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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
See Vonnegut’s original talk here, or take a look at this excellent infographic describing story shapes.
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.