This was a wonderful project for us for quite a few reasons:
1. The focus on good writing, in an easy to complete, quick, exciting, globally collaborative project.
We were able to complete our portion of the project in only 2 class lessons. In our first 75 minute lesson we read through the existing story, discussed the possibilities for our section, and determined our writing expectations for our chapter. In this first lesson, we covered:
What’s happened so far, after reading the first 9 chapters:
- A mermaid is running through NYC
- She worries about her past
- A fisherman chases her and catches her, but she escapes
- Her legs are revealed
- She is trying to save her parents. A snake attacks her
- She meets a doctor who takes her to his laboratory
- The doctor gets knocked out and she goes back to NY – to the Empire State Building where she hears the screams of her parents
In our chapter we want to make sure that:
- She has to get by the monster to open the door – all of our statements will lead up to this final event.
Our chapter will:
- Use good description by using the best descriptive words
- Use punctuation
- Use imagery: paint a picture in the mind
- Use internal dialogue to describe thoughts, feelings and hopes the character has (what would our mermaid be thinking now that she knows all that separates her from her parents is the monster)
- What does the monster look like?
- Our ideas follow logically from one thing to the next (so the reader doesn’t think “that will never happen”)
- Stretch out the action, tell it step by step,
- The reader doesn’t know what’s going to happen next – use suspense so that the person wants to keep reading
2. Providing an authentic audience for our writing.
In our second 75 minute lesson, we were able to complete our entire story and post each 140 character statement by individual students on Twitter. We were able to complete our goal for our chapter (Chapter 10) by having each student write their story line one at a time, with the entire class following along on the SmartBoard. The mood in the classroom was one of excitement and enthusiasm about writing, creativity and collaboration about a common goal, and a real motivation to share our talents with a global audience.
3. Allowing us to be reflective writers by publishing the story in drafts.
After our chapter was finished, we took some time to discuss our thoughts on the entire story and to share ideas for how we can improve on this project in the future. Here’s what we came up with:
- The story didn’t make sense mostly. Classes didn’t read the story carefully enough and so things don’t make sense that follow. It jumps around a lot.
- In future stories, collaborators need to read carefully and include details, events and actions that make sense and are connected. This will make the story believable.
- Why would a mermaid be walking on land? It’s too bizarre/unbelievable.
What we learned:
- How to write with other people. You have to talk with them to write your part so you understand their meaning.
- Too many writers make for a very confusing story.
- Writers need to meet in one place to discuss how the story might go (could be a chat or skype conference to plan it)
- Next time, the writers really need to spend time editing the story before posting it.
- Our chapter was pretty good. Probably because we planned it and communicated about it.
- The idea was fun.
- We’d like to try it again with fewer writers.
4. Giving our Grade 5 authors a chance to be published writers
The next stage of this project will be to complete a full edit of the story, and then publish the completed volume through Lulu.com on March 1st. The book will be available for the exact cost of printing: $5.37. View the rough draft version of the book here.
How could you not absolutely love a project that takes no longer than 4 lessons, yet provides so many opportunities for authentic writing? Way to go Mr. Mayo! We can’t wait for the next version of the project!