More Learning WITH my students
A fellow teacher gave me a book a few weeks ago titled, Story Starters on Ancient Japan. She is the middle school humanities/history teacher at ISS, and I am the writing teacher. She thought we could collaborate – I would teach the eighth graders to write a story, and she would bolster the content. It seemed like a grand idea.
The book goes through a series of steps to writing a narrative – just like I would teach my kids. First, create a character and get to know him as well as you know yourself. Figure out his name, how he looks, what he does – everything about him. Then, figure out where he is – at home, at work, in a garden – anywhere. And then give him action – a plot. We need an introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and a resolution.
Because it focuses on ancient Japan, it gives examples in that vein. It lists details about shoguns, samurai, geisha and other ancient Japanese stereotypical people. The settings involve shrines, battlefields, or music halls. The plots involve intrigue and battles and the occasional espionage.
On Monday, I enlisted the help of my children and I actually photocopied the pages onto card stock and cut out to create the character, setting, and plot cards. Then on Tuesday, in my eighth grade class, I threw them across the table, telling them to choose – match them up – and create the bones of a story.
Well, the students ate it up! They found a cool guy, put him in a weird spot, and made him do radical stuff – as they said. I just sat back and watched as they were off and running. The process is going to take the better part of this week as they create the outline of what they want to accomplish – and then next week they can start drafting.
It’s a purely methodical way to write a story – matching ideas until they come out whole as the story in your head. But whatever works for these kids is what I’m going to try.
And then, lo and behold, I am going to put together a few story cards of my own; stack a deck, if you will. Because my own writing could use a little kick. A formula might be just the push I need.