The Slice of Life March Writing Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers – 31 days of a writing community.
DigiLit Sunday is hosted by Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche
I have a confession to make. Although my sixth graders have clamored to write fiction year after year, our enthusiastic forays into this genre have always ended with a general feeling of dissatisfaction on both sides: I feel as though I have not taught it well, and they feel as though they haven’t written well.
This March, the familiar question of “when do we get to write fiction?” sounded again. We had just concluded a unit on essay writing, and were about to get ready for a unit on test prep – a good time, I thought, to answer this burning question once again: can we write fiction in a meaningful, satisfying, but time conscious way?
I thought carefully about all the things that had led to derailment in the past:
*diving into writing fantasy, which often became convoluted storylines that went on, and on, and on…
*not creating clear parameters for my students, so that some were “all done” quickly and others were unable to conclude because their stories had become so complicated
*not setting up a defined timeframe, so that our “creativity” kept stretching on and on (i.e. story lines were going nowhere, and new characters kept popping up for no rhyme or reason).
And I used those lessons to tighten up the plans for this year:
*we would stick to realistic fiction
*we would think about our storylines in a more limited way:
*we would spend more time planning before writing:
*we would have three weeks: two to plan, draft, confer, and peer review, and one to revise and publish.
Last Wednesday was publishing day and our writing celebration. My kiddos created covers for their short stories, and then sat back and enjoyed each others’ creations:
And I sat back to reflect upon the initial burning question that had set this particular writing into motion: can we write fiction in a meaningful, satisfying, but time conscious way? The answer, I thought, was a qualified “yes!”. Here’s what we learned in the process:
*writing fiction is a lot harder than it looks (some were able to develop their storylines well, and some didn’t quite reach the mark – hence the above “qualified”).
*having a plan of action is really important in writing fiction, because it’s so easy to go off on tangents (new characters! sudden happenings!) and so hard to get back on track.
*working within a time frame helps us stick to our plans (more or less).
*we could use our reading strategies (Notice and Note signposts) as writing strategies.
*we will take what we’ve learned and keep experimenting – who knows, but that some of these short stories will one day morph into the long novels that some of my kiddos long to write. I celebrate that!