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15th November 2018

How to write a recount and what should they include?

How to write a recount: what is a recount?

A recount is a piece of writing that retells (‘recounts’) an event or an experience. Setting your pupils the challenge of writing a recount is an ideal way to get them to express their creativity and hone their descriptive writing and spelling skills.

A recount does not have to be a retelling of your pupils’ own experiences. In fact, in many ways, it is better if students do not write realistic recounts, because writing fiction gives them more scope to develop their imagination instead of simply recalling something from memory.

How to write a recount: tips and tricks

As a recount relates events that have already taken place, it is traditionally written in the past tense. Have your pupils experiment with this by writing recounts in the present and future tense and discuss the impact of all three options on the reader.

Your pupils can also explore first person, second person and third person recount writing. Ask them to justify why they chose each option and how they think it affected their finished piece.

Let your pupils experiment with the chronology of the recount. What happens if they describe their version of events in reverse order, or begin in medias res? The recount form gives your pupils the chance to be extremely creative.

Recounts benefit from richly descriptive language. If you are using the recount form for the purpose of developing your pupils’ vocabulary, give them a list of descriptive words to incorporate into their piece of writing. Choose some that they will have to look up in the dictionary.

How to write a recount: literature

A good way to incorporate recount writing into a literature class is to theme the lesson around the novel, play or poem you have been studying. This might be a good challenge to tackle in World Book Week!

Set your pupils the task of recounting some of the events in the text from the perspective of a character of their choice. If your students are a little older, you could adapt this into an exercise in tone by setting them the additional challenge of imitating the style of the writer of the original novel. This can develop an insight into the nuances of language and free pupils up to write with a flourish.

Many works of literature commonly studied feature recounts in one form or another – compare several and focus on the effects the writer produces and how they achieve such effects. Discuss whether readers can trust the character who is recounting in the literary text as well as the creative benefits of unreliable narration.

This is especially interesting if the text your pupils are studying features an unreliable narrator, opening up the possibility of discussing the limits and possibilities of recounts in a literary context. Discuss literature that features recounts from the perspective of:

  1. A corrupt character who is distorting events for their own advantage (Lolita)
  2. A character who makes the conscious decision to recount events inaccurately (Atonement)
  3. A character whose recollection is fallible because they are mentally incapacitated (Mrs Dalloway)

Having raised the subject of truth and how important or unimportant it is when writing a recount, as well as the role subjectivity plays in describing experiences, you can then study the difference between a literary recount and the factual recounts featured in nonfiction texts.

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