We are three full classes into year three of The (K)indred Experiment, and the kids are off and writing their stories. Again this year they have no school on Friday for nearly the entire month of November. It’s a kind of mini NaNoWriMo, of which they are completely unaware, but they were turned loose on the 2nd to finish their rough drafts, and I won’t see them again until we talk about revision (hopefully) on November 30. Of course, that’s contingent on them actually finishing their stories on their own time.
I’m more optimistic about this group than years past, because they were excellent at buckling down and writing on Friday. They’ve been the group most impatient with the prep work that I did with them because they wanted to just write their stories.
At this point in the program, and from reading things over their shoulders, there are three things that I need to think about for next year:
I need a better way to teach characters.
The students are aware of the terms like protagonist and antagonist, but when it came time to fill out character sketches, they had a hard time coming up with character traits beyond the most basic (ex: tall. 12 years old. tall.) They don’t respond well to worksheets. I like them to have some, so they can refer back to them as notes when they begin their stories, but they are much more engaged by activities (aren’t we all?). I’ll have to find something where we can discuss character traits. Maybe we can make paper dolls, so they have a physical representation of character rather than some questions on a piece of paper.
Second, I need a better way to teach the structure of a story. I’m finding that this is something that a couple of them are especially struggling with this year. In previous years they have reached their Greek Mythology unit in social studies at the same time that I teach the Hero’s Journey as their basic story arc. This year they hadn’t gotten to it yet, and it was a little too abstract for them. The Plot Roller Coaster has not worked either, nor did the Plot Fish. I’ll have to retreat to Jeff VanDerMeer’s Wonderbook and look for new ideas.
Finally, I desperately need some very short, good quality and school appropriate stories for them to have examples. My biggest complaint has always been that with very limited time I have been unable to READ anything with them, and of course, the best thing you can do to improve your writing is to read.
That would give me built in examples, too, and a reference point that they would all have and understand.
I discovered I am an Old Person now when I used Batman as an example and they all stared blankly at me.
Ideally, they will have rough drafts by the end of the month. Even more ideally, I’ll be able to link to their Google School classroom and give some revision and copy editing pointers before we reconvene for revision. Otherwise, I will have to speed read in class that day.
I gave them no page limit, other than it had to be more than two pages, and some of them threatened me with novels.
“I’m going to write 100 pages!”
Please do. I will read every page. Copy editing might stall out around 75, but I promise I’ll read it.
I doubt any of them will get to 100, but I 100% appreciate the enthusiasm. Fingers crossed it keeps them writing straight through November.