Teaching middle school writers is a balance between getting them started and teaching them to edit. Some middle schoolers will write on and on forever, if given the time, wanting to write the “Great American Novel.” They will ramble and roll through plot until it is a maze of confusion. Revision is hard; editing down to the essence needs practice. Let’s be honest: sometimes, though, just getting an idea on paper also needs practice. Both sticky ends of the writing process prompted this lesson.
I challenged my kids to write stories that were just 50 words. The stories had to have the necessary elements of plot and character development. I encouraged them to start bigger and then to edit. The stories had to make sense to their audience.
It is a challenge, for sure, but since I don’t ask my kids to do anything that I haven’t done, I also sat down to write a few tales of my own. I challenge you to do the same! Here are a few of my stories. (Stories about Chloe are actual events from a childhood not quite finished yet.)
In My Grandmother’s Kitchen
The lace-trimmed apron wrapped around Yiayia’s soft body, streaks of floured fingerprints layered on faded blue muslin. She expertly kneaded the dough and invited my tiny, plump hands to help. The dough was stubborn and I grew tired, bored. I preferred play-doh over freshly baked bread in the making.
Fear at Night
The lock on the door suddenly doesn’t seem stout enough to hold against the inevitable pounding. Lightning flashes, exposes shadows lurking in the trees. The winds kick across the floorboards of the deck. Are those footsteps? My heart beats wildly to the rhythm of the storm and I crouch low.
How to Annoy the Tooth Fairy
The Tooth Fairy had visited and left $5 for that first tooth. Later, Chloe wrote this note, all phonetically:
“Dear Tooth Fairy, You took my tooth, but you didn’t leave any money. Please leave it tonight. Love, Chloe.”
She winked me a smile. “Tooth Fairy’s so busy, she won’t remember!”
“I not know where my shoes are!” cried a frustrated 3-year-old Chloe.
Suddenly, peeking out from under the dining room drapes, Mom spotted two brown leathered toes.
“Oh yeah, I forgot!” Chloe explained as she ran to get the shoes. “Daddy and me played hide-n-seek yesterday and I tricked him!”
If you take up the challenge, I’d love to read your stories!