Start With What They Do
A mom in the BraveSchoolers Facebook Group asked what to do when her son was asked to write a movie review but wrote a summary instead.
Start always with what he did do! A summary is challenging. That he wrote one is a great place to start. Most reviews include a summation of the movie, so notice that. Say: “Great job summarizing the story. That’s a high level writing skill” (it is). Then talk a bit about what he liked and didn’t like about the movie. While he talks, take some notes. Then hand them back to him and say: “I’ve noticed that reviews also include the personal opinions of the reviewers about the movie. You have so many good ones. I jotted a few down. As you take another look at your review, I wonder if you can think about ways to incorporate your opinions as well.”
Don’t do this too quickly after you’ve given positive feedback. Allow him to experience your pride in his work. He can then narrow and expand the content to include opinions. He can give full attention to the opinion part of his thinking and can do some freewriting around that. Then he can take these two pieces of writing and “stitch” them together on yet another day. You might even read some movie reviews together to get ideas about how to do that. Make sense?
Concentrate on how he writes! Start there. Talk about the power of his vocabulary, his ability to grab the reader’s attention, his deft handling of the storyline without boring the reader, or his pacing.
Then talk about the assignment—the purpose of a review. You might read some reviews so he gets a feel for them. Ask him if he wants to take another stab at it, using some of this material, but not giving away the entire plot. Talk to him about how film critics analyze: what are the categories, what are the focal points (Acting? Camera work? Storyline?). Do most reviewers tell the end of the story or do they simply hook you with part of it? And so on. Perhaps don’t even revise this one. Just get to know the genre of reviews, reading them and talking about them. Then he might try another movie with those ideas in mind. Make a list of aspects of film to consider as you write about one when you are reviewing. He just needs more support to do what you are talking about, but his writing is just fine. He’s doing great!
Resist the temptation to say he didn’t do what he was supposed to. Work with what he offered!