Minilessons come from the traits of the writing: leads, endings, accurate language, dialogue, and titles.
I use examples (at least 5 to 7) for each from the examples of flash fiction we have checked out, paired with others we may not have actually checked out, and from books that highlight these qualities of writing well. (Ex: Elizabeth Acevedos opening line in Clap When You Land: “I know excessive of mud.” Or, Jason Reynolds last line in Long Way Down: “You coming?”).
I ask the students: What do you discover about these examples? How does the author do that? How does the method it is written impact you as a reader?
► Norms of the Classroom.
No matter what genre we might be studying as readers and authors, there are particular expectations we constantly hold company to:.
How can I help you?
This is what stuck with me. This is what you are doing well.
These are the questions that entered your mind.
Heres a tip framed as a “What if …?”.
By Linda Rief.
Too typically we (some instructors) demean fiction composing as being “imaginative,” and therefore less than essential or not demanding (extensive) enough when compared to other categories of composing, such as analysis, memoir, essay, poetry. That notion has always perplexed me.
As an author, and an instructor of composing, it seems to me that all types of writing are creative, and all kinds of composing are tough. But fiction writing, due to the fact that it demands the creativity to build all aspects of the story, is the most imaginative. And isnt “imagination” at the top of Blooms taxonomy? (It is.).
I like teaching flash fiction writing. It brings pleasure and smiles of fulfillment to kids. They have developed something from scratch that causes reactions in their peers.
When Ethan, one of my eighth graders, reads a portion of his Stephen King-like draft to me, I recoil at what he has actually composed. If to safeguard myself, I pull my arms in as. His story frightens me.
Tom Newkirk confirms what I am discovering in the class when he composes in Writing Unbound (Heinemann, 2021), “Fiction writing permits a higher mental range than do most nonfiction forms. The author can think of extremes of fear, anger, bitterness, and, yes, wicked that they dont and would not wish to experience in reality.” (p. 7).
With a broad smile, he states, “Pure evil,” rubbing his hands together in celebratory confidence that his fiction has actually done what he intended it to do– scare a reader. He has composed passionately … artistically … imaginatively … joyfully … deliberately.
The flash fiction procedure.
I start this 4 to six-week flash fiction study with “The Scarlatti Tilt” by Richard Brautigan:.
” Its extremely tough to reside in a studio apartment in San Jose with a male whos finding out to play the violin.” When she handed them the empty revolver, thats what she informed the police.
Thats the complete text. It has the aspects of a story: action, suspense, characters, dialogue. What do we understand? What do we believe we understand? What can we presume from what is stated, not stated? We have terrific conversations about this brief piece as an intro into this fictional category. It interest the trainees.
Our six-week research study consists of:.
► An Anchor Chart.
We read five to seven pieces of flash fiction, from previous trainees and professionals. In groups of three to 5 students I ask them to go over one or two of the stories and come up with the qualities or characteristics they see in this kind of writing.
► Finding Writing.
As an author, and an instructor of composing, it seems to me that all forms of composing are creative, and all forms of writing are hard. Tom Newkirk validates what I am finding in the classroom when he writes in Writing Unbound (Heinemann, 2021), “Fiction writing allows for a higher psychological range than do most nonfiction kinds. I have learned from both Meredith Hall, author of Without a Map, and Anthony Doerr, author of Cloud Cuckoo Land, the value of composing small to write huge. Doerr, when asked what it takes to compose a novel stated, “You can deceive your mind into composing something longer just by writing small scenes or vignettes.”.
I use examples (at least 5 to seven) for each from the examples of flash fiction we have read, paired with others we might not have actually read, and from books that highlight these characteristics of composing well.
We are all reading and writing (separately and in the category we are studying).
We are each keeping a Writers- Readers Notebook.
Looking for aid through conferences betters the writing:.
“If reading fiction is beneficial, if, as some research shows, it develops compassion, checking out endurance, vocabulary, and cultural knowledge, if it supplies entry into appealing vicarious worlds– why cant the exact same be said for writing fiction?” (Composing Unbound: How Fiction Transforms Trainee Writers, p. 3).
Try flash fiction with your trainees.
Using the picture “The Harp” from Chris Van Allsburgs The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, my trainee Fiona wrote:.
The ground was moist, not able to dry itself through the layers of fallen leaves and marshy yard, the flowers choking on its permanently moist, dark dirt … The whole forest had a captivated calm, as though the trees that had actually been bent out of shape all those years were recovery themselves in the quiet.
I hope its sufficient to engage you, inspire you, encourage you to try flash fiction with your trainees. You will not fall asleep reading them.
The flash fiction format.
Thanks to the flash fiction format, for the very first time I am discovering delight in hearing and reading my trainees fiction. The stories are not fifteen to twenty pages long, lulling me to sleep as I struggle to check out to the end, where the last line is frequently where the real story, the interesting part, begins.
What Ethan has composed is brief (usually 350-750 words), concentrated on one scene (primarily), with few central characters (usually just one or 2), accurate phrasing (dynamic, strong, sensory details), an engaging title (reflective of the ultimately found main point), and an ending that surprises, turning the reader around (unanticipated, however still targeting the essence of the story). Many if not all of the elements of fiction are included in this brief form of composing.
Flash fiction is engaging, appealing, and encouraging to the students, in addition to instructors, exactly because of its brevity, manageability, and accessibility. I am wide-awake hearing or reading these deliberately creative, brief pieces of fiction.
I do not stress over needing students to write longer, more complex pieces. They are having fun with, and finding, the aspects of fiction in these much shorter stories that might be more established at a later time.
I have gained from both Meredith Hall, author of Without a Map, and Anthony Doerr, author of Cloud Cuckoo Land, the worth of composing small to compose huge. Hall uses her notebook to capture moments, anecdotes, descriptions that might one day work their way into her novels. Doerr, when asked what it requires to write a book stated, “You can fool your mind into writing something longer just by composing little scenes or vignettes.”.
There is value in other words writing.
Quickwrites– The coach texts are practically always passages from books. Short excerpts that might lead the trainees to concepts of their own.
Pictures or Photographs– Chosing from The New York Times or National Geographic, I attempt to find photos that include a character, an unique location, and a taking place, and communicate a state of mind or tone. I cut apart the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, put the one line that opts for the photo on the back of the art, and place these pages all around the space. I ask my middle grades students to pick a photo or photo or art that intrigues them, “enter it,” and write out what they envision.
Art Postcards– Draw the postcard. As you draw, what do you observe, see, hear, believe, wonder, feel? Whats going on?
Flash Fiction Workshop.
Linda Rief is the author of lots of books, including Whispering in the Wind: A Guide to Deeper Reading and Writing Through Poetry ( Heinemann, 2022) and The Quickwrite Handbook: 100 Mentor Texts to Jumpstart Your Students Writing and believing ( Heinemann 2018).
Linda left the middle school classroom in June of 2019 after 40 years of teaching Language Arts with 8th graders. She misses their energy and their lethargy, their interest and their complacency, their self-confidence and their insecurities. However primarily, she misses their enthusiastic, powerful voices as readers and authors.
Linda is now a trainer in the University of New Hampshires Summer Literacy Institute and a national and global presenter on concerns of adolescent literacy. For 5 years Linda co-edited, with Maureen Barbieri, Voices from the Middle, a journal for middle school instructors published by the National Council of Teachers of English. In 2021 she was honored with the Distinguished Service Award from NCTE and in 2020 received the Kent Williamson Exemplary Leader Award from the Conference on English Leadership, in recognition of outstanding management in the English Language Arts.
Find out more about teaching with flash fiction assignments in grades 4-12 by registering for Lindas March 16, 2023 live online workshop Igniting Growth in Writers: Motivation and Sophistication in Just 750 Words (3:00 PM-5:45 PM Eastern).