ow that all students had a writer's notebook we set out to write in it--their first entry was to be written at home: write about three things which stopped you in your tracks. We wrote to this prompt during one of our classes at our NWP SI and I really liked the results then, so wanted to try it with my students.
When the students arrived with their three thoughtful entries I asked them to read over them and choose one. Choose the one which matters to you most, for whatever reason. Start a new entry where you explain why this one is most important to you. (By the way, I do the assignments as well, and write alongside of the students as they write. I try to change my seat in the room daily, as I change their seats daily as well).
After ten minutes we paused and I asked them to skip a space and to think (through writing) what the core issue is in what they have been currently writing about. What is it that matters to them beyond this one incident. What is truly at the heart of why this one incident matters to them?
As an example I shared this fictional progression which I created:
An event which stopped me in my tracks was my sister borrowed my favorite hooded sweatshirt without asking. She ruined it--stains were all over it. And then she tried to fold it and slip it back into my closet without my knowing she ever had it in the first place.
I chose this event as the most important because I had always had a great relationship with my sister. We were great friends. But this event altered our friendship--for the first time ever I felt trust issues with my sister. I began to question and wonder had she done anything similar with me in the past.
At the heart of this incident is the fact that trust is extremely important to me. It is something I rarely talk about or plan for, but it just is. And you can't say it, you can't just say you trust someone...you have to show it, do it. Trust is an action way more than it is a spoken word.
So then my students went forward and wrote about what was at the heart of their writing, what truly mattered to them. After we finished writing, we did a large group share--some shared, not many. We are still building community. I didn't press it which worked out fine because I had a concluding mini-lesson to get to with the remaining ten minutes of class:
I just asked all of you to write for a few days about things which matter to you. At the heart of many pieces of writing is something which mattered to an author. Whether it is an article in magazine or a YA novel, authors write about things which are important to them.
You all read The Red Badge of Courage for summer reading--take a moment and put aside your struggles or personal opinions about the book. Take a moment and think with your pen, what do you think was important to Stephen Crane? Based on the book, what do you think was at the heart of what mattered to him--go deeper than plot. Go to that place that you just visited yourself...and think about what Crane must have felt or believed deep inside of himself. Write that. There is no right or wrong. I do not know myself...and I will write my own thoughts myself along with you.
With the final five minutes we shared what we thought and called it a day.