This original summarizing activity was inspired by Barry Lane's awesome book, 51 Wacky We-Search Reports. Barry's fifty-one writing formats in his book teach students how to summarize (not plagiarize) facts from readings or from class notes. The book also encourages humor in the classroom, and using it will help you build a community among your student writers. If you don't own this book, but like the assignment on this page, we strongly recommend you purchase a copy.
Overview of this Wacky Writing Activity:
When you do something bad in school, the teacher might make you write “I will not [fill in offense here]” repeatedly on the chalkboard. Every episode of The Simpsons opens with Bart writing something different on the chalkboard at his school. Bart has done this so many times now that he could actually fill up an entire chalkboard with different “I will not” statements from his past. This writing activity has students create multiple “I will not” statements about a person, place, or thing the class has studied.
Begin by discussing all sorts of things that students might have to write after the words “I will not” on a chalkboard, if they had been bad in school. Write student ideas on the board, but don’t make a cluster; instead, fill up a chalkboard with ten or more “I will not” statements based on the discussion. Help students add details to the ideas they shout out during this discussion so that “I will not chew gum” might become “I will not snap my gum during tests or store it beneath my desk.”
I will not snap my gum during tests or store it beneath my desk. I will not ask to use the bathroom pass more than ten times during one day. I will come to school late, especially on the day of the all-day field trip. I will not peek at anyone else’s test unless I know they studied the night before. I will not steal the teacher’s apple.
Pretend that anyone (no matter what their age) or that anything at all might end up in a classroom where the teacher punishes bad behavior or questionable judgment by making them list his/her offenses on a chalkboard with the words “I will not” in front of each offense.
What would Julius Caesar have to write on his “I will not” chalkboard? “I will not start wars as a means to make profit and get out of debt.” “I will not bleed on the senate floor.”
What would a volcano have to write on its “I will not” chalkboard? “I will not vent ash and lava without giving humans a thirty minute warning to clear out first.” “I will not wake my dormant friends without permission of the teacher.”
Have students create “I will not…” chalkboards for people, places or things you are studying.
A Funny Tip:
You need to help students think “outside the box” of literal school. If your class topic was Julius Caesar, for this topic you don’t want students stuck in the idea that what he writes on the board has to be stuff he might have really done while of school age. Convince them that “All of one’s life is a school,” so that all of Caesar’s life might become topics for his “I will not…” chalkboard.