Tuesday, October 4, 2016


One of the strategies we learned this summer to help young writers get to the heart of their personal narratives in terms of message, meaning, and why the story matters was to have them hashtag it. "Kids are familiar with that!" our instructor told us, and we agreed.

Well, this week I have had some #amusing conversations with my #sixthgraders. Understandably, not so many of them are even on social media, and so the concept is not quite as ingrained in them as perhaps originally presumed. #jumpingtoconclusions

The more concrete thinkers among them want to use the hashtag as a simple label, and that is completely understandable. #shouldaseenitcoming For example, a picture of a goldfish yielded #goldfish, #pet, #Nemo (with a sharp rebuke from the other students) and #thesnackthatsmileback.

"What about #dinner?" I asked.

"EW!" they answered.

"Don't you mean #ew!" I asked.

"Unless you're a cat!" someone suggested. And she was right, because hashtags certainly reveal your perspective.

Even so, most folks have kind of gotten away from the hashtag as a tool for thematic connection, and now it is really more of a witty addendum to a tweet or snapchat.

And yet the exercise of generating several quick labels for my own writing pieces really paid off. Like the kids, I started with the obvious, but with free association, I generally found the heart of my piece by the 3rd or 4th hashtag. To be honest, it was almost therapeutic.

For a sketch I'd written about an environmental club my sixth grade teachers started that was invitation only and which I had not been invited to join. I started with #stupidclub, moved on to #that'snot fair, and finally ended with #whynotme? And I realized that the reason it still bothered me after 43 years was because there is a part of me that assumes that I was rightfully rejected and still wonders why I wasn't good enough.

Hashtag that.

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