Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Five Starting Points for Your Gallery Entry

There's still time to have students submit their work to NCTE's National Gallery of Writing. The only problem is deciding what to write. The Gallery has room for any kind of writing, from formal essays to family email messages, and from workplace memos to IMs among friends. Anything goes!

If you're finding it hard to decide what to have students focus on, here are five starting places. The responses students write can be rather informal, like something they might post on a personal blog, or they can be more formal pieces that students might publish in a school newspaper. Encourage students to focus on personal stories, advice, or experiences and to focus on an audience of their peers, other students across the U.S.

So share one or more of these starting points with students and get them writing! And be sure to submit students' work by visiting the National Gallery site!

X Things You Should Know About Y
Just choose a number and a topic. Aim for something like 3 to 5. You can always increase the number if you have more ideas. You might focus on something like "3 Things You Should Know About Student Teaching," "5 Things You Should Know about AP English," or "3 Things You Should Know About Getting Your Driver's License." Once you have your rough title, all you have to do is write out the items. You can brainstorm a list, and choose the best ideas to expand into full sentences or paragraphs.
Why X Doesn't Matter
You've been told that dozens of things are crucial for one reason or another, but when it comes down to it, they may not matter at all. Choose one and tell the story that explains why you no longer think it matters. You might write about "Why Spelling Doesn't Matter on Facebook" or "Why Making the Track Team Doesn't Matter." Whatever you choose, remember to focus on the personal experiences that led you to draw the conclusion. Be specific and talk about how you came to your realization.
What You Should Know About X
What are you an authority on? What advice can you give to someone else? You could write "What You Should Know About Student Teaching," "What You Should Know About Reading a Novel," or even "What You Should Know to Pass Mrs. Grimes' English Class." You can make the topic more specific by clarifying the "You." For instance, you might choose "What Girls Should Know About Their First Date." Once you have your topic, brainstorm the things that your reader needs to know, and then fill out your writing by adding personal details and explanations that demonstrate why it's important to know the information.
The Ultimate Guide to X, or How to X
For this starting poing, think of something you can describe in steps. Focus on something relatively simple that you can explain in 4 to 7 steps. For example, you could write "The Ultimate Guide to Packing a Healthy Lunch," "How to Study for Your History Quiz," or "The Ultimate Guide to Building a Snow Fort." Sketch out your steps as a jot list, and then expand them into full sentences and paragraphs. Be sure to tell readers both what to do and why they should do it.
Why I [Love/Hate/Am Scared of/Like] X
You have two choices to make for this starting point. Choose the verb you want to use from the options listed or add one of your own, and choose the topic you want to talk about. Be sure to focus on something very specific. For example, focus on "Why I Love the First Day of School" rather than "Why I Love School." You might talk about "Why I Hate Spelling Bees," "Why I Am Scared of Hornets," or "Why I Like Windows 7." Once you have your topic, you can either jot down 2 or 3 reasons and then expand upon them, OR you can tell a personal story that will demonstrate why you feel the way that you do.

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