My students have been working on adding focus and description to their writing, and now it is time to move on to a bigger writing assignment. This is one of my favorite writing assignments to do because it is kind of bizarre! The students love it, and can't wait to start!
About a week before you are ready to do this activity, ask your students to bring in a shoe. It can be any type of shoe. A kid shoe, a mom shoe, dad shoe, your shoe, a dance shoe, soccer shoe, slipper, boot, a shoe the dog chewed. Anything! I don't tell them why they need the shoe. This really drives them crazy, but it also piques their interest in the assignment. All week as students are bringing in shoes, they will keep asking, "Why do we need a shoe? Will the shoe get ruined?(no) Do we need both shoes? (no, just one) Will we ever get in back? (yes)" Pretty soon you will have 20 shoes in the back of the classroom which is a little gross, but it really gets the kids curious about what you are going to do. Honestly, this isn't the best narrative writing assignment on earth, but the suspense leading up to it really hooks the kids!
When you are ready to begin this activity, have each student choose a shoe. Many students want their own shoe, but I encourage them to choose an unknown shoe. Every student doesn't need his or her own shoe, so it is fine for them to share rather than fight over a shoe. I should warn you, that they always want to smell the inside of the shoe. Even the girls. It is so strange, but it happens every year, so I embrace it!
I realize that this seems like an unusual activity, but I find that writing with a gimmick keeps students engaged. It's amazing how bringing a manipulative, like a shoe ( I have used bags stuffed with items and lunches before too!), makes a boring old writing assignment interesting. The students connect to the shoes and become more interested in writing.
I have each student draw a circle map with "My Shoe" in the middle. Students spend about 10 minutes describing their shoe in minute detail. I tell them to look at every single aspect of it. The inside, outside, top, bottom, laces, color, scratches, dirty places. Everything! When they think they've said it all, I have them ask a friend to add their description to the circle map. All of these descriptors will become evidence for the next step.
Next students will begin to imagine what type of person would wear this shoe. (This is why it is helpful if the students don't choose their own shoe) They are going to create an evidence map including 4 descriptors of the person who owns the shoe. Each of their descriptors must be based on evidence from the shoe. For example, if the shoe is dusty, hiking boot, the students might infer that the owner is a camper.
This is the toughest part for the students, so I do offer some suggestions. I ask them to think about the age and sex of the owner, what types of activities they might do, do they seem neat and tidy or messy, are they fancy or casual?
I also direct them to their peers for ideas and support and suggestions.
Once they have created this character, it is time to name him or her and decide where this person lives.