So, remember my lamentations 2 weeks ago about students turning in “drafts” less than 24 hours before the “final version” of their multi-genre writing was due? Well, I still think years of indoctrination of The Gradebook Mentality is doing immeasurable damage to students own perception of their learning and success. But dang, did they come through in the end.
To review, seniors in Advanced Writing produced a multi-genre paper focused on an author or a genre. And the genres they could choose to write in were seemingly endless. To generate these, we played a version of Scattergories in which groups competed to name the as many unique genres as possible. (Apparently, competition is a real motivator. Who’da thought?) Some of the noteworthy were manifestos, glossaries, Scrabble game boards, breakup letters, suicide notes, and on. What might have been the favorite was Choose Your Own Adventure: Claire took readers through an existential journey through Camus, and Maya let readers find love (or not) in her study of David Levithan.
One mentor text we studied brought about some magical results: The Book of Qualities by Ruth Gendler (BIG props to my teaching partner Mariana Romano for this idea). In this book, Gendler takes a whole slew of abstract “qualities” and embodies them in a collection of beautiful prose poetry.
Many students followed Gendler’s lead by taking prominent “qualities” of the work they studied and embodying them in prose poetry. To express a theme that emerged from his study of Salinger, Jed personified “Innocence:”
Innocence is that old friend. You know the one. That friend you run into on the street … It’s been so long, right?! Maybe not quite long enough… But at this stage of your life, it just isn’t a good match … and somehow you manage to lose them more than you already had.
Myria, who studied parallel universes in fiction, personified the fear that permeates the work.
Elizabeth, one of the worst “late draft” offenders, included an appendix in her study of Morrison to aid her own readers in interpreting the complex symbolism in Morrison’s fiction.
Gray composed a recipe poem to explain the operation of the worlds built in Brandon Sanderson’s fiction.
And Maya even went 3-D — her project on David Levithan’s love stories lives in a breakup bag!
So, hope is restored. Which is SO useful as I follow my seniors into the final quarter of their high school experience — useful for me, anyway.