Saturday, October 22, 2011

Halloween Writing: Harris Burdick

As some children began to finish their editing of their personal narratives, they shifted to our Halloween writing. I love writing workshop, but it takes a great deal of time and energy to develop a single piece. Our short Halloween writing unit is designed to have the students break away from the genre and the structure of writing workshop and write stories in any genre they can think of. The stories won’t be nearly as polished, but there is a lot of freedom in the unit that encourages both reluctant and eager writers alike to put their imaginations on paper.

The setup for our Halloween writing unit is this:

A children's book editor named Peter Wenders is at his office, when a man comes in. The man introduces himself as Harris Burdick, and tells Wenders that he has 14 stories that he'd written and had brought one picture from each story with a caption. Wenders told him that he was fascinated by these drawings and he told him to bring the stories tomorrow. Burdick was glad to bring them, and he was delighted at the thought of them published.

The next day, Burdick didn't show up. Burdick never returned to Wenders' office. Over the years, Wenders tried to find out who Harris Burdick was, but he never found out.

One day Chris Van Allsburg visited Wenders' office, and Wenders showed him Burdick's drawings. Van Allsburg mentioned that it was impossible to look at the pictures without creating a story. Wenders smiled, went to the back room, and brought out a trunk full of stories that others have written when they saw the drawings.

The pictures come with a title and a caption, but those are the only clues to the stories that can only be solved by the imagination. Each day for the next several days, I’ll reveal three or four pictures, and have the children either collaborate with a partner or individually create a story that fits the amazing images.

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