As the summer continues its languid descent into fall (in the Seasons According to Moxie, fall begins the moment the school bell rings in the first week of August), I’ve been spending increasing amounts of time doing advance planning for the changes I’ll have to make to incorporate the language arts standards into my literature units. By advance planning, I mean that I think about it during commercial breaks or while in the shower. I’m not that motivated to flip back into I Teach, therefore I Rock mode just yet.
Back to my point – at least in Georgia, by the time students get to eighth grade, the language arts standards focus less on the conventional rules of grammar and more on cultivating sophisticated writers who make good use of firm themes and ideas, supportive and descriptive details, strong organizational structures, and style and voice. On the state mandated, standardized writing test the students take in the spring, use of ideas is weighed most heavily. Falling in second to ideas is voice, which can be one of the most challenging, but also one of the most fun to teach. Helping students to infuse their writing with their own personality, flavor, and style and to recognize the distinct voices in others’ writing, if planned effectively, can be an exciting time in the classroom.
While on the drive back from Savannah yesterday, I was simultaneously doing some advance planning and mental blogging (I can multitask like nobody’s business). My thought lines crossed and I thought of bloggers who I think have very strong and clearly recognizable voices. I wondered how differently the same experience could be told by different writers:
Me: Can you make me some toast?
He: What’s wrong with your feet?
Me: Make it with the raisin bread. AND I’d like some coffee to go with that, too.
He: You’d better be glad I love you. Can we DO IT after you eat breakfast?
Me: Only if you put some EXTRA butter on that toast, buddy.
So after I suckered him into making my breakfast, I sat down to eat. You will not BELIEVE what I saw. Some JOKER just walked by and let his dog take the biggest CRAP I have ever SEEN in the middle of my FREAKIN’ flowers!!!! Just cuz it was THERE he seemed to think it was okay to use MY GARDEN as a TOILET for his damned DOG! People have some SERIOUS problems when they can’t even RESPECT other folks’ PERSONAL PROPERTY!
I sat sipping my iced grande nonfat latte and nibbled on freshly-baked pain du raisins. As I idly watched the irises outside my window sway in the delicate breeze, a man, unawares of my observation, allowed his dog to relieve itself in my flowerbed.
Where is the humanity, I wondered.
I was minding my business eating my raisin bread toast and drinking my coffee, when all of a sudden I noticed this asshole was letting his butt-fugly dog take a shit in my flowers. If it wasn’t for the fact that my feet hurt like a mofo, I would have got up and shanked a bastard because I’m gangsta like that. He don’t know me. What the fuck is wrong with people?
As much as I’d love to present those examples to my classes as the introduction to my unit, I think I might get fired if I did so. So, here’s my challenge to you, Dear Readers: write a short blurb using a distinct and clear voice for the following scenario –
A teenager making a call on his/her cell phone to explain why he/she missed curfew
It doesn’t have to be long. If you’d like to, you can write more than one, each with a different voice. The point of view can be from either the busted teenager, the parent, or even the cell phone (Oh, my goodness! Why must I endure this torture? I really wish she would invest in some Mentos, because her halitosis is kickin’ like it knows karate. Every time she speaks into me, it makes me want to lose my signal.) If you really wanna be the bomb diggety, you’ll give me a range of moods; they don’t all have to be funny. That way, I can use the same examples to incorporate a discussion of tone and mood.
Please, please help me with this so I don’t have to sit and write fifteen different versions of the same scenario. I’ll be your best friend and put you on my They Write, therefore They Rock list.