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 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.

Week 9: Revising: Sentence/Line-level (Part 2 of 3)

“People write or speak sentences in order to produce an effect, and the success of a sentence is measured by the degree to which the desired effect has been achieved.”–Stanley Fish

Summary

  • This is week 2 of 3 revision weeks where we examine our pieces at sentence-level. Publishing submissions are due after Week 10’s workshop.
  • Remember to give yourself extra time to type substantial revision commenting this week.
  • The key to revision is specific, measurable tasks from fellow to author.
  • This week we’ll also begin writing our author bios for publication.
  • Remember, Deep writing is original, vivid, and fearless.

Today’s goal

  • Evaluate sentences/lines to make sure they’re serving a purpose, moving the piece forward, not just taking up space.
  • Vary the length of sentences/lines to add interest. Consistent, frequent, and varied use of simple, compound, and complex sentences?
  • Check for verb tense shifts, other mechanics.

Target exercise ideas

  • This week is heavily writing-focused. Keep your target exercise brief so kids have time to revise.
  • Shake it up. Revision weeks can be intense with lots of sitting and scribbling on the page. Start the day with/break up the process with stretching, a little yoga, deep breaths, a lap around the room, shaking out hands and feet, etc. Anything to get some blood circulating and brain juices flowing.
  • Take a break. Similarly, if you see your group is getting anxious or losing focus, get them up and moving together for a minute, then settle back into the groove.

Reading ideas

Writing prompt ideas

  • This week, each author is responding to specific, measurable individual revision feedback from writing fellows.
  • Strategy: Set a timer for writers who struggle to stay focused. Have them complete sections of their revision  in short bursts, then switch seats or take a doodle break or walk a mind-clearing lap around the room.

  • Consider these questions to guide your written feedback this week:
    • Does every sentence/line serve a purpose, move the piece forward?
    • Do we like the pacing?
    • Are sentence types varied: simple, compound, and complex?
    • Do we have parallelism where we should?
    • Do we have subject-verb agreement? Tense shifts?
    • Do we have any boring, overused words? Phrases?
    • Do we have too many articles or prepositions?
    • Is there is anything in all caps? How can we add emphasis without doing this? Do we need to add italics?
  • If anyone finishes early or needs a revision break, they can begin crafting their author bio:
    • Write your own author bio. This is your chance to speak directly to your audience as yourself. What do you want your readers to know about you? Stay away from bland stuff, and give your readers some personality! Give a strange fact about yourself that most readers wouldn’t know. Why do you write? What do you hope people gain from your work? It’s okay to get silly or be serious—your pick.

Sharing/performance ideas

  • Do You Feel Me?: As young authors share their pieces, get at least two students to explain the emotions they felt using specific moments in the text. Ask the author if that was their intention, and allow peers to suggest ways to make sure people “feel” where they’re coming from. Bring in a piece of your own to model.