I love new things. New music. New television shows. New movies. I’m not a fan of old movies or old music, which is strange because all new ideas are infleuenced in many ways by what once was. One of my favorite bands Coheed and Cambria are heavily influenced by Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, the Who, Rush, and many others. But they are different and unique in their own ways.
As I read and learn about new teaching ideas and practices, I realize that they are not new at all. Most “new” teaching practices are either recylced ideas from years ago or just not known by many people. In Kate Messner’s book 59 Reasons to Write, she and the book’s other contributors discuss some very cool ideas that I conisder new, but perhaps they are just new to me. It’s like buying a used car. It’s a new car to me.
Cool Idea 1: In the book, Messner included a nifty worksheet regarding world building that could be used as a brainstorming tool or fun writing activity to inspire the students to think about the setting of their story. It included some interesting questions about laws, ethnic diversity, and weather patterns. These tend to be things that most students or authors ignore when creating their setting. Perhaps, delving into the idosyncrasies of a world or setting will help the students create a more believable world in their writing. I would love to use this activity in the classroom next year.
Cool Idea 2: In chapter four, the author discusses character development. She suggests some insightful questions to think about when creating a character. Some examples I loved: If your character was alive today, what songs would be on his or her iPod or other device? What political affilliation would support your character if he or she ran for public office? These questions would allow students and writers to really think about their characters in a very personal and in-depth manner. While the story in which the characters are a part of might not even mention political parties or musical preferences, knowing these kinds of traits about a character would foster a deep understanding of that person or character. This activity could easily become a mini-lesson on character development. As they create a character, they need to think about particular questions. I love this idea too. I guess I’m just a loving person.
So, while both of these ideas are certainly not cutting edge and brand new to the teaching world, they are not things that I was aware of. For me, this book is like an early Christmas present. And I still have plenty of unwrapping to go. Perhaps I’ll even wear my Santa hat when I start reading next.