Sunday, March 1, 2015

Writing Across the Curriculum, Humanities Style, with C.L.A.S.S!

Hey teachers, readers, and writers?

If you love collaborative arts, cross-disciplinary materials, intriguing lesson ideas and yes, FREE resources, I've got just the thing for you!

I've recently had the great fortune of joining the new Collaborative Language Arts and Social Studies Newsletter, or, C.L.A.S.S.  edited by Heather Barkley Ph.D.

Today, the newsletter is in it's second installation!!!
Here is my article...

Let’s Get Creative: Writing Across the Curriculum – Humanities Style!


Gina Perfetto

Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) is an essential component in middle and high schools across the country for a number for reasons. But simply put: students learn to write well by writing often.

Interdisciplinary writing strengthens critical thinking, the ability to express complex thoughts on paper (and perhaps verbally), and prepares students for myriad future writing and professional scenarios, from college and vocational writing to professional documents.

But here’s a question: How do we make it fun and challenging?

Scoff at the Notion of Creative Writing asToo Simple”!

What is great about this lesson is that it challenges students to write descriptively, figuratively, and creativity. Fun? Absolutely. Easy… not so much. So often people see this and other creative writing lessons that look fun, or even – dare I say simple? – and think that students aren’t learning or even worse, that because it is so fun, it cannot be suitable for middle or high school students. To that I say: do not judge a lesson plan by its props! Rather ask: “What skills are your students applying during this lesson?”

Writing Across the Curriculum: Critical Thinking through Creative Writing
This wonderfully challenging activity also happens to be a perennial creative writing favorite of my students. Since is it also adaptable for a multitude of Humanities and Science disciplines today I am sharing this lesson with you from a HUMANITIES PERSPECTIVE. Try this one day soon! I guarantee your students will love it. Here is what a free version, also available at my TPT store looks like.

                              4 Senses - FREEBIE Guided Short Story Writing Activity
                             Click here to visit or download!                     

In Brief: Use four of the five senses, critical thinking skills, inference, estimation, literary devices, and other skills as they may apply to write through a series of steps, guided by the instructor, and given to you here.  Begin with a single paragraph, skipping lines through each step, and end with a full length story.

·       Minimum of one item for each student
·       One brown paper bag per item so that item are not visible.
·       Items chosen are dependent upon the lesson and discipline 
·       Instructions, step by step
·       Plenty of paper
·       One class period for this portion.
·       One class period for sharing 
·       Optional class period for draft writing, polishing, etc.

Skills: Description, expression, estimation, inference, using metaphor and simile, descriptive paragraph writing (nonfiction), writing a short story (draft, and optional final draft).

Ideal for: English Class; Humanities such as Archeology, Social Studies, Ancient History, World Cultures, etc.; Religion; Sciences such as biology; and others.

As an English teacher I already have some wonderful items in brown paper bags. Because it is essential that students utilize many of their senses, I am careful to include diverse items. Here’s a picture of some of my more confounding and exceptional finds, placed in separate bags over the years.



EXAMPLES of great items I have used in the past include: 
·       Old plastic film cases (remember those?) with something else inside
·       Beaded or charm bracelets
·       Natural items - pine cones, rocks that have odd crevices or stripes, a knot of wood, a shell, etc.
·       Magnifying glass 
·       Calculator 
·       Perfume vial or test tube with a cork
·       Fishing fly or lure (made safe)
·       Small camera (old, not a modern one)
·       Wooden 3-dimensional puzzle from the dollar store

Writing As an Archaeologist or Anthropologist! Get your Hats on!
By all means add a layer of excitement by bringing in some items on your own, but have students bring in items as well. This way, students will be excited about each other’s choices.

Regardless of Discipline, when choosing items, PLEASE consider: texture, weight, surface temperature, the sound the items make when struck lightly on a table, hollowness, solidity, smoothness, flexibility or rigidity, general size, dimension and angularity, and other features. Lastly, whenever you can place one item inside of another item. This adds a dimension of mystery to step one. I hope you are beginning to understand how this diversity of criteria stretches the mind’s ability to write, infer, and describe.

What you place in the mystery bags for the Archaeology or Anthropology Discovery Writing might depend on items that might actually fit in with a specific site or dig you’d like to discuss, or it could just go with the overall theme. In this case anything goes, and you could include some of these items.

·       old coins
·       shark teeth
·       pottery shards
·       worn brick
·       other building materials
·       sedimentary
·       igneous
·       shale rocks
·       shells
·       beads
·       metal bowls
·       glass vials
·       Jewelry
·       Stylus or writing implements

and more.

If you are going to take collections from the class beforehand, ask your students “What items might say something about a people or civilization and how they lived?” or “What items, if found, might reveal something about the landscape long ago?”

These questions might help students bring in more appropriate items in a brown paper bag. It will make your life easier, and make them more excited about the project.

*WE All Like a Little Drama!*
When students enter, they must NOT sit. Rather, they will all walk around their desks, placing their hands inside each bag, quietly feeling the contents of each bag. No talking or peeking inside! Each student must choose the item they think would be the most interesting to write about. The mystery of the entire endeavor is what piques students' interest. Once each student has chosen, they will sit down with the bag and the item STILL safely inside. 
        Remember: Feel inside each bag… but no peeking!

Step One
While the students have one hand inside the bag: "Write a tactile description using your hand and all of your faculties. Oh, but definitely do not use your eyes!"
     This means they can weigh it, feel for texture, knock it on the desk, roll it around, shake it, etc. Also ask, after they have written for at least three minutes: “Class I also want you to do two more things. 1. Try to guess what it is. 2. Can you infer, based on the information you currently have, what color it might be?

Step one requires students to stretch their descriptive writing and critical thinking skills. This step also requires them to infer.


Step Two
NOW students may take the item out of the bag. Tell them: "REALLY Look at it. Skip a line on your paper for Step Two.
1. What is the item, and is it what you thought it would be?
2. Was it the color you thought it would be, and explain!
3. Now, use your language skills to describe this item. Consider: color, length, weight, height or more. Where might it have come from? Speak like a/n archaeology, sociologist, anthropologist or paleontologist.

Step Three - Be Artistic!
Now students will use figurative language. Tell them that they are allowed to begin with silly or obvious similes or metaphors, but as a few minutes tick by, they should try to stretch their abilities. "Really push yourself. You may use simile, metaphor, personification, more, to describe the items color, shape, texture, or other features."

*Step Four – Blow Their Minds! *
Here is the surprise. The item you are looking at - well, I HATE TO TELL you this – the object isn't what you think it is AT ALL. It is... 

A. a KEY to unlock something of great potential/power 
B. an object with a secret history, held by someone who is only able
     to tell its story to one person on his or her deathbed 
C. a super-spy device of use in an important mission 
D. an object that will bring peace to a planet or a group 
E. essential for some civilization's utter survival . . .
F. An object whose carbon dating indicates it is much older and was
    Used for something so important, it may change our         understanding of things.
G. Open idea based specifically on this discipline. Teacher’s choice,     or students’ suggestions given in an open forum.

I have a FREEBIE of this lesson that has options that go up to the letter "N." Please feel free to download the entire freebie.

 The Student GOAL IS TO WRITE A STORY USING ONE OF THESE OPTIONS.  Have characters, a goal, plot, dialogue, etc.

Students will get at least to the beginning of Step Four by the End of the Period. For homework or for class work on Day Two, have students write that story, and then share it with the class! I hope you enjoy this free resource. I know your students will. Feel free to stop by, pick it up, and like it or rate it!

I'm Gina, of PerfettoWritingRoom. I love writing, I love to teach writing, and there is nothing I love more that to see students' faces get that "aha!" moment when they're inspired with a unique idea that is all their own. And if you've ever felt the crushing agony of defeat that follows a failed writing prompt, you’ll know why I work so hard to make great writing products that are challenging, common-core aligned, and fun.  Pick up my free version of this product and visit my store for more great ideas!

Happy in a Bookstore, Of course!
Yours in Teaching and Writing

Please Check out the C.L.A.S.S Newsletter, Featuring talented teachers and writers, all with wonderful ideas for YOU to use! 

1 comment:

  1. I love your idea. Teaching kids to observe carefully and teaching them how to describe what they see, feel, or hear is huge in science. Just not what they taste, :) One of my colleagues had a student who licked a bacterial agar plate (probably more because of a dare than from the desire to observe). I also like your fun writing style.