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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

Home -- Setting Tone

Sometimes the setting of your community story can establish the tone of the piece.

Sometimes the setting of your community story can establish the tone of the piece.

This challenge has two parts. First a quick write. And then RESPOND again with something more relevant to your community story efforts. The point is this: setting can often set the tone for a story, particularly if you use sensory detail, that is how a place sounds, or looks, or feels or smells.

  1. Look at the pictures above. Choose one that grabs you (or amuses you). Look at the details and imagine what it's like to live there. Imagine. Now, in 7 minutes and writing as quickly as you can, write about living in this house or coming upon this. How weird it is. How inconvenient it is. How cool it is. But try to use the house to set the tone. If you want to make the house spooky, go for it; if you want to make-believe you are a high flyer and have a mansion, fashion your story around that aspect. But set the tone. Go wild. Make up a story.
    1. Comment on several classmates' posts and see how they handled it. 
  2. The second part of this is to write about your own home. Click the RESPOND button on this challenge a second time and describe the setting of your home. Set the tone with specific detail; your home figures into your sense of community, help us, the readers, understand what your home is like. Incorporate photos into your post.
    1. Comment on several classmates' posts and see how they handled it. 

Credits: The original photographer and copyright of the photos in this slideshow are extremely difficult to determine since many have been appropriated and put on pinterest.com and twitter.com; using google image search yields, in most cases, more than 20 million results; blocking pinterest and other sites still did not yield the origin in most cases. Since these photos are being used on a limited basis for educational purposes, YWP would ask that none be made public and that they remain in use only in these private classrooms. That said, a few origins were discovered: luxury house with a pool: http://www.highcorkett.com/30-pelican-point-new-luxury-listing/. House with tree roots: cover art of Bon Jovi album, This House Not for Sale, a black and white image by photographer Jerry UelsmannUpside down house Via curious-places. Wreck of a house, clip art from https://scoopposts.info


Oscar creeped towards the creepy house. It was clear that Stackpole and McGee had been there, and that it had been abandoned only recently. The 'roots' were huge for a tree, and had been undoubtedly been chopped decades ago. It could of very well been built from the wood of it's bases former occupant. Oscar shuffeled into the abandoned fort, and what was inside discusted him.  Wooden chairs wit some legs missing and a stone table laid crumpled in a corner. The whole shack reeked of rotten eggs, and the creaky floorboards and walls felt as if they had been greased an hour ago. Oscar manuevered the rickety wooden staircase, for some of the stairs were missing. When he finally got upstairs, the view was no better. The windows were shattered beyond repair, and the shutters were riddled with holes, and a couple of them were hanging on one hinge, or fallen off altogether! Geez! Was there a raid here or something? Oscar thought. Little holes and broken windows? Good grief!  There was a bucket in the corner of the room filled with- eew! thats what the smell was! that's disgusting! Oscar fled the house afterwards, for the smell of human waste was unbearable.
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
Grace's picture


Photojournalism — the photography you use in newsmedi articles — plays by different rules artistic photography doesn't. You have to be respectful, cannot alter your photos and you need to be careful or show a bias. 

Gathering Information. In any situation where you are gathering information from someone -- even if for a project that will only be seen in school -- it's good to exchange information with your subjects. HINT: When you take pictures of people, when you interview them, look at this process as a form of conversation; if you share information about yourself, they're more likely to share back. Tell them who you are associated with, why you are taking their photo, and where it might be published. Make sure they are OK with what you are doing.

Jul 28


Art in your community

Write an opinion piece about an iconic piece of art in your community (or your state). Add photos of the art from different perspectives at different times of day. Send it to the local newspaper as an illustrated opinion piece.

Public art can be one of the joys of community. It can also irritate, confuse or offend people. If there is an iconic piece of art in your town, reflect on it. Do you like it? Does it help define your community in a positive or negative way? Has it been there so long that it is invisible?

  • Find out more about the piece of art (the artist, the name, when it was installed, what it means, etc.)
  • Visit the piece of art at various times of day and take photos from different perspectives.
  • Write a review of the piece. Include the pertinent details (see above) and give your opinion about it.
  • Share your writing and photos with a friend or family member who knows the art and ask for their thoughts. (You might be surprised at their reaction.)
  • If you are swayed in your opinion, you might consider revising it. If you are firm in your original opinion, give your writing another careful look for typos and grammatical errors.
  • Send the package -- the writing and the best two photos -- to your local newspaper as an opinion piece.

[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Madi Cohen, 2016]

Jul 28


Is there a place in your community that you remember fondly and it's now gone?

Is there a special place in your community that is under threat? You can advocate for this place. Write a letter to the local newspaper. Contact officials and make a strong, persuasive argument.

  • Is there a special place in your community that has been changed, removed or is under threat? A playground where you met some of your best childhood friends? A swimming hole? A forest? A sledding hill? 
  • Don't stand by and watch.
  • Organize like-minded people. Write letters to the editor and local officials. Include photos and your best memories of this place. AND make a strong persuasive argument for why this matters -- not just to you, but to the community. 
  • Ask for a meeting with the officials, and make your case, face-to-face.
  • It might not be too late. Act now!

[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]

Jul 27


Where do you feel most at home?

Use words and/or photos to describe the place where you feel most at home.  The best pieces will be selected for Young Writers Project's digital magazine, The Voice.

If we are fortunate, there is a special place where we feel at home. It could be the family kitchen, a favorite beach, a treehouse, a bookstore, a bedroom. Where do you feel safe, content, at home? Describe this place.
Or create a slideshow that captures "home."

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Dylan Sayamouangkhua, 2015)

Jul 27


Interview an elder in your town. Get the facts and tell their story.

Research and interview an elder in your town. You will create a valuable digital story that will provide a unique look at the history of your community.

This challenge will require several sessions -- but it will be worth it!   (Click here for a resource for this challenge.)

Choose an elder in your community -- it could be a family member, a friend, or someone you've never met, but who is willing to talk to you -- and interview them. Get them to tell you stories. (If it's a relative, get them to tell you a story that they haven't told before, or, at least they haven't told you.) (Ask for help from a teacher, family member, even the staff of a local retirement home.)

1.  Get the story  

  • Before your interview, prepare your questions -- everything you'll need for a fair and complete profile. Correct spelling of the person's name? Date of birth? How long they have lived in the community? Family members? Occupation? etc.
  • And because you're curious and you want to write a great story, think of questions that will elicit more than a yes or no answer. Ask your interview subject about anything surprising, interesting, unusual, funny that they think people should know about them.
  • Set up the interview. Bring an audio recorder and ask your interview subject if they would mind being recorded. This helps with accuracy and will be an important element of your digital story.
  • If your interview subject has one really amazing story, you might decide to focus solely on that one story. Or you might choose to write a full profile and just include the story as part of it. (Either way, make sure to ask plenty of questions to cover all the bases.)
  • After your interview, look over your notes. If you see gaps, you might ask for a followup interview.

2.  Write  

  • With the interview information still fresh in your mind, write your first draft on your blog. Get it all down. Listen to your audio recording to fill in any gaps and/or to accurately convey some of the best quotes. Read it over and take a first pass in organizing it.

3. Comment

  •  With a classmate, exchange posts and comment on each other's pieces, noting details that work, questions, confusion, flow. 

4. Write again  

  • With comments in mind, revise your work, proofread and polish it. Reading the piece aloud helps highlight mistakes and stumbles.

5. Add sound and images  

  • If you have audio and photos from the interview, you can create an amazing digital story. There are many options, including narrating the story using your written piece, including the back and forth conversation from your interview, pulling together the best quotes, adding current and historic photos, etc. Audacity and PhotoShop are great tools (more in Resources).

Remember to check out this resource for inspiration: Frank Glazer - An Elder Story.

Exercise Extension:

Invite senior storytellers to your class to tell their stories. Interviewing and writing their stories can be an amazing group project!


(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Madeline Green, 2015)