Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Today's Writing Class: it worked - yay!

This semester's class is smaller than last; partly that's because some students who wanted to join us left it till too late. I wouldn't mind, but the rolls are being updated to be marked online, would you believe! Changes at this stage will make some headaches.

Anyway, I have four lovely students, one of whom had left me for music last semester and returned this semester - clearly she made her change on time. She wrote me one lovely piece on the first day back and hasn't done much since then, due to one thing and another. Today she wasn't there, unfortunately. Another student, the sole boy, had handed in a delightful, funny short piece about a library and a ghost. That's going to be published in the school anthology.  A third student did a gorgeous, touching story in second person, about the memory of a young cousin being accidentally burned and having to be rushed to hospital. That one has been handed over to the teacher editing the anthology. The fourth student, who was in my history class last year) was struggling.

So I decided to do something that everyone could have a go at and, hopefully, succeed, even the young lady who was struggling. I have prepared her a template for autobiography, but left it for another week.

We talked about fairytales. They all named stories they quite liked and said why. We discussed those - I pointed out, among other things, that "Cinderella" is the basis of just about every YA romance ever written - that made them giggle.

Then we read "Kate Crackernuts". In fact, one of the students said, "Miss, what's your favourite fairytale?"

"I'm glad you asked that, because we're going to read it!" I told her with a smile. And we did. Then I asked what differences they could see from other fairytales of this kind - the stepsister is not mean, the girl rescues the boy, etc.

I finally asked them to simply retell their story of choice, simply to get them going, giving them twenty minutes to do it. The idea was that when this was done, they could start to think about retelling from the viewpoint of another character. I also urged them, when they could to read the story written last semester by one of the class, in which the story of Snow White was seen from the viewpoint of the Queen. (This is something the school calls "exemplar work")

All I wanted them to do today was the first retelling, but they were having such a good time that one of them completely rewrote "The Three Little Pigs" as "The Three Big Humans"(and the cannibalistic wolf) and the student who'd been struggling wrote an entirely original fairytale! And finished it! Oh, it's not brilliant, it will need plenty of editing, but she finished it! Editing next week. Hopefully this will have broken some of the block she's been experiencing. The other girl commented that it was a pity their other classmate hadn't been there. I agreed that she would have enjoyed it.

Fingers crossed it all continues to work out, but for today - it worked! Yay!


Julia Thorley said...

This is lovely, and how rewarding when a lesson comes together. I once went to an adult workshop on writing fairy tales. We had to write on scraps of paper the various elements - hero, villain, quest, mythical helper, magical item etc - then shuffle them up in their categories. Working in pairs we then selected one of each at random and had to create a story. It was great fun, and much more challenging that might be expected.

Sue Bursztynski said...

What an interesting workshop idea! How long did it go for? I can imagine it would be challenging even for adults. You would be assumed to know a lot of fairytales and you'd have to discuss them before getting started.

One thing I have tried in my English class and it sort of worked was The Hero's Journey, using a lot of popular films as examples. Once they saw what I meant they were able to give their own examples of Hero's Journey. One student even piped up "Dr Who!" Which is fair enough if you think of it from the viewpoint of the Doctor's companion. I gave them a template and got two stories that were far from fairytale adventure but we're certainly Hero's Journey.

Julia Thorley said...

Sue, we had quite a discussion beforehand about the elements of a classic fairytale, then had about 15 minutes to come up with something. I like the sound of The Hero's Journey.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I suspect I'd have to TELL them the elements of the classic fairytale. ;-) They know the stories but have never thought of breaking them down. Teenagers, eh? :-)

The Hero's Journey was written about by Joseph Campbell, who'd noticed the common elements in a lot of adventures. The Hobbit is a good example. And I believe George Lucas deliberately used those elements in Star Wars - the ordinary person in the real world who goes on an adventure with a mentor and returns with rewards... He'd read Campbell's book. Google it if you're interested.

Julia Thorley said...

Thanks for the link to Campbell's works.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Enjoy! :-)