Lifting A Line -Two Examples

Lifting A Line from a text –Example 1

Here is a writing idea I picked up from listening to David Morely’s Writing Challenges, (Warick University UK). Those of you with technological pretensions may choose to download these writing challenges as podcasts. I found this link in the Itunes store but there is also a link through David's webpage.

For those of you who wish to contact David Morley’s web site, check out the Writing links to the right of this post, and it will take you directly to the place you are seeking, -It's as easy as that!

David challenged me to randomly open a book and point to any part of the facing page without sneeking a peek before hand. Then he asked me to choose a line from somewhere in the text near to where my finger landed. I had to choose a phrase that caught my eye. I was then asked to lift that line and write it in my writer’s notebook. David directed me to repeat this process until I had gathered approximately a page of random phrases. In the end my list looked something like this:

“He wanted an excuse to stay home…” (from Hoot , Carl Hiaasen)
“The sacred moment was turning into an agony…” (from Ash Road, Ivan Southall)
“The gears crunched and the truck wheeled onto the main road…” (from Heartsongs, Anne Proulx)
“Spouts of bitter laughter erupted…” (from Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli)
“It had something to do with the music…” (From Dirt Music, Tim Winton)

….And so one down the page.

With this simple exercise David Morley had provided me with an additional writing resource simply by challenging me to ‘lift a line’ from a previously written text. My found phrases provided a list of stimulating words that in times of need I can tap into when developing a piece of writing.

I can use those fragments to create a new scenario. I can use them to begin a new piece of writing, or I can insert them into a text at the appropriate moment.

A simple yet effective way to harvest writing ideas! Try this with your students. It will lessen the likelihood of them ever uttering the phrase –“I’ve got nothing to write about!”


Lifting A Line from a Text- Example 2

I read Cathy Applegate’s powerfully written story, "Raindance" to a Grade 6 class. "Raindance" is a picture story book that tells of the experiences encountered by a family living through a prolonged drought on a farm in rural Australia. It has not rained to any great degree for two years and the family is faced with the prospect of selling the farm. Eventually after much false hopes and disappointment the rain clouds gather and deliver a desperately needed downpour. The family rejoices. The author paints a beautiful picture with her description of the build up prior to the deluge, building the tension created by the incessant heat and dryness.
The story is rich in visual imagery and effective use is made of 'vivid verbs' and adjectives.

Following the read aloud I invited the students to revisit the text and view it through the eyes of a fellow writer. I provided the students with an extract of the text and asked them to underline or highlight those words, phrases or sentences that they believed were examples of the author using language in ways that connected or resonated with their idea of great writing. They were then asked to share with a writing partner and compare their respective observations about the writing.

I then modelled how I as a writer, could use the writing of Cathy Applegate to develop my own piece of writing. I chose a sentence extracted from a different part of the text to the one the students had examined and then created a new context by adding my own words

“All day it rains, and all day we watch and wonder, until eventually it slows and stops.” From ‘Rain-dance’
Finally, we can venture outside into the yard. We traipse across the squelchy lawn and stamp in puddles that have formed on the path. My sister shakes a tree and I get showered in water droplets.

“The heat has been washed out of the day.” From ‘Rain-dance’
The air is no longer soupy. What a relief! I was sick of sticking to the sheets and feeling like melting cheese. After two scorching summer days and nights I am looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep.

The students then set about lifting a line from the text of “Rain-dance” and using it as a launching pad for a piece of their own writing.

Student Response:
“Everything is quiet, everything is still. We wait and wait and wait, until we are no longer sure what we’re waiting for.”The tears have gone away. A new page of my life has begun. I am waiting for the divorce to stop. Waiting day after day till I do not know what I’m waiting for.

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