Once the process brought us to a point where we had a location and an event, we started taking ideas and writing them on the board. We first discussed what characters would be necessary, and people volunteered for different central characters. This was a surprising discussion for me in several ways.
Tommy Buteau, M.Ed. with specialization in Educational Leadership, Renewal and Change. His research interests include the impact of technology, choice, community, and stewardship on educational democracy and student engagement.
Writing Project Site
The engagement on this project was spectacular. Right from the start the students liked the idea that it was their project entered into a real world competition--not just something for the teacher, and the excitement grew throughout as the project itself connected more and more students.
As we started to work, some students finished their parts very quickly, and others took lots of time, one of the difficult parts about creative writing classes, but we forged ahead with other projects and also started to look at peer reviews.
The amount of learning that came about through giving the students control completely surprised me. I expected the engagement to be fairly high, but the format of the project truly allowed students at all levels to perform, to develop their voice, and to exceed my expectations. The project was student driven, and many of the techniques we used were uncovered just through collaboration, discussion, experimentation, and play in the classroom. The use of social media for peer reviews, a real world competition for motivation, and Google Drive for collaboration all helped to allow students to bring forth their own unique ways of seeing the world in an artistic and creative way.
I had been reading one of David Levithan's books, The Realm of Possibility, and it seemed like a pretty neat way to have each student create a story that was connected and yet written in different voices. In the book, there is one school, and twenty voices. Each chapter is in a different voice, and you don't really see all of the connections between the characters till you are a few chapters in. Each of the characters are very unique, and they have their own perspective on the world. Yet, they are connected because they go to the same school at the same time.
So, in October, the month before the competition, I started to read chapters from Levithan's book to the class. They were intrigued, perhaps because there is controversial themes and characters in the book, or perhaps because it is in first person verse, but the students engaged with the story.