Saturday, September 28, 2013

From Autobiography to Zombie

A big part of the memoir unit we teach in sixth grade reading is helping students identify the theme of whatever story we are reading. Earlier this week, I asked for kids to throw out possible themes for the piece we had just finished, an excerpt from Jerry Spinelli's memoir, Knots in my YoYo String.

We read the part where Jerry considers himself a non-reader because he doesn't like that many books. He reads comics voraciously and sports statistics and he loves words and writers who use them playfully, but in his mind, reading and writing are nothing special-- they simply take their place with the "popsicles, pen knives and bicycle tires" of his life. One day he even writes an extra poem to go with a brochure project on Mexico, and his teacher accuses him of plagiarism, probably because she doesn't see any strength in that area either.

"So, what's the lesson?" I asked the class.

A kid who probably doesn't consider himself very literary raised his hand, and I called on him with pleasure.

"Your greatest strength might contain your greatest weakness?" he suggested.

"Hmmmm. That sounds familiar," I said. "Did you see World War Z recently?" 

He shrugged sheepishly. "Yeah. Last weekend."

"Think about it though," I advised him. "Turn it around a little. You thought of that for a reason."

He considered it a moment, and then I saw the light of an idea in his face. "Your weakness might contain your strength?"

"I think it might," I told him. "I think it might."

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