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Tie Writing Assignments to Literature
october 25, 2010
Reading novels and lengthy literature can consume a lot of class time. Consequently, it’s not uncommon that writing becomes less of a focus. However, look for opportunities to tie writing assignments to your texts. Here are a few writing assignments we’ve developed using three popular novels. NOTE: The assignments target the three main writing genres–narrative, expository, and persuasive.
- Expository writing assignment–Identify each of the main characters. Write a single paragraph that explains what you think/believe each character wants. Think about what motivates them. What do they each hope for and/or wish for?
- Narrative writing assignment–Study passages in Chapters 23 and 24. Notice how the weather changes as the story’s plot intensifies. Write a narrative that uses the weather in a similar way. Highlight the places in your narrative where you referenced the weather and its impact on the plot’s intensity.
- Persuasive writing assignment–Reread the context of this quote in Chapter 23: “When she was seventeen, would she? If it was true, would she?” After rereading that passage, consider if you think Winnie, when she’s seventeen, should drink the water Jesse gave her. Write a persuasive letter to Winnie telling her what you think she should (or should not) do and why. Give her three good reasons why she should follow your advice.
- Narrative/Memoir writing assignment–Jonas’s Ceremony of Twelve was definitely a defining moment in his life. Think of the moments in your life that have most impacted you. Pick one and write a memoir describing the moment and, more importantly, its significance in your life.
- Expository/Compare-Contrast writing assignment–Look at different passages in the book to determine a typical day’s schedule in the life of Jonas and the community. Create a T-Chart comparing his day to a day in your own life. Then write a short essay outlining two main differences between his life and your own.
- Persuasive writing assignment–NOTE: This assignment is prefaced with an all-class activity. After the activity, students will write independently. Establish one side of the room as Agree and the other as Disagree. Then identify one of the debatable issues from this text (e.g., euthanizing sick people, requiring birth control, limiting the number of children per family, forcing class designation, arranging marriages, etc.). Announce one issue and have students move to stand on one of the two sides based on their personal opinions. Have students on each side discuss not only the reasons they are right, but also why the other side of the argument is wrong. This discussion serves as a pre-write. After a few minutes, students should return to their seats and write a first-draft. NOTE: You may choose to repeat this discussion activity on several issues and allow students to select which one they want to write a persuasive piece about.
The Pearl, by John Steinbeck
- Expository writing assignment–Reread the context of the following quote within Chapter 4: “If that is so, then all of us have been cheated all of our lives.” Do you believe that to be true? Is the society described in The Pearl set up in a class system? Are some people, some groups treated unfairly? What can be done? What should be done? Write an expository essay outlining how grouping people by class (or stereotype) causes injustice and what, in your opinion, should be done to correct the problem.
- Narrative/Retelling writing assignment–Using only 100 words, write a summary for this entire novel. Make sure to include details that address all parts of plot development: character, setting, rising action, climax, resolution, and falling action.
- Persuasive/Opinion writing assignment–Reread the context of the quote about the hole in the bottom of Kino’s boat in Chapter 5. “…The killing of a man was not so evil as the killing of a boat.” Do you agree with this statement? Write an opinion essay explaining which you believe to be more evil and why. (Or, write an opinion essay from Kino’s perspective. Why did he feel it was more evil to “kill” a boat?)