Sunday, February 7, 2010

Nancy Voice at Grade 7 in Jay Middle School

     Nancy came to conference with a stack of student papers and a smile - eager to share.  Early on this year she discovered her students are very comfortable with the friendly letter format and has used it for a variety of  assignments - with great results.  Since our last meeting, she had used this format to develop voice through an assignment on Maniac McGee written by author Jerry Spinelli.  
     First Nancy identified the main characters in the book.  Next students drew the name of characters out of a hat.  Then Nancy had students write to another character in the book.  She paired the characters (students).  Here is an example of the "Old Rag Picker" writing to Jeffrey.
                                                                        728 Sycamore St.
                                                                        Two Mills, PA 11111
                                                                        January 14, 2010

Dear Jeffrey,

   I never knew the way you just come in the east end like you live here until now.  I think you should stay on the west end for now.  I get really angry when some white kids thinks they are brave just for coming on the east end.  It isn't that hard for a kids to just walk or run into the east end!  I might of been able to walk in the west end when I was a kid.  I wouldn't be able to run now because of being so old.
     The next time I see you I might whack you on the head with a cane or a stick to show you a thing or two.  I thought I was seeing things when I had first seen you.  I think you better run away the next time you see me.  I will gather a group of elderly people to help me get you.  It would be a angry mob of elderly people riding on motrized scooters.
     I bet you are starting to get scared just thinking of ways I could get you to stay out of the east end.   Who do you think you are coming on the east end?  You don't belong here.  You do belong on the west end.  You white people have lots of parties and what not.  Why don't you just go make some friends on the west end. 
    You white people just don't know when to stop bothering us black people.  You never see any black people coming on the west unless you bring them.  You also don't see any black people trying to untie Cobbles Knot.  So many white people have great jobs.  Us black people don't get a chance to even try some of those great jobs.  While people are always thinking black people are going to attach the west end.  Black people have more important things to do the attack you whites.
     Some people are saying you are being nice to us blacks.  I think you just want to make trouble for us in the east end since you won't get in trouble when you go back on the west end.  Have fun while you still can.  When I find you I will chase you on a scooter until I either give up or the battery runs out of power.  Evern if I don't get you.  I will still hate you for what you have done.  You will be my number two most hated person until you stay on the west end.  Then and only then I won't hate you as much.  My number one most hated person is that broom lady.

                                                                              Old Rag Picker

The final part of the assignment will be to have the characters write a response to the letters they received.   Bravo and thanks for sharing:)

     For those of you who have read any of Spinelli's books you recognize the strength of his characters and stories.   Building on real reader response to well crafted literature, is a key component of 6+1 traits.  This is an excellent example of the power of reader response and how it provides an opportunity for students to access writing and craft those skills.   
     Jerry Spinelli talks about it this way.  On inspiration, the author says: "Ideas come from ordinary, everyday life. And from imagination. And from feelings. And from memories. Memories of dust in my sneakers and humming whitewalls down a hill called Monkey."
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Lynn said...

What a great lesson, Nancy! Not only did the students do a fantastic job with voice in their writing, they also obviously have a greater depth of understanding of the characters. Way to go!

C Shink said...

Nancy - this was absolutely fantastic! I loved hearing the voice come through in this reader response. This shows so much understanding of character in the book. Love it!