Thursday, April 10, 2008

Classical Writing: The Lion and the Mouse

Well it's taken us three weeks instead of two to work on this particular writing assignment, but overall I am pleased with the results. Rather than simply posting the final draft in by weekly review as usual, I decided to explain how we got to that point in hopes that someone else may find it helpful.
Here is the model on which we based our drafts. The biggest change that we made with this assignment was to stop doing the key word outline. While in general I love outlines and find them to be very helpful, it had become increasingly apparent that Jessie was using the outline as a crutch to basically reproduce the story without tapping into her imagination or even really stopping to think through the sequence of events and how they fit together.
Getting this first draft out was excruciating for several reasons. First, Jessie thrives on routine. I knew up front that there was a chance that changing the routine by omitting the key word outline would result in a confrontation. Second, Jessie likes things to be black and white. She wants to know ahead of time exactly what is expected of her before starting on a new assignment so that she can complete the assignment correctly. Asking her to retell the story in her own words was too ambiguous. I changed tactics and asked her to narrate the story back to me like she does in history thinking this would give her a better point of comparison. It turned out not to be the best comparison to use since the result was a "just the facts" type narration. Fine for history, but not really what I was looking for in a writing assignment.
To get started with rough draft number two, I tried a different tact. I asked Jessie to close her eyes and imagine what the story would look like in her mind. Again too ambiguous so we broke the story down into parts. We started by trying to imagine the lion sleeping and asked the following questions: What did the lion look like? How was he laying? Where might he have been laying? What time of day do you think it was? Why do you think he was asleep? The answers to a few of these made their way into the first sentence. Then we moved on to the next sentence asking, "Why was the mouse running over the lion?" For the sentence after I queried, "How did the mouse grab the lion?" To be fair, Jessie didn't answer all of these questions on her own. Whenever she got stumped, I would offer her some suggestions. For instance for the last question I suggested the lion might pick the mouse up by wrapping it's paw around it or pin the mouse by smashing it flat with it's paw, catch it by the tail, etc. We continued on in this manner until we had worked our way through the entire draft. It took nearly an hour, but we did make progress.
We kept the second set of revisions a bit simply. Jessie loves to write phrases with the words that and which, so the first step was to rewrite the second sentence omitting the word which. We discussed how the lion felt when awakened and added to the second sentence. Then we skipped down and talked about the hunters and what they were doing (how they felt, what their plan was, and what they did?). The sentence Jessie gave me ended up rather long so we went back and edited it to take out the word that. Then I asked her to try to thinking about a way to start the write the remaining portion of the sentence by beginning with a form of want instead of the words they or the hunter. She quickly took the pencil and paper from me and rewrote the sentence. Here is the final result.
Considering our change of tact, I consider this to be a good first start. We'll see how the next lesson goes.


Kelley said...

Thank you for posting this. As I am about to start this journey with my son, your entry has given me a better idea of how the process could work. Thanks again-Kelley

DeNova said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I too am contemplating CW and wanted to see it in action.

Would you be willing to share how you combine CW with R&S English?