Running out of revision tactics? Try a trick from this list of revision tips and tricks we’ve compiled.
Savannah recently survived Hurricane Matthew, a category 2 storm that left many of us without power and some of us flooded with trees through our roofs. It’s guaranteed that your kids have something to say about this storm that caused us all to wonder what would become of Savannah in the pitch-black, screaming night.
I encourage you to be responsive to this event and include it in your workshop next week.Your kids need to write and talk about it. Writing is a powerful way to process, and this can be a moment where your young writers can reclaim their sense of power in a wild week that made many feel helpless.
We’re in luck that we are either teaching figurative language (Weds, Thurs, Fri groups) or quick-draw drafting (Mon, Tues groups).
Some ideas for bringing this into your workshop:
- Read writing inspired by hurricanes or storms. Try one of these “Six Shorts to Read During a Hurricane” from The New Yorker or read Hatteras Calling by (Savannahian) Conrad Aiken. Another option comes from writing fellow Carter Boyd’s suggestion of 1 Dead in the Attic, a collection of essays by a New Orleans Times-Picayune journalist written in the months following Katrina.
- Remember to pick out craft as you discuss. Where do you see figurative language? Personification of the storm? Revealing, specific details?
- Writing prompt re: personification: Imagine Hurricane Matthew is a person at your door. Describe the scene. [What does he want? What does he sound/look/feel like? How do you feel? What do you do?]
- Writing prompt re: personal narrative: Tell your hurricane story.
- [What really happened to you? Your home? Your loved ones? Savannah?]
- Writing prompt re: rewriting the script: What could have happened during Hurricane Matthew? What do you wish happened? Anything is possible.
- Writing prompt re: personification: Imagine you are a hurricane. [Where would you go? What would you do? What could you see/eat/feel?]
- Writing prompt re: form–dramatic writing/dialogue: Pretend you are a weather caster reporting on the storm as it approaches, reaches Savannah, and leaves. Use dialogue and stage direction to show your experience.
Be sure to leave time for sharing at the end. This will be an important part of the process. Remember that everyone will have different experiences, and no one’s “wrong” in their perception of this storm. Their stories matter.
Want a way to talk about police brutality, gun violence, Black Live Matter with your workshop? Consider these poems (from poets like Nikki Giovanni, Audre Lorde, and Jericho Brown) as starting points. Let the Deep staff know if you want us to help facilitate during a particular workshop. Writing is a powerful way to heal, speak out, and respond to the world around us. Deep staff is here to support these courageous conversations.
Thank you to writing fellows Ariel Felton and Nancy Fullbright for sharing this list of poems.
Today is about building trust, ownership, and community in our workshop. It’s about establishing who we are as humans/writers/a group and why we write. This is our chance to set the tone.
Write about yourself. [Who are you? Why do you write?]
Target exercise ideas
- To go deep, students have to get vulnerable, and that takes norming and boundaries. Do the target circle exercise together to establish the culture of your workshop—then use it in all the weeks that follow! Build on it, point back to it, use it as a reminder. Watch this how-to video from our former executive director, Jo Dasher:
- Another way to get ideas going for norming your workshop space is to let kids respond to scenarios, such as: “When we have an idea, but don’t feel comfortable sharing it out loud, we can”; “When someone says something that we appreciate, we can”. Find lots more options near the end of this resource library from Facing History and Ourselves.
- What do you want to know about your kids? Use today as way to find answers to these questions. What interests them? What do they want write about in Deep? Make these these ice-breakers. Get moving! Stand up and toss a squishy ball or stuffed animal to each person as they answer.
- Consider putting a writing quote on the board each week to get everyone’s head in a writing space.
- Why do you write? On slips of paper, each contribute a line that begins with “I write…”, shuffle papers and distribute anonymously, read as a group to form a collective whole.
- For reference, check out Cure for IDK, pg. 21, 161, 166.
- A: “My Name”, excerpt from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
- B: “Why I Write” by Terry Tempest Williams
- C: Autobiographies written in recipe form: “The Mix of Me” by Celeste Sanderson (Deep author), “Me” by Arlaysha Hudson (Deep author)
Writing prompt ideas
- A: Write about your name like Esperanza did. Where did your name come from? How do you like to be called? Do you think it fits you? Why/not? If you could name yourself, what would you pick and why? What does it sound like?
- B: Why do you write? What do you want your writing to do for you? your readers? What do you want to get out of Deep? What do you hope Deep will be?
- C: Write a recipe for yourself. What “ingredients”(personality traits, favorite things, habits—good and bad–, family members, physical attributes, etc) are needed to make you? What should be avoided? Added? How will the maker know when it’s just right? Give specific instructions!
- Since this is your first week together, consider asking everyone share. You’ll probably have time for just one line from everyone. Share your own writing (done outside of workshop time), too, to show you have equal buy-in and are willing to take the same risk you’re asking your kids to take.
- If you run out of sharing time, start with it next week. Sharing is really important for building your group’s sense of community.
- Revealing details (formerly called “telling details” in the curriculum) are specific details that uncover something more than they say at face value. They reveal something about the character, place, or idea they’re describing. It’s not about an abundance of details. It’s about being choosy with your details to imply something more than meets the eye.You should be sure that your kids grasp this distinction before moving forward.
- Unsure where to start? Appeal to the five senses.
- Avoid clichés, which are ideas that have been used so often they’ve lost their meaning.
- For reference, check out Cure for IDK, pg. 42, 32, 38, 161.
- Use revealing details to describe a [choose one to focus your lesson:] person or place.
Target exercise ideas
- The T-chart is a simple tool for explaining the difference between boring and vivid language. Watch this video about using a T-chart to explain the concept to your kids (brought to you by Deep’s founder, Catherine Killingsworth!)
- Sentence Shifter: Divide kids into small groups and give each of them the same boring sentence like “He kissed her.” then challenge them to re-work the sentence with individual vivid words you’ve prepared on index cards. It’s amazing how different the sentences can be! See how it works and get a sample list of words from Cure for IDK pg. 42.
- Tell your kids the story of dead words (Cure for IDK pg. 32.) Together, make a list of dead words at the board [NOTE: Kids love to get up and write on the white board together. Get everyone out of their seat and contributing to the board as a group, building off one another. This is called a “chalk talk.”] Once your list is complete, pick one of the dead words and unpack it as a group. “Love” is a good example. Is loving chocolate and loving your mom the same thing? Is the feeling the same? Why? How can you say what you really mean?
Something with vivid, specific description that, when viewed as a whole, gives us a fuller picture of the subject beyond simply face value.
- A: [person]: “Raised By Women” by Kelly Norman Ellis
- B: [place] “Where I’m From” by Natasia Banner (Deep author), “Burma” by Yuan Aung (Deep author)
- C: [person] “Becoming Joey” by Paul C. Gorski
Writing prompt ideas
- A: Write your own “raised by” piece! Borrow the structure from Kelly Norman Ellis. Make a list of qualities to help you get started: food, verbs, dialogue, physical appearance, attitude, relationship, hobbies, education, etc.) OK to make different stanzas for different people/things.
- B: Write a poem about where you’re from. Use the five senses to paint the scene. [Who else is there? What do you see? Smell? How does it make you feel? Does where you’re from have to be a geographic place? Can it be something more? ]
- C: Write about your walk/ride to school in the morning. What pieces of yourself do you leave at home? Why? Who do you become when you arrive at school? / Write about a time you felt pressured to deny who you really are, a time you tried to “dust away the stains of ancestry” like José?
- Try an Author’s Circle. Everyone sits/kneels on a circle on the floor. This activity is silent except for approved ways of showing appreciation, so be sure to norm how listeners will show their appreciation (snaps, claps at the end, nods, etc. It’s OK to get silly as long as your group can all agree on it!) Choose one writer who’s demonstrated a lot of promise today to share. All eyes are on the reader, giving them full attention. As the sharer reads, the rest of the group hears them. When finished, the reader may take a bow, if they wish, and listeners should nonverbally share their appreciation. As facilitator, be sure to acknowledge both the reader and listeners for keeping the space safe and honest.
- The difference between figurative language and literal language is that figurative language makes a comparison using unlike things that share qualities. Literal language means exactly what it says.
- This is a good place to push past cliché. Watch out for idioms (figures of speech), and try not to use them in the examples you give. Your kids will want to give you examples of simile and metaphor that are basic. Deep is a place for original language, not “fast as a cheetah” or “raining cats and dogs.” How can you make it your own and say it in a way that’s never been heard before? Show your writers that figurative language is much more than just idioms.
- Use figurative language to describe [choose one for your lesson:] a person, object, or idea.
Target exercise ideas
- Do this T-chart exercise with your kids in order to get this abstract concept across (brought to you by Deep’s founder, Catherine Killingsworth)
- Songs can work in your favor. Pick a couple popular songs right now and type up the lyrics without any figurative language, translating it into literal, then ask your kids to guess the song. For the reveal, play a segment of the song itself. Use these illustrations to spark discussion.
- Variation: Ask kids to choose their favorite song right now and find a figurative phrase in its lyrics. What is the artist really saying? What’s the meaning of this phrase? Get ready for some wobble moments, though, and don’t be afraid to point out when something is not actually a figurative phrase.
- Literal Charades: Pair kids up and give each youth a figurative phrase to act out, without words. Let the partner guess, then switch. Make the distinction between literal: acting out/meaning what you say and figurative language. Looking for some examples of figurative phrases? Check out this list.
- Idiom Remix: If your kids are stuck on idioms, remix them as a group. What does the idiom mean? Remix it in a new way that’s never been heard before.
- For reference, check out Cure for IDK pg. 46, 52, 62
Something with lots of figurative language and interesting, challenging comparisons.
- A [person]: “When I Saw Halmoni Folding Clothes” by Hae-Jin Scott (Deep author), “My Daddy’s Face is a Study” excerpt from The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- B [object]: “The Orange” by Troy Jones (Deep author), “Goodness Grapes” by William Brantley (Deep author)
- C [idea]: “Teenage Horror Story” by Sarah Branson (Deep author), “Weight on Weight” by D’Erea Johnson (Deep author), “Home Court” by José Olivarez
Writing prompt ideas
- A [person]: Imagine someone you love experiencing an intense emotion, like Toni did with her dad. Describe their expressions using figurative language. Try weather, objects, animals, musical instruments, etc.
- B [object]: Choose a random object from a grab bag and personify it. Give it a voice, a life. What would it say if it could talk? What is it’s purpose? Its life goal? Biggest struggle?
- C [idea]: What weighs you down? Make a list and use comparisons to show us how heavily these things weigh on you. / What lifts you up? Make a list of things that make you happy, and compare them to objects that are lightweight.
- Headliners: Make sure all Deep authors know what it’s like to be heard by designating one author to “open” the workshop and another to “close” by reading one of their works-in-progress. Celebrate with a roar of snaps at the end of sharing.
- Today is about loosening up, not being perfect, and generating multiple ideas in one day. Encourage your kids to use what they’ve learned so far (revealing details and figurative language) when responding to quick prompts.
- Today is about letting your guard down, keeping the pen moving, and letting the ideas fly! Remind your kids to trust the creative process and themselves. Their stories matter.
- Write on at least four different prompts without hesitation. One rule: Just keep your pen moving!
Target exercise ideas
- Today is mostly about writing, so you may want to skip a target exercise to allow for more writing time. Use one of the suggested readings as a jumping off point, then get writing!
- Some ideas for breaking up the long day of writing:
- Use movement as a tool to get unstuck (take a lap around the room to think, stand up, stretch, shake out writing hand, doodle.)
- Allow choice as a motivator.
- Shake things up. Print prompts on slips of paper and get kids to stand up and walk to choose a new one.
- Food rewards are always appreciated. 🙂
- Let kids cross off # prompts on the board.
- Since today is about writing, writing, writing, keep your reading brief. Read something short and inspiring about the creative process. You can use a reading to kick things off or mix things up in the midst of writing time.
- A: “First Thoughts”, excerpt from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg—helps set the expectations for the day
- B: Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird excerpt, “Finding Your Voice”—write as though your parents aren’t looking
Writing prompt ideas
- This is an opportunity to tailor-make prompts for your group’s interests.
- Remember, a successful writing prompt implies some sort of conflict or tension to move the action forward.
- Notice the kids who are in the zone and consider allowing them to return to/continue a particular prompt if it’s really singing to them. Let them follow their energy. Writing is the goal today.
- For inspiration, check out this list of prompts we’ve compiled.
- Use photos of places and people to inspire. Let authors choose from the mix and write what the picture sparks in their imagination. Write from a new point of view.
- Popcorn Sharing: Similar to an Author Circle, all authors sit in a circle and take turns at random reading a piece (or their favorite paragraph/stanza/line). After each share, don’t provide feedback, just silently hold space for anyone else who wants to share.
- Today is about figuring out what story(ies) we need to tell and deciding how we want to tell them. Should it be a story, a poem, a rap, a play? Why?
- Form is the package our writing content comes in.
- What’s your favorite form, fellows? This is a great opportunity to showcase it and share it with your kids. Remember to scaffold, or give them the building blocks, so they can see how it works.
- For reference, see Cure for IDK, pg. 88, 104, 99.
- Try writing (or rewriting an existing piece) in a new form.
Target exercise ideas
- Chalk Talk: Bring extra dry erase markers for a chalk talk (everyone writes on the board), and list as many forms as you can. Push outside the normal literary boundaries (list, song lyrics, text message, obituary, Facebook post, etc.) What makes them different? How do we choose which form to use?
- Show Me Your Form: Stand up and make the shape of one of your existing pieces using your body. Why is it in this shape/form?
- Form Remix: Prep a brief 3-line story. Let kids each choose a unique form from the board, and ask them to draw the shape of that form (for example, a Facebook post might have a profile picture and a few lines of text.) Then have kids remix the 3-line story into their chosen form. Remind them to let the form guide the way the story takes shape. (E.g. a text message will be only dialogue, a list will have bullet points/incomplete sentences, etc.) Share with a partner to compare. What was challenging? What are the advantages of different forms?
- Choose at least two readings that are thematically similar but different in form or genre. For instance, you might pick a poem about a family and a prose excerpt about a family. One might be much more literal than the other. Maybe one poem is very prose-y and the other is a sonnet or a villanelle or free-form.
- A: [on food and family]: “Cornbread” by Silas House and “When the Burning Begins” by Patricia Smith
- B: [on success]: “Badu Interviews Lamar (an erasure)” by Camonghne Felix and “won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton
- C:[on self-love]: “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou, and “What Does Your Face Show to the World” (ch.4) excerpt from The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake
- D: [on competition, family] “Topdog/Underdog” dramatic scene by Susan Lori-Parks, “Dinnertime Scene” by Abria Springfield (Deep author)
Writing prompt ideas
- Sometimes rewriting an existing piece takes the pressure off so kids feel more free to experiment with a new form. If that’s the case, your job will be to help them adapt their piece to fit the new form.
- A: Try a poem about cooking/baking in your household. Is it linked to any traditions? Who gets to be part of it? How? What does it sound like? How can food mean more than just food?
- B: Try an erasure poem or found poem using a local newspaper article or song lyrics. See what poem is living inside those lines that already exist!
- C: Try a story. What does your face show to the world? Why? What do you want it to show? What masks do you wear? / Write about one of your bravest moments.
- D: Write a dramatic scene about a common argument in your house or school. First develop a list of characters with physical and personality traits, like Abria’s. Then use dialogue and stage direction to tell the story.
- Weeks 5-7 are about feeding the voice. As Deep authors hone their craft through more sophisticated literary devices, help them discover the power of giving and receiving great FEEDback meant to nurture, build, and feed their stories and voice.
- Blessing the Mic: Designate at least 5 minutes before and/or at the end of workshop for Deep authors to share their pieces. After each share, get at least two young authors to share what stood out to them the most.
- The most important thing to do as a writer is to make the reader feel something. This is more important than explaining or even convincing. Inspire feeling in your audience and they won’t forget!
- Mood is not what your kids probably think it is, and it’s one of the most difficult, abstract concepts you’ll cover together. (For instance, some of them might even think hunger is a mood, but actually it’s a physical feeling, not an emotion.) When we’re talking about literature, mood refers to the emotion the READER experiences when reading the work. It is not necessarily the same as the emotion the character is experiencing. For example, a villain might feel sad if his plan has been foiled, but the reader might feel triumphant or joyful. Don’t confuse this with tone, which refers to the author’s attitude toward the subject. For reference, see The Cure for IDK, pg. 56
- Mood is developed through setting, dialogue, character description. Word choice is important.
- Develop mood by describing a [choose one to focus your lesson]: setting, person, or conversation.
Target exercise ideas
- Show Me Your Mood: Play segments of a few different songs, and get everyone to stand up. As the song plays, ask them to act out the mood the song is making them feel. (Download these songs in advance. WiFi and cellular networks can be unreliable in school buildings!)
- Snow White Remix: Show your authors this portrait of Snow White. Then read these short stories, both written in response to that portrait. Ask your kids to identify how they feel after each, and point out how word choice affects their mood. (Credit: writing fellow Tori Quante-Dulaney, 2015)
- Mood Mad-Lib: Try this “Life is Hard” poem remix activity to get kids to experiment with word choice and its influence on mood. (Credit for this entire activity packet to Emma Iocovozzi and Marian Carrasquero, 2016.)
Another way to see mood in action is through genre-crossing movie trailers. In film editing classes throughout the States, a common assignment is to take an existing film (say, a comedy) and create a film preview that presents the film as a different genre (for example, a horror film). This is accomplished through editing and splicing scenes, adding new, anxiety-producing music and sound effects, and adding a new voice-over introduction.
Some of the best examples of this are:
- Mary Poppins as a horror film: Scary Mary
- Dumb and Dumber as a horror film: Lurk and Lurker
- The Shining transformed into a feel-good romantic comedy: Shining
(Find links to watch at the end of this article!)
This can also be well illustrated through songs. Play three different songs, and ask your kids to act out the way the music makes them feel.
- Something where a clear mood is developed. Typically, negative feelings are easier, but point out that mood doesn’t always mean “moody” and show a positive example, too. Ask your kids to circle specific words that influenced their emotion as a reader.
- A [setting]: “Leaky Cauldron” by J.K. Rowling, “Canela” by Naomi Reyes (Deep author), “Night Circus” by Eren Morgenstern
- B [character]: “The Kite Runner” by Kahled Hosseini, “Chuckie” by Victor LaValle
- C [conversation]: “Sure You Can Ask Me a Personal Question” by Diane Burns, “Late for School” by Yasmaine Semaj Simmons (Deep author)
Writing prompt ideas
- Students may generate a new piece or apply this lesson to an existing piece they want to publish.
- Ask your writers to note the mood they’re aiming for at the top of their page. This will be a reminder to them as well as a tool for you to give constructive guidance/feedback. Is the mood well-developed? If this is easy for some, challenge them to change the mood of the piece halfway through!
- A: Where is your safe place? Where do you go to hide? / Write about your first time in a brand-new place that wasn’t anything like you’d imagined it would be.
- B: Write about a time you stood up for someone, or a time when you didn’t. Write about your most complicated friendship.
- C: Write your inner monologue in response to assumptions people make about you. [To help you get started, make a list of things people assume about you. Then make a list of things people wouldn’t know about you at first glance—the real you. Weave these two lists together to help build your piece.]
- FEED the Voice: During designated sharing time, get at least two young authors to FEED their fellow author after sharing by explaining: 1) a burning question they hope to have answered and/or 2) a moment in the piece they relate to.
- Tension makes stories move. Tension makes poems matter. Without tension, our writing is stagnant, pointless, forgettable. Tension keeps a reader reading until the end. Imply it early (in the first line if possible), and make sure every line moves towards it until the climax.
- How we build tension: Change in the subject or the speaker or the main character, punctuation, short sentences, pauses/drawing out, foreshadowing, unexpected reveals, dialogue, rhythm, line breaks.
- NOTE: Next week we enter revision, so this week ask your kids to star their favorite 2-3 pieces that they’re interested in revising. Steer them toward their strongest work!
- Build tension by making something happen in your piece.
Target exercise activities
- Kiwi!: Watch animated short “Kiwi!” together. Ask your kids to raise their hand/stand up/make a motion every time they feel the tension increase, then discuss the different techniques together afterwards.
- Mafia: Play a short version of the game Mafia to experience tension and suspense!
- Story Shapes: Check out the blog for a visual exercise inspired by Kurt Vonnegut called “story shapes.” Graph stories onto the board together, then challenge your writers to plot out their own stories to see where there’s opportunity for more tension.
Writing fellow Lindsey Grovenstein walks us through a target exercise about tension inspired by Kurt Vonnegut. This exercise is a great visual tool to help your authors see how tension is working in their own piece. Challenge your kids to make their own story shapes and write a story that follows the shape they’ve created.
- Something where tension builds effectively.
- A: “Ninth Ward” excerpt by Jewell Parker Rhodes
- B: “Home Court” by José Olivarez
- C: “The Skin I’m In” (ch. 3)by Sharon Flake
- D: “Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key” excerpt by Jack Gantos
Writing prompt ideas
- A: Write about a time you rescued someone—or someone rescued you. / Write about a time you witnessed a wrong but didn’t/couldn’t act. Rewrite the script; anything is possible.
- B: Write about a time you lost someone or got left behind. / Write about a time when your emotions felt too big to be held inside your body. What did you do? How did you cope?
- C: Write about a time a relationship/friendship was challenged. / Write about a time you came up with a master plan.
- D: Write about a time you lost control. / First line: “I just couldn’t help it.”
This is an excellent opportunity to add tension to work-in-progress. Otherwise, your kids are welcome to create something new.
Pick one of these lines to jump-start a new story:
(Credit to writing fellows Jo Dasher and Sarah Wagner, 2014)
- “Why did I ever agree to do this?” I wonder.
- We left without saying goodbye.
- It’s the same old place, but everything feels different this time.
- “Of course you will,” she said, without even asking me first.
- His grip on the steering wheel tightens as we get closer.
- Hundreds of eyes locked on her, waiting for her to speak.
- He slams the door and leaves.
- Every seat is already taken.
- I wish I could tell the truth about…
- B.E.A.P. FEEDback: Writers pair up and each chooses which type of FEEDback they want to receive:
- Bless: Tell me what was good about my piece
- Express: Tell me what my piece made you think of
- Address: Address a particular issue I have with my piece (e.g. Does this dialogue sound believable? What do you understand about this character? Etc.)
- Press: Give me all the critical feedback you’ve got
- Writers each share their piece and listen to feedback, but are not allowed to comment or explain. They must focus on listening and considering their partner’s contribution.