Writing ‘Home’

— Bacchus Taylor

Because screaming just isn’t relaxing, I walk away, not looking back.

Wise clouds soaring on an afternoon breeze, curling pages telling stories along the boulevard of time, hallowed winds that moan in the dusk before a storm.

These are just a couple of the lines that students in our Shelter Cluster created during a recent writing revision activity. The project began as an investigation into exactly what makes a home, a discussion that followed from students reading a marvelous piece by Christine Steele (available at http://proximitymag.org/readerswrite/2009/03/home-is-not-a-place).  However for several in the class, it was not until the revision process got underway that the project took on a life of its own.

Each student began the process of deconstructing his or her poem by physically cutting out each word of the second draft. After setting all the words on an empty desk, students then used them to respond to a series of prompts regarding the nature of home, personal anecdotes meant to return them to childhood and questions about who they would like to be as writers. The next day they took the activity one step further, using each other’s words to ask questions about the poem, respond, and bolster their already wildly imaginative images. This component of the project left many of the students excited to complete the piece, which in many instances, bears almost no resemblance to the original.

Perhaps most importantly, this revision process has resulted in many students recognizing the power their words have, especially when they take the time to really look at what they want to say. Comments of “you have the best words” or “working with your words got me thinking of something I need to add to my writing” are further evidence of the benefits the students got out of this exercise. A few students mentioned incorporating some of the thoughts generated into larger narratives to be written outside of class.

All these experiences, along with seeing the smiles on students’ faces enthusiastic about writing something for school, have me excited for next week, when students will submit their completed writings.

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