Students need an extended period of silent writing time in order to finish this assignment successfully. This is the focus of today’s class. We have a slightly shorter period today because we are on a special schedule. I expect students will need to take their stories home today to finish them, but they will have enough time in class to get close to finishing.
I announce to students that they will have most of the period to work on their personal story. Before they start, I do want to briefly discuss an important component of storytelling that we did not discuss the day before because it is more relevant today that they are well on their way to a full story. I tell students that an important component of storytelling is the reflection on the part of the storyteller. I explain that, like I have said before, a story is powerful largely due to the perspective offered by the storyteller and that this includes the way he/she reflects on the experiences told in the story. I add that the ability to reflect on a personal experience is crucial in making sense of the significance of these experiences. The idea of reflecting on a personal experience is too abstract for many of my students. I try to make this more accessible by saying that when the storyteller is able to reflect on the experience narrated, he/she is basically able to communicate to the audience why this experience is important. I tell them that they can do this in different ways. One is a basic and easy way, which is to create a concluding paragraph that explicitly explains why this story is significant. I point out that this is not a sophisticated way of achieving this but it is better than not reflecting on their story at all. I then tell them that another way is to reflect throughout, which requires the writer to make specific language choices to communicate why this story is significant. Either way, they all have to spend some time reflecting on why this story is significant and make sure the reader has that sense.
I want to make sure students have plenty of time during class to work on finishing their story so I only make one final remark before giving them this time. I remind them that they should edit their written work and to remember that they should use the precise, vivid language and detailed descriptions that make for good storytelling, as verbalized in part d of the CCSS Writing standard 3. By this time, students have heard examples and been given directions to make sure their narratives fulfill the requirements of this standard. We have talked about things like engaging the reader, reflecting on the experience narrated, and using descriptive language. Students now need time to pull all these together. I give students the rest of the period to finish drafting.
Students are not finished writing their story so I tell them that they can finish it at home tonight and turn it in tomorrow. Students ask if they need to rewrite it to produce a clean, final draft. I tell them that they should only do that if the draft they have right now is a complete mess. If their draft can handle crossing out or erasing things here and there and still look more or less neat, that will be good enough. I want them to spend most of their energy on the actual writing than the look of the paper.
One thing that may come out of a writing assignment where students have a limited amount of time is writing that looks half-baked, meaning that it appears to be in bad need of hefty editing. However, on a very positive note, you may also get a glimpse of strong writing skills that come out spontaneously. Take a look at this student's story.