All I Need to Know.... Writing Activity for Middle School

I did a quick writing activity with my 7th graders, and it was based on the book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum. You remember the lessons - sharing, saying thank you and please, taking naps, enjoying a simple snack of milk and cookies.... Everyone can relate to its simplicity. As we get older, we can really appreciate those things in life. For teens, not so clear to them yet.

I read the first 3 pages of the book to them. It's a perfect introduction to those simple things we appreciate, and perfectly illustrates the task you are going to charge them with: show how a common object can teach us many life lessons.

Here are some the class has come up with. I showed them a sample of the finished product using my dog. I always model the expected outcome in all of my lessons - even the essays. I believe it is important at this age to set expectations for them. The others are the posters they came up with. I picked out a few to give you ideas.

I suggest you try it with your own classes. Mine enjoyed the challenge!

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When a Character Takes Over...

Over the past few months, I've been carving out time in my busy schedule to write a sequel to my first book, "Casey of Cranberry Cove".  The main character, Casey, is fun to write, and I'm enjoying the adventures that we've been having together. However, she suddenly has become a bit of a brat. Instead of following the path that I had set out for her in this book, she is beginning to act out against my wishes, much like a real teenager would do.  As a result, my story line has taken a left instead of a right, and I'm heading down a road that's not very familiar.

While I love the idea that Casey has a mind of her own, it's causing havoc all over my neat little outlines. I've now got lines, arrows and scribbles, characters that I never knew existed, and a deadline that is in jeopardy.  I could very well be a real parent here, put my foot down, and send her to her room, which would allow me to get back on the path I was on. But I'm beginning to wonder, maybe her tantrum is going to take us on an adventure she's never dreamed of, to a place she's never been before, to find a proverbial door that will open a realm of new opportunities for her. Who am I to deny her of that?

So here I sit, on a snowy day, wondering if maybe the guy I wanted her to end up with wasn't right for her after all. Maybe she's found someone better, and is leading me to him. Maybe she wants a different "happily ever after" than the one I'd imagined for her.

One thing I did learn through all of this. Creating a character is like giving birth. You grow with them, discipline them, learn from them, cry with them, love them, and sometimes you just have to give in and let them have their way.