Friday, October 9, 2015

Writing Personal Narratives

Everything I've read about Waldorf says that children should write from their own experience before they begin creative writing. My girls, I will admit, didn't have a Waldorf education when they were younger and they have done an extensive amount of creative writing. They are very comfortable with it! It has been interesting to try to persuade them to tackle other kinds of writing, and to find that they have no difficulty with expository texts. Personal narratives, however, are another story.

Leah's first Language block has been a combination of different topics: Tall Tales for the Literature portion and Personal Narratives for the Composition portion. She's never been exposed to Tall Tales before and she enjoyed them but, being in 6th grade, I didn't think it would be necessary to do a traditional MLB with her retelling and illustrating them. I wanted to use the time on writing from her own experience. Boy did she struggle!

On the first day, Leah gamely tried her hand at a description of watching the lunar eclipse she had stayed up late for the previous evening. She did it, inspired by Bus Rideby Nancy Jewell.

We did a Five Senses web as the brainstorm step and I -- silly me -- figured this would be enough to get a strong narrative piece out of her. She wrote it. But she hated it. And when it came time to polish and publish for the MLB, using our 6 elements rubric, I just didn't feel comfortable asking her to revisit a piece she hated so much. That's not what authorship is about. So we started her MLB with an untitled poem instead. Then I tried again to take her back to the everyday facts of her life. She read Children Just Like Me: A Unique Celebration of Children Around the World

She loved this book. But when I asked her to craft a page and illustration for her MLB inspired by the book, she wrote it in third person ("Leah likes all kinds of food and sometimes she even cooks dinner. Leah says, 'Asking me to pick a favorite food is impossible.'")

Okay, so I gave it some thought and tried again. I let her keep using the rubric to evaluate various pieces from her Morning Pages journal and we ended up with a brainstorm list, a creative story, and another poem. It's a great glimpse into her personality but it's not a collection of narrative pieces. Another creative story, written in the future tense (so we could explore that) was inspired by If I Owned a Candy Factory...


By this time we were almost at the end of the Language block, so I tried again to bring her to her life and her family. We read Do You Know What I'll Do?by Charlotte Zolotow. This book celebrates the love between an older sister and a younger brother.

I had Leah help me give Zac a bath and then write about it. Great personal narrative idea, huh?

She wrote it as an explanatory piece called Baby Washing 101. It is broken into eight lessons and comes with a certificate of completion at the end. Lesson 1, Supply Gathering, begins like this: "The first step to giving a baby a bath is to gather the supplies. You will need 1 fresh diaper, baby powder, baby lotion, 3 baby washcloths, 2 baby towels, baby outfit, baby wash and shampoo, bath safety thermometer, baby comb or brush (optional)." The voice she wrote in is so distant that Lesson 4, Bring in the Baby, states, "Bring in the baby and undress hi/her carefully making sure you do not drop him/her. Put him/her into the bath water quickly so that he/she doesn't pee on you but not so quickly that you drop him/her."

Wow.

We did Dorothy Harrer's lesson for sixth grade on "The Sense for Speech" (pp.51-53 of An English Manual: For the Elementary School

She has a very accessible lesson on the difference between an explanation, a description, and a narrative. Today for Morning Pages Leah wrote a two paragraph narrative about spending the night at a friend's house on a play date and waking up to the news that her baby brother had been born. AT LAST!!! We've decided to just call her MLB "Selected Works."


I found a nice list in the Writer's Express: Teacher's Guide to the Handbook: a Handbook for Yound Writers, thinkers and Learnersfor selections to read when teaching Writing Personal Narratives. Wish I had noticed this resource sooner!


The following titles are recommended:


The Best Town in the World



Bigmama's



Bill Peet: An Autobiography



Childtimes: A Three-Generation Memoir



Don't You Know There's a War On?


A Forever Family



A Grain of Wheat: A Writer Begins



Journey to Jo'burg: A South African Story



Homesick: My Own Story



I'm the Big Sister Now



Little by Little: A Writer's Education



The Moon and I



Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs



The Relatives Came



Stars Come Out Within



War Boy



When I Was Young in the Mountains

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