Teaching Writing through Literature
Focus Piece: Feminist Prose: In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens, “When the Other Dancer is the Self”, Alice Walker
Objectives: How does Form compliment Content and vice versa?
How to teach writing through literature.
To use personal essay to instruct, model and promote writing in an Upper School classroom.
To introduce the elements of style in a “Writer’s Tool Box” that can become the foundation for designing a personal essay.
To teach annotation of writing elements.
To promote the use of the elements of style within the students’ writing.
Over the course of time, students will begin to build a portfolio of personal anecdotes that will be the foundation for personal essay work.
Students are assigned the reading of the essay.
They are instructed to hi-lite and look up the definitions to unfamiliar vocabulary words.
Hi-lite passages, sentences that effective, interesting, well-crafted, confusing.
Come to class prepared to share a single sentence, phrase, passage.
Quiet Circle of voices: Going around the room, students read the selection from the essay. Students intentionally repeat any selection that has already been shared. No comments or analysis.
Discuss the selections:
Why did you choose your selection?
What repetition/pattern did you hear from your classmates? Why?
On Board: How does form (style) compliment content and vice versa?
What specific elements of style are contained within the selections you made?
Other places in the essay?
narrative voice sentence pace language (vocabulary/diction)
use of verbs/adjectives dialogue
sentence construction anecdote verb tense
italics poetry circular writing metaphor
simile tone mood
How is the meaning enhanced by the style? Where? With what?
Annotating a passage on the board:
I am in shock. First there is intense fever, which my father tries to break using lily leaves bound around my head. Then there are chills; my mother tries to get me to eat soup. Eventually, I do not know how, my parents learn what has happened. A week after the “accident” they take me to see a doctor. “Why did you wait so long to come?” he asks, looking into my eye and shaking his head. “Eyes are sympathetic,” he says, “If one is blind, the other will likely become blind too.”
1. Complete the following sentence and write a paragraph that captures a moment in time of this age:
“I am ________________ years old…”
2. Look closely in a mirror at your face. Create a list of words that details what you see: use color, texture, mood words.
3. Create a conversation between you and a member of your family that best embodies your relationship.
4. Write a poem that expresses a question you hold in your heart about yourself.
5. Define your other self: an ambition, fear, passion, question that is hidden from sight.
6. I remember a time…
7. I do not remember…
8. A time when you were silent.
9. A time when you were silenced.
Now the work of revision begins. Open your tool box.
What specific writing tools did you use in your piece?
How do your tools reflect the mood and message of your piece?
What is necessary? What can you delete?
Where are you going?
These review questions vary depending on the genre of the essay: descriptive, argument/persuasion, metaphor.
Peer Review Narrative Essay
Please answer the following questions in complete sentences. Use the text for specific examples.
1. Read the opening lines of the essay. How has the writer drawn the reader into the work? What voice is used in these first lines? Does the essay begin in a narrative voice?
2. Consider the use of anecdote in this essay? How/where does the author use this tool to develop the intention of the essay? How effective is the anecdote in supporting the intention.
3. What is the mood of this essay? Where is it most effectively developed? How?
4. Has the author considered verbs and verb tense? How and to what effect?
5. Has the author used descriptive language to show the intention of the essay? Where and why?
6. Has the author considered sentence pace? To what effect?
7. Hi-lite metaphor, imagery, language that supports the intention of the essay.
8. Has the author considered audience? How?
9. Annotate a specific passage in the essay for the writing tools within.
10. Does author successfully weave the intention of the essay throughout the text? In one sentence, complete this statement:
This essay is about…
11. What suggestions do you have for the author to direct his/her re-seeing work?