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Monday, April 20, 2009

Helping students write focused stories.

Zoomin’ In

Many students are very similar to a disposable camera when they write compositions. Everything in the story has an equal value. They don’t have the ability to blur out the minor information that has no real importance to the story's plot. They will spend as much time writing about eating breakfast and getting ready in the morning as they do actually developing the main event of their story. Try this: Ask the students to begin by telling about their summer vacation. This would be too broad for a two-page paper, so you must help them decide which was the most interesting activity of the summer and "zoom in" on that.

Develop the event fully and it will usually be something that took place over a period of a week or less. Then from that week, try to find an event that really stands out which took place over a period of just one day and zoom in to develop that. Finally, from that one day, decide which activity is the most unique and original, and make that the focal point of the story. This event might be something that took only a few minutes or hours, depending on the ability of the student to develop a focused idea. Zooming in like this will really help to create a more focused story, eliminating a lot of the unnecessary information that students usually want to include. A good test of the relevance of an idea is to take an imaginary picture of each idea the writer includes in the story. You will often find that because of extraneous information there are many more pictures than are actually needed to show the story.

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