Monday, October 25, 2010

Weeks 4 and 5: Free-Writes, Collaborative Pieces, and Poetry

Hello again. A lot has happened since my last blog, namely the elimination of the New York Yankees from the 2010 MLB Playoffs. I wish both the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants the best, and from this point forward will not acknowledge the sport of baseball until Spring Training begins next March. I fully expect both Derek Jeter and Mariano River to return to pinstripes for the 2011 season, and take a pay cut if need be. If that is not the case, we are going to have problems.

Now to teaching. I guess I have to be careful not to turn this into a sports blog. Anyway, I think I learned at least as much from my students as they did from me during my fourth lesson. My goal is to have the kids prepared to workshop a short story of their own the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Since I am not permitted to assign homework, all of their writing has to occur in class. Thus I decided to give them a head start on their short stories. We spent the first ten minutes of class playing another game of Exquisite Corpse to help facilitate the creative spirit. The kids love this game, and by the time it was over they were in the mood to start their stories. Before instructing them to do so, I reminded everyone of what we talked about so far this semester: setting, mood, characterization, foreshadowing, conflict, and the overall structure of the short story.

After a half an hour of writing, I could tell that the students were getting a little restless. I told them to put their piece away and to be prepared to work on it during another lesson. Some weren't ready to stop, and I urged them to continue working on their stories at home if they felt the need to do so.

We spent the last twenty minutes of class writing collaborative stories. Each student started his or her own story, and then passed it to their left for another student's contribution. At the end of the period we had a collaborative work for each student in the class. Some were more cohesive than others, although none were particularly organized. Thus I learned a valuable less: If you instruct six eighth grade girls to do a collaborative free-write, what you will receive in the end are six versions of Twilight. Sadly, there will be no more collaborative free-writes.

In week five, I had both of my classes meet at the same time. There was a scheduling conflict in my later period with a "Poetry Slam" the school was hosting that Tuesday. I am very excited to hear what my students have to say about the Slam when I see them tomorrow.

Because my class was twice as large as usual, I knew I had to come into the period with a solid lesson plan. Moreover, I wanted to prime the students for their Poetry Slam. I decided to bring in Emily Dickinson's "Because I Could Not Stop For Death", Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!", Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz", and Seamus Heaney's "Blackberry Picking", the latter being one of my favorite poems in the English language. We had a rewarding discussion about each poem's structure and themes, along with the imagery that the author evoked. For the last ten minutes I instructed the students to begin a poem of their own. At the end of the period most students were eager to share their work, so much so that I plan to return to poetry later in the semester.

Tomorrow, we will be reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Diamond As Big As The Ritz."

Goodbye for now,


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