Week 2: Using Revealing Details

Summary

  • 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.

Today’s goal

  • 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?

 

Reading ideas

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?

 

Sharing/performance ideas

  • 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.
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Week 3: Using Figurative Language

Summary

  • 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.

Today’s goal

  • 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

 

 

Reading ideas

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.

Sharing/performance ideas

  • 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.

Week 4: Quick-draw Drafting

Summary

  • 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.

Today’s goal

  • 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.

Reading ideas

  • 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.

Performance/sharing ideas

  • 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.

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.

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.

Week 11: Sharing Our Voices

Summary

  • Today is about sharing, practicing performance techniques, and voting.
  • We’ll each read our Deepest (original, vivid, and fearless) piece aloud with confidence and courage. We’ll practice speaking clearly and with appropriate pacing and emphasis for the piece. Then we’ll each vote on the three best pieces to represent our workshop onstage at Deep Speaks and be in the running for Deep Laureate!
  • Fellows will tally the votes privately and digitally submit the top three to Deep staff. Submit votes here. There is also opportunity for fellows to nominate two extra pieces they feel should be in the running for Laureate. Deep staff will then review and internally vote.
  • Roughly 3-4 weeks after workshops end, Ed Fellows will announce three Deep Speaks readers. As fellows, you are encouraged to call your kids to congratulate them, too! Watch for an official email from Deep staff.

Today’s goal

  • Celebrate becoming a published author! Have a party, read your best work to the group, and vote for the next Laureate.

Target exercise ideas

  • Review the differences between a piece of writing and a human being. Today we’re voting for the writing, not the author her/himself.
  • Explore the voting ballot together. Come up with collective definitions of “original”, “vivid”, and “fearless” before you begin reading and voting.
  • Model terrible stage presence and reading, then let the kids critique your performance. Be dramatic. Kids love it. Ask them for pointers, then wow them with a great example! Get them psyched about Deep Speaks!

Reading ideas

  • Instead of reading, listen to/watch great performers, then discuss what they do well.
  • Watch Patricia Smith perform her poem, “When the Burning Begins” 
  • “Totally Like Whatever You Know” by Taylor Mali 

 Writing prompt ideas

  • Fill out your ballot to nominate pieces for Deep Speaks! Do not vote for your own. Remember, we are ranking the writing, not the people. This isn’t a popularity contest.

Sharing/performance ideas

  • Before Deep authors read their best pieces to the group and voting begins, warm everyone up by trying one or two of these performance exercises meant to lift energy, warm up their vocal chords, and bond as a group. As youth authors read, guide them on projection and make sure they are reading with confidence.
  • From the Mountain Top: Hand Deep authors copies of the pieces they plan to perform and ask them to line up, almost shoulder to shoulder. Identify a point across the room where they can quickly run to and begin reading their piece with as much emotion as possible. When you call the next author, the previous one will race back to their point in the line. Do this with each author and then call multiple authors at the same time, ending with everyone reading their pieces in a thunderous fervor.
  • Battle Cry: Spend the first 5 minutes of workshop co-creating a chant or call-and-response battle cry meant to get everyone hype and excited. For example, writing fellows in one group yelled, “Don’t stop!” and Deep authors responded, “ Get it, get it!”  Repeat this a couple of times together before reading begins and after each author shares to keep the room buzzing with energy.