Saturday, November 20, 2010

Happy Halloween

Getting serious... Weeks 6, 7, and 8.

In week six, I introduced our long-term project: Spooky stories! The genre of supernatural fiction tied in (somewhat superficially) to the overall theme of Modern Myths, but more importantly it was an idea the kids were really interested in. 

I led us in a guided meditation and free-write to start us off. It was a dark and stormy day... Actually, it was slightly overcast and about 60 degrees, but it looked quite cold outside. I lined them up at the windows and asked them to consider first the immediate aspects of the environment (the cloudy skies, the breeze on the tree-branches, the belching industrial pipes and the crowded parking lot). Then we moved to smaller things (the way the clouds moved, the individual leaves on the trees, the squirrels among among the cars), and finally ended by imagining all of the unseen life outside the classroom (the people in the buildings, the invisible birds in the trees, the innumerable creatures and bacteria in the dirt and grass of the football field).

Then we read a few supernatural-themed poems: "Because I could not stop for death" (Dickinson), "Ghost House" (Frost), "Annabelle Lee" (Poe).

Another time, I split them into four groups and we acted out "The Witches' Spell" from Act 4 of Macbeth. I asked each of them to put a different spin on the performance and the results were hilarious. Not much writing this week, but definitely a lot of thinking and discussion... I can't wait to start the projects.

These are the weeks I began to lose students... I didn't want to take it personally, because as one child's mother explained, there "seems to be a college-level amount of work assigned to sixth-graders." But it still hurt. My first class went from fifteen to nine students. It seems that parents and teachers believe Creative Writing should be reserved for "a future year in [students'] scholastic get the most out of it."

For all my soap-boxing, I think they have a point. But if my child had the opportunity to write and to develop the kind of advanced literary thinking I've been trying to cultivate in these students--I don't know that I would pass that up, even if it meant missing a few sections of Egyptian mythology in sixth grade social studies. Soap-box: dismounted.

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