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5 — Using faction to represent and imagine ancient Rome

Cover of 'A Visitor's Guide to Ancient Rome' by Lesley Sims showing cartoon images of ancient Roman citizens, at rest, fighting and at the markets, and a tourist on-looker standing by with a map

Above: Cover of A Visitor's Guide to Ancient Rome by Lesley Sims and Louie Stowell, Usbourne Publishing, London, reproduced with permission of Usborne Publishing, © Usborne Publishing, 2009

The DK Eyewitness Guide to Ancient Rome, studied in the previous sequence, represented and imagined life in ancient Rome in the form of a conventional factual information text, with photographs of artefacts, captions and background detail written in a formal, informational style.

In this sequence, students will be looking at A Visitor’s Guide to Ancient Rome, a ‘faction’ text that presents information in a persuasive fictional format, in the style of a travel guide. The students will firstly examine how the text organises and categorises information in the context of its overall style. They will then move on to examine the use of strong evaluative language in the text.

This sequence also builds the foundation for the next sequence, in which students study a hybrid text, featuring stronger evaluative language and a wider variety of text formats, which still maintains its overall purpose as an information text about ancient Rome.

Both this sequence and the following one scaffold students to write their own work inspired by the styles they have studied.

Introduction: It's a factual text ... or is it?

Students browse through the text in order to develop an overview of its style, tone and main features. Ask the students if they can make connections between this text and other texts (hint: travel guides or guidebooks). What do they think the purpose of this text is?

The purpose of the text is to inform, to persuade, to entertain, to explain and to instruct.

What would they expect to be the main purpose of a factual text about ancient Rome? Distribute the contents pages of the two texts (see Resources). Ask the students to draw lines to connect similar topics in the two content pages (for example, ‘The bloody arena’ and ‘The games of death’). What do they notice? Although the two texts have a similar overall purpose, and cover similar content, why do the students think the authors of this text chose this format? ACELA1531,  ACELY1721ACDSEH039

Activity 1: What is faction and what does it look like in this text?

Inform the students that A Visitor’s Guide to Ancient Rome is an example of faction: a factual text presented with literary and fictional elements. Ask them to describe how the text is organised and comment on how this organisation links to the text’s overall purpose. Show the students the Text structure and features of A Visitor’s Guide to Ancient Rome worksheet.

As a whole class, annotate a scanned double page spread to show where these features occur. Ask the students which features they did not expect to see in a factual information text. Why do they think the author included these features? How do these features make a faction text more appealing? ACELA1531ACELY1721ACELT1803

Activity 2: How does one factional text use evaluative language to engage the reader?

Briefly revise the concept of evaluative language with the students. Model the identification of some examples of evaluative language using an extract from the text, then continue to jointly highlight them.

Evaluative language can be used to express attitudes by ‘expressing emotions (affect), appreciating things (appreciation) and judging behaviour (judgment)’. Evaluative language can also be used to evaluate the qualities of things in the form of their ‘composition, social value and the reaction they provoke’; that is, ‘appreciation’ (A New Grammar Companion for Teachers, Beverly Derewianka, pages 121–23)

For example on page 44 ‘This forum’s full’

‘The city of Rome is so busy that one forum wasn’t enough. The original Roman Forum couldn’t accommodate all the stalls and crowds – not to mention the hordes of pesky foreigners on business trips. Mind you, you’ll probably be the only tourist there. To make space – and show off – various emperors built their own fora (plural of forum) known as Imperial Fora.’

Students independently use the pre-prepared copy (see Resources) to highlight examples of evaluative language in the text. They then share their examples with the class. Ask the students if they were surprised to see evaluative language in a faction text. Why do they think the use of evaluative language is engaging for the reader? ACELA1536,   ACELT1621ACDSEH039

Activity 3: Adapting a conventional information text into faction with evaluative language

In small groups, students compare and contrast one page from each of the two texts studied (see Resources). Using a quote from the DK Eyewitness guide to Ancient Rome, model how you could adapt it to adopt the style and grammatical features of A Visitor’s Guide to Ancient Rome (see the Example: Adapting a conventional information text into faction).

Students independently write their own faction text adaptation in the style of A Visitor’s Guide to Ancient Rome. ACELT1625ACDSEH039

Student reflective journal

Students should spend 5–10 minutes responding to the reflection questions for this sequence, either in written form or orally, and then assess their responses against the success criteria using the rubric provided.