Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Week 5

I know, I know, it's week 6 now, but I wanted to read the majority of the scary stories that my kids handed in before reporting back on the progress of the course.

I was definitely floored by their talent, but more so by their enthusiasm. Many of them volunteered to read their stories at the Halloween party (during which I gave them entirely too much candy and chocolate fudge cake, a realization I came to when one adorable student told me in an abnormally high pitched and jittery voice, "I'm so hyper right now I have a science test next period hahahah funny right can I have more Reeses?") Nevertheless I was really happy to see that they are all (ok, 90% of them are) really passionate about their creative writing. Really, this is the greatest thing I could accomplish as a teacher in this course and I feel like my purpose in being there is really being fulfilled; I'm getting them as excited about writing as I was when I was that age, at times furiously writing down ideas as they came to me, eager to share my work, and enthusiastic about assignments to the point where I didn't really view them as homework anymore (I told all my kids that they don't have to work on the stories at home if they don't feel like it, but 95% of them did work on them at home, many of them typing the stories up for me). The bottom line is, yes, a lot of these kids are exceptional writers, both in the morning class and the afternoon (Ingenuity) class, but more importantly at least in my eyes, their pieces are heavy on creativity and they're loving writing, which is what I want for them in this course.

A good example of this came from one of the students in the morning class... I hadn't read any of her work before this because she didn't turn in the optional first assignment (those fairy tales were really just a warm-up so I told the kids they didn't have to submit them if they didn't want to), but she was eager to read her scary story in class during the party. Not only is she a great writer-- great sense of humor in her work, nice handle on how to build suspense and just all around smart about how to construct a good story, but I could really tell she was having fun writing this. Here's a little taste from her scary story, "Stay Away From The Fair":

Then I saw him. The psycho clown.
"Hey there, you're in quite a predicament aren't you?" He asked. I said nothing. "Aw, lets be friendly, shall we?" He said. He appeared right next to me.
"I could help you out, you know," he said. "You see these creatures and ghouls? They're real, my friend."
"I'm not your friend."
"Now, now, now. Don't be that way; your worst enemy could be your best friend. But then again your best friend could be your worst enemy. Which makes them your best friend again. Which makes them your worst enemy, which..." He looked at me. "Complicated, isn't it? Well enough chat, let's get this over with." He grew fangs that went below his chin.

(That student's name is Megan Artis)

I got lots of stories that also incorporated the things that matter most to kids that age... I found it funny that another post in the blog mentioned kids who talked about pizza and skateboarding in their poetry; as I have 2 boys and 14 girls in total for my two classes, most of the stories have some elements of popular crowd, nerds, jocks, etc. It's funny how they'll insert these social classifications into even a ghost story; in one student's piece the evil witch/villain was actually an "uber-popular" and "uber-mean" girl at school, aided by her father, who is the principal of the school.

Finally, there were those students who were brilliant with language. One student in the morning class gave me this:

He flicked a glance at the sky, which was a deepening blue-violet. The full moon gleamed above the woods and he shivered slightly, even with the pleasant autumn mildness.
He crossed the bridge, hesitantly testing each board with his foot... Once he reached the other side of the bridge he saw Mandy there, awaiting him. Her in those beaten-up white sneakers, Band-aids adorning her legs every few inches.

(That's from Breea Wallace-Holland)

And those are supposed to be the REMEDIAL kids??

I haven't finished reading all the stories (and awarding prizes for them), but I'll post some more thoughts once I do. In the meantime, what are some good prizes for kids? I was thinking of getting them some cool writing journals or something but I welcome other (inexpensive) ideas. My friend Chris didn't like my idea to get them a book (I was thinking "Ender's Game"); he informed me that "if my teacher had given me a book as a prize when I was a kid I would have probably hit her with it." So suggestions are welcome.

I can't wait to see what the kids come up with for their second project, which is to come up with their own ideas/genres for a story (each student will meet with me individually to discuss it). I'll post a bit on that once my classes meets tomorrow morning.

Oh, and question-- I know these finished stories are supposed to appear in an anthology; is there a page limit? Cuz I've got some writers who need limits imposed if you don't want to read a lot, hehe.

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