Skip to main content

Embarrassing Moments

I thought it would be a good idea to give my middle school students a prompt that would force them to use descriptive techniques. 
First, we discussed what devices they might use, and they suggested the usual – the figures of speech often mentioned in their grammar books – simile, metaphor, and personification.  Another group of kids suggested incorporating the senses:  sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch. 
We were on a roll. I urged them to think of more ideas that would help them “show not tell,” and after some consideration, one child offered selecting the most appropriate point of view, and we discussed how stories change when told from third person or first person POV. 
It was only then that I gave them their prompt – they were to write about their most embarrassing moment.  We brainstormed a few ideas, and they giggled at some of mine. I gave them a timeline for this writing project and what components they needed to include for grades, and they set off to work.
They prewrote and drafted.  They advised and critiqued each other’s work. They revised and polished into a final draft. I assigned grades throughout each step of the process, but now it was my turn to grade the final product.  
One girl wrote about stepping off the school bus and finding her boyfriend’s legs sticking out from under his car.  Since he was either changing the oil or tightening a bolt and could not defend himself, she thought it funny to unzip his jeans and open his fly before running into the house.  Imagine her embarrassment when she found her boyfriend in the kitchen helping himself to a soda, and his best friend walked in from outside, bewildered and zipping his pants.
Another middle schooler wrote about running to his mother’s rescue when he heard her screaming bloody murder in her bedroom (there had been a lot of break-ins in the neighborhood lately) only to find mom having noisy sex with her new boyfriend.
A third child (remember these were eighth graders) recounted in full descriptive detail the “talk” her mom gave her about puberty. What should have been a memorable mother-daughter moment, ended up sounding like x-rated baby talk since Mom couldn’t bring herself to use the correct anatomical names for the body parts.
I obviously had not explained the prompt correctly. All three of these descriptive papers could get the students expelled from school and me fired from teaching.
I consulted with the principal and we discussed the phenomenon of unintended consequences.  I counseled with the individual students and told them they would get grades according to the rubric for all their work, but their stories were inappropriate for the classroom. I met with the parents and explained what had happened and gave them the students’ papers. They could decide what to do with the stories.
I used the prompt again the following year, but this time I approached it with caution.  I did not tell them about the previous year, but I explained that not all embarrassing moments need to be documented in 8th grade English class.  They were to choose something appropriate that could be read aloud to the class and could be shown to their parents and the principal.
The students wrote about safe subjects – tripping, falling, running into things. The work was a lot tamer.  Some were funny; some were clever, and the prompt achieved what it was supposed to achieve – the children practiced using several descriptive devices
But between you and me, I don’t remember any of them.  I only remember that memorable first crop of uncensored naughty stories.  


Popular posts from this blog

Finding My Muse

1)Because my muse has a wicked sense of humor and visits me at odd times and in inconvenient places, I have learned to record inspirations/ideas immediately before I forget them or they dissolve into nothing. I carry small notebooks, own a digital recorder, and have been known to text messages home. I will scribble on anything – old napkins I find in my glove compartment or old receipts. I even pop out of bed in the middle of the night to jot things on sticky pads. 2)Calendars are great places to find topics. I use important dates, seasons, and upcoming holidays to plan blog posts. I can also go back into my work calendar to refresh my memory about meetings, conferences, or books I have read that might be worth sharing with others.   3)I will sit with a good cup of coffee, pen and paper ready, and read the newspaper searching for topics, interesting characters, or modern trends.  News channels and other newsfeeds are just as good.   4)I love to read the TV and movie guides for titles and…

The Girl Who Eats Canned Spinach

I went to a Catholic elementary school run by strict Belgian nuns, and we could not leave the cafeteria until we ate everything served on our food tray. Once a week, they served warmed, canned spinach with our meal. The spinach tasted nothing like the way my grandmother made it, but I ate it. I gulped it down in three or four bites and it amazed my table mates. I told them we ate it at home so I was used to the taste. Now, my real problem began the day I ate the spinach off my friends’ trays so we could go play outside. As soon as the nun monitoring the cafeteria turned her back, my friends ate something off my tray I didn’t want, and I ate their serving of spinach. I only did it for two of my table mates, but the word spread. On the next Spinach Day, kids followed me to my table.I was suddenly very popular, and as soon as the nun marched off to the other end of the cafeteria, my friends and an army of others who only knew me as The Girl Who Eats Spinach, begged me to take their servin…

Facing My Fear of Guns

With the ownership of firearms comes responsibility, so I had asked HoneyBunch several times to teach me how to shoot and to help me get my License to Carry. I got my wish two weeks ago. HB and I signed up to take a LTC class. He bought me a gun, one similar to his, that would be the type we needed to show shooting proficiency, and for one whole week he tried to get me to become familiar with it, but I was hesitant. I read the booklet that came with the gun. I practiced loading and shooting it in what is called dry shooting (no bullets), and since the flyer said I would have to shoot thirty shots at different distances, I finally tried with it loaded. I was a nervous wreck. The class of twelve turned out to be close to forty people. We were of all ages, colors, and genders, and I was glad I wasn’t the only woman my age. The shooting test came first, and we were separated into two groups. Those who were proficient (or thought they were) would shoot first, and those who were novices wou…