Sunday, December 6, 2009

Inspired to Teach Research in Writing.

There has been a burst of popularity in books that are written in verse: Ellen Hopkins and Patricia McCormick are two of my students' favorite authors who use this technique.

Yesterday I read a completely different Young Adult book in verse called Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill. Though a work of fiction, Plath's life is highly researched and her poems studied in depth.  It is set up chronologically, structured by poems "written" by a cast of characters who knew Plath from her mother to ex-boy friends to psychiatrists to, of course, Ted Hughes.  Each of the poems written by a "character" include footnotes about Plath's relationship to and history with them and where she found the information. Hemphill also writes poems  for Sylvia herself, all of which are modeled on one of Plath's own poems, which she footnotes.

I've been thinking a lot about teaching creative writing lately.  My curriculum is filled with it (short story, memoir, poetry, journalism), I've incorporated "independent writing" into my time with my 7th graders (where kids have the freedom to write whatever they want to write and my teaching is about the process of combining passion with the management of a "publishing" deadline), I've applied to teach it at a summer program and I currently have some amazing students who meet for hot chocolate and writing in my after school program (see picture. they're great.).

Not only was this book a really creative introduction to the life and complexity of Sylvia Plath, but all I could think about while reading it was how this could be an amazing "mentor text" for my students as writers, or a text that serves as a model for a genre or craft.  In our independent writing publishes, many students have attempted the "journal style" of writing and creating poetry anthologies, but I haven't seen a book attempted in verse...or based on research.  The research part is exciting because the 7th grade team has incorporated it into our fiction unit and I think it will really raise the bar of story writing in our classes.  I can't wait to share the structure of this book with students and see how it inspires a handful of them to try something new.

1 comment:

Bridget said...

I miss working with you.