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My 7th grade students and I are continuing to study THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z by Kate Messner. We enjoy the humor woven throughout, commiserate with Gianna as she faces a daunting science project, and recognize our own families in hers.

After taking the What Kind of Tree Are You? personality quiz, the students tried a little writing assignment. I made it extremely opened ended so that my creative and talented writers would not be conscripted by too many parameters. I did give them some ideas so that students who struggle with this type of activity would have some guidelines to help them get started.

The results? Fabulous depth and breadth in their choices. I had students turning in personal poems they'd written, as well as poems using a tree as a narrator. There were letters: from the owner to the tree, from a child to a tree, and from the tree to the owner! Some students created fictional diary entries, while others added new choices to Messner's Tree Quiz, matching personalities to trees they'd studied in science and creating an expanded quiz. One student even made a Venn diagram comparing himself to the tree that matched his personality - the American Beech! My students are talented, funny, and willing to share their work.

Here are three samples. The first is from the POV of a high-maintenance tree:

Dear Owner:
I am very disappointed in the way you've been treating me. First of all, what's with all these kids climbing all over me? Don't they know I'm an ornamental tree? They should climb that dumb old oak tree or something. And, you haven't clipped me in, like, two weeks! Hello?! Do you want me to look ike some scraggly old tree? If I were you, I'd get right on that! Also, we haven't been getting very much rain lately. European Mountain Ashes are supposed to have extra water during drought. Okay, three days isn't exactly a drought, but still! I'm thirsty. And another thing, I like FULL sun. As in, no big fat oak trees blocking my light.
Best Regards: 
The European Mountain Ash in your front yard

(NOTE: The following poem has been editing - slightly - to remove some personal student identifiers. The balance is well done, don't you think?)

I am a Sugar Maple
I am [student name]
Colorful leaves;
colorful personality.
Uneven coloring; scattered.
Ideas - scattered unevenly.
Fluttery leaves in the wind.
Fluttery words when I'm rushed
Prettiest in Autumn?
Of that I'm not sure.
Need to focus?
Maybe a little...
Sweet sap in the spring
Sweet to others (I try)
Important in society
A dream I'll pursue,
hoping it will come true,
until my roots rot.
Until another sugar sprouts.
Until another [student name] sprouts
Until then,
I am who I am
I am a Sugar Maple.
I am [student name].

Another letter, this time from a very business-like tree:

Dear M. V-----:
You have not been outside lately, so I am not sure if you remember me, but I am the big Red Oak tree that sits in the middle of  your backyard. We have a little problem on our hands that I would like to discuss with you.

I do not mind the blue jays, or the woodpeckers, but your crazy red squirrel, named Nutty, is driving me up a tree. He is constantly making Woody the Woodpecker peck a giant hole in me. I am beginning to think that he is up to something. He has been traveling up and down me every day, and his cheeks seem to be full of something. I m almost certain that he is planning on moving in for the winter and is stealing all of my acorns.

I would like to remin you that I am a rare tree in this area, and I happen to be the most inportant wildlilfe tree. However, wildlife should not include a crazy red squirrel. I am not a condo, and I am not looking for a tenant. I think that you should take Nutty for a ride to the park and introduce him to the big White Oak tree. I hear that he is looking for a tenant and I think they will be very happy with each other.

Thank you for your help with this problem. If I have any more issues, I will be sure to let you know.

Red Oak Tree

As you can see, my students are everything I said they are! The next post will have their hilarious creative writing assignment that I downloaded from Kate Messner's website. (It is another exercise in VOICE!)


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 4th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
Sounds like your kids are completely inspired!!
Nov. 6th, 2009 12:26 am (UTC)
They are really enjoying this unit and Kate's novel. I rec'd an email from a mom today letting me know how much her daughter is enjoying the class. It made my day!
Nov. 4th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
Gianna.......and you.
ML......You are such a good teacher. I'm loving this.

love, "Nana" Gail
Nov. 6th, 2009 12:29 am (UTC)
Re: Gianna.......and you.
I'm so glad you are following the class! I can't wait for you to read the next posting...the had SO much fun doing the creative writing assignment - they are hilarious. I will post them tonight or tomorrow! Keep in touch and thanks for your kind words!
Nov. 10th, 2009 11:07 am (UTC)
Wow! These were so much fun to read, and your kid are so talented. Thanks for sharing!
Nov. 15th, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much - they will be excited to hear you read some of their work. They are looking forward to hearing you speak to them!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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