Tag Archives: Teaching Writing

Mystery Writing, Hyperdocs, & Online Learning

Many schools are looking at distance learning as an option during the outbreak of COVID-19 around the world. In fact, schools and universities in my surrounding area have closed for the upcoming weeks. Some schools have decided to offer online learning for students.

Due to the current climate, I want to share the mystery writing hyperdoc I have revamped for students to learn, explore, and apply elements of a mystery whether in the classroom or remotely. Using digital tools like Flipgrid, Nearpod, Edpuzzle, and Google Classroom, students are able to access and apply learning through digital resources.

Below is the Murder Mystery Hyperdoc that provides links to digital tools, resources, and activities to help my students craft creative mystery stories. I have provided quick writes,  videos, How To sheets, and lessons throughout the documents to help my students analyze mentor texts, learn about the elements of mystery, and apply their learning to the stories, podcasts, and movies they write.

This hyperdoc offers a variety to eLearning tools. Here are a dozen more recommended by Evolving Educators that I also find useful:

1. @Screencastify

2. @AdobeSpark

3. @GoogleForEdu

4. @Seesaw

5.@Activelylearn

6. @PearDeck

7. @padlet

8. @BookCreatorApp

9.  @WeVideo

10. @Wakelet

11. @EdPuzzle

12. @Buncee

 

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Engaging & Empowering Readers with Penny Kittle & Kelly Gallagher

I have been waiting all week to write this post because I wanted to share the insight I gained from a workshop today with Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher sponsored by Heinemann Professional Development.

As literacy teachers, our goal is to make kids better readers and writers. What does that entail? Everyday practices of reading, writing, studying creating, and sharing. 

Kelly Gallagher began by referencing Pedro Noguera, a distinguished professor of education at UCLA  who said we are asking the wriong question. Rather, “We need to ask what can we do to challenge and stimulate our students?”

Both Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle talked about moving towards generative reading and writing vs. task oriented reading and writing. “We want students to generate their own thinking first.” When we ask students to answer specific questions about a text they are answering our questions and focused on the task at hand.  Students are getting too immersed in tasks. Tasks are getting in the way of rigorous thinking and what is the value of this text.  If we are to encourage and engage students in deep thinking about reading and writing students need time to read and talk about reading IN CLASS. 

Richard Allington, “Reading is less about ability and more about opportunity.” The volume of reading is key. How much and how often students read affects their lives in crucial ways. 

As teachers, we need to focus on:

Time — Choice — Access

In Gallagher’s classroom, there are three goals for every reader:

  1. Increase volume of reading
  2. Increase Complexity
  3. Develop an allegiance to authors and genres

When it came to talking about how to motivate readers the following practices are in both Kittle and Gallagher’s classrooms: 

1. Their Own passion

2. Choices

3. Book Talks – Start of every day is a book talk to help students find books they love. Why? It creates a willingness to practice outside of class. Read aloud a piece of the text everyday in a book talk. 

4. Time to read in class –20% of class time devoted to Independent reading and conferences. Gallagher mentioned it takes a couple of weeks for most students to get into 10 minutes of sustained independent reading

5. Holding Reading Conferences – In conferences, students learn how to have meaningful conversations in a safe 1:1 setting with a teacher who can move their thinking.

NCTE's Position Statement on Independent Reading

As NCTE defines “Independent reading is a routine, protected instructional practice that occurs across all grade levels. Effective independent reading practices include time for students to read, access to books that represent a wide range of characters and experiences, and support within a reading community that includes teachers and students. “

 

As for writing, low pressure writing is a daily occurrence in both their classrooms. Students write quick writes daily and after 10 quick writes in their notebooks the students decide which one they give the teacher permission to read. Students are reading and writing everyday in class. 

Students use their writer’s Notebooks based on what Donna Sandman describes as

A workbench – a place to practice 

A place to stumble on ideas – a collection place

A place you go to do work – a playground 

Both Gallagher and Kittle shared their own writer’s notebooks. They spoke about writing alongside students and allow students to see you struggle as a writer.

Additionally, they talked about the importance of daily flash revision. Allowing 90 seconds a day of tinkering and polishing your writing. Rather than peer editing, they have students,  “Tell your writing partner one thing you did to make your writing better.” Revision is kept in a writer’s notebook. Students put a sticky note on one page they want us to look at. Notebooks are meant to support the writer, not evaluate her. Students are given ten minutes to craft one page of writing. Gallagher tells his students, “You have stories to tell, that only you can tell the story.”

Penny Kittle broke down some old way of thinking about teaching writing versus new thinking about writing:

OLD Thinking NEW Thinking
1. Kids should produce one big paper over weeks of work
2. Tell students what to write and how to write it, which makes writers dependent on the teachers (Checklist)
3. Writing process is defined as prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and final drafts graded with a rubric – Students work mostly under teacher direction throughout unit
1. Opportunities to practice the same skills multiple times (Laps around the tracks) in different contexts which makes writers more flexible and skills transferable
2. Students decide on a focus for their writing and how to organize their ideas effectively for an audience which increases confidence in applying what they learn as they struggle with these decisions in other rhetorical situations. 
3. The writing process includes generating ideas through quick writing to poems, infographics, photos, editorials, etc. These quick writers are revised as regular practice. 

Both Kittle and Gallagher shared tons of book titles and poems to use with students for reading and quick writes. These texts provide a seed that will spur thinking. Students are encouraged to grab a word, grab a line, grab a hot spot and then write off it. 

Here are ten poems shared in the workshop and used for quick writes:

“Camaro” by Phil Kaye

“what the dead know by heart” by Dante Collins

“Hair” by Elizabeth Acevedo

“Kitchen Table” by George Ella Lyons

“Deer Hit” by Jon Loomis

“Native Tongue” by Micah Bournes

Kwame Alexander: Take a Knee

Rigged Game by Dylan Garity

“B” by Sarah Kay

Lastly, a piece by Matt La Pena worth checking out.

“Why we shouldn’t shield children from darkness” by Matt La Pena

Here’s a complete list of spoken poetry shared by Kelly Gallagher

 

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March Mystery Madness

Thrillers, suspense, crime novels, detective fiction – whatever you call them, mystery books make for some of the most exciting literature out there. The mystery genre has been around for over two centuries. The Enigma Society has announced a new contest for teen writers to create a short story (or film or podcast) with a dastardly murder … a gathering of suspicious characters. WHO, with WHAT weapon and WHERE? 

That is all up to you. You will have the next three weeks to craft your story, plot the murder, and have your readers ask cunning detective questions. 

I wanted to go beyond a scenario and create an authentic challenge. I contacted my local public library to see if they wanted to get in on the literary action and expand this mystery writing contest beyond the walls of my classroom. Because librarians are the best, they agreed to participate and host this mystery writing contest. And who knows, if it is successful we might turn it into an annual event for all middle school students.  The director of the library and teen librarian have agreed to create an introductory video to launch the contest. In the meanwhile, here is the contest rules and regulations.

Students will have three weeks to write and create an original mystery. I also created a playlist to guide students through the writing process, focusing on the elements of mystery. Click on the image below to access the hyper doc that I modeled from the original Clue game board.

Murder Mystery Gameboad

Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last.

– Sherlock Holmes

And with that, my friends, you will have to stay tuned for more.

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Ways to Support Student Writers With & Without Technology

The following blog post is from an interview I had with Monica Burns, author, blogger, and podcaster of Class Tech Tips. To read the full interview, on Monica’s Blog, click here.

Supporting Student Writers

Michele has a brand new book that I can’t wait to share with you. It’s called New Realms for Writing: Inspire Student Expression with Digital Age Formats and discusses strategies you can try out right away with students. Michele is a literacy teacher at Rye Middle School in Rye, New York, and an adjunct professor at Manhattanville College. She was kind enough to take time to answer questions about her work and her new book. At the bottom of the post, you’ll find a few of my favorite activities for student writers, too!

What motivated you to write a book on this topic?

After just finishing Personalized Reading: Digital Strategies and Tools to Support All Learners(ISTE, 2018), I felt the need to address writing since reading and writing go hand in hand. As a middle school English teacher, reading and writing are intertwined. I wanted to share ways that writing could go beyond short responses and essays in the classroom to help meet 21st Century Skills while at the same time, bolster student writing. If we want students to be creative communicators, we need to expand the role, format, and audience for writing across the content areas.

How has technology changed the way students publish their writing?

Technology has altered the landscape of education, let alone the way students publish their writing. It allows teachers and students to broaden the audience and share their writing with a wider audience, not just between student and teacher. Technology also allows for diverse formats. Students can publish blogs, ebooks, and infographics, in addition to traditional formats like essays and research papers. Students have to write essays throughout secondary school and college, but for the most part, outside of school, we curate a variety of technology forms for learning and understanding.

You provide lots of student work examples in your book. Can you tell us a bit about how non-traditional products like infographics and podcasts have a place in the classroom?

Learn how to support student writers this school year using technology and with more traditional methods. Hear from author Michele Haiken and her new book.

Think about the ways you interact with information today. I might turn on the news when I wake up and then listen to a podcast on my way to work. Once I am in school, I am on a computer reading diverse texts and interacting between print, digital, and visual texts throughout the day. These texts include literature, nonfiction articles, visual texts like photographs, and infographics.

Our students are similar, and we should be having them reading and writing all these different texts to construct knowledge as well as become empowered learners. In my classroom, I want students to be critical consumers of information in all these different formats as well as creative thinkers in the way they present their learning and understanding. I am all for choices and giving students the ability to choose the best format that fits their message.

In the second chapter of the book, you discuss “multigenre” writing. Can you explain what this term means and what it looks like to include multigenre writing in a classroom?

In English class, writing is too compartmentalized. Teachers teach a unit in poetry, then narrative writing, and argumentative writing. We do not need to be so compartmentalized. When students write multigenre projects, they are choosing different genres to showcase a topic or idea.

For example, when my students are reading and writing about World War 2, we read memoirs, biographies, historical fiction, primary sources, photographs, artwork, and poetry about this time period. Students choose a topic within WW2 to research and investigate more. Some choose victims of the Holocaust, resistors, Japanese Internment, or soldiers and build a collection of five different writings in response to the primary sources they read to showcase their topic. A student might write a poem about being sent off to war, a letter to his family members about the horrors on the battlefield, and include visual drawings of the aftermath of a battle in Europe.

Rather than report what happened, I am asking students to step in the shoes of real people and build out their story to share the forgotten stories of the past. Multigenre writing breaks out of the confines of one genre or style of writing and utilizes many formats to communicate an idea.

In your book, you discuss analog techniques, not just digital. Why is it essential to find a balance between techy and not-so-techy experiences?

Learn how to support student writers this school year using technology and with more traditional methods. Hear from author Michele Haiken and her new book.

I think you said it best when you say “balance.” We need that balance to make sure our students can be successful in school and out. We do not live in a completely digital world, and it would be impractical to be completely digital. I still have my students keep a print reading journal for all the reading they do throughout the school year. Students can choose to write notes, create sketchnotes, and I have some students that type up their notes and paste them into their reading journal.

I love reading through their journals and seeing their thinking on paper. I am lucky to have Chromebooks in my classroom, but that is not the reality for every teacher, classroom, or student across the nation. Yes, there are benefits to both digital and analog, but this is also an issue of digital equity.

Use this link to grab a copy of Michele’s new book, New Realms for Writing: Inspire Student Expression with Digital Age Formats

I love how you include poetry in New Realms for Writing. Is there a favorite tech-friendly poetry activity you like to use with students?

I love starting with found poems or blackout poems. I ask my students to choose a song that represents them and copy the song lyrics onto a Google Document. After reading through the song one or two times, students then have to pair the words down by blacking out words or phrases. You might even give students a set number of words that have to remain in their poems.

It is amazing because two students might have the same song, but when they read through and pair down the words to create a new blackout poem, the words or meanings are different based on what is emphasized or what was left out. If students struggle to find words, this activity provides them with the words; they just have to select what will be highlighted on the page.

What advice would you give a group of educators who want to hold a book club for your book?

Share your ideas and expertise within the book club. Take the ideas that I have shared and adapt and revise them to fit the best interests of your students. My hope is that the ideas I presented in the book are a catalyst for you to inspire your students to be innovative, creative, and collaborative.

 

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Argumentative Writing with Scaffolds

The Next Generation Learning Standards for Writing in the 8th grade identify five different types and purposes for writing. The first is argumentative writing.

8W1: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

8W1a: Introduce a precise claim, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from a counterclaim, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

8W1b: Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using credible sources while demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.

8W1c:  Use precise language and content-specific vocabulary to argue a claim.

8Wd: Use appropriate and varied transitions to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.

8W1e: Provide a concluding statement or section that explains the significance of the argument presented.

8W1f: Maintain a style and tone appropriate to the writing task.

 

After reading To Kill a Mockingbird I wanted to provide my students with an argumentative essay prompt rather than the traditional literary essay. I modeled the essay from the New York State regents.

First students had five minutes to free write about the topic: Is To Kill a Mockingbird relevant to teach in 2020?

Mockingbird Do Nows

Then, working with a partner, students had to brainstorm reasons for supporting the topic and negating the topic. The challenge was to balance both sides of argument with sound reasons.

Mockingbird Do Nows-2

After students shared their reasons with the whole class, students were given an article to read and annotate. Students were provided with an evidence file to catalogue the evidence from the articles provided. The prompt, articles, and scaffolds are provided below:

To help students through the writing process, I wrote alongside of them.

Mockingbird Do Nows-3

When it came to writing the counter claim paragraph, students were given a “How-To” to help them draft their third body paragraph. A “How-To” is a scaffolding strategy that provides students with clear directions and step by step instructions to support learning.

How to Write a Counter Claim

My students have lots of opinions about reading To Kill a Mockingbird. During our classroom discussions during writing conferences, students have raised solid points about the heinous language in the book, the narrator’s perspectives and the stories that were not told (i.e. Tom Robinson and Calpurnia). Every book has its strengths and limitations, the key is for our students to be able to articulate their claims clearly and presenting valid reasoning.

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How to improve writing fluency for students of all learning abilities?

The following blog post was written for Texthelp. To link to the original post, click here.

In my 8th grade classroom I have all different learners from students with 504s and IEPs, ENL learners, and a handful of high performing learners. This week my 8th grade students are working on writing an argumentative essay after  finishing  the book To Kill a Mockingbird. I often give my students choice on writing assessments but for this all grade read, students must write a five paragraph argumentative essay that answers: Is To Kill a Mockingbird relevant to read today or is it racist and outdated?

A daunting experience

As teachers, our job is to help improve the writing fluency for ALL students. For many of my students, staring at a blank page or screen can be daunting. If we are going to help our students “write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence” (Next Generation Learning Standards WI),  providing scaffolding in different forms provides support for students to articulate their thinking. When teachers provide scaffolds in the forms of  graphic organizers, models and mentor texts, and sentence frames, essay writing becomes more attainable for the diverse learners in the classroom.

A graphic organizer  breaks down a task into small parts to support student thinking. Completing a graphic organizer helps students write in smaller bursts by following a template. A high performing learner might not need this type of support or guidance but particularly for my ENL and struggling writers who might not have the words or academic language just yet, providing these graphic organizers and sentence stems can help students develop the writing muscles and vocabulary necessary for academic writing.  Each graphic organizer is specific to the writing task. For example, the argumentative essay graphic organizer below helps students map out their thoughts, organize their evidence, and distinguish claims from counterclaims.

An image of an argumentative essay graphic organizer

I am always developing writing activities and support for the diverse students in my classroom, but you may prefer a digital approach. WriQ is Texthelp’s newest digital tool to focus on writing that my students and I are currently using. High performing learners are more independent and are looking for immediate feedback on word choice, accuracy, grammar and writing mechanics; WriQ provides these in its personalized feedback. Similarly, for students who need guided support to increase writing skills, WriQ and graphic organizers work in tandem. Sitting down for writing conferences is now a student driven process due to the feedback that students learn about the writing process and their writing products with WriQ.

A lifelong skill

Writing is a lifelong skill, and the more students write, the better they develop as writers and communicators. This requires that students write daily and have opportunities to revise their writing. With revision opportunities, students are able to reexamine their writing with a critical eye based on the feedback from both the teacher and WriQ and grow as writers. Revision is an important part of the writing process and can be utilized in ways that empower student writers.

The Next Generation Learning Standards identify lifelong practices of writers “strengthen writing by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach” and this is something that we must make time for in our classrooms. The more students have the opportunity to write, revise and craft their words in ways that articulate complex ideas, critical thinking and problem solving, the better they will become at producing clear and coherent writing.

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The Power of Storyboards

Story is everywhere, it’s all around us.

I recently participated in an ISTE Digital Storytelling Webinar focusing on The Power Behind Story & Storyboard to Inspire Imagery and Creativity. Presenter and educator, Julie Jaeger states, “storytelling is meaning making, not just media making. Storytelling is a process, deliberate, intentional and purposeful.” When creating digital stories, both words and media reveal the story through details rather than being directly stated. Craftsmanship is key.

The storyboard itself is a powerful tool in the classroom for meaning making. A storyboard is a road map and guiding influence for story making. I use storyboarding for comprehension and creativity in my 8th grade English class. Whether it is a storyboard used for a 5 Frame Story, which I describe in Personalized Reading (ISTE, 2018), or sketching and stretching the setting in a creative writing piece, storyboarding requires planning, evaluation, analysis and creative thinking.

Professional storyboards a useful models and mentors for students to see how film creators utilize storyboarding for brainstorming and outlining story ideas. Julie Jaeger describes how she has students write down the feelings the frame should evoke in the viewer. Depending on the purpose of the storyboard, the details under each frame can be descriptions of types of shots, actions, and sound. The objective is to create a final product with purpose and intention for the audience.

Whereas I have students retell a short story, chapter, or sonnet in only five frames, here is a two frame storyboard activity from The Jacob Burns Film Center:

You are going to tell a visual story using two photographs.

Discuss each scene and what kind of shots you would choose to show it.

  • Two best friends telling each other a secret.
  • Looking for my favorite book in the classroom bookshelf.
  • Two kids reaching for the same favorite marker color.
  • My pencil tip breaking.

Now it is your turn to create two shots of your own to tell the story! 

  1. Choose one story prompt you would like to illustrate.
  2. Think about what shot type you would like to use to introduce the idea.
  3. Draw that shot type in the first frame.
  4. Think about what shot type you would like to use to give your audience more information about the idea.
  5. Draw that shot type in the second frame.

Once you’ve completed your Two Frame Storyboard, it’s time to turn it into photographs. In small groups, position your actors to match your storyboard. The cameraperson can move closer or further away to try to match the shot type chosen in the storyboard.

Setting Storyboard

Setting Storyboard to help students sketch and stretch creative writing.

Storyboard That is a digital platform with free storyboard templates and online storyboard creator. For a fee, teachers can create classroom accounts and sync lessons and projects with Google Classroom. As the website states:

Storyboard That’s award-winning, browser based Storyboard Creator is the perfect tool to create storyboards, graphic organizers, comics, and powerful visual assets for use in an education, business, or personal setting. The application includes many layouts, and hundreds of characters, scenes, and search items. Once a storyboard is created, the user can present via PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Apple Keynote, or they can email the storyboard, post to social media, or embed on a blog. Storyboards are stored in the users’ account for access anywhere, from any device, no download needed. Storyboard That helps anyone be creative and add a visual component to any and every idea.

Other online storyboard platforms include Boords and Canva.

From book trailers to creative story telling and movie making, storyboards help students understand story concepts and frameworks. The objective is for students gain a critical perspective in looking at images and develop an awareness of craft and structure.

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Choosing the Right Scaffolds for Individual Students

As an English teacher, I am always thinking strategically to sequence reading and writing assignments. As I plan these assignments I also must consider what scaffolding I will provide for students to build skills, while at the same time, make writing instruction manageable.

My students are reading books with social justice themes and to show their thinking about their reading, I had students to trace the protagonist’s actions and beliefs throughout the book against Gandhi’s principals.  Additionally, students were to show how these principals contribute to overall theme or central idea of the book. 

The on demand, short response writing assignment was: Choose a quote from Gandhi that you feel best exemplifies the protagonist and their experiences in the book.  Be sure to include two or more textual details to support your claim. Follow the ACE Strategy (Answer – Cite – Elaborate & Explain):

For some of my students, this is a complex task and I provide scaffolding in the form of a graphic organizer to better help them articulate their thinking. Scaffolding is an instructional technique where the teacher models the desired learning strategy or task. Graphic organizers help to break down a task into small parts to support student thinking. Note the graphic organizer created for the Gandhi short response:

Additionally, depending on the needs of your students, revision options or requirements can be a great way to incorporate more writing and support.  The need to implement a scaffold occurs when you realize a student is not progressing or unable to understand a particular concept. Examples are another scaffolding strategy to show models and mentor writing for students struggling to meet the learning targets. I often showcase student models to teach back to the whole class in a mini-lesson and provide an example of writing that meets the learning standard like the student example below. 

Pyramid of Hate

When more scaffolding is necessary, advanced organizers and sentence frames that are partially completed can guide students with the necessary format or academic vocabulary to improve their writing. In the revision document I created below, I provide students sentence stems and specific vocabulary to show the relationship between the protagonist and Gandhi. Hints are also included on the revision document to offer suggested vocabulary and clues to make visible student thinking about the text.

Scaffolding comes in many forms. The idea is to provide the right scaffold at the right time to help students become independent learners. Eventually, students should be able to create their own scaffolding tools to help them meet the learning goals.

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X-Ray Reading

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Roy Peter Clark’s X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing is a must read for teachers. Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, has taught for more than 30 years and authored or edited 18 books. In this X-Ray Reading he encourages his readers to “put on their x-ray reading glasses” along with him and undress the text. This experience leads to deeper reading knowledge and deeper writing knowledge. Beginning with The Great Gatsby and working his way through contemporary literature, Clark spends time with the fine details and its literacy effects. He writes, “writing is a game of language connection and meaning.” Let’s play.

George Orwell said, “Good writing is like a window pane, a frame for seeing the world, a boundary that is hardly noticeable.”

What should we stop, notice, and note?  Here are some places to pay special attention:

The Opening Passage & Treasured Endings- These foreshadow the rest of the story. Great beginnings arc and hint at great endings with foreshadowing details. Clark utilizes The Great Gatsby to illustrate the strategic treasures of powerful endings and beginnings.

Lyrical sentences – “Long sentences that take us on a journey” (pg 46) whereas short sentences are the “gospel of truth.”

Intentional elaboration and Cliffhangers that propel the reader.

Symbolism –  Geography, names (“names are a tool to project and overview character”), and common objects with deeper meaning and or religious references. There is so much religious symbolism in literature and Clark tells all his readers to read the Bible to notice and note the religious symbolism.

Repetition or the “echo effect” – Not redundancy, but purposeful repetition and the variation of a word, object, and idea. Clark mentions language clubs and word associations to help be creative with repetition. Similarly, tropes and motifs that show up again and again are significant. Think of the powerful image of the green light in The Great Gatsby that emerges throughout the story with its literal meaning and connotations.

Word Choice, Punctuation, & Diction – “Structural, architectural concerns – the ways in which the patterns of language and imagery create the backbone of a narrative” (pg 22). Then look at “the feel and the effect of the writer’s vocabulary as a whole.” Clark references  American Scholar’s 10 Best Sentences in Literature as a place to begin studying the master craft of authors. The difference between “just the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”

Nature, Setting, and Landscape – Places in the text where authors harmonize nature with narrative action and emotion and then places where nature is indifferent. Weather is part of the setting of the story and can be used symbolically. Weather is a character and metaphor that provides tension with the plot. His example of Zora Neale Hurston’s passage under the pear tree in Their Eyes Were Watching God transforms language and images of nature into symbolically rich passages.

Characterization – Clark says that it is important to torture your main character and make them suffer. He gives permission to his writing students to kill someone at the end. Details reveal the complexities of a character’s inner life. What characters are not doing is important, often more than their direction actions. Referring to Kurt Vonnegut’s advice  on the relationship between plot and character in narrative writing, “Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for, every character should want something, and be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them” (pg 126). Harry Potter is one example of this test of character.

Time – Stories are about time in motion but there are moments when time seems to stop. As a writer you can freeze time or slow down time as with To Kill a Mockingbird during the court room scene and again with Atticus shooting the rabid dog. Look for places where the readers is eased into the complex because the author’s purpose is to make us see.

Titles – Clark cites as the most important element of stories

Clark wants us to OVER READ. He writes, “literature is about movie making with your notebook and choreographing a dance.” He is all for reading like a writer. He states, “To grow as a write, you should read the words of the writers you admire and look for ways to imitate that work” (pg. 184). Plus, incorporate the “reading of poetry to examine the beautiful compression of language, meaning, and emotion.”

There are specific chapters in the book that I will be sharing with my students to help them undress and close read the text. His chapter on Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” is great to read in conjunction with the short story and when my students begin reading To Kill a Mockingbird, I will share Clark’s x-ray chapter with them. If we expect students to read like writers then we must give them models what that looks like. They need opportunities to trace symbols across a text and see how writers play with words. Starting small with sentences, poems, and then short stories can help students crack open the masterful elements writers design.

Want more? Check out this podcast with Roy Peter Clark on Book Titans

 

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Multi Genre Writing To Deepen Student Understanding – #TheEdCollabGathering 2019

the-educator-collaborative-gathering-logo

#TheEdCollabGathering is a free virtual conference hosted by the Educator Collaborative on September 28, 2019. Founded by educator and author, Christopher Lehman, The Educator Collaborative provides K-12 literacy professional development to schools across the United States and around the world. For a complete schedule of presentations, click here.

Below is my slide deck presentation on Multi Genre Writing to Deepen Student Understanding.

Multi genre projects are layered with poetry, letters, songs, lyrics, narratives, and news articles created in response to information found through research.  Utilizing higher level thinking skills, students research, summarize, analyze, and synthesize information to create scenes that illustrate a topic or time period. Working across social studies and English, my 8th grade students read and research primary and secondary sources about topics related to World War 2 and then create a multi genre text about a particular aspect of the war.

As Tom Romano writes in Blending Genre, Altering Style (2000), “In multi-genre papers writers can combine fact with imagination to invent scenes that illustrate truth . . . or to render scenes that actually happened but whose details have been lost. Imagination, after all, is a powerful way of knowing” (page 68).

 

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