如何帮助孩子提高英文写作? 练习描写情景快照和心理快照

写作对很多孩子来说是一件头疼枯燥的事。造成这种情况的原因有很多,比如觉得没东西可写,或想写却不知如何表达。提高写作是一个长期的阅读,词汇,句式,段落组织能力累积的过程,短期内不容易见到起色。

家长的一个误区就是只要孩子经常写,自然写作就好起来了,其实不是,如果每次都是写流水账般的文章,重复自己常用的那些词,不仅不会让写作提高,反而养成写作就是为了凑字,敷衍了事的坏习惯。写作练习当然很重要,但要想提高写作,必须做有效练习,而不是单纯的重复练习。

在美国著名写作教育家Barry Lane在After the End: Teaching and Learning Creative Revision一书中提到通过写情景快照(snapshot)和心理快照 (thoughtshot)来练习写作。我觉得这是一种很实用,有效又有趣的写作训练方法。

1. Snapshot 情景快照

情景快照就是把一个景色,人物,物品的描述出来 (Paint a picture with your words, using the five senses – smell, hear, see, touch, taste)。就像我们看到一个情景,画家会用画笔描述出来,而作家用文字将它描述出来。 

以美国中学必读的短篇小说“All Summer in a Day”为例,作者想表述一个很基本的情景 “It had been raining for seven years.” (故事发生在金星上,那里每7年才能见到一次太阳,其他时间都下雨)。如何形容这个场景呢?读者会想知道下雨时什么样子,雨有多大,7年都在下雨会是怎样一种结果?作者在文中是这么描述的:

It had been raining for seven years; thousands upon thousands of days compounded and filled from one end to the other with rain, with the drum and gush of water, with the sweet crystal fall of showers and the concussion of storms so heavy they were tidal waves come over the islands. A thousand forests had been crushed under the rain and grown up a thousand times to be crushed again.

作者既表述了雨的时刻不停,又描绘了不同形式大小的雨,从声音上(drum and gush)到视觉上(sweet crystal of fall of showers; tidal waves), 生动的画面跃然纸上。

情景快照也可以是人物的动作外形等来描述一个场面,比如在Roald Dahl 的短篇小说”The Boy Who Talked with Animals”中他描述小男主人公不顾一切挣脱爸爸的手,跑去救助被捕的老乌龟:

“No!” the boy cried out, and at that moment he suddenly gave a twist and wrenched his wrist free from the father’s grip. He was away like a streak, running across the sand toward the giant upturned turtle. 

即使在纪实类文章中,生动的情景快照也不少见,比如在Business Insider中的一篇名为“How to gauge when it’s too dangerously cold to go outside”的文章中,作者在开篇就先描述了2018新年之际天气之冷,到底有多冷一读便知:

The frigid waters of Lake Superior are looking steamy-hot as they waft into the below-zero air in northern Minnesota. On New Year’s Day, the temperature dipped to a record low of negative 9 degrees Fahrenheit in Chicago. Ice chunks cluttered the city’s river, prompting the cancellation of a polar plunge.

在大学申请个人陈述中也不乏出众的情景描述,比如在很多人都知道的一篇以Costco为主线的Essay中,作者是这样开头的:

Managing to break free from my mother’s grasp, I charged. With arms flailing and chubby legs fluttering beneath me, I was the ferocious two­ year old rampaging through Costco on a Saturday morning. My mother’s eyes widened in horror as I jettisoned my churro; the cinnamon­sugar rocket gracefully sliced its way through the air while I continued my spree.

短短几句就将一个顽皮可爱,充满好奇,无所畏惧的小姑娘形象刻画出来了。

练习情景快照,就要将一个现实生活中的场景(比如爸爸大汗淋漓修水管的样子,朋友告诉你好消息时得意的样子,树间飞来飞去的小鸟,早上顶着露珠的小草)或一个照片/图片的情景(如一个雪景,黑夜里亮着灯的小屋)描述下来,重在细节描述和用词的准确具体。

writing snapshot and thoughtshot

2. Thoughtshot 心理快照

心理快照是描述一个人的心理感受(thought/feeling at a specific moment), 如果单纯的直叙,我们可能直接说happy, mad, frustrated, 或surprised等形容词就行了。可这最大的问题是不生动!比如看到happy一词时读者可能都有自己不同的理解和感受,或是洋洋得意,或是幸福洋溢,或是逍遥自在。你到底想形容那种happy? 为什么不用更具体的词句表现出来呢? 

Stephenie Meyer 在她小说Twilight中描述主人公很生气时是这样写的:

My palms tingled—I wanted so badly to hit something. I was surprised at myself. I was usually a nonviolent person. I turned my back and started to walk away.

在小说Holes中,倒霉的主人公Stanley因为将砸在头上的鞋子拿回了家,而被法官判去Camp Green Lake 挖坑作为惩罚。小说里有多个心理快照。比如他坐了八个小时的汽车刚到camp时的想法与心情:

Stanley felt somewhat dazed as the guard unlocked his handcuffs and led him off the bus. He’d been on the bus for over eight hours.

“Be careful,” the bus driver said as Stanley walked down the steps.

Stanley wasn’t sure if the bus driver meant for him to be careful going down the steps, or if he was telling him to be careful at Camp Green Lake. “Thanks for the ride,” he said.

练习写心理快照就是要问自己在某一时刻时 ”What was I thinking? How was I feeling?” 还记得比赛失利时的惆怅与不甘吗?第一次尝试某种冒险时的心惊胆颤吗?或是一项成就被大家认可的欣喜若狂吗?试着把当时的心理状态用文字记录下来。

writing snapshot and thoughtshot

我的女儿现在六年级,很爱写作。在她练习写作时,我着重要求她有意识地将情景快照和心理快照交织起来,让文章更有感染力。

比如她想写出在游泳比赛后发现成绩又提高了5秒时的兴奋,如果按照通常的写法大概一句 “I was so excited to learn that I was five seconds faster than my previous personal best” 就完了。但是要想提升感染力,就必须突破这种枯燥的叙述,她是这么写的:

Almost there…got it! I tagged the touchpad with extra strength. When I glanced at the scoreboard, it struck me with surprise that my 200 IM improved five seconds! I let out a yelp of glee and pumped a fist in the air. I rushed out of the pool and scurried over to my coach, face beaming with pride. 

蓝色部分属于心理快照,而桔黄部分是情景快照。她虽然没用excited这个词,但字里行间写出来瞬间的惊讶与喜悦。

练习写作不光需要孩子常练笔,还需要老师的即时反馈。常练笔的目的就是将自己想说的东西表达出来,将思想挥洒于纸上。老师的指导至关重要,它能够帮助孩子认识到不足,更有意识地去选用生动具体的词汇,流畅的句式,来清晰组织语言结构。

孩子一支笔,让他们尽情释放内心,感受到写作给他们带来的乐趣。