Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wait. Just one more ...

Just got an email from a friend. It turns out writing to me is item seven in her list of things to do to avoid practicing for auditions. Which reminds me…

A couple weeks ago, Madge’s school allowed parents to sit in on classes, just to observe. I chose a writing class. I thought I’d be cute and do the assignment with them.
I couldn’t sit in the circle and discuss the assignment, but I was then able to squeeze myself into a little chair and write alongside my 7-yr-old cohorts.
It was great.
The assignment itself made a lot of sense (to someone who wants to write). It was “zooming in on details.” The youngsters were supposed to tell a story (or retell one they’ve told before) and then choose a moment to give in more detail.
If you think about the big picture, that’s really all any story is. It starts out with “Someone did something” and everything else beyond that is detail. Moby Dick: A guy chased this thing. Pride and Prejudice: A woman and a man meet. The Iraq Study Group Report: A Shiite and a Sunni go into a bar…
On some level, the assignment really worked well. The kids wrote their stories and promptly got stuck. Then the teacher did a marvelous job at getting the kids to open up by asking great questions. An example I remember, “You write here that you found your friend’s ball. Where did you find it?” And the otherwise reticent kid unleashed a narrative torrent. “Well, first we looked all over and then I asked him where he thought it was and he said over by the basketball hoops but it wasn’t there and finally I found it under the bench, didn’t I, and I gave it back to him but then he lost it again and…” At which point the teacher said, “There. Go write that down.”
And the kid didn’t. I was at his table. He just inserted the words “under the bench” right after the words “found the ball” and said he was done.
At some aspects of writing they already are very adept, though they are limited by their surroundings. For instance, I think they need to be introduced to making coffee, checking emails, paying bills, doing laundry, planning lunch, reading the paper, making and looking over notes, getting haircuts, trimming that pesky fingernail, and a myriad of other things to procrastinate. They’re great at sharpening pencils. And I think I need a dry-erase board so I can add a step to my process of going to the bathroom when I don’t really have to but I can’t think of a better way to say “Somebody did something.”

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