Halloween is not a holiday that gets much attention in high school. Yes, some of us dress up. Some of us give out treats. But, by and large, the day passes without a lot of class time being lost to any spooky fun.
I decided to change that this year, and I decided to be sneaky about it. I’m going to let my twelfth graders have their fun AND do some learning too.
Right now, we are deep into reader’s workshop. The students are reading individual novels, using reader’s notebooks to explore ideas, and participating in small group discussions about their books. They have written and chatted about things like point of view and character. They have explored how setting and atmosphere affects the tales they are reading. So what better way to assess their true understanding of how authors use these elements in their fiction than to get them to write some themselves?
For the next week or so, my students are going to work through a series of learning stations that will guide them through the process of creating and revising a short, spooky story. In my last blog post, I wrote about how I set the scene, getting them to evaluate some short youtube videos. Today, they moved through the first series of learning stations. There were four of them: point of view, setting, atmosphere & character. Each station had eight cards to choose from, and each card presented them with a short writing exercise that required that they experiment with that element of fiction.
Tomorrow, they will be given this graphic organizer, so they can begin the initial planning stages of their stories. Thursday will be learning station day again, but this time, the tasks will be more specifically related to their drafts and will ask them to carefully consider how they will use the different elements of fiction in their story. For example, they will experiment with different ways to open their tale, and will brainstorm ways they can add foreshadowing to the story.
Over the weekend they will complete their drafts, using the ideas they explored during the learning stations. Then, on Monday, the stations will focus on revision, so they can fine-tune their spooky creation.
Ironically, I’ve designed this unit so my students will write amazing scary stories…yet I am easily spooked. I hope they do a good job, but not too good!
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