Before we started reading, we set down some guidelines for both reading and listening:
- Read slowly, loudly, and with expression.
- While listening, don’t fiddle with pencils, notebooks, or anything else. (This is hard for kids of this age and I won’t call them on it unless it’s clearly distracting.)
- After reading, the author should try HARD not to talk during the critique – because if you’re talking, you’re not listening.
- When giving critique, it’s important to start with something positive.
- If you have something constructive to say, make sure you say it in a constructive way.
- Dialogue – both too much and too little. Dialogue is best when it is “grounded” by setting and action. And it always brings a story to life, rather than “he told her this,” “she explained that.”
- Moving too fast from one plot point to another. We talked about the need to slow the action down and to add in smoother transitions.
- Reading too fast, too softly, and without expression. I explained that the students would have a chance to work on this as we continue to work on their stories.
We then discussed that creating compelling characters are a critical part of any story. Each student was given a large sheet of paper and told to begin drawing a character. There were a couple of caveats about what they could and could not draw:
- Because we are “out of this world,” the character could not be human or an animal we would find on earth.
- They needed to create a character out of their own imagination. No derivative characters, please!
- What’s the character’s name?
- How old are they? (can be just born, can be a zillion years old…)
- Do they have parents? Brothers and sisters? List them.
- What color is their hair? (If they don’t have hair, what color is their fur, or scales, or skin?)
- What color are their eyes? (How many do they have?)
- Where does the character live? (It could be an imaginary place or planet.)
- What do they like MOST to eat?
- What do they HATE to eat?
- Do they have a best friend? What’s the best friend’s name?
- Do they have an enemy? What’s the enemy’s name?
- Do they have a secret? What is it?
- What do they WANT?
The children then presented their characters to one another and – wow! – it was already time to end class.
For homework this week, since we’re not back for 2 weeks, I asked them to do two things:
- Improve or add onto their first story, based on what they heard during the critique.
- Start a new story about their character.
Happy Valentine’s Day and President’s Day weekend – see you all in two weeks!