Lesson video

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I'm Mrs. Crompton.

Welcome to today's English lesson.

Our focus today is to read a second unseen fiction extract "Touching the Void" by Joe Simpson, which we'll be later comparing to Aron Ralston's piece.

You will need a pen and paper.

Take a moment to make sure you've cleared any distractions away and have everything you need to hand.

Let's begin with that a quick reminder of the skills that we are focusing on when we're looking at our unseen fiction extracts.

So we're going to concentrate today on summarising the main events, starting to think about thoughts and feelings presented.

We will later be looking at the writers perspective.

We'll be considering writer's methods throughout, and also considering those big picture ideas.

To begin with, then, here is an image of Siula Grande mountain.

I've done it.

I'm saying that quite right.

But it's in the Peruvian Andes.

Taking a look at this image, just for one minute, can you jot down your personal thoughts and feelings when you look at that landscape.

So just one minute, and I will time you through that.

Off we go.

Just finishing off those final ideas.

Don't worry about being in a perfect sentence, and if you pop your pens down, then so your thoughts and feelings about that landscape may not necessarily be the same as our individual who is Joe Simpson, today, what we're going to do is to find out a little bit more about Joe's situation and what brought him to this landscape.

So, British climbers, Joe Simpson and his fellow climber Simon Yates successfully climbed to the summit of this remote mountain in the Peruvian Andes.

However, during the descent, Joe broke his leg.

The two men tried to get back safely to base camp, but when hit by a storm, they were separated.

Convinced that Joe was dead after falling into a crevasse, Simon cut the rope that held them together.

And in this extract, realising that he's now alone, and amazed that he's actually survived this far, Joe starts the next stage of his journey.

So Joe Simpson and his companion Simon Yates are British mountaineers, they go there on an expedition, and they're actually successful.

What we've got, however, is an incident that is extreme, like Aron Ralston's situation, we're going to see an individual survive beyond what you would expect them to be able to do.

So we're going to see that similar sort of rising above the challenges of that environment.

And we're going to hear his accounts of what happens.

So that's just to give you the background context, just so that you can tune in to the extract as we begin.

And moving into the extract, we've got our very familiar screen.

So what we are going to be doing is breaking down this extract into three sections.

You will have your prompt questions as usual, to help you activate ideas.

I would like you to record your responses on lined paper, and then when it gets to the review stage, a different coloured pen or pencil will help you just check and track the progress that you're making.

Okay, so, reading the passage first.

Looking at the question and pausing through as we look at the prompts.

So let's have a look at the question.

Track events, what is happening? And within this section, I particularly like you to concentrate on this idea of the conflict between man and his environment.

And the prompts there, think about the use of verbs, think about the use of emotive language, and think about your sentence types.

So as usual, I'll just give you a glimpse of the first screen, and you can see that I have picked various details out for you that you might wish to concentrate on and you have the prompt running along the bottom of your screen.

The control is now over to you.

Take a moment to take in the question and then work through steadily.

What we know now is that as we've been moving through these extracts, we're aiming for a more controlled response as we go along.

So not just maybe, taking down notes, but actually trying to formulate more detailed sentences and trying to put together chunks of your ideas so that you've got a more of a refined response from the start off.

Okay, so controls over to you.

Work your way through the screens, and I will be waiting for you to review your response.

And welcome back, everybody.

So we were having a look, first of all just working out what's actually happening in this moment.

So I've told you that they've been separated, Simpson's now on his own, and he is trying to take on board his situation and think about what his next steps are going to be.

We're going to look at how conflict between man and his environment is presented.

And I suggest that you should pay attention to the verbs, the use of the emotive language, and concentrate also on the way that sentence constructions are adding to the meaning.

So, here's a model answer just for us to look at.

And we can see what you get, you can add.

You can take where you've got some of these ideas.

I mean, it's always nice to recognise all of these things that you are now starting to put together in your own responses.

So, Simpson is initially presented as surrounded by obstacles, and in the ultimate precarious position; the rope he is attached to is "stretched" to breaking point, and he is "hanging" ominously over a black void.

He has reached the point of abyss on his quest to conquer the Andes.

Now hopefully you can recognise that I tried to put in some of those ideas that we had when we were reading the Ralston passage.

And if you remember, at the beginning of the session, I said that we will be thinking about these two texts together by the end of the week.

But I've picked up with this idea of these gentlemen almost being on a quest, and we've got some of that language.

And we can see here again, another individual who is at the point of abyss.

The writer establishes the spatial dimensions with great care.

The original position before falling into the crevice is "20 feet" above the ice wall on the other side "10 feet" away.

The precise use of dimensions and prepositional phrases of 'above', or 'below' establish Simpson's since physical status as cornered by his natural surroundings.

So again, some close analysis now of details.

And actually something that looks quite insignificant, at first glance, however, there really was quite a focus on locating where he was positioned in relation to everything else around him.

And this special awareness is quite interesting, and it's going to develop as we move on.

The writer then zooms in to focus further on his literal weakness in his "smashed knee" and the sound of his howling pan and fright is then introduced to the scene.

This, again, emphasises man's inferiority to nature as his screams echo around the cavernous space.

He then experiences a moment of revelation as he notices "there was a wide snow-covered floor 15 feet below me.

There was no emptiness and no black void." The use of anaphora in the sentence construction introduces an unexpected sense of control in the midst of the previous chaos and a change to the dynamic of man versus nature.

Now I read those through, straight through, but notice how we go for a zoom in onto the detail of his knee being smashed up, because that injury is the thing that is going to debilitate him further.

We've also got something that you would consider to be quite natural under the circumstance.

And he's howling in pain.

And again in these isolated situations, the noise and the way that, that echo is really quite powerful.

And then finally, what we've got at the end is this alteration, and you wouldn't expect it to have come so suddenly, there was wide snow-covered floor 15 feet below, there was no emptiness and no black void.

And we've got the anaphora that was used as a method of introducing sense of control, that is an alteration in that dynamic.

And we can see that the point is just extended out as far as possible at the end.

Okay, so, over to you as usual for you to be able to pause at this stage and for you to refine what you've written so far.

Improve your sentences, add in extra detail.

As soon as you are happy with your response.

We can then move on.

So it's over to you to take control.

And as soon as you're ready, we'll commence the video.

Right next then.

So we've done the first part, we've split it into three, and we're on to the next part.

We're going to continue tracking the events and what is happening.

And this time, we're going to start looking at Simpson's emotions.

And so we are therefore concentrating on his thoughts and feelings, and what the language is telling us.

Okay, as usual, you have the prompts running along the bottom.

So how are Simpson's emotions developing? That's our big overall thinking point.

And then we're going to look at how his thoughts and feelings are communicated by the language used.

And you can see I picked those out in a nice bright pink for you to start thinking about what some of that language is indicating to you.

Control as ever, is now over to you.

Take your time, work your way through, always remembering to connect back to what you have just read so that you are building up the sequence of events and building up the way in which Simpson is wanting to communicate his emotions to you.

Okay, over to you.

Welcome back then.

So how are Simpson's emotions developing? What I've done this time is just pick out a few details that you may have noticed and see whether these are helpful for you to add to your own response.

So we've got a cry of delight and relief, boomed, yelled again and again, laughed between the yells.

Lots of emphasis on sound, which is something that I'm connecting to an observation that I'd made in the first part of my analysis.

So I've picked up on that again, and we can see that this is now a dominant sense in this solitary environment.

Here, we see his joy at finding a solution to his situation.

We then get a little bit of a change.

It wasn't a floor after all.

Jubilation was quickly tempered.

And we have not just a change of tempo, but also a change of tone within the way that the language is being used.

We've got boomed, yelled, quite casual language really.

And this is now contrasted with statement sentence and the use of more formal and measured register.

Jubilation was quickly tempered, is really quite high level register in comparison to boom, and it underlines the gravity of the situation.

So we get changing tempo on a couple of levels.

The carpet of snow above which I, sorry, the carpet of snow above which I was dangling.

Here we are reminded of his fragile status.

And carpet even though it seems quite a domestic image, it's made to feel far more disturbing by the use of the present participle of 'dangling' and emphasises his fragility is a constant state too.

When we've got that present participle, it's like it's never going to end.

He's always going to be dangling there.

We've then got curving away, narrowing again, cut through, tapered in.

Here we've got the special details, again, to emphasise just how confined he is.

So what we've tried to do in this next stage is to make connections back to what we first observed, building the analysis and thinking about how Simpson is using the language to continue certain trains of thought.

A pillar of gold light beamed diagonally from a small hole in the roof, spraying bright reflections.

I was mesmerised.

I was going to reach that sunbeam.

I knew it then with absolute certainty.

Again, another switching emotions.

And the reader has to question at this point.

I think it is right to assert this because it seemed to me that he was really quite confident.

I was going to reach that sunbeam.

I knew it then with absolute certainty.

Why? What is the evidence for a man who'd been quite careful and was, seemed to be calculating his surroundings.

This bit took me a little bit by surprise.

So I'm going to put my comment here.

Is this a sign of determination, resilience? Or is it a little bit of blind faith? Where is this conviction coming from? So, notice things that alter when we're looking at texts in the unseen category, where we've got these situations and events going on.

Do notice if the author tries to indicate a change in circumstance, and we're seeing the change quite quickly at the moment, because you can see that Simpson constantly is finding out that his terrain is not stable as he thinks.

So he sees a new little sign of hope.

But I found that particular detail quite a surprise I nearly said, shocking.

You'd like to think that somebody could hold on to their faith, but I would struggle with that.

So it did take me unawares.

Okay, so again, opportunity for you to pause.

Refine your response.

It might be that you want to just track back a little bit, rewind the video and just watch that little bit again, that's absolutely fine too.

But as we are going, keep building that response.

And also keep rewarding yourself.

Every time you are making those connections.

That's what we're wanting to see now as we split the text down, constantly looking to delve deeper, link back and also expand our thinking.

Soon as you're happy, then we'll move on to the final section.

Okay, so a little bit of a difference in terms of tasks.

So let's read this together.

How does Simpsons show a turning point in the conflict of man versus nature? So we're now reaching this point of a conflict being switched and moved around, and we're going to see an alteration finally.

We've had a hint of it in the previous section, and I did feel it was a little bit on-founded in terms of his newfound conviction.

But let's see if that continues.

Now, I will tell you this is not the end of the whole of the extract, but it is the end for now.

And as we are reading through this final part, what I would like you to do is to come up with three quotations that you think are particularly effective in explaining how the conflict between man and nature is altered.

Okay, so track through the text.

And as you're going, it might be that you gather more than three to start with, but let's end ultimately, refine that down to three quotations.

To show you the first screen so you can see, there are details picked out to help you again, language that you might want to notice and the main activity is to just concentrate on evidence.

Doesn't necessarily have to be rich evidence, i.


stuff that we're going to analyse, it can be supporting.

And that's the key that I've highlighted to you.

It's evidence that backs up the comment that we want to make about the alteration in the conflict between man and nature.

Okay, over to you.

And welcome back, year 10.

So what did you pick? Now, I'm going to share with you the three quotations I have circled on.

And you can see that I've been picking them all out in orange for us to think about.

However, these are the ones that I have picked in order to answer the question which was, showing a turning point in the conflict of man versus nature.

And you will also notice that I haven't necessarily given you them in the order in which they appeared in the passage.

I've tried to prioritise a little bit in terms of my ideas.

So that I'm starting to sequence the material too.

And I didn't ask you to do that, but it's the natural next step, and it's something that I want to show you now.

Okay, so my first selection was, One blessed chance to get out and I was grasping it with every ounce of strength left in me.

The idea of fate or deliverance by an external force is suggested, that blesses chance.

So I'd questioned, where is he got this belief from, and he's almost telling us that, he's believing in something bigger than himself, bigger than his situation? He believes in some sort of fate that he is meant to get out of here.

And chance is an opportunity that he's just going to take.

Simpson recognises his moment.

And it's the transformational point from the abyss to a moment of possibly going to the atonement, where he's going to get redemption for his situation.

It's almost like the light represents goodness and deliverance from the situation.

So that's the idea that I'm trying to play around with.

And I've put atonement with a question mark, because I don't really know what he has done wrong.

I think that's something to question.

Is Simpson suggesting that man versus nature should always have man as coming off as second best? You know that idea that man is going up against nature and should be more respectful of it.

So that's why I brought in this idea of atonement as to almost gain the respect of nature again, so that's in the back of my mind.

The abyss, the inviting snow-carpet between me and the slope, tempted me to run across it.

Now, he actually uses that word, the abyss, which we've had from our language of the journeying hero.

So here we see that he's turned from passive to active as he reaches the abyss.

The word "tempted" to suggest that he needs to be cautious 'cause temptation will lead you to some sort of bad outcome, but he's ready to take his moment.

Again, we have the details of transformation.

So my first sort of idea of this chance, this deliverance moment, this moment of transformation is then supported by the fact that Simpson actually uses the word of abyss.

So that really strengthens that interpretation.

Finally, helplessness had been my worst enemy.

Now, I had a plan.

And I selected this to come as my final point, because for me, this rounds up my argument about what the turning point is for Simpson.

Simpson isn't just seeing it as this conflict between man and nature, or that there is going to be some sort of deliverance from above, what I then realised as I read this line was that Simpson has re-configured the conflict.

And he is saying that it wasn't man versus nature, but man versus self.

When he was feeling helpless, when he was the victim, then that's what was going to happen to him.

And the light somehow brings him to activity.

So we have got that idea of re-configuring the conflict, turning it from him being up against the obstacle of nature, and then almost like working with it and seeing the sunlight as a natural guide, using again, the idea of a journeying narrative where you get a helper that comes along, and the sunshine acts as a guide to him to start seeing that it's the mental battle that he's involved in.

So I've gone for quite a big interpretation at the end, but it's rooted in the evidence of the text.

And by sequencing it, I can present my line of argument and back it up with the evidence there with all supporting quotations.

Okay, so again, over to you.

How does Simpson show a turning point in the conflict of man versus nature.

You have to select your three quotations.

And like me, you may have just had them as separate things, but you hopefully have seen that I did have a sequence, and I was building it up.

And sometimes when you're planning a response, you can't plan every little detail or thread.

And this is another really good technique of planning out three bits of evidence that you would use and thinking about the order that you're going to put them in.

Okay, so over to you to have a review of what you have done so far, and tweak and improve as necessary.

Just to finish off thinking at this point, we have a final reflection task.

So the question I would like to ask you today is, To what extent do you agree that both Simpson and Ralston are like more than the journey heroes who answered a call to adventure? And I've put the criteria for the hero on a journey for you at the bottom of the screen there.

So they have the call to adventure, they cross the threshold, they enter the abyss, there's transformation, atonement, and return.

We can't know all of it.

We do know they return, because they go on to write books.

However, this idea how far do you agree? Yes, they are like modern day journey heroes, like the Odysseus's of their day that are taking on these challenges.

So that is one reflection task that I would like you to have a go at, should you wish, or you can do the other task, which is to think about what conflicts you have seen.

So that's our consistent task that we always work through, thinking about, did we see man versus man, man versus nature, man verses self, or members of society? And for that activity, make sure that you have a really shaped response.

So this is your final reflection task, just to bring together all of the thoughts that are in your head.

And just to start you thinking about the fact that we're going to look at these two texts together.

Now, it might be an idea, I didn't have opportunity to say this to you before this lesson, but before our next session, do make sure that you have got your notes from our session on Aron Ralston's "Between a Rock and a Hard Place", bring those along to the next lesson, and they will help you as we are working through.

Okay, time for me to be quiet, time for you to do the thinking.

Over to you and I will see you when you are ready to move on to the final stage.

And that's our lesson for today.

I hope we're starting to piece together lots of ideas now.

All that remains for me to say is thank you for your focus, and enjoy the rest of your learning today.