Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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In the Classroom
"I want them to see that Amy Tan didn't just sit down and poof, there's the story."

- Amy Tan
Amy Tan
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First Steps A Shared Path Different Audiences Different Purposes
Usage and Mechanics Providing Feedback on Student Writing Learning from Professional Writers Writing in the 21st Century
  • First lines of novels, stories, and plays often tell you a great deal about the reading experience ahead. Use this list of famous first lines to help your writers in many ways:

    • Analyze and discuss what is so captivating about these lines. How do they draw readers in? What generalities about writing an opening can be drawn from these examples?

    • What are some opening lines that intrigued your students in the works they read for pleasure? Why are they so successful? What can your students infer from this about their own writing?

    • Compare these lines with the runner-up in the 2003 Annual Bulwer-Lytton Contest, sponsored by San Jose State University, which honors the worst possible opening lines for a novel.
      The flock of geese flew overhead in a "V" formation - not in an old-fashioned-looking Times New Roman kind of a "V", branched out slightly at the two opposite arms at the top of the "V", nor in a more modern-looking, straight and crisp, linear Arial sort of "V" (although since they were flying, Arial might have been appropriate), but in a slightly asymmetric, tilting off-to-one-side sort of italicized Courier New-like"V" - and LaFonte knew that he was just the type of man to know the difference.
      John Dotson (U.S. Naval Officer), Arlington, VA

      This contest was named in honor of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who authored this Infamous opening line: "It was a dark and stormy night."

    • Extend this activity to talk about opening lines in essays written to inform or persuade. What are some characteristics of opening lines that intrigue the reader? Find good and bad examples in newspapers, magazines, or essay collections.

  • Raphael Jesús González shared his thoughts on the connection between teachers and their students in his poem "A mis estudiantes/To My Students." Perhaps you would like to share this work with your students, using it as an impetus for writing about the relationships in your writing community.

  • Although most writers dream of talking one-on-one with noted authors, this sometimes isn't possible. Direct your students to interview each other as writers. Together, draw up a list of questions to be asked: How do they work? How do they feel about revision? What do they like to write about? How do they feel about their work? Pair or group students to conduct these interviews and then use the information to write an article, create a PowerPoint presentation, or construct a Web site focused on this author.

  • What's the best advice about writing that you ever learned from an author? Share your thoughts on Teacher-Talk.
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