Monday, June 18, 2012

Chair-Monday's mini-lesson

Teachers Write!  Mini-lesson Monday:
Assignment-use a word from the random Word Generator and follow Jody Feldman's directions for Mini-lesson Monday at Kate Messner's Blog.

I decided to dive-in and let the random word be the starting horn for my piece of writing.   My random word was chair.  Here's my quick write:

     The old wicker chair creaked and cracked uncomfortably as the miserable and swollen woman plopped to her favorite spot.  She stared out the windows of the screened porch sometimes focusing, sometimes blurring as she blinked away the tears.  The news from the doctor was not what she wanted to hear.  She thought that she would be a lucky one-the "get-away-girl" who'd escape this life without the "c" word invading her body's cells. 

      As she reflected on the news, she realized that the fortune teller had been wrong...the cancer had come home to rest in her bones, her stiff, aching bones.  How would the rest of her life look now?  The questions began to drive through her brain like race cars on the beltway at rush-hour and then slowed...What would she be able to do?  When would her body finally quit on her?  Why did this have to happen when she'd finally found a peaceful place to reside?  How would her family react to the news?  How soon should she begin to plan the funeral?  What financial plans should she arrange?  Who would take care of the children?  She continued to wonder about the death sentence she'd been handed and dozed off to sleep...

Reflection on the process:
I really like using the random word generator to percolate an idea for today's writing.  I surprised myself by quickly thinking about what I knew about chairs and seats that I'd seen in my life.  The character who's life I took this scene from is really my grandmother...she was diagnosed with bone cancer shortly after we'd found her a great house to live in near my parents, where she was happy until she passed from bone cancer...She did have a favorite wicker chair that she always rocked in and would watch out her front porch to catch the latest happenings around her.

I could see how using this with students could be beneficial.  I am thinking that they might need modeling first for a few lessons to see how this would work.  I would try it out as a model first "I do" setting.  Then, I would create one as a class, "we do" and then see how they are getting it.  I might then ask them to try it on their own "you do" during independent writing time.  Thanks for this suggestion Jody!

I also like the setting bank and character bank that Rosanne suggested and will be adding those to my writer's notebook:
Setting Bank
1. List ten places that you have lived in your lifetime. It need not be 10 different towns. Different places in one town are fine. Summer camp, visits to grandma, college dorm, basic training—they all count as places you’ve lived

2. List ten places to which you feel a strong emotional connection. The emotion can be positive or negative. Either is powerful. (it’s okay to have repeats in the bank. That can tell you something useful about where your heart lives.)

3. List ten places you’ve visited on vacation or places you’d love to visit in your lifetime were money and time no object.

4. List ten places from which your ancestors or in-laws come.

5. List ten books or movies that have settings you’ve found particularly captivating. (you may want to include a brief note about what attracted you to the setting.)

Here is your “bank” of 50 setting seeds which are likely to be fruitful in your own writing. Use them as a jumping off place for deciding where to set your next story. For example, I listed Paris under #2 and #3 so I made it the setting for part of Second Fiddle. The combination of emotional connection and first hand experience made it easy to write about with both warmth and realism.

Character Bank
6. List ten jobs whether paying or volunteer that you’ve done in your life.

7. List ten famous people, historical or contemporary, that you would love to share a meal with.

8. List ten ethnicities, religions, tribes, cultural groups, gender or sexual orientations, or political philosophies that are represented in your extended family.

9. List ten people who can make you laugh.

10. Complete this sentence ten times. “I’ve always wanted to _____ like ____________. For example, Dance like Gene Kelley.

Here is your bank of 50 character seeds. None of them is a fully developed character but used in combination, they can help you develop a rich and complex character that is likely to resonate with you. For example, I have always wanted to be able to rope a calf from horseback like my college roommate could. And many years ago I met a Quaker midwife who told me that once during a particularly difficult labor and delivery she had a vision of the Virgin Mary helping her. She didn’t convert to Catholicism or anything, but she did gain an insight into a religious experience that had previously felt very foreign to her. I drew on my friendship with a ranch girl and this intriguing blend of Quaker and Catholic experience to craft the characters in Heart of a Shepherd.



  1. Amy,
    I could picture this woman. The descriptors of miserable, swollen, and plopped into the chair were vivid for me. Also, the "c" word is such a common fear that it was easy to feel emotion with this woman as well as that idea of trying to be one of those that avoids that c word. This was also vivid to me, "the questions began to drive through her brain like race cars on the beltway at rush-hour and then slowed."
    Nicely done. :)

    I need to go write and try this exercise now!

    1. I read yours Dana! Limit-wow!
      I think it's interesting how many people got chair too...

    2. Honestly I think I got chair and neighbor and clicked through until the 3rd or 4th word and then brainstormed. Not sure why... but I did. ;)

      THANK YOU for stopping by and the feedback!!!

  2. The noun generator worked for me,too. I like where it took you today in the image of the chair. I think students will enjoy this. I had a poetry teacher who worked with free form through word groups. The word groups were 4 unrelated nouns. So I clicked the button until I got four nouns. It helped to give more direction to my writing. I have enjoyed seeing you in both the Teachers Writing Camp and the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life.

    1. Thank you Margaret! I will go back and read your post too!


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