The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I Want to Steal That Line!

          This afternoon we took up some of our math time to continue writing, since we go to recess from 11:00-11:20, have writing from 11:20-11:50, then lunch from 11:50-12:20.  Drinks of water and bathroom trips have to be squeezed in somehow and somewhere.

          The students have worked on beginning drafts of their memoirs.  At the third grade, their beginnings are not always engaging.  Some Most of them are not experienced story-tellers, so they think, "This story is about a time when I was excited," is a great opening line.

         Today I told a story about when I broke my arm.  I told the story in just a couple of sentences:  "When I was 12 I fell off the high diving board.  Part of me went into the water and part of me landed on the concrete."

          I then asked if they had any questions---questions that were not answered by that kernel of a story.  They had many questions.  Did I have to see a nurse or doctor? Did I cry? What part of me landed on the concrete? (They probably thought it was surely my head that hit the cement!) Did I cry?  Did I get into trouble? What made me fall?

          I then chose one of the questions that interested me the most, and used it as a springboard for a new story beginning.  I chose the "Did you cry?" question.

          I didn't cry when it happened.  I didn't cry when everyone at the pool was talking about me.  I didn't cry as I walked home.  I didn't even cry when I got home and my mom asked why I was back from the pool so early---I just slipped into my room.  But I did finally cry when, no longer able to hide my arm, I admitted to my mom that something was wrong.  Something terrible had happened at the pool, and now my arm couldn't even hold a towel...

        That day began like any other summer day. I went...

        The students saw that they can begin in the middle, and flash back in time.  A really cool thing that writers do is keep the reader in suspense for a bit.  The author does not have to tell what the story is about in the first sentence. Let the reader be intrigued.  Let them hunger for more...

         Following are a few beginnings the kids wrote:

     Yes, I did cry.
     I cried when my mom put me on her back. I cried when I got in the car. I cried when I got in the house. My mom told me to stop crying.  I did not stop.
     She got some alcohol.  It was cold. She put it on my knee and she told me to stop crying and I stopped crying.  She put a bandaid on it and went to my gran's house.


     Yes, I was scared. When I had opened the door he was getting closer to me, so I went to the back of my closet and I stayed there.
     My heart was beating so fast.  The closet was so dark in there, I was scared even more so.

(That story is about an older brother who scared her when he put on a mask.)


      When it happened, everyone cried 'til they dropped to their knees. Everyone begged for him to come alive.
      But the doctor said he was dead.

( I love the image of family members dropping to their knees.  I told this student I wanted to steal that line and use it in a story of my own.)


     I never forgave my aunt. 
     When I see her at holidays, I think of what she had done. Sometimes when I see her I walk away from her.  Sometimes I even get in trouble with her, and we start to argue, so then I go to my grandma's room because my aunt infuriates me.
     I'm still mad at her to this day...

(This student had a pet dog, and the aunt sold the dog at a yard sale---without the family's permission.)

photo by anthonyasael

           Hopefully I will have more promising beginnings tomorrow.  (Most of the class took them home to work on them.)

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