Pinball Wizards

Year three of The (K)indred Experiment is live!

We launched two days ago, with six students present, and a possible seventh who will be there next time, provided he returns his permission slip. This is the average number of students that I’ve had across the three years, and it’s a good sized group. Any more and it would get a little chaotic as they’re all shouting out ideas, but, any fewer and I think the creative energy of the room would suffer.

I love to watch their ideas go zinging off one another like caffeine-injected pinball machines. It’s amazing how fast you can go from a question like “what is the food like on this planet” to radioactive lettuce to goat men to liquid hydrogen to colonizing robots, who have taken over the humans who colonized the planet from the indigenous inhabitants. Colonized was their word, not mine.

Kids are amazingly insightful and aware at twelve, sometimes.

And other times they just want to blow stuff up.

We began with setting again this year, because I still think it works best to start with a larger picture and scale down to characters and conflict. Also, I really enjoy making the macaroni fantasy maps. Some of the students were into it, and others requested to free hand their maps.

I also came up with a new worksheet for them to start filling in the details of their worlds, mostly by accident. I bought a frame for a poster this summer, and the only one that was large enough was meant to be a collage frame, so it came with a mat with 40 squares cut into it for small pictures. It worked perfectly as what I have termed the “world cloud.”

We did the large poster sized one together–began with a name for the planet and then expanded out in ripples as they came up with plants, animals, natural resources, “people,” food, shelter, education, history, etc. It was a great way to get them thinking about all the little details that they need when building a new world, and how they are all tied together. I did my best to impress on them that it’s helpful to know as much about a world as possible when writing. It makes the story fuller to include background details, even if they aren’t directly related to the plot.

Once they were off and running I gave them each a scaled down version of the cloud to fill in for their own stories. I’ll throw the file up on the lesson plans page in the next few days. Feel free to take it and use it.

As we only have five classes this year, due to a really absurd amount of Fridays off for the students, and how those fit into my work schedule, next time we’ll combine the lessons on character and conflict so that they can have two full classes in which to write their stories before we wrap up in December with a party, sharing of their work to friends and familiar, and, if I can swing it, a short movie.

It’s going to be a whirlwind few weeks, but I’m excited to be off and running again.




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