I love the fact that my students can choose from a rich array of novels when it’s time to read. Reader’s and writer’s workshop has been such a game changer in my classroom because the kids are so much more engaged in reading and writing than they ever were before. And, there are so many opportunities for blending reading and writing workshop.
Young adult fiction has come so far these last years, and students can explore complex characterization and themes. My favourite trend in YA lit, though, is the way that authors are experimenting with narrative technique.
Creative writing assignments that blend reading and writing:
This experimentation inspired me to create some writing assignments that link to the books that the kids are reading. Nicola Yoon’s Everything Everything, for example, develops her main character through the various things she shares with the reader, like short blurbs, definitions, sales receipts, pages from her diary when she was ten, sketches and texts – scraps and pieces of things that give a glimpse of what matters to her.
I thought that was a fascinating way to develop character, so I created an assignment for my kids to mimic Yoon’s technique. I’ve also made one for Jandy Nelson’s The Sky Is Everywhere.
With this assignment, students write poetry to explore an issue, idea or character; however, they have to choose unusual mediums to write these poems on, like coffee cups or scraps of tests. These mediums, together with the poems, work to create meaning.
Students do not have to read the novels in order to do the assignment. I have the books in my classroom, but the handout also has links to Amazon, so they can “look inside” the novels and get a feel for the technique.
The added bonus is that this process may inspire them to read the book, if they haven’t already. It’s a wonderful way to meld reading and writing workshop, or just a fun writing assignment if you aren’t in workshop mode.
I’m having so much fun making these that I plan to add more to my new product. Currently, I’m working on ones for Tell Me Three Things, Long Way Down, The Book Thief and Salt to the Sea; I’ll add those to the file as soon as they are done.
Then, I’ll just have to read more books! If you have suggestions for titles with interesting techniques, let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to my list.