Sunday, March 28, 2010

Writing Club: Setting

"The best setting begins in the mind of the author, but ends in the mind of the reader." -Cella Fabula

I. Build adjective lists
a. Label five pieces of paper: Sight, Smell, Taste, Touch, Sound
b. Pass the pieces around the circle
c. Each student writes down an adjective
d. Hang the lists

II. Writing warm-up
What did you see or hear today? Write for 5 minutes about it.
Ideas from Writing Portfolio.

III. Writing Activity: Setting

a. From a picture, make a brainstorming map with the name of the setting in the middle. Around the setting write down at least two adjectives for each of the senses. Include emotions that the setting invokes.

b. Write a descriptive paragraph about the setting.

c. Trade paragraphs about the setting with a fellow student.

d. From the written paragraph about the setting(not the photograph), write a paragraph about how you feel or what you would be doing in the setting.

e. Share your writing from part d (not the descriptive paragraph about the setting). Then guess which photograph had inspired the writing.

My writing tonight

II. Warm-up

I heard a beep of the phone, an annoying beep filling an already stressed moment in my life. I was lesson planning, a terrible whole morning where the computer was slow and not cooperating, not downloading anything, a lesson plan worked on since 8 am and at noon only half-way finished.

beep, beep, beep....

an interruption into the stressful peace of solitude, but I knew that on the other side, an ex-bf was calling, an ex-bf full of pain. Each beep hit my heart.

beep...beep... beep... help me... help me... help me....

A cry of help, a cry for please pick up. I'm so lonely and need someone to talk to. Even though I just wanted to ignore it, I couldn't. He had been calling all week and I'd been ignoring it too busy with a full schedule.

Trying to be compassionate, I pushed the green button and said, "Hello."

III. Writing Activity: Setting

b. Write a descriptive paragraph about a setting shown in a paragraph.

The wetlands were quiet, devoid of the noise of the city, no cars, no people, no rushing to and fro. Only brown, green grasses and shrubs were singing quietly in the hot, humid air that touched the skin like a heavy coat. The screech of insects filled the silence but the calming still waters, a vast blue, stilled the heart into a peaceful calm.

Suddenly, the beauty and peace was caught off guard by the crack of a shot gun. The panic of a deer fled across the water, leaving gashing wounds upon the shallow smooth water, little puddles of violence as the animal quickly flew into the safety of the trees.

d. Using another student's written description of a setting, write about how you feel or what you would do in that setting.

I was given a brainstormed map with the words, disordered, rubbish house, noisy, smelly, wet, flood, abandoned.

I felt overwhelmed by the disorder and smell. I just wanted to fly away to somewhere safe and clean. Like how the house was abandoned, I wanted to abandon my own life. Like how the place was full of rubbish, my own life was full of trash. Nothing was left except trash and chaos. It all just made me sick like the puke green of the house. All the pain of the flood, I just wanted to vomit it all out into the rotting water, mixing my own bile with the fluorescent green of the growing algae. Maybe you can survive on water, sunshine, and the pain of my vomit. But me? I'd rather just sink. How will I survive?

e. Sharing our writing

I was amazed at how well this activity worked. When students wrote a description about a setting, often what they described, the mood that the setting invoked was interpreted by the reader in almost exactly the way the writer of the setting intended.

I never realized how a description of a setting can be really useful to invoke certain moods. I should probably write more descriptive settings.

It is funny. When I read stories and as I teach this English short story class, I can analyze the text and mark key passages that help the story along. When writing though, it never occurs to me that I should add some creative descriptive elements that short stories have like setting, characters, plots, point of view, conflict. I feel that my writing is too scientific.

Writing club has been an excellent way for me to break out of my familiar scientific writing and try something new.

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