Using a Genre Approach to Teaching YA Short Story Writing
by Tracy Donizetti
When teaching writing in the high school classroom, it is important for students to fully understand what they are expected to produce and how they are expected to produce it. The use of the genre study approach will provide the students with a complete understanding of what each particular genre is, in addition to mini-lessons and inclusive instructions on how to compose their own work. Charles R. Cooper, a professor at the University of California-San Diego, explains: “if we understand the unique characteristics of genres, then we can give more productive assignments and evaluate students' writing more insightfully” (Cooper 24).
Lucy McCormick Calkins, a professor from Columbia University , is another enthusiast of use of genre study to teach writing. She believes that “it opens doors and leaves a lot more room for variety and choice, while also allowing the classroom community to inquire deeply into something together” (Calkins 363).
One question worth examining is whether the short story in general, and the young adult (YA) short story more specifically, should be taught in genre-based writing instruction. In other words, will the students' writing skills benefit and expand by learning, in depth, what a YA short story is and how one is written? Unfortunately, because the genre is still so new, studies have not been conducted to evaluate YA short stories. Nonetheless, schools advocate using young adult literature in the classroom.
Alleen Neilson, in her article, Readers Responding: Creative Writing and YA Literature promotes the idea that young adult literature can provide an effective model for creative teen writers: “The problems in the book are likely to be ones that readers or their friends have experienced or thought about, a variety of ethnic backgrounds and setting enlarges the chances of students finding stories they can identify with, characters' conversations can serve as models for the writing of dialogue because the speech patterns come close to everyday, spoken language to teenagers, and numerous other reasons” (8). In other words, students will benefit from YA literature because the commonalities between the readers and the characters will invoke interest in the students and keep their attention. Although keeping the attention of the young adult readers is not the only benefit of using YA literature in the classroom. As Chris Crowe explains in his article, Young Adult Literature , stories written about and for adolescents give the readers an insight in to the lives of other adolescents. Young readers can bond with the characters and learn how to make their own good decisions.
Another advantage of YA literature in the classroom, as explored by Gauthier, is that it can be a bridge to more advanced literature. Students are often turned off by literature with difficult sentence structure or advanced vocabulary. Once student make the leap from the middle school reading of Catcher and the Rye to the high school readings of Crime and Punishment , the sophisticated vocabulary and the more mature themes of high school level literature may be intimidating. Gauthier believes “it is inappropriate to make sharp divisions in the instructional practices for middle and high school students” (200). The incorporation of YA literature in the classroom provides a comfort level for the students and an accommodating starting point for teachers, which is why beginning the short story writing process using a YA short story genre study may be helpful.
Defining Young Adult (YA) Short Stories
Some consider the first piece of YA literature to be S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders , written in 1968, less than forty years ago. Because YA literature is still a relatively new genre, a concrete definition has not yet been established. The only generalization offered is that YA literature is written for a YA audience. Although there is no set delineation of YA literature, common characteristics are prevalent in this genre. Basic characteristics of young adult short stories include the following:
1. Young adult short stories include an adolescent protagonist. This does not necessarily mean that all short stories with an adolescent protagonist are written for adolescent reader. Because YA literature is written specifically for a young audience for two reasons: the reader must be able to relate to the main character and people tend to seek out books by or about people like themselves. Gauthier explains, “I, a woman who walks, can read a book on walking by a woman – but children aren't members of a culture that writes and publishes books. They can't seek out books written by people like themselves” (72). This leaves them with only one option: to read books with adolescent protagonists.
2. Young adult short stories present a moral or a message, something that the reader can learn from. Most literature contains a message, but YA short stories present a message for young readers. Other short stories may deal with adultery or murder; however, young readers cannot benefit from such mature topics that do not confront them on a day to day basis. YA short stories provide topics that young readers can use in their present day lives. These topics include some of the following: crushes, school, and family problems.
3. Young adult literature must also include a realistic conflict and resolution that can confront the average teen. As mentioned earlier, readers are drawn to stories they can relate to. YA short stories deal with adolescents and teens who have such problems as bullies, first loves, abuse, drugs and alcohol, and discrimination. Even though many adults deal with similar issues, they often handle them differently than young adults. For example, a young girl who is being abused by her father would probably take a different approach to her abusive relationship, than a woman being beat by her boyfriend. The young girl may not know about her options, whereas an adult would often know that abuse is wrong and know where to seek help. YA short stories can provide the necessary options and a reasonable approach to resolving the problem.
4. YA short stories must have a difficult decision which the adolescent protagonist must make, followed by a realistic development of the main character. If the protagonist does not change or develop in the text, the readers may feel as though the story was a waste of their time. It is often difficult to keep the interest of young readers; if they are not satisfied with the character development, they may be turned off to reading other pieces of literature.
5. YA literature is written for a young adult audience. Because the authors do not want to turn their young readers off to their work, they use a level of vocabulary appropriate to their audience's age.
It is also important to discuss what YA short stories are not. Characteristics of many genres can easily over lap, causing confusion for the reader and even the writer. The most probably genres to be confused with YA short stories are adult short stories and fairy tales. Because students will be writing their own YA short story, it is important that they have a complete understanding of what they are being asked to write.
1. A YA story is not a just any story with a young protagonist, written for an adolescent audience. Just because a story or novel has a young protagonist, does not classify the short as a piece of YA literature.
2. A young adult short story is not any short story read by adolescent readers. High school students read many short stories everyday; however, such stories by Poe and Hawthorn do not deal with the conflicts and topics of everyday high school students. Often such stories as Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher , deal with unrealistic situations and adult conflicts.
Examining examples of young adult stories and other stories will help to make the differences more distinct. The following is a passage from a classic fairy tale, a version of Cinderella.
Cinderella had a wonderful time at the ball, but, all of a sudden, she heard the sound of a clock: the first stroke of midnight! She remembered what the fairy had said, and without a word of goodbye she slipped from the Prince's arms and ran down the steps. As she ran she lost one of her slippers, but not for a moment did she dream of stopping to pick it up! If the last stroke of midnight were to sound... oh, what a disaster that would be! Out she fled and vanished into the night.
The Prince, who was now madly in love with her, picked up her slipper and said to his ministers, "Go and search everywhere for the girl whose foot this slipper fits. I will never be content until I find her!" So the ministers tried the slipper on the foot of all the girls... and on Cinderella's foot as well... Surprise! The slipper fit her perfectly.
Students can very easily confuse this classic fairy tale for a young adult short story. Cinderella is an adolescent protagonist with a conflict and resolution: (conflicts) if she tells the prince that she is a peasant, he might not want to be with her and if she never sees the prince again, she may never escape her evil stepmother and stepsisters (resolution) the prince finds out who she really is and his love for her does not change. This fairy tale is also written with a young audience in mind and includes a life-changing decision. Although the characteristics of a fairy tale may over lap the characteristics of a young adult short story, the fairy tale does not meet all of the characteristics. The conflicts and resolutions are not realistic to adolescent readers; they cannot directly relation to Cinderella dilemma. In order to be classified a YA short story, adolescent readers must be able to relate to the protagonist and his/her conflict.
Now read this paragraph from a young adult short story. Excerpted from The Fourth of July by Robin F. Brancato.
To give a little background: Chuck has accused Sager of stealing two hundred dollars from his room; he was sure Sager did it. However, Sager was not found guilty in the courts and Chuck never got his money back. Some time passes and Chuck, a gas station attendant, meets up with Sager while at work. Chuck is closing up, but Sager needs gas. As evident from the passage, Chuck had to make a decision; he chooses to fill up Sager's tank with water instead of gas. As can be determined by the last line, Chuck begins to question his decision.
Sager leans out the window. ‘Hope you catch the right guy one of these days!' Burning rubber, he digs out Chuck watches the Buick's taillights fade. As the car that has been waiting at the light starts up and goes on, Chuck quickly emptied the water bucket into the bushes, puts the eight dollars into the safe, turns off the lights, and locks the station door. Then with the rumble of fireworks in his ears, he jogs to meet Kate, taking surprisingly little satisfaction from the thought that very soon Sager might be stalled out on a dark lonely road.” (Brancato 111)
Taking into consideration the five characteristics established above, this short story can easily be labeled a young adult short story. Although Chuck's age is not given to the reader, it can be assumed that he is between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. This would make for an adolescent protagonist. The message that students can relate to is: we should not be so quick to judge and seek revenge without having all the facts; we may later reject our rash decision. The third characteristic, a conflict and resolution is present. Chuck's conflict is whether or not to believe Sager's claimed innocence. I especially like this story because most students would probably agree with Chuck's actions, until they realize that Sager might not have stolen the money. This will really make young adults think before they take similar revengeful actions. The difficult decision of whether or not to believe Sager sparks a realistic character development in Chuck. He begins to feel guilty and reconsider his actions. And this story is clearly written for young adult audiences. The Fourth of July includes aspects that are specifically aimed to draw the attention of young adult readers.
Finally, read a sample of an adult short story.
“It was the work of the rushing gust-but then without those doors there did stand the lofty and enshrouded figure of the lady Madeline of Usher. There was blood upon her white robes, and the evidence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her emaciated frame. For a moment she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold –then, with a moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother, and in her violent and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a crops, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated.” (Poe 72)
Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher does not by any means meet the standards of a young adult short story. The two protagonists, Madeline and Roderick Usher, are an older couple, and the story includes no real moral/message or conflict and resolution that young readers can relate to. And this story is undoubtedly meant for an adult audience, as it deals with the mature issues of murder and incest.
These differences are important to establish when conducting a unit on writing a short story. If teachers expect their students to create their own young adult short story, they need to be equipped with the proper information. Lack of such information may lead to frustration and confusion on the part of the student and the teacher.
Pursuing a Genre Study in YA Short Stories:
The following are a helpful list of steps to take when introducing young adult short stories into the classroom. This scaffolded approach allows the students to establish their own definition and understanding of YA short stories using models from YA short story writers and the teacher.
Introducing the Genre Study:
The first step to introducing the genre of YA short stories would be to have the students read aloud “Turmoil in a Blue and Beige Bedroom,” a high-interest short story by Judie Angell. If they are going to be asked to write their own YA short story, they should know what they are writing. Soven agrees in her book, Teaching Writing ; “While all experts do not agree about the desirability of using models, many great writers have attested to the value of reading and imitating authors they admired” (Soven 87). After providing a model, which will be read aloud in class, the students will be given a sheet of questions pertaining to the reading. This first task will introduce students to YA short stories. The questions will encourage students to think about the structure and technique used in the work, allowing them to establish a general definition for the genre. The teacher will then ask for a general response or reaction. The teacher will then use prompt to begin to discuss characteristics of a YA short story. Some question to consider: Where does this story take place? Who is the main character? What is the main conflict or struggle in this story? Do you agree with the way the main character resolved his/her problem? If so, why? If not, how would you have handled it differently?
The teacher will then read aloud to the class “Fourth of July” by Robin F. Brancato and “The Good Girls” by Fran Arrick. By providing numerous models with different characters and different conflicts, student will be able to establish a more accurate definition of a YA short story. After each reading the class will again be prompted by the teacher to discuss the characteristics of the story.
To begin developing topics for their own writing, students would be asked to incorporate their own solutions and ideas into a YA short story. Students could be asked to rewrite the ending or any other scene from a YA short story read aloud in class. They could disagree with the solution, add detail to a scene, emphasize an event they though was important or change the scene in anyway. But, the change must include their individual thoughts.
The second task will be to have students collaborate and establish their own list of characteristics. The teacher will begin by establish three groups of students. Each group will be asked to read a different short story. The students will be given time in class to read the story assigned to them. Each story deals with a different main idea: “May I Have Your Autograph” by Marjorie Sharmat deals with friendship and loyalty, “Do You Want My Opinion?” by M.E. Kerr deals with societal influences, and “She” by Rosa guy dealing with the relationship of a step-mother and daughter. The variety of topics will allow student to see the different themes prevailing in YA short stories, while illustrating the common characteristics. The groups will then establish a list of characteristics they found in their YA short stories. The three lists will be written on the board, and then all the matching characteristics will be placed on one list titled “Characteristics of a YA Short Story.” Nancy Atwell might also suggest that the teacher create his/her own list to add to the board. Atwell heartedly believes that teachers need to take on the tasks they assign their students. This will allow the teacher to understand any difficulties his/her students may be having, and it will allow the students to realize their teacher is working with them, not just sitting back while they do the work. The teacher could report on a YA short story about decision, perhaps “The Fourth of July” by Robin F. Brancato. This list of characteristics will be typed up and distributed to the class. The teacher will also provide a list of questions that might prompt a characteristic.
Introduction to Young Adult (YA) Short Stories
1) Did you like the story? Why or why not?
2) How would you describe the main character?
3) What is the main conflict or struggle in this story?
4) How was the conflict overcome?
5) How did the conflict and resolution affect the main character?
6) Have you ever experienced a similar conflict? Or known someone who has?
7) Choose one image/moment/scene/event from the story that struck you. What impact did it have on you? Why?
List of Characteristics Prevalent in YA Short Stories :
-An adolescent protagonist
-A difficult (sometimes life-changing) decision
-About 4-10 pages
-A conflict and resolution
-Written for a young audience
-Deals with problems in the average adolescent's life
-Teaches a moral or lesson
Young adult short stories are short stories written for and about adolescent and teen readers; dealing with the average issues and problems that today's youth encounter.
A final task will include students identifying and sharing YA short stories from outside of the classroom. For homework, student will be asked to find their own YA short story and prepare to present it in class. The teacher may want to provide a list of texts or anthologies, where the students may be able to find their YA short story. Each student will be given two to three minutes to discuss how their story fits the previously established characteristics of a YA short story. The title and author of all the YA short stories will be printed out on a list for the students. This will provide students with numerous different examples to look at as they write their own short story.
Suggestions of YA short story anthologies:
Necessary Noise: Stories about Our Families as They Really Are by Michael Cart and Charlotte Noruzi
I Believe in Water: Twelve Brushes with Religion by Marilyn Singer
No Easy Answers: Stories about Teenagers Making Tough Choices by Donald R. Gallo
Sixteen: Short Stories by Outstanding Writers for Young Adults by Donald R. Gallo
Dirty Laundry: Stories about Family Secrets by Lisa Rowe Fraustino
When I Was Your Age: Original Stories about Growing Up by Amy Ehrlich
The Color of Absence: 12 Stories about Loss and Hope by James Howe
Who Do You Think You Are? : Stories about Friends and Enemies by Hazel Rochman, Darlene Z. McCampbell
*These were all found through “google” search. See what you can find when you search for “Young Adult short stories.”
Sample List of YA short stories:
I, Hungry Hannah Cassandra Glen…. by Norman Fox Mazer
Midnight Snack by Diane Duane
Pigeon Humor by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Welcome by Ouida Sebestyen
Future Tense by Robert Lipsyte
Turmoil in a Blue and Beige Bedroom by Judie Angell
Furlough-1944 by Harry Mazer
Three People and Two Seats by Kevin Major
An Ordinary Woman by Bette Greene
She by Rosa Guy
In the Heat by Robert Cormier
While the students present their stories and a brief summary, the teacher should ask the students to take notes in their writer's notebooks. Any topic or theme that sparks an interest with them should be written down in their notebook. Often an idea will come to a writer and will be forgotten just as quickly as it came. If these thoughts are written down immediately, writers can refer back to their thoughts when they want to begin writing a story.
2. Developing Topics for Student YA Short Stories
After students have become familiar with the YA short story genre, they are ready to begin the writing process. However, before they can even begin to compose a story, students must first decide what they want to write about. Students can begin the process by brainstorming. As Soven explains, “Brainstorming usually means making a list of all the details and ideas that come to mind as the writer begins to think about [their project]” (Soven 33). When brainstorming, students should take into consideration their everyday events, such as school, friends, family, sport, and work. Although brainstorming may be a quick way to establish a topic, it is not the best. While brainstorming, students may choose a topic because it is the first thing that came to them; however, it is much more meaningful and satisfying to write about something you are passionate or zealous about. It is much easier for writers to write what they know most about or what they have experienced. Gallo observers, “Good writing is more likely to be the result of careful observation and extensive personal experiences” (Gallo xix). This is why the writer's notebook is so important, a writers personal experiences and observations are always at hand. In the notebook they will always have a topic they want to write about. The topics and thoughts that interest the students should be recorded in a writer's notebook or a journal. As mentioned earlier, students should begin to write in ideas in their notebooks during the presentations. Not only will the topics help students write their YA short story, but they will also be a helpful reference when students need to write for other class projects.
Whenever teachers ask their students to keep a writer's notebook, they should have their own available for modeling and sharing. Many students find the process of writing tedious and boring; however, if a teacher models just how easy and fun it can be, the students' motivation for the assignment will generally rise.
Topics from my writer's notebook:
My grandfather's death
The day my mom moved out
My break-up with Adam
My birthday breakfasts with my grandpa
The day I went Ted consoled me
I would probably choose to write about the day my mom moved out; this might be something a lot of adolescents can relate to. Together using the prompts listed below the class can collaborate with the teacher to model the process of writing a YA short story.
I would begin by creating a setting:
Where was protagonist?
Where were her siblings?
Was it hot, cold, sunny rainy, morning, night?
What the protagonist doing? How did he/she feel?
Events of the day:
How long did it take the parent to move?
Who helped with the move?
What was taken?
Would the protagonist help with the move?
Was the protagonist mad? Sad? Angry?
Describe what the protagonist was feeling that day and whether or not he/she helped with the move? What was the decision based on?
How did this decision change her life?
Another approach to help students establish topics for their short story is in the use of graphic organizers. Graphic organizers are pictorial tools used in the classroom to help students organize their thoughts and ideas. Students will use a graphic organizer to identify their personal characteristics and problems, by comparing their own issues and characteristics with those of the protagonist in a YA short story. As mentioned earlier, some of the best writers write by imitation. By making a personal connection to a YA short story protagonist, students may come up with an idea for their own writing.
3. Young Adult Short Story Assignment
The teacher must first explain the writing process to his/her students. As discussed by Donald Murray writing is a process not a product. Teachers need to explain “unfinished writing, and the glory of its unfinishedness” (Murray 4). Even the greatest of writers draft and revise numerous times; well-written literature takes a lot of time and energy. After this has been established, the teacher will divide the writing process into stages: Mini-lesson on plot structure, Draft 1 (peer review), Draft 2 (teacher review), and Draft 3.
Each writing assignment should be accompanied by a detailed rubric. A rubric is a detailed check list of expectations for the assignment, which the teacher will refer to when assigning a grade. Students will also use this as a reference throughout the writing process to make sure they are meeting the requirement of the assignment. Soven discusses many advantages of using a rubric: “the instructors can avoid the eccentricity of judgment that can occur if they focus too heavily on anyone element of the paper when assigning a grade, both [the students'] writing and their attitudes towards writing are bound to improve when grading standards are made explicit, [and] students can use the evaluation criterion or grade descriptions as checklists during peer review sessions before revising their final copies” (Soven 118 & 121).
YA Short Story Assignment
Using your recently acquired knowledge of writing YA short stories, including the five characteristics established in class, (Exposition, Complication, Technical Climax, Dramatic Climax, Denouement) write a YA short story on any topic of your choice. Keep in mind, it may be easier to write about something you have personally experience (Refer to your writer's notebook and your graphic organizer.) Before you begin to write make sure to review your notes from class, including the definition and features. You may also want to read a few more YA short stories before you begin. A sample list of short stories has been provided. Good Luck!!!
Your YA short story should:
-be 3-5 pages, double spaced
-include a realistic conflict and resolution
(Exposition, Complication, Technical Climax, Dramatic Climax, Denouement)
-contain detailed writing that will draw the reader into the story
-reflect an awareness of your audience
Draft 1 is due .
Peer review is due .
Draft 2 is due .
Draft 3 is due .
Rubric for Developing Your YA Short Story
The following rubric will be used to establish your grade. This should also serve as a guide line as you write your story and as you peer review another story.
6 excellent work
5 good work
4 acceptable/satisfactory work
3 needs work, but signs of effort are present
2 minimal effort has been made
1 unsatisfactory work
_____The student has incorporated all 5 element of the plot structure: Exposition, Complication, Technical Climax, Dramatic Climax, and Denouement.
_____The conflict is something adolescents can relate to.
_____The story includes a coherent message to the reader
_____The story includes an adolescent protagonist
_____The protagonist has gone through a realistic change due to a difficult decision
_____The story draws upon a personal experience
_____A realistic sequence of events
_____The story is meant for adolescent readers
_____The story is well written and uses proper grammar and vocabulary
______Total Score out of 54 possible points
4. Mini-lessons on Skills and Techniques
Throughout the writing process, students should be given a series on mini-lessons to help them with their YA short stories.
Students are often introduced to the five elements of plot structure at a young age, so this mini-lesson on plot structure should be a review for most of them. Nevertheless, this mini-lesson is important for students writing a YA short story. One of the main criteria of their assignment is to be sure to include a realistic conflict or problem and it resolution. This mini-lesson on plot structure will show student how to introduce a problem and establish a solution.
The teacher should give this mini-lesson immediately after the first touch-tone text has been read aloud in class. The teacher will begin by asking a series of questions about “Turmoil in the Blue and Beige Bedroom.”
How does the story begin? Who is in the story?
What is happening in first few pages of the story? Do you foreshadow a problem?
What is the narrator torn between?
What does she choose?
Is she happy with her decision?
With these prompts the students will establish the five element of plot structure. The teacher will then label the five elements and give them definition.
Exposition: the presentation of important background information about characters and developing conflicts.
Complication: building of tension between opposing forces
Turning Point/Technical Climax: the point at which a key decision is made; the protagonist's situation changes for better or worse.
Dramatic Climax : the point of highest interest or most intense emotional response for the reader.
Denouement: resolution of complications and accounting of what happens to main characters.
The class should then discuss the plot structure of another YA short story that has previously been read in class. On a graphic organizer students should establish what events of the story make up the five defined elements of plot structure. To make sure the class fully understands the five elements the class will share their finding and support their answers.
Later on in the writing process, teachers can ask their students to do a plot structure graphic organizer for their own YA short story.
Once the structure of their YA short story has been established, students will need to add detail to their writing. If readers are not able to vividly picture a scene or decipher what kind of person the protagonist is, they will easily lose interest and become bored with the story. The assignment specifically states that students' writing must be entertaining and include detail that will draw the reader into the story.
When reading a thoroughly detailed piece of literature, it can often be difficult to note every individual description. The work will often flow so well with the detail that readers may assume it was there from the very beginning. However, many writers add detail later on in their writing. By seeing two version of the same piece – one with detail and one without detail – students can recognize and appreciate the importance of description.
First students will read the excerpt of a YA short story without detail. They will then be asked to add their own detail, where they deem fit. The teacher will then give them the original copy (with detail), and ask the students to circle all of the detail that appears in the second version, but does not appear in the first. The students will then share their findings in class. The teacher will ask how the piece has changed. After discussing the added detail and how greatly it changed the piece, the students will go through their own short story and add detail.
For an example, refer to Appendix C.
Mini-Lesson on Adding Detail
Instructions: Read each version of the story carefully. Then go through and circle all the words in version two that do not appear in version one.
I am sitting in a chair in the lobby of the hotel. I am surrounded by ferns, carpeting, chandeliers, hotel employees who give me dirty looks-and nobody my age. Except my friend, who dragged me here.
She is here to meet a guy. In fact, he's never heard of Wendy. But that doesn't stop her from being in love with him. I think love is for people you've at least met. Wendy has never met Craig the Cat. He's a rock star who's been famous for over six months.
She is here to get Craig the Cat's autograph on his album. On the album jacket, Craig is wearing a black cat costume. He is holding a guitar in his arms.
Version 2: May I Have Your Autography by Marjorie Sharmat
“I am sitting in an overstuffed chair in the lobby of The Domination Imperial International Hotel. So help me, that's really the name. I am surrounded by overgrown ferns, ugly but expensive floral carpeting, chandeliers that make me think of Phantom of the Opera , stuck-up hotel employees in silly looking uniforms who give me dirty looks-and nobody my age. Except my friend Wendy, who dragged me here.
Wend is here to meet a guy, but he doesn't know it. In fact, he's never heard of Wendy. But that doesn't stop her from being in love with him. Well, maybe not in love. I think love is for people you've at least met. Wendy has never met Craig the Cat. That's the name of the guy. At least that's his stage name. He's a rock star who's been famous for over six months. Even my parents have heard of him.
Wendy is here to get Craig the Cat's autograph on his latest album. On the album jacket, Craig is wearing a black cat costume and he's sitting on a garbage pail with a bottle of spilled milk beside him. He is holding a guitar in his long, furry arms.
Application: How does version two differ from version one?
Which version do you like better?
-Go through your own YA short story and begin adding detail and creating imagery where you think necessary.
The final lesson should include mini-lesson on editing where students are shown how to appropriately use transition words in their writing. It is especially important for students to incorporate such words or phrases in their short story, since they will want their piece to flow smoothly. They are not writing a report or listing factual events; therefore, their writing should not be choppy or abrupt.
The teacher will begin the mini-lesson by listing numerous transition words on the board or overhead. Then, similar to the mini-lesson on detailing, the teacher will provide an excerpt from “Good Girls” by Fran Arrick without transition words in the text. The students will then be asked to add transition words where they think appropriate. After they have read the revised excerpt aloud, the teacher will give them the original copy of the work, so they can see just how much the transition words adds to the piece and make it flow more smoothly.
List of Transition Words:
As a result
5. Use of Peer Review
Peer reviews are a great way to for student to evaluate their work. As Hovarth discusses in his article, The Components of Written Response , negative or excess feedback from a teacher can “confuse and alienate students, causing attitudes towards writing, class, and instructor to degenerate.” (247) A peer review session can easily eliminate numerous comments that would otherwise be made by the teacher. The peer review will also give students the opportunity to look at, in depth, another example of a YA short story; often this will help them in their own writing.
Often the peer review will be assigned around the time of the mini-lesson on editing. This will also help students in their understanding of the editing technique.
Peer Review and Revision
Exchange your YA short story draft with another student.
Read your partner's draft and respond to the following questions:
1. Describe your initial reaction to the story.
2. Did the author include all five characteristics of a YA short story? (Written for adolescent readers, includes an adolescent protagonist, a lesson or moral, a conflict and resolution, and major decision). In your response list the five characteristics. If the writer is missing any, list which ones.
3. Does the story include vivid detail? Which did you like the best?
4. Are you drawn in by the first paragraph? If so, why? If not, what suggestions can you make to the writer?
5. Is the story organized effectively? Does the author make good use of transition words?
6.Did the writer incorporate the five element of plot structure? (Exposition, Complication, Technical Climax, Dramatic Climax, and Denouement) Indicate what specific events make up the plot structure. If elements are missing, which ones?
7. Any other comments about the story.
After the students have finished their peer reviews and handed in the final draft, publishing is the next step. By publishing students' stories the teacher is able to reward the students for their hard work. Students will begin to associate work with success. Knowing that the teacher will not be the only reader, students will often be motivates to put more effort into their writing.
Publishing opportunities for students include the following:
In-class publishing: Publishing can be as simple a posting the short stories on the wall of the classroom or the halls of the school, or, if the teacher was motivated enough, he/she could put together a booklet with each person's story. The class could then have one of two author's night(s) where each student reads his/her story aloud in the class.
Out-of-class publishing: Often a high school will have a school paper or creative magazine, where students can submit their writing. Students can also find numerous writing contests and competitions online (For this, students could vote on the best three stories). Usually such contests offer cash prizes; this will also greatly motivate student to produce quality writing.
Some online sights include:
7. Reflection Lesson/Assignment
Now that students have spent a considerable amount of time learning about and writing their own YA short story, the class will review their new knowledge. The class will discuss how YA short stories differ from other types of short stories they have read.
It may be a good idea to use a graphic organizer during this discussion. This way, students can organize their thoughts on paper and have them readily available for other writing assignments. The class should discussion the similarities and differences of YA short stories to other short stories. After studying the YA short story genre, students should easily be able to identify the differences in the varying genres.
8. Lesson on Regents Essay Writing
The final component of this genre study would be to take the opportunity to introduce students to an essay-writing task similar to that of the New York State Regents Examination in English. Standardized test scores seem to weigh heavily on the ranking of a school district, which makes the test very important to both the student and the school. If a student fails the test, he/she will not graduate, and if numerous students fail the test, the school will obtain a poor reputation.
This task requires students to read two passages (usually of a different genre) and write a well-organized essay about the controlling idea or thesis. These essays are then scored using a six-point rubric. Familiarizing students with the task early on will eliminate some of the stress students may encounter before the exam; after all they do have to pass in order to graduate.
Appendix E outlines a lesson that will help students prepare for this essay task. Because we are reflecting on YA short stories, one of the passages will be a YA short story. The second is a poem, a genre that will often show up on the regents.
Preparing for New York State Regents Exam
The Regents Exam includes an essay task that asks you to read two passages, and then write an essay that draws on both passages. In this essay you must establishes a controlling idea (a more defined topic), and include supporting ideas from both passages.
We will explore this process together in class. We will first read through the two passages, an excerpt from a YA short story and a poem. We will then collaborate and brainstorm on what might make a good controlling idea for this essay. Finally, we'll establish an outline for our essay.
Here is our task:
After you have read the passage, write a unified essay on what make a person determined, use ideas from both passages to establish a controlling idea about determination. Using evidence from each passage, develop your controlling idea and show how the author uses specific literary elements and techniques to convey that idea.
Be sure to:
-Use ideas from both passages to establish a controlling idea about the nature of determination
-Use specific and relevant evidence from each passage to develop your controlling idea
-Show how each author uses specific literary elements (for example: theme, characterization, structure, point of view) or techniques (for example: symbolism, irony, figurative language) to convey the controlling idea
-Organize your ideas in a logical and coherent manner
-Use language that communicates ideas effectively
-Follow the conventions of standard written English
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