Friday, September 28, 2012

Location Location Location

For the last week or so, we have been working on sensory details in my English classes. I have some good mentor texts; the kids looked in their independent reading books for examples; we went outside to gather some, and they did a little sense poem exercise.

That particular assignment asks writers to imagine a specific place and then conjure a descriptive detail for each of the senses. Most kids pick the beach or the woods, the pool or New York City; this year some wrote about Paris and Ethiopia, but there are always a few that think outside the box (the future, Candyland), and one or two who want to test the limits.

Case in point:

Student: Can I write about the bathroom?
Me: Sure.
Student (surprised): I can?
Me, shrugging: If you want to and you think it's a good idea. Try it.

A little while later he was kind of stuck. There was always a chance that he could have pulled it off with humor or irony, but he was taking a pretty literal approach-- he had a lot of farting and stinking in his poem and couldn't think of too much else. My advice is always that in a piece this short, it's a mistake to repeat a word or image because it weakens the impact of it, and that's definitely what was going on.

Still, he was committed to the poem, eventhough any negative attention he might have gotten from his peers was diffused by my matter-of-fact treatment of his topic. I looked over his shoulder to see if I could help. We back-and-forthed out a few possibilities, and then he wondered if he could try another topic.

"Sure," I said, "that's what writers do."

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