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Short Story Writing Lessons from WritingFix..."The Long Rain" by Ray Bradbury
 

A Short Story-inspired Writing Lesson
A R.A.F.T. Writing Prompt from WritingFix

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a R.A.F.T. Lesson:
Travel to Venus!

inspired by:
Ray Bradbury's
"The Long Rain"


This R.A.F.T. prompt was created by Corbett Harrison of the Northern Nevada Writing Project during a workshop for teachers.

This RAFT writing prompt was inspired by Ray Bradbury's short story, "The Long Rain," which can be found in many short story collections, including the one pictured at right. Before writing to this page's prompt, students should read and discuss the craft of this fine short story author! A summary of the short story can be found below.

 

Role Audience Format Topic Strong verb
Advertisement manager for a travel agency Potential travelers to Venus A three-part brochure Imagery that appeals to the reader Convince

Lesson Overview:

Students will identify the important people, places, and things in their lives. Then, students will have the opportunity to determine and explain why these “nouns” are an important part of their lives as they compose an original poem.

Short Story Summary:

Ray Bradbury’s “The Long Rain” is a wonderful example of science fiction written with powerful imagery that can be studied by student readers. In the story, four astronauts crash-land on Venus, where it never stops raining. They attempt to hike to one of many “sun domes” on the planet’s surface; these are man-made structures where visitors can escape the constant deluge of rain, which has driven many others to madness and death. Slowly, the rain kills off the astronauts one by one. The final astronaut finally stumbles into the protection of a “sun dome,” or has he? Has the non-stop rain driven him to delusion as well?

The most powerful element of this story, I think, is Bradbury’s imagery. The author, to help the reader understand the misery of the wet, uses figurative language that shows miserable condition. He has a great sentence likening the surface of the planet to wet cheese, which is just an unpleasant, cold and wet image. Soggy bread, wet newspapers, meat covered in moss—these images are skillfully placed throughout the story to set a mood. In contrast, when the astronauts talk about the sun domes they are trying to find, the imagery becomes warm and dry. This story lends itself so nicely to showing what thoughtful imagery looks and sounds like.


Reading the Story:

Introduce the story’s overview and RAFT assignment to your students, so right from the start they understand their job will be to analyze Bradbury’s cold & wet imagery as they read. Give them several Post-it® Note-sized templates, and have them place them next to passages that really make them feel the wet and cold felt by the story’s characters. If you have enough Post-it® Note-sized templates (and perhaps some of a different color), you can also have them mark where the warm and dry passages occur in the story. Then read the story—either silently or aloud.

Without looking back at the text, ask students to remember as many color words from the story that they can. List them on the chalkboard, whiteboard, or a piece of chart paper; as you list, place them in two columns—one for cold & wet color words, one for warm & dry color words.

Again, without looking back at the text, ask them to remember nouns and noun phrases from the text that really represented cold & wet; if they need a prompt to start, write wet Camembert and soggy bread in your cold & wet column (beneath the color words), reminding them that a noun phrase can contain an adjective. Repeat this process with the warm & dry column; if they need a prompt here, write down hot chocolate crowned with marshmallow dollops to get them started.

Re-Focusing on Story Excerpts:

With the two columns begun from what the students remembered, now h ave the students, working in pairs, look back specifically at the passages they marked with their Post-it® Note-sized templates. Their task is to look for additional colors and noun phrases from the text that could be added to the two class lists. Have students write down additional answers they find on a piece of paper shared between them, then have students shout out answers after the pairs have spent ten or fifteen minutes looking back at the passages.

Finally, ask students to offer additional color words and noun phrases that weren’t in Bradbury’s story, but might have been considered. Add these original ideas to the lists.

You should now have two columns of words and phrases that would inspire imagery. Leave the list up to use during the writing assignment.

Starting the Writing Assignment:

Tell students that this short story has been successful in ruining the tourist trade on Venus. Even though the Sun Domes provide warmth and relaxation, the fear of the rain has made travelers decide on other holiday destinations. Your students’ job is to act as an advertising agent who must put a positive spin on the cold and wet conditions on Venus. Bradbury made cold and wet seem miserable through carefully crafted language and images. Your students must craft language and images to make the cold and wet conditions seem like a great thing.

Students (either alone or with a partner) will be making a three-section travel brochure. Section one will contain a visual, a title for the brochure, and a memorable catch-phrase. Section two will contain eight suggestions (all with the language of imagery) to travelers of things they can do while being warm and dry in the Sun Domes of Venus; they may borrow any/all of the words and phrases on the class chart for this section. Section three will contain eight suggestions (all with the language of imagery) to travelers of things they can enjoy doing in the wet and cold rains of Venus; they should NOT borrow the words and phrases from the class chart, but those words should inspire them to think of opposite ideas that will become a part of their positive spin on the harsh conditions of Venus. Their job with the third section is not to lie to travelers, but to creatively use the language of imagery to make the destination seem desirable.

The Rest of the Writing Process:

More on Pre-writing: Imagery can be a difficult concept for students, even with a great mentor text like “The Long Rain.” It might not be a bad idea to have students complete their graphic organizers with a partner.

Response/Revision: Have students create a rough draft version of their brochures. No color. In pencil. Make them focus on layout options and the language in the sixteen activity suggestions. Have students partner up or form small groups. Before passing the rough drafts to others to look at, I like to have each student write down his/her favorite share their favorite activity suggestion (with imagery) from the brochure from section 2 and section 3 on a Post-it, then fold the Post-it up so no one can see their favorite. When they pass the brochure drafts around for response, they have two tasks: 1) decide on their favorite activity suggestion from the brochure’s 2 nd and 3 rd sections; and 2) spot-check for glaring errors in spelling or usage. Once students have passes the brochures around to each group member, have the author of each brochure unfold his/her Post-it and share the two activities written down; if the other members of the group had decided on a different one as their favorite, the group can discuss this. Activities that were NOT chosen by anyone as a “favorite” can be analyzed for ways to make them better on the next and final draft.

Publishing: Allow students to create final drafts of their brochures. They can have original illustrations or, if they can find them, use actual photos from magazine or their own digital cameras. Award additional credit for typed brochures or one designed on the computer!

Additional Ideas:

I used to “deck (orate) the halls” outside my classroom with these finished brochures. Students not in my class were often so intrigued by the final products that they approached me and asked what story inspired them. I encouraged a lot of students not in my class to read this Ray Bradbury story by hanging these in the hallway.


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