Yesterday I hosted the introductory meeting of the Short Story Club for my 7th graders. It is a small group that is focusing on deep conversation about stories and time to write in response to them. After listening to Daniel Bauer’s School Leadership Series podcast I may have them name themselves. I would be curious where their minds would go as a label.
I handed out a copy of the Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. Sandra is an interesting author who attended the Iowa Writers Workshop, but did not have a pleasant experience. She also sometimes calls her stories, “buttons”.
Many of the students had read this story previously so this was a revisit. I asked them to read it through the lens of a writer. I wanted them to pay attention and notice particular things for them to purposefully use later.
- What pops out to you in feelings from reading this selection?
- What lines do you notice that you like or wish you had written?
- What craft moves is the author using that you would like to try?
- What aspects of your own life does the story remind you of?
I allowed them to annotate on their copy, and I followed suit with mine.
The discussion then followed after reading time, focusing on the above questions.
Noticings from students:
- The details. It was noticed and remarked that the story has the structure of being taken apart and then put together again with added details.
- The metaphors. There were trite metaphors used referring to onions and rings inside a tree trunk in paragraph 3. These examples caused quite strong opinions. There were mixed feelings about using familiar metaphors as opposed to new ones. The unfamiliar seemed to unsettle several writers. They said a mix of familiar and unfamiliar was the perfect mix for them as readers. They also remarked that unsettling new metaphors were best in stories where you were trying to conjure those feelings – like in a scary story.
I also asked them to share what they would write (if we had time). If they were to give themselves a prompt based on the story. What did it inspire them to write?
The responses were a mix of expected and not. Milestone ages were one topic for several students but not traditional in my eyes. One student talked about being old enough to ride his moped to school (15 1/2 years old). Quinceaneras at 15 were also discussed.
Not feeling the age you are was a common writing topic as well.
For next time I gave them a longer piece to read and mark with the same noticings: The Doormakers Will Make No Doors .
I also gave them the poem, Secrets by Naomi Shihab Nye.