Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Metaphor: Day Two

As I do every time I have introduced a new literary device, I began day two reviewing the device. W e had a short discussion on metaphor, the children readily recalling what it was, and began reading a short, sweet little story.

Dragon Scales and Willow Leaves is a lovely, simple little story about a set of twins. Ben is more fanciful, while Rachel is more practical. As they walk through the forest, Ben encounters a number of mythical beasties, while Rachel just sees the nature all around her. The book is filled with simple metaphors that are easy to pick up on. When entering the forest, Ben meets up with a "dragon". His sword is like an angry bee and his shield like a wall as dragon scales go swirling through the air around him. Meanwhile, Rachel enjoys the loveliness of the willow leaves as they fall through the air to carpet the ground in a blanket of green and gold.

Sometimes, it takes a short, simple story to more easily demonstrate the literary device you are teaching. A small number of kids remained uncertain/unclear about metaphors yesterday. After today's simple lesson, they all really seemed to get it! Yay!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Metaphor: Day One

Boy, we've been so busy trying to finish up our atmosphere, foreshadowing and Thanksgiving writings, I haven't had an opportunity to introduce another literary device.

We began today's lesson by reviewing the literary devices we have already studied. The kids really remembered them both and were able to provide examples for each. We then moved on to metaphor. I read the Carl Sandburg poem "Fog":
THE fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches 5
and then moves on.

The children were quickly able to identify the metaphor comparing the fog to a cat. We tried to come up with our own metaphors, and I then began to read White Socks Only. I told the kids there were passages that had easily identifiable metaphors, but that there was also far more complicated one that was very subtle.

The story is about a young, black girl growing up in Jim Crow Mississippi. She makes a trip to town by herself, a girl on a mission. When her mission is completed, she is hot and thirsty and sees a water fountain with a sign reading, "Whites Only". Knowing what that means, the little girl takes off her black patent leather shoes and steps up to the fountain wearing her clean, white socks.

Of course, the girl finds herself in trouble when a bore of a white man appears and threatens to "whup" her. Other members of the black community come to her aid, taking off their shoes before stepping up to the fountain to drink. Their socks are a rainbow of colors which bewilders the young girl. And yet, it is okay. The story ends with the sign eventually being removed from the fountain.

Now, there were the obvious metaphors, comparing the angry white man to a bull, and saying his face was as red as fire. And then, there was the subtle one of the white and colored socks and the desegregating of the water fountain. The kids got it! I was so impressed!!

As we have done before, we moved onto writing. The kids had a difficult time with this assignment. I told them they needed to write something, anything, and include at least two metaphors. I left it open ended, letting them write fiction or non-fiction. I also encouraged them to remember the other literary devices we have studied and try to include them in the writings. Many of the kids decided to write about their pets, and I told them they needed to make up a story about the pet. I have found a number of the kids are going to put forth very minimal effort with their writing, giving me only a paragraph and saying they can think of nothing else to write.

I have informed the kiddos, that as fifth graders, this is no longer acceptable. The thing is, so many of these kids have such amazingly creative ideas. Additionally, you should hear the buzz (today, it was more of a ROAR!) in the room as the kids toss ideas back and forth and help each other generate more and more. It is a beautiful sight to see and hear. Unfortunately, the mechanics of actually writing these ideas down stymie some of the kids. Others come to me and ask how many paragraphs they need to write. When I ask how many they have, they'll usually reply, "five or six". Um, yup, that's

I told the kids I want the stories to be exciting and interesting to read. And, from what I read of their proposals, and from what I heard them tell me, the stories are going to be pretty fun! :o) I have asked the kids to have their sloppy copies to me by Friday so I can spend my weekend editing them. Doesn't that sound like fun???

I confess to being delighted the kids are enjoying the creative writing so much! Very few of the children have come to me complaining about writing and not having any ideas. Yay!! Since my goal was to not only work on English and grammar skills, but to have the children practice writing and enjoy what they are doing, I think I'm on the right track! :o)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Foreshadowing Days Two and Three

With Halloween last night, I didn't have an opportunity to reflect on yesterday's lesson. We once again reviewed foreshadowing and what it involved. We talked about the fact that foreshadowing can be very in-your-face and obvious, and that in some situations it can be more subtle.

Such is the case in "Harriet You'll Drive Me Wild" (just so everyone knows, I KNOW you're supposed to underline titles, I'm still trying to figure out how to do so). The book opens with, "Harriet Harris was a pesky child. She didn't mean to be, she just was." With that bit of foreshadowing, we are led through a typical day in the Harris household; a day in which Harriet finds herself in one jam after another, from spilling her juice at breakfast to dripping paint on the carpet, to pulling off the table cloth at lunch. Harriet's mother doesn't like to yell (so says the story) but when Harriet was supposed to be napping and instead tore open her pillow, thereby releasing "thousands of feathers" everywhere, she snaps. The text reads, "There was a terrible silence."

How's that for foreshadowing? I paused there and had the children predict what was going to happen next. Most of them said, "Her mom's gonna yell!" And, they were correct. The book ends with Harriet and her mom apologizing to each other and them picking up the feathers. As I read yesterday, I would point out the instances of foreshadowing because they were so subtle.

After the story was finished, we had a discussion about foreshadowing. We discussed all the places it was and how foreshadowing helps move the story along. I asked each child to then apply this idea to their writings.

As with the previous day, we had a quick review about foreshadowing, and discussed the fact foreshadowing involves providing clues for the reader as to what is going to happen next in the story. We also talked about how foreshadowing can be both overt and subtle. I told the kids today that this story had very subtle foreshadowing, that it was there, but I wasn't going to point it out. It was going to be their job to identify the foreshadowing in the story.

"Swan in Love" is the story of a swan that falls in love with a swan-shaped boat named Dora. Although he is ridiculed by the other animals, and although they tell him to find another swan to love, he is true to his one true love. The seasons pass and swan gets older. In fact, one passage reads, "The winters were colder than Swan remembered. He found he was stiffer and slower than he used to be." Eventually, Dora is no longer sea-worthy and she and Swan move die. However, the death is never actually spelled-out, nor is it particularly sad.

When I had finished the story, I had the children reflect on the story and discuss in groups where the foreshadowing was. They identified a number of passages, including the two I felt were most important--the one with Swan noticing the cold of winter, the other describing how Dora was aging.

Through our discussion, the kids figured out that every story has some sort of foreshadowing. We also talked about the ways author's can use foreshadowing to throw you off the scent, so to speak. Many children made some nice observations, one said that "The Westing Game" (one of my favorite mysteries as a child!) was full of foreshadowing and red herrings. It was great!

The kids are still very enthusiastic about their writings, but are concerned because foreshadowing is a difficult device to use (according to them). I have reassured them we will be studying foreshadowing for another week and that their writings are just fine. :o)