Slice Of Life Story Challenge March 3 -Writing In The Days That Used To Be




A student asked me an interesting question today during a share time ‘What was writing like, when you were in Grade 5?’

Well, it was like this…






Writing Time With Miss Dungeon

In Grade 5
Our teacher Miss Dungeon
Would ask us to write
She called it-
Composition
She gave each of us a book
A book she called
A composition book

Every Thursday
Straight after lunch
Was composition time
We all knew this because Miss Dungeon
Would stand in front of the class
And using her very loud voice
That made the windows rattle
Announce
OPEN YOUR COMPOSITION BOOKS

With pencils poised
We would sit silently
Waiting
Waiting
Anticipating
Until Miss Dungeon
Standing at the front of the room
Giant like on a raised platform
Looked over her spectacles and announced the weekly writing topic-

Autobiography of an Ant
START WRITING NOW

No smile
No Frown
START WRITING NOW…

A few kids began writing
Some stared out the window
Some froze at their desks
And the rest of us stared at the blank white page of our composition book
No one looked at Miss Dungeon
No one dared to look at Miss Dungeon

YOU’VE GOT TWENTY MINUTES
START WRITING

The room fell silent
Pencils scratched wobbly words
Blank pages slowly filled with ant words
Miss Dungeon prowled the room
Gliding along the aisles between our desks like a shark
A grey nurse shark

Suddenly the silence was shattered
ADD MORE DETAIL
ADD MORE DETAIL
Miss Dungeon demanded
Jabbing her finger
Spearing the page
Sharing her rage with a bewildered writer
After twenty minutes Miss Dungeon bellowed
STOP WRITING
CLOSE YOUR BOOKS
PASS THEM TO THE FRONT

We put our pencils down
We sigh with relief
We stop thinking about ants

She would return our ant stories
Covered in red ink
And a mark out of ten
And we would await the next topic
When next Thursday
We'd do it all again
Composition
A new topic
Thrown our way by Miss Dungeon



I think they were quite surprised

 * Miss Dungeon is a pseudonym for my Grade 5 teacher. Her real name was close to this.



Comments

  1. What a vivid portrayal! I love how you took a student's comment, reflected on it and created this slice. I almost jumped in my seat when those uppercase letters screamed "ADD MORE DETAIL! ADD MORE DETAIL!" and shattered the silence--Shattered was the perfect verb! Will you share this slice with your class? I imagine they would really appreciate it!

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    1. Thank you Molly. I will add this poem to my poetry blog and allow students to read it there.

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  2. The red ink was horrible and was used continuously by my teachers even throughout my college years. To this day, I never take a red pen to my students' work. Miss Dungeon could have her own TV show!

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    1. The red ink was indeed horrible along with the mark out of ten in a circle. A TV show? It would give her former students the shudders.

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  3. Oh my! Unfortunately, this kind of writing instruction is still alive in some classrooms, but to a lesser degree. It's amazing that so many of us survived our own Miss Dungeon and still went on to write. Great slice!

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    1. It is testimony to the power of writing that so many of us withstood such teaching and have continued to write Jennifer. It is, as you say, an approach to writing' still alive in some classrooms' to this day. We shall persist!

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  4. A burst of memories just came to me reading this entry. I remember my teacher saying "Don't stop, write the same word over and over until you can think of the next thought." It was very strange. Thanks for the memory.

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    1. Leigh, it appears too many of us had these kind of experiences. We are clearly resilient!

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  5. Wonderful slice! It's hard to believe most of us survived writing situations like you describe. But look, here you are, an accomplished and published author! I was waiting for the return of the composition books with the red ink and I could almost hear Miss Dungeon's voice screaming!

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    1. Thank you Rose. We are writing survivors. Miss Dungeon was influential in the end, because I vowed to do things differently. A memorable character who highlighted how not to do things. I often wonder how many of my former classmates feel about writing as a result of these experiences...

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  6. As I read this, your words brought me searching for your book, Igniting Writing, that I was so fortunate to win one year. This is the poetic form of Memories of the Red Pen chapter. I love reading that chapter to teachers and watch their expressions. Now I will print this out and we can study the same topic in two formats. I love the image of the teacher gliding like a shark. Oh the power of words! Thank you Alan!

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    1. Ah Elsie, you have made the connection back to the original piece I wrote in the book. that gives me a smile. I had always pondered the idea of reproducing it as a poem- and now I have. I hope having it in two formats serves you well. Many thanks for always valued comments.

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  7. Oh gosh- this brings back terrible memories! Thank goodness we know better now.

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    1. Most of us Lisa. There are still remnants of this approach to be found out there. Keep up the resistance.

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  8. Your poem is like a warning "Don't ever do this." It's great that you are a writer despite of this experience. We'll never know how many young writers were turned off from writing because of this teacher.

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    1. You're right Terje, we'll never know the full extent of the damage these approaches had on the attitudes to writing of many students. I am indeed a survivor who became a thriver!

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  9. I love the poem. Our teachers must have gone to the same college prep school! It's a miracle I enjoy writing now!

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    1. We both stand as miracles! Glad you enjoyed the poem.

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  10. Questions beget stories and memories. Thanks for taking that student's bait, Alan, and sharing the resulting verse.

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