Thursday, February 19, 2015

What Do I Write About?

Blogging a narrative was just the start of asking my students to do something with the "Family History and Culture" information collected by talking with their families. 

In order to understand how information can blend and work with narrative, I asked students to highlight one piece of explicit information in their notes. Something that their eyes are drawn to in their notes. For instance, one of the things I have come to understand through my prewriting is that, as an adolescent, I did not appreciate the closeness of my family.
When I was a child, I never appreciated that closeness, but after hearing the way my mother put it, I crave that closeness too.
I took that message and tried to explain it with more information and an anecdote. Yes, informational writing and anecdote (or story) can blend.

Then, we all wrote to try to frame a piece of information with narrative.

Story can frame information so that, as a reader, we can absorb it freely. Some informative writing disregards the narrative form--and we tend to think of that writing as dense--our students tend to think of it as boring.

Information being people, places, things, facts, procedures, data, quotes, etc. Anecdote being a bit of narrative--just enought to help the information stick.

Typically, anecdotes may not seem academic enough for some, but I disagree. Anecdotes help writers and readers forge powerful connections:
As a child, my mom was able to see most family members on a daily basis. Four Italian families of uncles, aunts, and cousins all lived together on the same street. My mom thought this was the way everyone lived, and that is where and how she raised me--in my grandparent’s house, so close to all of our family members. Now, we all live so far apart and the physical distance doesn’t feel natural to either of us. My mom reminded me, “Being surrounded by family, growing up with cousins in the same house or across the street, I never felt alone.”
As writers, we dig deeper and come to understand why things matter to us when we can bring it to life for the reader.

As readers, we learn the value of informational writing because we become engaged in the fragments of story. We make associations and connections that will remain with us for a long time.

Students in each of my five classes continues to reference something by one classmate. The young writer explained China's law regarding parents giving birth to a second daughter. The mother loses her job and the family is fined $50,000. The procedures that happened next is what her parents did. They birthed her in the US, flew her back to China and left her with other family...for three years. The parents went to America to start a new life--one in which they could raise a second daughter. 

That is all information but some might argue it is story too.

What none will argue--and the detail that my students keep coming back to--the detail that makes the information stick.

The student writes, "In talking with my father alone, he told me my mother wept the entire plane ride from China to America."

Still procedure? Maybe.

But it is framed by narrative.

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