Tuesday, March 08, 2005

fish have eyelids

I remembered to bring home the essay topics but forgot to bring home some of my students' writings. I think that would be a good thing to do this weekend, when I have a handful of them.
Yesterday I started a new essay with the writing class. I gave them copies of National Geographic and asked them to flip through the magazines, read captions, read articles, etc., and leave their minds open to let some idea about the world come to them about which they could write. I get vaguer and vaguer it seems, but really, my desire is to give them a chance to be thinkers, to look at pictures of places and people and things they have no idea about and think about them and think about what things mean. Also, I asked them to try to bring their lives into the more global arena. I wrote down things I was hearing around the room while they looked at the magazines. One girl said, "I didn't know fish winked." I thought that would be a great beginning for an essay about the things we don't know. (I didn't know fish winked either. They do it to regulate the light that comes into their eyes.) Someone else saw photographs of starving people in Africa and is writing an essay about how ashamed she is when she throws away food. She tried including quotations from the article she read. They seemed just simply tacked in until we had a conference about it today and she explained what she had in mind. I gave her a few little pointers. Little pointers. I didn't give her much, though I wanted to. She revised the essay so far and absolutely nailed it. It also made me realize that she's asking me to teach her how to include quotations in a piece of writing. Which makes me realize I owe it to them to let them do a research project.

Here's the list I keep on my board. It began as a conversation about the things we humans, and all living things, are consumed with: procreation and survival. Then I started writing things into the list that came up in class. A couple of the topics came from people who said that something would be a good thing to write about, like what can we depend on? Now, students turn to the list for ideas which, ironically, were theirs in the first place. Life be good.

Topics for poems, stories, essays, plays, songs, raps, etc.: the street, one-eyed kittens, procreation, sex, mysteries, problems, change, the unknown, death, rhythm in the brain, the human condition, El Dorado, if I were king, fountain of youth, Utopia, religion (God, myth, etc.), beauty, goodness, love, family, how we are influenced, if it's true it's true for me, are we our brother's keeper?, chillin', trippin', what can we depend on?, after death we're remembered for a while and then what?

(I guess that depends on what our baby daddy momma sister baby baby remembers to pass along about us.)

Melanie

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