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Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Impromptu Writing Lesson

In the spring semester of 2009, I had a student from my AP English class come up to the board. I told the student to simply "let it rip," and go with the flow and to write whatever she wanted or came to mind--no grammar, punctuation or even sentence structure needed. This is what came out:

"I was seated at a crowded cafe when he came in. My first thought was that he stood out from the rest of the people waiting in line. My second impression was that of the passage from Hemingway's book I had read so many times, but I knew Hemingway to be a terrible liar and the impression he wrote about in the book about watching a girl walk into the cafe where he was writing was probably made up. I had had a vision and mine was entirely different from his. Other thoughts took me back a year earlier to an encounter with a similar complete stranger while running to catch a bus. It was raining hard and he was a real gentleman, and without hesitation gave me his umbrella. We sat together inside the crowded bus and exchanged vague information about each other. I didn't find him defensive, but rather much reserved and I began to think he was probably married. Then he told me a sad story about an ill-fated balloonist whose hot air balloon deflated at an incredible height. While on the way down to his death, the man called his wife on a two-way radio and told her how much he loved her, and the children, etc. I found the story strange and random for having just met him, but it was a story that almost made me cry. Then he rang for the stop, stood up, and said good-bye. The bus began to move by the time I realized he had forgotten his umbrella. The more I thought about the story he told me, the more I thought he had probably lied... just like Hemingway."

We spent the rest of the hour discussing her impromptu story, and the rest of the students loved the exercise and we kept doing it twice a week for the rest of the spring semester. Everyone was impressed at the fact that she DID follow grammar rules--it took her a little under five minutes to complete the story! Boy that was fun!

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At 2:28 PM, Blogger Adam Stewart said...

What are the benefits to impromptu writing?


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