Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Love Torturing Children

That's what I tell my students anyway. How do I torture them, you ask? I make them write!!!!!!!!! I know, how appalling, right?

I teach 8th grade language arts and this year I made them participate in NaNoWriMo's Young Writer's Program. The plan: Write my book, while they write theirs, showing them they are all writers! So we wrote for at least 30 minutes a day, for a month. Some of them wrote more than that, but with 13 and 14 year olds you can only ask so much. They all got at least a 1000-word-novel written. (One of them wrote almost 10,000 words) They all got little pins that say, "First Class Novelist." I hope they also got an experience they will never forget: they wrote a novel!

The NaNoWriMo workbook I found on the Young Writer's Program Website was awesome and very helpful. It allowed me to teach my students so many literary elements while helping them explore their writing and imaginations. I even made them choose an excerpt and write a submission letter. I plan to finish my novel over Christmas break (because, no, I didn't reach my goal :( but I will finish!) and some of them planned to add to what they had written in class.

I am so proud of them AND I really enjoyed torturing them too!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Real Writer?

This learning to be a "real writer" is a process. I've been teaching for 13 years now and I've always said that I learned way more as a teacher than I did as a student. For example, do you really know when to double the final consonant before adding a suffix? Well, I didn't until I had to teach kids how to remember it.

Anyhow, I go through the writing process with my kiddos and they hate revising and editing. Don't we all? I've tried to explain to them that everybody hates it, even "real writers." There are lots of great resources out there where authors show how much revising and editing is involved.

I know I've got a lot to learn but going through the process with them has definitely helped me learn a thing or two. I'm considering having my 8th graders participate in NaNoWriMo. There are some pretty cool resources out there for that too.

The main thing I want to teach them is that they are "real writers."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Supporting Who?

 It's YA Highway's Road Trip Wednesday.

What supporting character from a YA book would you most like to see star in their own novel?


There are so many characters in books I've read that I would love to know better. These characters only got to share part of their stories, but I would so love to know more about them.
 
The Hunger Games  (Suzanne Collins) I would love to know Haymitch a little better. What exactly happened to him in the games? What's going through his head?
 
The Iron King (Lisa Kagawa)  I would definitely like to know Puck better too. My daughter and I argue. She's Team Ash and I'm Team Puck. I always prefer the best friend to the mushy, romantic man-of-her-dreams types.
 
What about one of The other Outsiders? Maybe Sodapop could tell his story? What happened after the big rumble to Pony's brother? (SE Hinton)
 
OK, I have to go with Twilight too. I personally want to know why Leah is the only girl who became a wolf. There's got to be a story there. (Stephenie Meyer)
 
If I had to pick one though, just one supporting character that gets to have his own story?
 
Cam from Fallen by Lauren Kate. I love this story. Past-lives, destiny, fallen angels..... who wouldn't, but I'm sure being in bad-boy Cam's mind would be intriguing.

1st 6 weeks: Science Fiction

In my 8th grade language arts class each six weeks we will study a different genre. The first six weeks was fantasy, focusing on science fiction. Why science fiction? Because I have this goal for them to actually like to read and read for fun. AND because The Hunger Games movie is coming out in March and I love it when students realize that the book is usually better than the movie, we read The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins the first six weeks. The kiddos loved it of course and have fought over every copy of Catching Fire in our little school. (Success)

After reading the book, I assigned them to write the first page of a science fiction story. We went through the writing process of course. I handed them a graphic organizer with the setting filled in: the year 2212, in what was once North America. I let them complete the rest.

The hardest part for them? Show not tell. Many of them described to me what life would be like, but some actually put me in the story. Yeah!!! I have some good little writers on my hands. There were underwater worlds, talking pizza, and boyfriends who were fine one day and crazy the next. Suspense..... 

To give them an example I wrote my own first page with that setting. This is what I came up with.....

I plopped down into my chair, and curled my feet underneath me. Time for school. I pushed the button to turn on the holographic classroom. My avatar looked much better than me, at least she had taken the time to comb her hair. I yawned loudly and pulled my giant t-shirt down over my pajama pants. Thank goodness I didn’t actually have to get dressed for this. A vibrating sound caught my attention as a message scrolled across the bottom of the holographic screen.


“Good morning students. Today is Tuesday, September 27, 2212. Welcome to One Earth Academy.”

I used the touch-screen device to move my avatar into a desk. The teacher’s avatar showed up on screen, as other avatars began to show up. An adorable boy was sitting next to me. He had brown, scruffy hair and a cute smile. Unfortunately, I knew that this avatar looked nothing like its owner. My next door neighbor, Mathias, who had died his hair purple last week, thought it was hilarious that he was able to fool the superficial girls at One Earth. He would get to know them at school, then scare them to death when he met them in person. I had known Mathias since we were six. He didn’t scare me, no matter how much he tried. I made my avatar stick her tongue out at him.

The teacher began to speak. “Welcome to History class. Today we will be learning about how One Earth began.”

Like I hadn’t heard this for the last nine years. The fourth world war had created one nation. Before that apparently there were all these different places here called countries. People had spoken different languages and everything. It sounded so cool. One Earth was so boring. I decided to check my news feeds while I heard the historic story for the billionth time. Hmmm, One Earth Profiles was going to start charging. Yeah right, some people will fall for anything. Bethany liked the re-make of some really old movie called Breaking Dawn. Aliyah checked in at McDonalds. I decided to update my status. “Stuck in History Class.”

Something caught my eye and I looked back up to the screen. A strange object flashed by, right in front of the teacher. Then the screen went black. I just stared. Nothing like this had ever happened before. We had learned just last week that people used to actually lose their internet connections and some people didn’t even have internet. Seriously! The whole planet was connected through One Earth Cyberlink. The internet had not disconnected for a hundred years. What was I supposed to do now?