So I am finally posting in the Teaching of Writing Blog. The reasons for my absence thus far have been 1. half forgetting the existence of the blog and 2. we got off to a very late start (but mostly #2). So having only held two classes so far, I feel that even though we are a good month into the semester, I am not a complete failure for taking this long to post...
Anyway. I am teaching the same kids this semester as I did last time, two groups of VERY bright 6th graders. I was thrilled to have the chance to work with the same kids because I had already done all the work of getting them hooked on the program (they were just as excited to come back as I was), and I had also had a chance to see their work/assess their skill level, which was a big factor in choosing assignments and planning my lessons. Last semester we went over concepts like plot and character development and did a few projects (some small, some large), but we spent the most time on the ghost stories (for Halloween) and on another project where they chose the topic/genre. I was blown away by what they submitted (everything from an entire notebook filled with a single story to a short piece about Dr. Suess characters who live in a box and are trying to get a paycheck from their boss, the Cat in the Hat), but I was posed with a challenge this time around: where to go now?
I decided, when we finally got a chance to hold our first class, that since they had had an opportunity to write stories on a topic I provided and also on a topic of their own choice, I would give them something in between: I went into the first day of the second semester planning to assign a project where they could choose their own topic/voice, but they had to use a defined structure. They could choose between writing a story through diary entries or through letters between two or more people and/or creatures (with emphasis on the creatures... I completely encourage their desire to write from the POV of fleas/paperclips/Dr. Suess characters/Freddy Krueger sp?, etc).
But when they came into class two weeks ago, they were way ahead of me. A group of students in the second class informed me that they had spent their lunch period brainstorming ideas for their new stories, and they wanted to write the "confessions of a video game addict," among other diary-based ideas (this before I even shared my plan to do diaries/letters).
Perfect! Write away, I told them.
So they got started, some working alone and others (by request) in groups. I actually thought it would add a new dimension to the writing experience if they worked in groups... personally I hate having to compromise with other people about how I will write my story, but I'm glad they wanted to. I just asked that each person do at least one letter/diary entry on their own and put their name on it, so I could be sure that everyone had contributed to the content.
The project was a big hit. During the second week they continued/finished their first pieces. These included letters back and forth between the serial killers Freddy and Jason (from Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween movies), the video game addict piece, and other crazy-creative ideas. I can't wait to read all of them... I'll post some of the highlights next time (but I promise not to post any names this time, even if I am singing their praises :) ).
Finally, I asked each of the students to come up with some cover art for their diaries/letters (either by making it look like an authentic diary in which someone/something confided its deepest, darkest secrets, or by just illustrating the cover with images related to the story). My plan for the next week or two is to collect all of the cover art and make color copies for each student (as well as copies of each of the stories), then bring in some materials to make their own anthologies (since the anthologies never really happened last semester). That way, everyone could have a bound edition with all of the diary covers encasing all of the stories, which they can keep as their first "published" piece and can show off to their parents, etc. As always, any student that does not want to share their work does not have to, and if they don't want their story/art in the anthology that's completely ok. I just ask that each student submit a copy to me so that I can give some comments back to them, but their work will remain unread by other students.
And there you have it: my update on the semester thus far (though it has only been two weeks in which the class actually met so you can expect more rapid development in future). Hopefully all will go well with my plans for this anthology... I don't expect any trouble as far as submissions/content go because all of these kids are very talented writers and always do their assignments (many taking extra time to do them outside of class as well), but in terms of the whole binding thing in class... we'll just have to see.
Oh, and I think I'm going to ask each class to come up with a name for themselves (like a team name), which I'll use to design a cover for the whole diary collection/anthology... suggestions would be appreciated.