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9 Posts authored by: Allyson Hoffman Expert

So many of my students love being students. They enjoy reading and writing and researching. They are often good students and have been good students their whole lives. As a result, while graduation grows ever closer, those who are not pursuing graduate programs are concerned about their opportunities in the workplace. How do they find jobs that allow them to keep writing? How do they find jobs that allow them to be creative? How do they find jobs, period?

 

Here I outline my process for talking with students both in the classroom and in individual meetings. While I’m focusing on creative writing students, I have employed similar strategies with students across the disciplines, especially in the humanities. I recognize that the backgrounds of my students vary widely—from students who’ve never held a job to students transitioning from careers of twenty years or more—and I adjust my advising accordingly.

 

To first identify the fields they see themselves entering, I challenge my students to closely observe their own experiences the way they study texts in class. What recurring themes do they see in their interests, habits, and hobbies? Where are the turns, or moments of change and growth, in their personal narratives? What details or anecdotes exemplify their characters?

 

Often, students feel uncomfortable or flustered at the process of turning close observation onto themselves, so I draw from a variety of questions to guide our dialogue:

            What is one of your favorite projects you’ve done?

            What are your favorite classes? What do you like about them?

            Where do you best complete your work?

            What do you like to do outside of schoolwork?

            What’s your favorite job you’ve ever had?

 

Just as with our creative writing texts, I ask my students to notice what they notice. Through these questions, I hope students can identify for themselves the type of work they like to do, the spaces they work best in, and the meaningful experiences they’ve had.

 

Next, I show them how to research and compile lists of jobs that demand the work and skills they value. I direct them to the university’s career services website, and I encourage them to schedule appointments with counselors there. I also show them job ads and resources from LinkedIn, Poets & Writers, and AWP.  If my students have time before graduation, I suggest they take on an internship in a field of interest. Above all, I encourage students to conduct informational interviews; they need to call someone who has the job they’re interested in having and ask interview questions about that job.

 

Some of my students say they “just want to write” or they want to be novelists or poets. I encourage them in their pursuit of paths that allow them to write full time, but I am honest with them about the difficulties they may encounter. Their research assignment, then, becomes one of tracking the paths of their favorite writers and identifying the work those writers did that allowed them to write full time.

 

Once students find positions they’re interested in, the next step is articulating their skill sets and translating their skills into language that matches the job ads for those positions. For this translation process, I encourage more close reading and research. First, students have to break down the language of the ad and highlight key verbs and requirements. Then, they review the syllabi from their classes and examine the course goals and student learning outcomes, which often have clear verbs. I also encourage them to write out stories of their experiences and pay attention to the language they use when talking about themselves. Are the verbs in the ad the same or synonyms of words in the syllabi and personal stories? Are the experiences the job requires not exactly the same as what the students have, but similar?

 

Finally, I tell students to lean into their storytelling and argumentation skills. When putting together a resume and cover letter, and later preparing for interviews, I remind my students that they are experts in their own experiences. They need to familiarize their audience, potential employers, with those experiences in a compelling way. They can use story structures we employ in class—rising action, climax, falling action—to succinctly describe how they have successfully navigated workplace or workplace-adjacent situations.

 

By offering a structure for entering the job search process and reiterating the value of their skill sets, I’ve seen my students grow more confident and excited at the prospect of graduation. The strength of their searches rest on their abilities to re-see themselves in new, professional perspectives—a process that mirrors the way they return to their favorite texts and discover key elements they may have never noticed before. No matter what career path they pursue, I remind my students that if they desire to write they will find ways to do so, if not in the workplace itself, then certainly outside of it.

While reading stories from my students this semester I noticed in many pieces there was a clear tension between two characters, but no other elements of conflict. In our individual conferences, many students expressed a desire for deeper and richer stories beyond the single line of conflict. “It feels like my story is missing something,” one student said.

 

Both in conferences and in class, I encouraged my students to draw out a third element in their stories—a character, a weather pattern, an object—that bears significance to their stories and pulls at desires of the two characters already on the page. Then the stories have three central elements in conflict, a triangle of tension as one of my own creative writing instructors called it.

 

While my students understood how adding a third element to their stories would be effective, the question many of them asked was “How can I do this?” In response, I led the class in a guided story exercise of five steps. Each step built on the next to encourage students to pay attention to conflict and to go looking for trouble. After each step, I gave students a few minutes to wander on the page and see where the prompt took them before moving onto the next. I used “you” in each step to encourage students to get in the mindsets of their characters.

 

First, I asked my students to place themselves or a character in a room.

   Where are you?

   What are you doing?

 

Then, I drew their attention to another figure in the room.

   There’s another person in the room with you.

   What are they doing?

 

I turned toward dialogue, asking students to listen to their characters.

   What do they say to you?

   What do you say back?

   What are you doing while you’re talking?

 

I finally asked them to look for another figure in the scene.

   You may have already noticed this, or you’re just noticing now, but someone or something else is in the room    with you two.

   Who or what is it?

   What do they say or do?

   What do you say and do?

 

Finally, for the closing of the exercise, I encouraged students to explicitly consider elements of conflict and tension in the scene.

   What do you want?

   Who and what is in your way?

 

When students came up for air at the end of the exercise, shaking out their hand cramps, I saw the pages of their notebooks were filled. As a class, we discussed the benefits of the exercise. One student said she’d forgotten to look for a third character when she started writing, so she was grateful for the prompt to pay attention to one. Another student found the open-ended nature of the prompts useful, so that he had authority over where he sent his characters. Yet another student found the closing part of the exercise, the question of what her character wants, to be a powerful question to ask each of her characters to make sure they all had something at stake in the piece.

 

My students almost unanimously asked for more guided story prompts, with the condition they receive even more time to write than the fifteen minutes I had set aside. I’m eager to develop more of these exercises to support other fiction skills, such as creating turns, developing a clear setting, and tuning ears to dialogue.

April is National Poetry Month! We've asked some of our LitBits bloggers to discuss how they approach poetry with their literature and creative writing students.

 

Before the first workshop of the semester in any class I teach, I pass out a stack of papers, face down, and instruct my students to take one each. When everyone has a paper, we flip them over. I’ve given them a poem: "Kindness" by Naomi Shihab Nye

 

Without introduction, I read the poem. I pause when I reach the ending. Some students’ heads are bowed, gazing at their copies. Some have their eyes closed. Some are watching me.

 

“Why do think I wanted to share this poem with you today?” I ask.

 

The responses from my students vary depending on the course I’m teaching. But often, one of the early answers is a question: “Because you like poetry?”

 

“I do like poetry.” I smile. “But what is it about this particular poem?”

 

Soon, someone points to the lesson plan on the whiteboard. “We’re going to talk about workshopping.” Another adds, “And you want us to be kind to each other.”

 

“Great observations. So what can we learn about kindness from this poem?”

 

The room is quiet. My students frown at the poem, or at each other, or at me.

 

It’s time for a short writing exercise. I ask my students to write their answers to two questions: what can you learn about kindness from the poem? How does the poem make you feel?

 

Most of my students are used to analyzing writing. They are used to looking for meaning. They are not accustomed to looking inward, at their own feelings, at how the work is affecting them. Poetry, in this instance, helps them identify their feelings and prepare them for the vulnerable process of workshopping. An honest conversation about something other than workshopping encourages them to trust their ideas and each other before diving into their own work.

 

After a few minutes of writing I ask my students to share their responses with a partner next to them, if they are comfortable. I walk around the room, eavesdropping. “This is a sad poem,” several students say. “But it’s hopeful,” others point out. “I don’t understand all of it,” some students say, and their peers offer, “I think that’s OK.”

 

I bring the class back together and encourage my students to share their responses. They are animated, responding to each other, almost as if I’m not present.  

 

“I don’t like poetry much, but this is deep,” one says. “It’s like reminding you to walk in someone else’s shoes, you know?”

 

“Everyone has sadness. I’ve got sadness, you’ve got sadness.” A student points to herself and then to her peers.

 

“So we have to respect each other,” says another student.

 

“Even if we disagree.”

 

“Especially if we disagree.”

 

I step into the conversation after a few minutes. I encourage my students to point out their favorite lines.

 

“I like the opening: 'Before you know what kindness is you must lose things.'”

 

“You must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.”

 

“It follows you like a shadow or a friend.”

 

All or almost all of my students participate in the conversation about the poem, even my quieter students. The poem animates them. They connect with each other over favorite lines and ideas. They connect over confusion and questions. It’s these connections that are vital to successful, thoughtful, and trusting workshops.

 

I read the poem one more time after our discussion, so students can listen to phrases they haven’t noticed before, memorize lines they hold dear, and remember how kindness will take them far both in workshop and outside the classroom.

My fiction students came to a unanimous conclusion this semester: writing scenes without abstract language is hard. How are we supposed to make sure the reader understands what the characters are thinking and feeling without explaining everything?

 

“Trust yourself,” I told them. “Trust yourself to show your characters embodying those emotions. Then trust your reader to know those actions and to know how to interpret those actions.”

 

I acknowledged with my students there are some instances in writing where abstract language is necessary. However, my students often over-explain the feelings and emotions that their characters are experiencing; or alternatively, my students use an emotion to describe a character’s state of being, but it is unclear how the character acts upon that feeling.

 

I’ve challenged my students this semester to “show a lot, tell a little, and never explain,” a course concept borrowed from nonfiction writer Phillip Lopate. By this, I ask students to write in action, with clear details and careful observations, as much as possible and to insert external information and backstory only when necessary. If students show and tell well, then they’ll never need to explain how a character is feeling or why a character takes the actions she does. Both will be obvious from the scene.

 

To help my students practice writing without abstract language, I developed an in-class exercise that asks them to pair emotions with clear, concrete actions. I made a deck of cards with common phrases centered around an emotion that I frequently see in student writing: she felt anxious, he was confused, they were in love, and so on.

 

We first did an example together as a class with the phrase they were uncomfortable. At the board, my students and I sketched out a scene of a Thanksgiving dinner and a small cast of characters—parents and two children. We decided on a reason for discomfort in the room: both children have announced they wouldn’t be coming home for Christmas.

 

Then, I asked my students to take on the roles of the characters and act out what their discomfort might look like. Several slouched in their chairs, some played with imaginary forks, or poured themselves an imaginary glass of wine. We discussed how each action reflected discomfort of the characters without ever using the phrase they were uncomfortable.

 

One student, a mother herself, even took on the role of the mother at the table, choosing to drop her shoulders, roll her eyes to the ceiling, and frown at her shoes. After laughing at her dramatic performance, we all agreed. She was disappointed.

 

Then it was time for the students to try on their own. I dealt each student a card with a different phrase, and I asked them to put the emotion into a paragraph or two of action and dialogue on the backside of their card. Once the students had completed their writing, I collected the cards and read the action pieces out loud.

 

Students then shared the emotions they heard in the pieces I read. Some were exactly right in identifying the phrase, such as he was self-conscious. Other peers saw anxiety, worry, and nervousness—all appropriate interpretations of the moment. Together, we discussed the possibility of readers interpreting actions slightly differently and how the creation of a full scene could provide enough context so that readers would understand what was happening. At the conclusion of the exercise, my students expressed their desire to incorporate movement as part of their writing to get the actions of their characters just right.

 

I was impressed that in such a short time so many of my students successfully captured different emotions and ideas in action without any explanation. When their peers correctly identified the corresponding ideas, they saw concrete ways of showing and telling without explaining, and the power of trusting their readers.

Allyson Hoffman

Digital Storytelling

Posted by Allyson Hoffman Expert Feb 7, 2018

In my writing classrooms I ask my students to challenge their idea of what makes a “good” story. I encourage them to imagine new and unfamiliar ways of experiencing a story, and then I support them in bringing these stories to life. One broad approach is digital storytelling, which I define as storytelling—whether fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or hybrid work—that is enhanced by digital tools. The enhancement may be adding visual or audio components, making the stories interactive, or adding other experiences for the audience.

 

There are so many directions students can take with digital storytelling it’s impossible to address all of them in a short post. Here, I outline my initial approach to introducing digital storytelling in the classroom, which I modify depending on student needs and interests.

 

I first begin with the reminder that the story itself is essential to digital storytelling. Without a strong story employing techniques of whatever genre they are writing in, the effects of digital tools will be limited. I encourage students to focus on story selection and composition first before selecting the tool or tools they’d like to use.

 

Then, I provide my students with examples to show the possibilities of digital storytelling and to inspire their own work. Here are a few:

 

  • Great Rock and Roll Pauses by Jennifer Egan (the print version is in her book A Visit from the Goon Squad)
    • This story demonstrates how digital tools do not have to be complicated or unwieldy. Simple tools, such as PowerPoint, can be effective in storytelling.
  • Mr. Plimpton’s Revenge by Dinty Moore
    • This essay, built with Google Maps, shows how maps can help readers locate the place of a story.
  • Escape from the Man-Sized Closet by The Late Show Staff
    • Built with Twine, this funny choose-your-own adventure reflects the possibilities for inviting an audience to participate in a story. 
  • Welcome to Night Vale
    • As a popular podcast that now has associated books and other media, Welcome to Night Vale shows how audio stories can reach audiences in a long-lasting way. Simple audio stories can be developed in programs such as Audacity.

 

Next comes the exploration of digital tools. Importantly, I don’t teach a specific tool to students. I also don’t know how to use every digital storytelling tool available, and I strongly believe I don’t need to. This is for two reasons: 1) technology changes quickly, and much of the information I teach students will soon be outdated, and 2) I don’t want to limit students on the possibilities for creation by requiring them to use a tool I’ve taught in class.

 

Instead, I encourage students to teach themselves what they need to know. This type of learning is crucial since, as I just stated, technology evolves quickly, and students need to be able to adapt with technology changes. As instructors, we can foster student independence and problem solving with digital tools—skills which will be important to whatever work students do after graduation. I support students by helping them identify learning resources, from the FAQ or help pages on a digital tool’s website to YouTube instructional videos.

 

I find it helpful to set aside class time so students can explore digital tools, either by bringing in their own devices or by having work time in a computer lab. In these spaces students can also teach each other about the basic workings of whatever digital tools they discover.

 

A good place for students to start their research of tools is the DiRT directory, a directory of digital research tools, including story creation. I also introduce students to resources from Dr. John Barber, who is in the Creative Media & Digital Culture program at Washington State University Vancouver. (I had the opportunity to study under Dr. Barber at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute 2017—an excellent course and conference.) Finally, I remind students to investigate the tools used in the examples we read.

 

Since digital stories are designed to engage readers, I encourage students to share their pieces. There are many options for this—in-class presentations, department symposiums open to the campus community, and public “readings” for anyone to attend. By watching users engage with their stories, students can see the effects of their stories in the moment.

As I gear up for the new semester, I’m finalizing my course syllabus, and again, as before every semester, I find myself curious about the best strategies to balance my desires to convey important information to my students and to create an engaging document that students will read. This school year, I’ve focused on two components of the syllabus: the content/structure of the syllabus and the use of the syllabus after the first day of class.

 

Inspired by strategies David Gooblar presents in “Your Syllabus Doesn’t Have to Look Like a Contract,” I carefully consider the visual choices I make in presenting syllabus content. Depending on the course, I model the writing and structure of documents that I expect my students to create throughout the semester. Then, I provide other necessary course information.

 

In my fiction workshop I ask my students to write letters responding to their peers’ work as well as their own, and so my syllabus for the course begins with a letter from me to my students. In the brief letter, I outline the three units of the course, provide an overview of our workshop structure, and make the final portfolio requirement clear. On the other hand, in my professional writing course, my students create professional documents, from emails to grant proposals to memos, and so I open the syllabus with a memo to my students. The memo format models the genre conventions of memo writing, and it clearly and succinctly conveys introductory information, including course structure, contact information, and office hours.

 

Many of my students have been under the impression that the syllabus is a single-use document, forgotten or discarded after the first day of class. To counter this, I make clear, both verbally and in writing, my expectation that the syllabus be a guiding document—a road map—to follow throughout the semester. I ask my students to bring their copies of the syllabus to each class and each class I return to it.

 

Specifically, I speak to the course goals and student learning outcomes, sections I include in every syllabus I write, regardless of course. (Many instructors, I’m sure, are required to include similar sections.) I find each is useful in helping students see the expectations I have for their learning and the tangible work we will do to achieve those expectations.

 

For example, when introducing or reminding my fiction students of their reading responses, I’ll ask them to return to the syllabus with me and recall the established goal of “understand[ing] primary and advanced tools of engaging creative writing.” Then I guide them to the corresponding learning outcome: “craft thoughtful responses to assigned readings, identifying the tools used in each.” I find this practice useful near the end of the class when I ask students to review what they’ve learned and I remind them about their homework.

 

I find the regular use of the syllabus serves several purposes. When I encourage students to use the syllabus as a functioning, working document in class, I find they turn to the syllabus for questions they might have about the course—my office hours, major assignment deadlines, etc.—before asking me. Students also return to the letter and the memo when looking for examples of document structure and design. Finally, since we continue to use the syllabus and reiterate course goals throughout the semester, when I ask students to identify what they’ve learned at the end of the course, they are able to, with specific examples. With these approaches to the syllabus, it lives throughout the semester as useful and important as it was on the first day of class.

When I introduced the first peer review assignment of the semester to my professional writing students, there were clear groans and noises of frustration and reluctance. I pressed them for explanation. “What’s so bad about peer review?”

 

“It’s not helpful.”

 

“It feels like a waste of time.”

 

“I don’t know what to say when I peer review.”

 

In response to these frustrations, I suggested that perhaps peer reviewing in a different way might make the process more helpful to students in their revision. First, I reiterated our purposes for peer reviewing: students get time and space away from the pieces they’ve been working on; they receive feedback from multiple readers, rather than me alone; and they develop connections with other writers in the class, which can extend long after the course ends. Then, I reminded my students that they have authority in their writing and they can choose what changes to make based upon the feedback they receive. Finally, I introduced them to a method of response that encourages this authority over their work, a modified version of Liz Lerman’s “critical response process.”

 

Instead of commenting on whatever strikes them, reviewers respond to specific questions asked by the writer. The writer, then, is in control of the feedback they want to receive on their work. As a result, the writer shapes their peer review process so it supports their writing goals.

 

To facilitate this peer review, I ask students to prepare a list of specific, yet open-ended questions about their work, such as: How might I restructure my essay so my ideas are more clear? How does the document design affect the argument I’m making? Which statements are confusing to you, or need more evidence? This requirement of developing thoughtful questions helps students critically reflect on their own work prior to submitting it to their peers. Since students know their own work best, they usually have a sense of where they’d like to begin with feedback.

 

With the list of questions in hand, students respond to the work of their peers. When responding, I ask my students to be as specific and clear as possible. I encourage them to cite assignment guidelines, our course readings, or other sources. These detailed responses support not only the student who is being reviewed but also the reviewer since they can later turn their critical eyes and reflections to their own work.

 

Once reviewers have answered their peers’ questions, they then pose open-ended questions of their own, such as: Why did you choose to structure your essay this way? How might a different color scheme affect the design of the document? What response do you hope to receive from your audience? The purpose of these questions is to help the writer reflect on elements of their writing or documents they might not have considered, and as writers respond to the new questions they gain a stronger sense of elements they need to revise.

 

Following their first attempts at peer review using this process, I asked my students what was most useful. They unanimously agreed that being in control of the feedback they received made the peer reviews helpful. They discovered that their reviews helped them think about their own writing more carefully. They also asked if we could continue peer reviews this way for the rest of the semester, and we have, finding similar success each time.

 

This peer review process can extend to other writing classrooms, from professional writing to composition to creative writing. When students are control of the feedback they receive, they are more receptive to concerns from peers and confident in their ability to revise and strengthen their work.

 

Last month I shared the Point of View Menu, a tool I use to help students see the effects of their point of view and tense choices in a story. My students were floored by the possibilities, and they were particularly interested in learning more about second person point of view. Given the range second person point of view offers, I developed a tool to focus on three options of second person paired with the simple verb tenses past, present, and future. My students promptly dubbed this new tool the “Secret Menu.” (They then had to explain to me that a secret menu at a fast food restaurant is one customers can order off of, but only if they know it exists.) They were thrilled at the prospect of understanding a technique they had not deeply explored before.

 

To teach the “Secret Menu,” I review the indicators of each tense and some of the reasons why a writer would choose to write in each, as we discussed with the original menu. Past tense allows for reflection, present tense provides in-the-moment reaction, and future tense allows for prediction. We review the purposes of each point of view: first person gets us right into the speaker’s mind, third person gives us distance from the characters, and second person lands somewhere in between providing space between the reader and the characters.

 

The “Secret Menu” tool allows us to dissect this space second person offers. That space can shrink or grow, inviting the reader deeper into the story or putting up a wall, depending on the way the writer approaches the story. I then offer to my students three possible uses for second person.

 

Second person can be used as a masked first person, that is, the story is written with a “you” character as a protagonist that reads similarly to an “I” character. In this use of the second person readers can get almost as close the protagonist’s mind as in first person.

 

Second person can also be used to invite the reader into the story. The actions of a “you” might come across as if they are directed to the reader.

 

Finally, second person can be used to offer directions or suggestions.

 

Similarly to our first menu, I grid the three possibilities for second person and the simple tenses alongside each other. Again, as we fill out the resulting boxes, students see the many combinations of storytelling available to them. It’s important to note that many stories in second person fluctuate among these three uses, so I use dashed lines to indicate fluidity. A story might read as a masked first person and also read as a series of directions and suggestions.

 

 

Past—reflection

Present—reaction

Future—prediction

2.A—masked first = fairly up close and personal

Reflection fairly up close and personal

Reaction fairly up close and personal

Prediction fairly up close and personal

2.B—speak to the reader as a character = invitation

Reflection w/ invitation

Reaction w/ invitation

Prediction w/ invitation

2.C—directions and suggestions

Reflection w/ direction

Reaction w/ direction

Prediction w/direction

 

One of my favorite short stories to teach with the secret menu in mind is Lorrie Moore’s “How to Become a Writer.” Together, students look at Moore’s technique at the sentence level and identify how the second person point of view might read different ways depending on readers’ interpretations.

 

After this discussion, I find students are eager to re-read other second person stories with attention to how they might pull off this tricky technique. I then challenge them to try writing their own stories in second person, experimenting with these possibilities, and the drafts they submit demonstrate thoughtfulness and confidence in the voices they choose.

Allyson Hoffman

The Point of View Menu

Posted by Allyson Hoffman Expert Sep 21, 2017

My introductory fiction students excelled at identifying the point of view in the stories we read—first person has “I” or “we,” second person has “you,” and so on. Identifying simple verb tenses—past, present, and future—also came easily to the students. However, when it came time to write their own stories, many of the first drafts my students submitted had irregular or inconsistent points of view and tenses. I saw the shifts stemming from something deeper than typos or inattention to details; I saw the shifts as indications that my students hadn’t quite decided how they wanted to tell their stories.

 

As a result, I developed a tool to help students consider the subtle effects of point of view and tense. “It’s like a menu!” a student once exclaimed, and ever since I’ve called the tool the “Point of View Menu.”

 

To introduce the menu, I first review the common indicators of each point of view with my students, then turn to identifying why as writers we might choose a particular point of view. To guide our discussions, I suggest we look at the relationship between the characters and the readers each point of view offers. While we recognize there are no absolutes, we develop some generalizations to gain a comprehensive perspective.

 

First person gets the reader up close and personal to a character—that is, the reader can see into a character’s mind.

 

Second person offers some space between the reader and the characters, but because of its inviting nature, readers can still get close the story and sometimes see into a character’s mind.

 

Third person offers some distance between the reader and the characters, because readers hear thoughts secondhand through narration.

 

Then we look at verb tenses, keeping it simple by focusing only on past, present, and future. We review common indicators of each, and again we turn the conversation to ask the question of why writers would choose to work with each tense.

 

In past tense, the events have already occurred. The time between the events and the telling of the story, then, allows for reflection on the events.

 

Present tense lends itself to reactions in the moment. My students offer suggestions of action films with fight sequences sliced into a punch, then a kick, then a slam—they feel as if they are experiencing the events in real time.

 

Future tense leans into the unknown and predicts what will come. It can also allow the writer to leap through time.

 

Once they have gained a sense of what point of view and tense offer separately, my next challenge to my students is to examine how they work together.

 

I grid point of view and tense and their purposes alongside each other, creating the backbone of our “menu.” In groups, my students fill in the resulting boxes where each point of view and tense meets. As the boxes fill, my students visualize the outcomes of possible narrative choices. A first person story written in past tense offers reflections up close and personal with the speaker. A third person story written in future tense offers predictions with some distance from the minds of the main characters.

 

Past: reflection

Present: reaction

Future: prediction

First: up close and personal

Reflection up close and personal

Reaction up close and personal

Prediction up close and personal

Second: some space

Reflection with some space

Reaction with some space

Prediction with some space

Third: distance

Reflection with distance

Reaction with distance

Prediction with distance

 

The menu then becomes a touchstone tool in our discussions of class readings and in workshops. We discuss where the stories we’ve read belong in the menu. Students quickly realize stories, especially second and third person stories, might fit in multiple spaces. We also spend time exploring how and why writers employ several combinations, looking to stories such as Junot Diaz’s “How to Date a Whitegirl, Browngirl, Blackgirl, or Halfie” and Jennifer Egan’s  “Safari” for guidance.

 

The point of view menu makes clear to students the subtle differences among storytelling options. As a result, students grow confident in identifying how writers employ these choices in stories, and students are empowered to make thoughtful narrative choices in the stories they write.