Activity 4: Give & Take Stories (Quest)
This activity (see “Teacher Tips” and Appendix D) moves students from reading to writing by emphasizing their response to characters and their stories. Students may select one of the four quests in the series “Sharing Stories with Luna” or one of the two quests in the series “Give & Take Stories with Julie.” Please see the “Teacher Tips” regarding the location and organization of these quests. First, remind students that, as in Activity 1 (“Empathizing with Characters”), the work entails two sections: responding to the character’s story, and offering a description or anecdote of one’s own. Then, encourage the students to employ both generalizations and concrete support in their writing. A good example from “Priscilla and the Wimps” is the general claim that Monk ran a gang (¶ 2), followed by the detail that “one of his Kobras did nothing all day but walk a half step behind Monk” (¶ 3).
As with Activity 2 introducing the short story, students are grouped in pairs so that each can review the work of their partner. To foster trust and depth of exchange, the students should work in the same pairs as before, unless those pairings caused problems. Here, students practice a new form of descriptive but not evaluative responding: instruct the students to write back to their partners pointing out examples of general or abstract statements as well as specific or concrete details. This feedback will help the writer recognize whether both qualities are present in the work. Then the writer revises the anecdote or description to reflect a more robust balance between detail and interpretation and submits this to the teacher.
If you have time, and if the students enjoy the activity, you may have the students complete it again using a new quest from the Luna and Julie series as prompts.
As with the work submitted in Activity 2, this may be used by the teacher to assign credit to the student for work completed; it may also provide material for Activity 6.
2 – 3 Week Plan
4th – 6th Grades
“Reading & Writing
Ourselves & Others”
Activity 5: Telling the Stories of Others
This activity moves beyond the individual to have the student write the story of another. Since students have practiced listening to the stories of characters and writing anecdotes of their own, now the students seek out someone from their daily life—a parent, neighbor, or storekeeper, for example—and write an anecdote based upon their interview.
Students should help their interviewee focus on a particular by asking them to think of an object important in their life; hopefully, each student can see the object for herself. Then the person tells about the importance of the object, such as how it came into their life and what significance it bears for them. Again, focusing on an object provides a center of gravity to the anecdote as well as a concrete center for descriptive writing.
The students should take notes, if desired, an audio recording of the interview to capture snippets of dialogue and important details. Then the students write the anecdote that emerged through the interview. The student does not recount the interview process but, rather, tells the story from the third person point of view.
Working in the same pairs as before (unless there were problems), the students again submit their work to a classmate for response. This time they engage in a third form of non-evaluative feedback, one based on reader response: the reviewer writes back simply telling the writer what she felt while reading the piece; not the writing but the reader’s experience, feelings, thoughts, and reflections form the feedback. Again, the writer revises the work to incorporate the feedback, adding or adjusting material.
Again, this may be used by the teacher to assign credit to the student for work completed. Also, either this work or that produced in Activity 4 will provide the basis for the next activity.
The goal here (see “Teacher Tips”) is to rework either the personal anecdote or description of Activity 4 (the “Luna” and “Julie” Quests) or the biographical passage of Activity 5 (“Telling the Stories of Others”). Students should select whichever piece they feel most interested in revising, and this should be based on two factors: (1) they must be willing to make modifications—even risky ones—to the work, rather than keep it how it was first written, and (2) they must be willing to share the work with members of the school community rather than keep it private. Having selected the piece, each students expands the piece so that it presents itself as a completed whole. If it is a story or anecdote, it has a beginning, middle, and end. If it is a descriptive or reflective passage, it seems to have a reason for being shared as well as a sense of wholeness or completeness. Please see the “Teacher Tips” for notes and ideas on this step in revision.
Next, each pair from the previous response groups is joined with one other pair so that groups of four are formed. Ideally, each member of the group brings four copies of their work to the group—one for themselves, and one for each other member. If this resource demand is a burden, then each member should bring just one copy; the other members can review the writing electronically after the group meeting.
Each member reads his writing to the others while the others read along or simply listen. It is important that the other members listen respectfully while the reader presents her work. After she is done, each other member can take a moment to make notes on the paper copy she received (if that occurred). Then, each takes a turn responding. The goal of the feedback is again non-evaluative: students can practice any of the three forms of responding learned earlier in the unit plan (receiving & appreciating; identifying general & specific statements; and reader-based responding). It is important that the writer now listens respectfully, not explaining her work but simply making notes of the comments and how the comments might guide her in further revising the work. If the other members received paper copies of the writing, these should be returned to the writer. Each member of the group takes a turn this way.
As a follow-up, each member might also review her group members’ work online and submit comments through the Quest Atlantis system. This step may be skipped if the teacher is pressed for time, but it should not be skipped if paper copies were not presented at the group meetings, since actually seeing the writing is important to inform the feedback. Such electronic follow-up also gives the teacher insight into the activities of the response groups.