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Sep 07
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Free Write -- Tips

A note from Geoffrey Gevalt, YWP Founder and award-winning journalist:

Sometimes, when you sit down to write, you can't see the trees for the forest. When, in fact, you're looking for the light. That one sparkling idea.

And it doesn't come. 

Aug 01

Your Mood

Writing hint: If you have energy, you'll write better and your reader will be more engaged.

Experiment with different voices to create a range of moods in your writing. 

Whether you are writing a story/ narrative, report, or essay you must think about the mood you are in, which often determines your voice. If you are bored, your writing will be flat and your reader won't care. If you are excited, you reader is more apt to be excited, too. But there is something more to voice -- mood or, in another way, the tone or personality of the text. Below are some descriptive words to identify different of types of voice you may choose to show in your writing:

Happiness          Guilt                Gratitude           Surprise
Excitement        Pride                Panic                Shame
Fear               Compassion         Embarrassment     Curiosity
Confusion          Arrogance          Empathy             Disappointment
Anger              Relief              Sympathy            Shock
Boredom           Satisfaction       Hope                 Exhaustion
Jealousy           Love                Anxiety              Confidence
Envy               Regret              Concern              Disapproval
Joy                Sadness            Loneliness            Remorse

For this challenge:
1. Choose one of the descriptors above and write a quick story using a voice that shows that mood/ personality. Take 7 minutes. 
2. Choose two different descriptors from above and rewrite your anecdote using a new voice that shows each new mood/ personality. IMPORTANT: Do your rewrite below the initial response so your classmates can see both versions.

Remember to:
- Title your entry with the mood/ descriptive word you chose from the list above and put the two discriptors above the second  version.

And don't forget to read several classmates' posts and give them some specific feedback on what you noticed about their posts.

This resource was adapted from a lesson by teacher Caroline Legan, Orleans, VT.
Copyrighted photo by Maciej Dakowicz  Girl in Islamic school in Srinagar, Kashmir, India, 2010. Used by permission.

Aug 01
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Free Write -- Rationale

Writing is like panning for gold or hunting for diamonds. If you get good at it, you gain a skill needed to succeed, to gain confidence, to fully participate in any learning activity and to be active in community life -- If you can express yourself, you are more apt to participate. Simple as that.

But learning to write well takes practice.

Aug 01

I like ...

This is a simple enough -- and fun -- free write. Make a list or a long sentence that begins "I like ... "

This is a simple -- and fun -- free write. Make a list or a long sentence that begins "I like ... "

Please write your responses in completion to the starter phrase: "I like ..."  Do it in 7 minutes; you can list, write a series of sentences or write a long, seemingly endless sentence.

Think about what you like: to do, to eat, to watch, to play, to ... whatever.  The object is to get as many ideas and/or words down as possible. 

COMMENT:  When you are finished, read someone else's and offer a comment AND a question. Authors: please write your response to the question as a reply to the comment.


From CoryF:  I like fishing because it is fun. I usually like to catch sunfish, bass and catfish. I like sunnies because they are the easiest fish to catch; all you need is a worm. I like bass because I get to use little gummy bait things, though sometimes I use minnows. I like to catch catfish the most because you can use the a whole fish. Sometimes I like to be careful and put the fish back in the water to catch another day. I caught a fish once that we had to kill because it swallowed the whole bait; after we cut it open we used the bait again but we didn’t catch anything because it wouldn’t sink; when I tossed it out, a beaver got it. I like fishing because we laugh a lot and it’s a think I can do with my Dad and my friends.

In this variant, students imagined they were a character in a book and then imagined what they'd like. This one was written by a boy reading Old Yeller who imagined he was living in East Texas after the Civil War: 
I like that there are no "posted land" signs.
I like that you can dip your cup in the river water and drink it.
I like that it's so quiet you can hear yourself think.
I like that there's no fences.

Photo: Creative Commons FlickrL R.W. Sinclair

Aug 01

I am the one

Finish this sentence, "I am the one who .... "

Finish this sentence, "I am the one who .... "  Take seven minutes. Only. Write as fast as you can.

This is a free write designed to show your writing style and reveal a little something about yourself. Take a moment to think about how you would start off and then get going. Go as fast as you can, don't worry about how it sounds or what you are saying, just go. In a word, don't edit yourself. At least not yet. Feel free to have lots of sentences that begin "I am the one who..." or have one long, run-on sentence that seemingly goes forever, or soemthing in between. Think about what you love to do, what you are good at doing, about your sense of humor, your creativity, about what you do to help others. Slide in a quick story if you can, but just keep on going. Below are a couple of exemplars from a middle school class.

When you are finished, save and read some of your classmates' posts and give them some comments with some specific things you noticed about their works.

Courtesy of MylesD of Richmond Middle School: I am the one who sizzles with power, bringing entire landscapes down in my eternal anger. I am the one who sits quietly in class, occasionaly glancing at the clock. I am the one who controls the sea, writhing in agony beneath the smooth scaled depths. I am the one who draws a picture on my single sheet of lined paper. I am the one who throws lightning at mountains that scrape the top of the ground. I am the one who likes to gaze at the stars. I am the one who makes vines grow with my feet, and makes petals shrivel with my touch. And I am the one who walks the thin line between fantasy and reality, treading careful toe over careful toe in a neverending battle with insanity. 

Courtesy of MollyC from Richmond Middle School: I am the one who is ambidextrous and will annoy the heck out of you. I am the one that does my best work when I'm walking barefoot outside. I am the one who will talk your ear off and then not speak for the next day. I am the one that can speak one line of about ten weird languages. I am the one that stretched three times over the summer and can now do a full split. I am the one who got bit in the eye by a cat when I was five, but still loves them to death. I am the one that started a flash mob. I am the one who pet-sit a parrot that saved a man from going to work on September 11, 2001. I am the one that's from a super Jewish family from New Jersey and a super country hippie family from California. I am the one that wanders off on family trips and always gets lost. I am the one that was born with bright blonde hair that's now faded to brown. I am the one that is obsessed with trash TV. I am the one that started my own duct tape wallet company in sixth grade and sold to my friends and teachers. I am the one whose mom is a cancer survivor. I am the one that wrote songs for an all-girls singing group in third grade. I am the one that's shy and awkward until you get to know me. I am the one that wrote a letter to Barack Obama in third grade and got a signed letter back. I am the one that won a contest for my lemon squares in fifth grade. I'm weird. I know it. But I'm just me.

(Photo credit: Dmitri Kessel, Life magazine)

If you would like to expand on this, here is an idea.
  • Story Formation: Take one of the things that you've posted in the initial response and write a story about how or why you are that way. A curve: Write it in the third person point of view, as if writing a story about someone else.
  • My Community Story: Take one of the things that you've posted in the initial response and show how this relates to how you connect with your community. Write the story behind your statement that "I am the one who ..."
Aug 01

History through Photos II

Photographer Lewis Hine took photos in the early 1900's of child laborers in the south and northeast that were so startling they brought about drastic change in U.S. child labor laws. This challenge helps you appreciate what life might have been like. 

Lewis Hine photographed child laborers in the early 1900s -- and laws were changed. Look at the children's faces in these photos. Imagine their lives. Write for just seven minutes.

This challenge is intended as a free write, but it may get you interested in the subject enough to want to pursue your own project. Or it can be incorporated into your My Community Story project.

Look at each of these photos and imagine yourself as one of the children in the photos. Choose the one that speaks to you most. Hover your mouse over the photo to stop the slideshow and think about what life must have been like. Write for seven minutes only. Tell us a story of what happened in your day. Or tell us how you happen to be in the photo, or what your life is like that requires you to work. 

When you are finished, save, and read a classmate's post and tell her/him your reactions to what they wrote.


Incorporating Research into Stories

Use the completed stories as drafts in a larger research project. The purpose would be to conduct research and revise -- edit, expand or redo -- your story with what you discover to create historically accurate representations of these children’s lives. Some important questions:

  1. Why is it important to add historically accurate elements to your story?  
  2. Where can I go to find out more information? websites: 
    1. http://www.history.com/topics/child-labor
    2. http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/
    3. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/hine-photos/#documents
    4. http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/artists/1566/lewis-w-hine-american-1874-1940/
    5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Hine
  3. Now that I have gotten more information, how do I incorporate it into my story, or, write a new one? What's the most compelling thing I discovered? What are some other details about the time, the conditions, that I can incorporate into my story?
  4. Are there other, broader topics that might make a good personal, independent project such as child labor?
(Photo credit: Lewis Hine, Library of Congress)
Aug 01

Photo Challenge

A photo can spawn 1,000 words!

Choose one of these photos and write. For seven minutes. Then comment.

Before you write, take a close look at each of the photos. When you've got one that interests you, hover your mouse over the photo to stop the slideshow and then think about the photo -- its characters, what's happening, what led up to that moment. Think about what point of view you want to take -- one of the characters? someone just outside the frame? the photographer? And decide upon a verb tense -- present is more immediate. Tell us a story, perhaps the back story or what happens after the photograph.

When you are done, save, and find a classmate's post to read and comment upon.

[Photo 1: Fine Art America, photo by Steve Williams]
[Photo 2: Deviant Art, photo by daMaeko]
[Photo 3: My Intwood] 
[Photo 4: Robert Doisneau Photo Archives, photo by Robert Doisneau] 
[Photo 5: National Geographic, photo by Gemma Collier] 


Aug 01

History through Photos I

Historic photos offer an intriguing way to dive into history, a way to imagine a narrative -- and support it with research.

BEFORE you listen to the audio, write for seven minutes in response to this photo. Imagine yourself as the person in the photo, or one of the children or the photographer. Tell the story. Tell the backstory. Look at details; where might this be? What's going on? 

After you finish. Take a look at some of your classmate's responses. Give one of them -- someone who hasn't gotten a response -- a comment. 

ONCE you have done that, listen to the recording. The woman speaking is Florence Leona Owens Thompson, 1903-1983. She is the woman pictured in this 1936 iconic photograph by Dorothea Lange. Lange was working for the Resettlement Administration and Farm Security Administration documenting the Great Depression and happened upon Thompson, a migrant worker with seven children. Lange took six photographs without getting the woman's name and left. Both Lange and Thompson came to dislike the photograph for different reasons: Lange felt it became a symbol and no longer felt it was her work; Thompson said she felt ashamed -- but determined never to be that poor again. 

There is much more to Florence Thompson's story and to the story of this photograph (if you wish to find out more, see: https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org/node/285) which, among other things, was a catalyst for the writer John Steinbeck to write Grapes of Wrath a story focusing on the plight of migrant workers in the Depression.   The intention of this challenge, though, is to help you feel -- and understand -- the potential for narrative within historical research and interviews.

Potential follow-up projects:
  • Go to your local Historical Society and explore their archive of photographs. Do any particularly move you, interest you? If so, use that as a jumping off point for finding out about the people, situation or time period within the photograph. See what records your Historical Society has. Check with the library. Are their any living witnesses? Or elders who may have memories of their ancestors' stories.
  • Go to a relative or an elder in your community and ask if they'd be willing to share an old photo and tell stories about the photo and the times depicted in the photo.
  • Explore a particular historic event in your community -- something that happened that was significant such as a natural disaster or war or major achievement or change. Look for photos -- and even old audio recordings. 

In all of these, combine what you find -- photos and sound -- with text to create a compelling story. 

[Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, Library of Congress]

Free Write - Seven Minutes
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