What's a cherished object? In a previous lesson (link), I asked students to bring in a cherished object for class discussion in connection with American Born Chinese. The character in that story carries with him a Transformer robot toy, and he himself goes through many transformations in the story--not all of them good, but some of them necessary.
Now, we look to incorporate the cherished object into the students' original writings. What I have found over the years is that simply asking students to refer to an object like this--particularly one that has a special significance for the student--creates an opportunity for students to write with greater precision (W.9-10.3d) and also later to understand words with strong figurative connotations (RL.9-10.4).
I will ask:
1.) What was your cherished object?
2.) What types of feelings or emotions does your object have for you?
3.) What would it be like to give you object to your fictional character? In giving the object to this character, what intangibles are you also giving? (e.g. by giving a blanket, you might also be giving comfort or security or innocence).
Going forward: I will challenge the students to refer to the object three times in the story. The point is that the reference does not have to be very obvious; it can be nonchalant or oblique. In other cases, the object itself may represent a major turning point for the character. It's up to the individual student to decide! I've found that students in the past have really enjoyed playing around with this particular aspect of fictional writing and making choices about the object that seem to fit the character in question.
This is an amazing piece of writing done by a grade 9 student (link), and I think it will serve as a model for the class and open up some pathways to imagine how a cherished object might work its way into a narrative.
What I will do:
- Read the story.
- Ask: What's the main issue in the story? How has the writer created a memorable character with a cohesive storyline (W.9-10.3c) Why the flashback in the beginning? Why leave the ending somewhat unfinished? Why incorporate minor characters?
The Assignment. At this point, I will return to the assignment sheet, as I know that the students' creative wheels will be spinning. They are no doubt really thinking about their characters and considering how to make a story generate out of that character. Rather than using a typical plot line, I will ask the students to consider using a Plot W, but that is in an upcoming lesson... some may be ready for this now, so I will differentiate and leak out this idea upon request or need.
Length. As it stands, one major question arises as to the length of the assignment. You will note that the assignment sheet (link) states 1-2 pages, a short but effective length to get a taste of doing a character sketch. If you are wanting to give the students extended practice in narrative technique (W.9-10.3b), then I would go longer, because this will give you the chance to work with them on dialogue. That said, I don't put a high number down as the page minimum because I am concerned that some students may try to fill up the space without attending to craft (W.9-10.3d) wit the level of precision that I'd like.
What I do:
Read the assignment sheet, page 1.
Tell students to read one of the student samples for homework or just get writing.
Field any questions.
Remind students that simply getting the character and object down pat right now is the key, and generating a plot (beginning/middle/end) will come in a future lesson.