The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Writing Lessons---Slo-o-o-o-w Motion

         Writers can write like a movie-maker.  All it takes is an eye that can look at a scene and slow it down, like molasses in January.  (Oh, sorry.  This is not about similes.)

           Take a DVD that has a part that has been filmed in slow motion.  Most movies about sports have the winning (or losing) goal/run in slow motion.  Here are a list movies I have used:

Seabiscuit  (the race that Seabiscuit is in at the end of the movie) 
The Mighty Ducks (the first one, I think.  The part where it flashes back to the Emilio Estevez character as a child hockey player, where he "whiffs," is in slow motion.  I think the last game the team plays is filmed in slow mo, too.)
The Natural (the scene towards the beginning, where the Robert Redford character pitches to Babe Ruth, is a good one...)
Hoosiers  (I believe it is at the end, where a player makes a free throw...Sorry, it's been a few years since I've used this one.) 

        (Of course, these movies are not "G" rated, but it won't be a problem using them in your classroom, because you are going to prewatch it, and will have the movie, ready to play, at the snipped you are going to show.)

       Show the clip one time, so the students get a chance to just watch and soak up the details.  Show it a second time, and have the students write down things they see.  Encourage them to jot down small details.

       Show it a third time, and brainstorm---as a class---the tiny bits of action and movement, the adjectives, the thoughts that are going on in the characters'  heads.  (Certainly, we are not privvy to what's happening in a character's mind, but as a writer, we can imagine...)

        Then, have the students practice by writing a passage, in slow motion, using the details that were webbed as a class.  Have them share in small groups.

          After they have done a "dry run" slow mo, they can take a moment from a story of their own, and do the same thing.  The scariest part...the funniest part...the saddest part...the most embarrassing part...All of these would be good parts to rewrite and slow down.

         (Sometimes directing young writers to close their eyes and "see" the story like a movie, helps.)

         Below is an example of a slowed-down moment:

          Beads of sweat began to form on her forehead.  Looking down, she studied the top of her desk as if it were the most fascinating sight she had ever seen. Glancing up---lightning fast---she saw the teacher was in another row.  Just don't make eye contact.  Don't look at her.  Look back down! If she sees you, she'll call on you.
          The teacher was leaning over students' desks, going up and down the aisles and peering at each worksheet like a hungry hawk, checking if they had done their homework.  If I lay my arm across the desk, like this, maybe she won't see that my desk is empty.  The teacher continued circling for prey...
         Her heart began to hammer out in a desperate, rhythmic race.  Suddenly, the teacher was towering over her, eyes searing a hole straight into her soul.
         If this is how every day will be, this is not going to be a fun school year...