Here Goes!

Tomorrow I have 15 minutes in front of a panel of 10 administrators from Western North Carolina arts councils to prove that I can walk into any public school in this region and teach virtually any age group some facet of creative writing. Five of the 15 minutes must be a sample lesson plan, during which the panelists pretend to be whatever age group I tell them as I demonstrate the beginning of my lesson. The remaining 10 minutes are for questions from the panelists. Then I’m whisked out the door and the next artist enters for his/her interview, and so on and so forth.

I’ve made it past first cuts and if I make it past this second round, I am considered an “Artist in Residence” for the Western Arts Agencies of North Carolina and can be called upon at any time during the 2009-2010 academic year to lead 5-day intensive workshops with the students.

I’m going to ask the panelists to be a 9th grade AP English class, assume that they all know each other, all agree to the classroom expectations, and have all been reading Alexandra Fuller’s first memoir. Here is the lesson plan which I will do the first 5 minutes of, before the panelists then revert back to their normal selves and begin a round of questions.

We won’t get far into the lesson, but they’ll see the point and they understand the limits of their own time constraints. It all seems so bland written out this way, but I know this lesson well and can really rock it and have a good time with the kids when I am doing it. Furthermore, parts of it can be taken and heightened or toned down for various age groups and learning styles. This is a lesson plan format I made up after researching various forms, and used all throughout my AmeriCorps sessions and my Montessori teacher training.

Wish me luck!

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight
a memoir by Alexandra Fuller

Theme and Title: Sensory Details

Content Focus Questions: What images do you have in your mind’s eye from your first reading of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight? Can you think of sensory details and imagery techniques that Fuller uses in the opening scenes of her memoir? How do writers use sensory detail to their advantage, drawing the reader in?

Linking Skills to Content:
1. Use organizational skills to keep track of class syllabus and additional materials handed out in class.
2. Use analytical thinking to gather details and meaning from the reading. Engage in discussion, find examples, etc.
3. Participate in one writing exercise and one game to learn about incorporating sensory details into writing.
4. Learn about tricks writers use to convey meaning in descriptive pieces of writing. Practice doing one of your own.

Performance Assessment: Students will be expected to participate in discussion and come prepared to class. They will be asked to do a take home writing exercise based on a class activity, which we will share out loud the next day.

Learning Activities/Plan:
1. What did you think of the reading assignment? What images do you have in your mind’s eye? Can you sight examples of imagery and description in the text?
2. Read some examples of sensory details out loud and discuss. Pages 3-4 (loo scene, lighting, color, sight) and pages 12-13 (BBC, apes, sounds, voice, snoring).
3. Using a pictorial aid, do the following exercise: Make five columns on a page, one for each of the senses. Looking at the picture, write down as many words as you can under each of the senses to describe what you see or imagine. You can even imagine action or things that aren’t actually in the picture, if something you see makes you think of that. Later tonight, refer back to your list and write a one page descriptive piece using figures of speech and the tips we talk about today in class.
4. Using sensory detail to enhance imagery:
a) write it all down, the jewel will come (do this tonight)
b) be specific and precise
c) create an original perspective on an old truth
d) try to capture the moment
5. Play the “Guess who or what?” game! Use the cards: a deer, the cookie monster, Frederick, and Hillary Duff. Students may only ask yes or no questions about the card that is taped to each of their backs. Try to guess who/what you are. Debrief.
Use class time to study vocab, do reading assignment, work on one page writing piece.

Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
“Sensory Details in Your Writing” by Carl E. Johnson (from The Guide to Good Writing, 75th anniversary edition)
Montessori Thematic Studies Album (section on language arts)

Materials: Guess who/what game cards
books, paper, pen, flash cards, notebooks
inspiring picture for the writing exercise
hot water for tea! 🙂

  • cosima Franke

    I remember reading that book..i love this one because it include a lesson plan which i luckily know how to do now. But anyway..seems like only good things are happening to you…my summer is crazy with school i don't ever want to take summer classes again it's too overwhelming for sure. It's like this summer i have no life besides school.

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