This unit in writing is built upon students choosing stories that are important and writing them in a way that the readers can feel and understand why it is an important story. One way to expand these stories is for students to add parts that make the character (themselves) reflective or hopeful.
By giving them examples from stories that I’ve used in previous lessons, I can show them how making a character remember a previous experience can bring out the importance of an event or object. Using a different example, I can show how a character can pause in the telling of a story and dream about a future event and its importance.
For the first example, I ask the class if they remember the story about a little boy whose dog died and tell them that we can image that the little boy is sad but we want to develop the story and the character by giving examples that really show how the little boy feels about his dog.
I describe a scene where the little boy is picking up the dog’s toys to put them in a box to donate. I tell the part of the story where the little boy picks up a ball and thinks about the first time his dog played with the ball and how every time the little boy came home the little dog would bring the ball to the little boy to play with. And then end with the little boy thinking, “I am going to miss throwing this ball” or the little boy throwing the ball in the box.
The second example is a story about a kid buying a new dress and being excited about the party she is going to. I tell the class that as the girl tries on the dress in the dressing room, she touches the sequins and imagines how the dress is going to sparkly under the lights and then feels the ruffles and thinks about how the dress will flow as she walks in the room. These examples show how important the dress is the to the character.
After I give students a few examples of how internal dialogue showing memories and hopeful thinking will help the reader understand why the story is important, I ask the students to try it with a few more examples. I remind them of a few stories that they have told each other. For example: The first time someone tried a new food, or the last time someone visited their grandma, or the time they learned how to ride a bike.
I then ask students to share with their partner scenes that can be added to show the importance of the story. I suggest they try both a memory and a hopeful thought.
After students have a few minutes to share, I give a few examples to the class that I heard the partners share. For example: a character thinks about all of the fun times in the past in the yard at their grandma’s house or the cookies that their grandma always makes for them when thinking about seeing their grandma for the last time. This is a great example that really hits the emotional side that the original writer hoped to express in the story. They were able to do this by using either of these heartfelt examples.
After students get a chance to try it out with a partner, I ask them to return to their own seats and try it out on their own writing.
Writers brainstorm ways of writing a scene before choosing one that works. I remind them that today and everyday, they have this strategy in their toolbox to use when they want to express the importance of a story.
They are to brainstorm a few possible ideas in their learning journal before choosing one or two to add to their story. They can include a memory and/or a hopeful thought if it helps their story.
While they work, I walk around the class, providing encouragement and one-on-one support.
After students have revised their story, I call on two or three students to share. First they read the part of the story they revised, without the added parts then they read it again with the revisions. I provide feedback to them, praising them for making their story stronger and asking the class if they agree that they can now feel what they character is either thinking or feeling. If the student who shared was not as successful, I praise them for what they did do and ask a question such as, “I wonder why that character did that,” or “Did it matter to the character that the object was blue or could it have been some other color”. The student can choose to answer them on the spot or think about it later. Either way, I suggest to them that those ideas should be put in their story.