an important role in the lives of children since the time of Ancient Sparta, where they saw sport as a necessary experience that mentally and physically prepared them for adult life. I completely agree that sport provides so many opportunities for children to develop key skills that will help them later in life. However, I am not an advocate for the “winning at all cost” mentality. ‘Wanting to win and do your best,’ is the motto I live by and there have been many examples of amazing feats of courage and determination in sport which didn’t result in a gold medal, but defines the true meaning of a champion, demonstrating grit, determination and perseverance to win are qualities that, if we instil in children, will help them in any direction in life. I would like to share how I used the story of Derek Redmond to inspire some amazing writing in your class.

I am not going to share everything from the article I wrote as I feel it is such a good resource that you should check it out and get a copy! However to accompany the article I want to share some of the examples of work the children produced from using this stimulus. All of the examples that I will share are from a Year 4 class.

Derek Redmond is probably best remembered for the courage he showed in the 1992 Olympics 400m semi-finals, more than anything else. Despite pulling his hamstring halfway into the race he was determined to finish and hobbled all the way to the finish line, although he was in excruciating pain. Here is a video of his story:

The way I set out this unit was to build up to writing a first person recount of the race, however break it down into parts to focus on different narrative methods.

We did a lot of build up, looking and discussing the video, using senses grids and writing speech between the characters - all of which are discussed in the article with links to apps to develop this.

When it came to writing the story I wanted to slow down the whole writing process. Taking each part separately to get the children to really focus on the success criteria of that particular paragraph/stage of the story.

We started by using Alan Peat's "In Media Res," idea of opening a story - to read more about an In Media Res opening please click here. This was a short opening paragraph starting in the middle of things, starting at the point where he tears his hamstring, but not to reveal how? where? or when? hooking the reader to read on to find out more. We were aiming to use some precise description and similes to entice the reader. Here are some examples of that opening paragraph:



For the next paragraph we went back to the start of the story and set the scene, therefore creating the atmosphere for the story using as much description and focusing on our senses. Here are some examples:



Once we had set the scene, it was time to build up to the point where he sustained his injury. To do this we looked at techniques used to build tension in writing, annotating examples and making our own checklist. We started this as a shared write using inspiration from Pie Corbett - see the man in action here. Here again are some examples:



Finally, as a Big Writing lesson the children had to write the climax and resolution to the story. I wanted to get the children to really focus on this ending as often it is something that doesn't get as much attention as the opening. By breaking the story down, it gave the children time to really think and focus on the ending to their story:



The standard of writing from the whole class was amazing, but more importantly they were able to see how persevering, being determined and never giving up makes you a winner every time!

And please do check out the latest issue of Springboard Stories for more great resources and ideas to use in the classroom. 


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