Slice Of Life Story -The First Time Is Often Memorable
This morning I found myself talking and writing with a group of Year 9 high school students. They were generating a list of potential writing ideas for a narrative and one student suggested making a list of ‘firsts.’ They began to think about all those first times in their lives. The talk began to flow easily. I sat and listened and began to think.
Our lives are punctuated by so many of these first experiences. Some of them are profound and unforgettable, others somewhat regrettable or embarrassing. Sometimes the first time we experience a thing becomes the last time as well, for we determine never to repeat that event. As one student told the group, ‘The first time I ate onions was also the last!’
Suddenly a thought rushed into my head -I know where I was the first time I heard ‘The Beatles!’ I was not exactly sure where that came from, but it surfaced without warning, so I decided to work with it and began jotting down notes in my notebook…
I had just stepped off the school bus and dragged myself across the road to the local milk bar (drug store) as teenagers do. I had change in my pocket and a couple of my school mates in tow. In those far off times chocolate bullets were so cheap. You were able to buy 8 for a penny!
A juke box had just been installed and it was playing as we entered the shop. The song was ‘From Me To You’ and I was immediately drawn to its energy and sound. At that time I did not know who it was serenading me, but I found myself moving towards the player to check it out. I needed to know. My curiosity was aroused. Music has always been a strong force in my life and this compelling need to identify the performer indicated that same musical force was evident on this occasion. I had not heard of the Beatles, so the name was unfamiliar as was the sound. Soon it would be everywhere. Soon it would be everything…
Through the mists of time, the memory of that day came floating back. It is such a strong and clear recollection and it arrives as a pleasant surprise.
I recently had the pleasure of conducting a workshop on Wordplay and its important role in growing writers. Here are some of the messages I was able to share with participants. Trust they add to your thinking around the teaching of writing...
Wordplay is such an omnipotent thing. It is unavoidable. Conversation, songs, TV shows advertisements, literature , greeting cards, brochures magazines and newspapers all employ word play abundantly. Everywhere we go, it leaps out at us.
In many schools however the study of words, has over time, been shrunken down to mean little more than reading and vocabulary knowledge. And yet, I still recall my teachers encouraging me to play with malapropisms, oxymorons, listen for tautology and wonder at the mystery of invented words in Lewis Carroll's poem 'Jabberwocky.' I recall the fun we had creating rhyming couplets and discovering palindromic words. At home, my father regularly engaged me in wordplay and riddles. There were also a fair smatt…
Another school year is on the horizon in Australia... To assist teachers launching writing in their classrooms in the early days of the new school year, I offer the following support. Hope you find these ideas helpful in commencing your writing program in 2018.
My sincere hope for this year, is for student writers to encounter teachers who are focused on how to write, rather than what to write. In order for this to occur, teachers of writing must be prepared to commit to being writers too. Writing alongside your students sends a vital message regarding the importance of being someone who chooses to write, and sees value in such acts. it will immediately elevate writing in the minds of impressionable, curious learners. I urge you to be bold and brave. Become the risk taker you want your students to be.
I can say this with full confidence; every teacher possesses the potential to be the most influential writing mentor students will encounter in any school year.
It is important for young
writers to understand that not all parts of a story are equal. There are parts
through which a writer moves quickly, and important parts where the writer slows
down and lingers a while. This is where the writer might intensify the action
or reveal the character’s reactions in greater detail. Young writers need to
know that this is a deliberate strategy on the part of the author. The author
consciously zooms in. The writer uses a magnifying glass to view a part of the
story more closely; to focus on a moment and to slow down time. When an
important part of the story is enlarged upon, it is a signal to the reader, that this part of
the story is important. The strategy of ‘zooming
in’ goes by many names: ‘exploding a moment’ ‘magnifying a moment’, ‘hotspot’ ‘snapshot’,
‘adding detail’ or ‘slowing the action.’
What ever the name, the idea is the
same. The author writes in a way that expands a significant part of the story
with the intention of drawing the reader’…
To prepare for the writing that will emerge during the year we need to teach young writers how to find great ideas for writing lying deep inside themselves, before writing about them with focus. We need young writers to think deeply about what they are writing down. We want them to write about the things that matter most to them, -those things closest to the heart.
Encourage young writers to REREAD their initial work efforts to see if they can add more information for their reading audience.
Possible Teaching Points Upon Which to Focus:
•Writers make lists of important memories, people, places which could become story topics.
•Writers often sketch important memories, people, places which could spark an idea for a writing piece. They collect artifacts and ephemera to further stimulate their thinking.
•Writers get ideas for writing from reading lots of books. Books similar in genre/mode to what they are wishing to write.
•Writers identify and learn from their mentor authors.
When I find myself working in a classroom where student writers are openly encouraged to think for themselves and to make their own writing decisions, it's hard not to smile. The writing of such students is invariably wide ranging and exciting. Their engagement is clearly heightened. The classroom seems to hum with possibility. There is demonstrable energy in the learning space.
As I move about I see student writers choosing not only their topics, but also the preferred genre for their writing. They appear more fully engaged in matching their words to the needs of their readers. They exhibit an authentic sense of purpose and genuine ownership of the writing tasks they have chosen. When you talk with them, they articulate the reasons guiding their actions. These writers are supported in informed decisions. This is most evident.
Each writer appears to know what they want to work on and how to approach their own particular writing challenge or project. Workshop time …