Almost a week since the last post. So much for New Year’s resolutions…
Last time we met, I was introducing the kids to the idea of writing 600 words/week of “whatever.” They were at the first stage of seventh grade grief/learning; unable to cope-ness. (Aside: Another teacher at my school, made semi-famous here for her classic faux pas, has a big sign that greets the kids as they enter her room, that simply says COPE. I gotta get me one of those.)
“So, the whole idea here is that you will get in the groove of writing all the time about whatever interests you, and with any luck, you’re trying to make sure that whatever fits into one of the approved categories. That way, in a couple of weeks (and about monthly after that), when I ask you for a 600 word essay that fits into one of the genres, you’ll be able to go rummaging through that folder and find some bits and pieces–or even whole essays–that you can use to work through drafts and turn into a final product. Sort of…’Oh look, last week I was on a roll about how stupid it is that we have to learn square-dancing in pe… I could add an intro, some arguments, and a nice conclusion, and…BAM…as that guy on Food Network says, I have a persuasive essay to turn in…’
“You can write about whatever you want for you 600/week, but when I ask for an essay, it has to be one of the approved types. Remember: no autobiographical incident — we’re all sick of those, no research — we’ll be doing that together in May, and no fiction, no made-up stories. (There are a few crestfallen faces at that one.) You can write stories for your weekly words, but you’ll be starting from scratch when I ask for an essay.” (Slightly less crestfallen. I can’t believe how many aspiring novelists I have in seventh grade.)
The quicker ones are now realizing how easy it will be to get extra credit (1000+ words = 25% bonus), and that they can just write all their essays in advance and hand them in one at a time when I ask for them. And that it might actually be fun.
The grade-grubbers are looking for more extra credit. “What if I write more than a thousand words? What if I write 2000?”
“I’ve had people do as many as 4000/week sometimes. (Lots of metaphorical drooling.) But they still get the same +10 as for 1000 words. (D’oh!) Otherwise it would skew the grades too much…especially for people like you.”
“Cheese Slice!” (A chorus.)
The slower ones just keep thinking to themselves…”600 *&*%$^! words a week? I haven’t written 600 words in my life.”
The lazier ones are looking for loopholes. “The handout says that we can do 50 words of “gibberish” per week. S0 I can just go LA LA LA 50 times for fifty words? Does my name count? What about the date? How about numbers? What about KBARR responding?”
“Repetition is not the same as gibberish. Some people call it free-writing. Sometimes it’s good for jump-starting the motor: rubber duck, the Popple, clicker boy, cheeselog, your mom… That’s gibberi…”
I can’t finish because of the laughter. Whenever you want a cheap laugh out of them, work “your mom” into the mix. Works every time.
“As you can see, even gibberish can be funny and trigger other ideas. But repetition is just a waste of everybody’s time. And yes, you can count your name, be sure to use the middle one too. And the date, write it out, and numbers, as long as you’re not just counting. No KBARR does not count…yet.”
Then comes the second stage of 7th grade learning/pain: the questioning.
“Can I write about…”
“But, can I…”
(Repeat 5-10x, depending on the class and their level of frustration/amusement.)
“But, you don’t know what I was going to say.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to read it, remember? This isn’t about me (for once), it’s about you. Just write, baby.”
They are starting to cope, but still…
Now it’s a week later, and lo and behold; all but a handful have at least 600 hundred words, at least 1/3 have 750 or more.
“So…how many of you found it fairly easy to get your 600 words?”
Almost every hand goes up. And when the early birds finished the district benchmark test today (#2 of 3 — hmmmm. BenchMark – BM. Coincidence? I think not), most of them jumped right on writing for next Tuesday. A bunch were even begging me to read some of their shtuff.
“It’s so good. Please read just a little?”