Thursday, July 24, 2014

Everything's a Writing Prompt

When I moved into my classroom for this summer's installment of teaching Writing & Imagination at CTY, I noticed that someone had left a fork and spoon sitting on the window sill. Not the plastic variety, but the stainless steel kind they have in the dining hall.
Jennie, my teaching assistant, asked if I wanted her to take them back. "No," I replied, "there's a writing prompt here somewhere."
And so there was two weeks later, as the students came up with tales ranging from one about ghosts dining in the classroom to another in which my grandson Alex brought them to the classroom to play with.

A rather persistent fly took up residence in the classroom, buzzing around and landing on desks, notebooks, and even the student's heads. He proved to be quite adept at avoiding being swatted and eventually became something of the class mascot. Buzzy's fly's-eye view of what was happening in the classroom and the people in it made for another round of interesting tales. "Why do these guys keep chasing me away?" he moans in one. "I just want to see what they are writing."

Just this week, two different lessons contributed to create another writing prompt. One, which we call "Squeeze the grape," has the students adding a word or short phrase to those original three until we have an often outrageous, yet still legitimate sentence. This time it expanded to include the description of "Oliver's Dad," who had an orange uni-brow with pink highlights and a neon yellow mustache with rainbow sprinkles.
When I was explaining the "hamburger theory" of writing a five-paragraph essay, I used a green marker to draw a lettuce leaf on the whiteboard. Turned out this marker was the "wet-erase" variety rather than the "dry-erase" version so, when I erased everything else, the lettuce leaf remained.
Long story short, that lettuce leaf turned into the mouth for a rather scary-looking version of Oliver's Dad. We joked about him showing up in the dorms and I added a word balloon to the pic: "Sleep well, children." And thus was born the prompt for "A Visit from Oliver's Dad."

Meantime, our class has been regularly disrupted by the group in the classroom upstairs who are constantly moving the furniture around, dragging it back and forth across the floor. Can you guess what this morning's prompt is going to be?

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