Thursday, May 12, 2016

How To Add Fun to Writing Short Essay Responses to Literature: Have Them Write About Each Other's Works!

THE PROMPT: Write a paragraph about a theme in the following poem, using Susan L. Lipson's mnemonic device, E-IEI-O (Establish topic; Illustrate with quotation; Explain illustration and its context; Interpret implications of deeper meanings; Overall conclusions about how those implications relate to the theme).

The Defiant Man
by Rupin M.

The rain batters a person continuously,
While the man wallows in pain
And the people in their houses laugh.

The rain batters him harder and harder.
The fear of sickness reaches his brain.
The man decides he will not let the rain make him sick.
He defiantly puts up an umbrella

So the rain stops,
And the people are silent.

That poem, written by one of my 12-year-old students, in response to a poem from my book Writing Success Through Poetry, clearly impressed one of my other students, Aashi, age 11, so I decided to turn that poem into a response-to-literature exercise for her. I instructed her to refer to the poet formally, as if he were a famous poet. Please note that the poet is actually HER BROTHER! (:

Here is her E-IEI-O response to "The Defiant Man." I consider both the poem and the short essay exceptional. These writings appear here as written by the students, without editing from me except for the addition and subtraction of a few commas. 

The theme of the poem “The Defiant Man,” by Mr. Rupin Mittal, is that often what it takes for people to gain confidence to defend themselves is the very need to defend themselves. However, when people get rid of insecurities and gain enough confidence to put up defenses against the enemy, they can defend themselves. The lines “While the man wallows in pain/ And the people in their houses laugh” show how not everyone will sympathize with people about their problems. Some will simply laugh at the lack of assertiveness. Sometimes this laughter and criticism can help people build up the will to defend themselves. Mr. Mittal writes, “He defiantly puts up an umbrella/ So the rain stops/ and the people are silent.” This shows that the bullies and bystanders may laugh at people who are defenseless, but once they gather the courage to defend themselves, those bullies may no longer be able to put them down. [written by Aashi M.]

Using excellent creative writing pieces by other students as prompts has definitely inspired awe and awesome writing. Kids find essay writing about another writer's work more meaningful when they know that their written response is actually being heard by the author. And the authors feel successful at having clearly communicated their visions or messages, knowing they have left memorable words in their readers' minds.