Week 5: Exploring Form

Summary

  • 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.

Today’s goal

  • 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?

Reading ideas

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.

Sharing/performance ideas

  • 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.
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Week 6: Developing Mood

Summary

  • 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.

Today’s goal

  • 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.

Reading ideas

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.]

Sharing/performance ideas

  • 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.

Week 7: Building Tension

Summary

  • 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!

 

Today’s goal

  • 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.

Reading ideas

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)

  1. “Why did I ever agree to do this?” I wonder.
  2. We left without saying goodbye.
  3. It’s the same old place, but everything feels different this time.
  4. “Of course you will,” she said, without even asking me first.
  5. His grip on the steering wheel tightens as we get closer.
  6. Hundreds of eyes locked on her, waiting for her to speak.
  7. He slams the door and leaves.
  8. Every seat is already taken.
  9. I wish I could tell the truth about…

Sharing/performance ideas

  • 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.