Inspiring Revision through the Mentor Text:
In Bronx Masquerade, a group of eighteen high school students share observations and discoveries they make about life during a school poetry assignment. Diondra is a young lady who must discover that it's okay to be talented at art, even though it disappoints her father, who still wishes she'd play basketball. Share Diondra's final narrative from Bronx Masquerade (pages 152-153), asking students to think about the way Diondra uses the following writing skills well:
- An introduction that launches into the narrative;
- Her conversational style of writing is enhanced by her use of one- and two-word sentences;
- Her conversational style of writing is enhanced by her use of interesting thoughts at the end of sentences that are separated by commas (...the way he looked at me, ...under the remote, ...so why wait?)
Ask students to look for conversational elements (voice) in their own rough drafts. It might help them to read their drafts out loud to peers so they can hear how their own words. Challenge them to find places where they could make the writing more conversational. Give them time to add several conversational elements on the blank lines they left in between their original sentences. Here are a few revised sentences from the model from above.
It was "Where the Wild Things Are" and it is one of my favorite books. Always will be.
All I had was 75 cents, pretty sad I know.
I kind of knew that wasn't true, that she was being nice for some reason.
Next, tell students they need to look at another piece of writing by Diondra. This time, read the poem, which is on the same topic as the narrative but told in another genre. The poem can be found on pages 154-155 of the book.
Spend some time discussing the theme that connects Diondra's narrative and poem. Talk about how a theme is a big idea that a story or poem conveys to its readers. What is Diondra's theme?
Then ask students to think about their own draft of their "Lesson Learned" prompt writing. What might their theme be? You'll know it's a theme when students can put it in the form of a sentence. A theme for the example student writing (about the librarian) is "If you are honest with people, you might be surprised how people will be forgiving of mistakes and accidents."
Share the following rough draft poem that re-tells the Where the Wild Things Are incident with a focus on the narrative's theme:
My sister went wild with
Her box of crayons
Scribbling across the pages
Of the book I'd checked out from the library.
She'd done it before
And mother was furious,
Promising there'd be much trouble
If it happened again.
My little sister didn't mean it.
She simply loves Where the Wild Things Are
As much as I did and do,
But she shows her love with crayon scribbles.
I told this all to the librarian
Who I was certain would be furious.
I offered her every cent I had--75 of them--
If she wouldn't tell my mother.
Sometimes kindness happens
When you explain the truth about accidents to adults.
The librarian smiled, and pretended 75 cents
Was enough to replace the book...
...And mother never knew.
While some students might be able to launch right into turning their narrative into a poem that focuses on the same theme, many will not. It might be important to do a whole-class poem before asking students to write their own.
There's a great chapter in Ralph Fletcher's Marshfield Dreams: When I Was a Kid called "School, Age 7." It shares how Ralph's younger brother seemed to learn more life lessons from the woods than in school. There are several themes in this little chapter. A really good one is that traditional school doesn't work for everyone, that some people would rather learn from watching the natural world. After discussing this theme (or a different one from this chapter), work together as a class and write a short poem about Ralph's younger brother based on the chapter.
Give students time to create a rough draft of a poem based on their own narratives. Refer them back to Diondra's poem and the class's poem about Jimmy Fletcher if they are uncertain how to shape a poem.
Now it's time for students to make a choice: which version--their story or theirr poem--do they want to revise once more and then publish for class.
Before revising the poem or story, require students to read Diondra's poem or narrative once more from Bronx Masquerade. Have them look specifically for two or three imitate-able writing skills they spot in Diondra's writing during this final read. Have them write those skills down on their rough draft. Have them work to add those skills to their own poem or narrative in this revision. Look over their shoulders as they re-write and ask, "So where have you added one of those skills you wrote down?"
Lastly, require students to add a title to their poem or story. Their titles should hint at the theme they have focused their writing on.
Extend the Learning:
Suggest students consider coming back to the version--poem or narrative--they didn't revise for a few weeks later. Say, "Wouldn't it be cool to have a poem and a narrative on the same topic? Like we saw in Bronx Masquerade? It wouldn't be hard at this point. All you have to do is revise the version you didn't revise before."
If students do this, publish them side-by-side on a large piece of ledger paper.
Share your Students' Improved Writing:
(and earn a free resource for your classroom)
WritingFix Safely Publishes Students from Around the World! In 2008, we first began accepting students samples from teachers anywhere who use this lesson. Hundreds of new published students now go up at our site annually!
We're currently looking for student samples for all grade levels for this lesson! If you obtain both a thoughtful rough draft and a revised poem inspired by the draft from a student for this lesson (in typed, scanned, or photographed form), they can be posted at this blog page. If we select your student's sample to be moved from the blog to this page at WritingFix, we will send you a free NNWP Print Resource for your classroom.
At WritingFix, we aim to safely publish students' writing from all over the world. We're looking for student samples to post for this page's write-up! If your students write a rough draft that is improved upon by this craft lesson, we want to see both drafts! If we feature one of your student's writing on this page, we will send you a complimentary copy of one of the NNWP Publications for your classroom.