Essays for high stakes test assessment create fear in both students and teachers. Narrative writing can help alleviate that fear! One of my favorite teaching units, writing about scars, involves a personal experience that every child has had - an accident that left a mark somewhere on the body. Students enjoy writing their first draft, revising, and then having the opportunity to read the story to the class during Author's Chair.
We begin with class discussion about the Survivor Television Show. What possible scars might participants bring away from the show?
Henry Fleming, the "hero" from The Red Badge of Courage is a topic which can be speculated about whether or not students are doing a novel study about the book.
What is courage? How do people display it? Does every person have courage? Might you find courage you did not think you had in the right circumstance where what you did could make a life-death difference in lives around you?
Students practice comparing and contrasting two poems about scars. They also listen to song lyrics on youtube for two songs relating to the theme of courage.
After the pre-writing activities, students write a personal
survivor story based on a scar or "red badge of courage" that each student possess.
A copy of a human skeleton will allow students to indicate where they have scars or have had broken bones, accidents, or surgeries. Each student will decide on one scar to focus writing about from the personal diagram. (Emotional scars such as a broken heart due to a divorce, death, or personal relationship will be acceptable.)
Students work in small groups of four with a narrative writing rubric and will provide each other with constructive peer editing on their first drafts. A form for peer editing is provided.
Students will share the final draft in groups of four and will have the option to share the story with the class during Author's Chair or to display it on the class writing wall.
This lesson was used in a National Writing Project Winter Retreat Workshop and has been successful in my English 10 classroom.