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Another writing sample - thoughts appreciated, DD, 11, 6th grade


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#1 Raifta

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 12:58 PM

I saw some very helpful things in the comments on the most recent sample posted and I would like some feedback and perspective on my DD's work.

 

Background:  Last year as part of her BW writing assignments, she completed an analysis of a Van Gogh painting based on some questions that were given to her as prompts.  She thoroughly enjoyed it and has asked to do more of the same.  I had not managed to get this together and so she took the initiative, found a painting and wrote a short paragraph about it.

 

Further background:  DD has always had good writing skills - her mechanics are solid, and I feel like she has a good natural voice.  But as her mother, I sometimes have trouble analyzing things objectively.  

 

When I read this, I had two thoughts.  1.  Well, I can send her off to university now.  I honestly felt that the writing and analysis was of equal or better quality than the writing of many university essays I read when I was marking 2nd and 3rd year classes 20 years ago.  2. She must have plagiarized parts of this (I asked her if she got her ideas from anywhere and she said they were all hers - I even did a quick google search and found nothing and then felt really bad for not trusting her).

 

So, I'm asking if anyone can give me any feedback as to whether or not this is merely good but could use improvement (and in what areas) or more on the exceptional end of things. Again, I've lost all my objectivity with regards to her and her Language arts/art projects.

 

Here's her essay and this is the painting that inspired it:  Storm In The Mountains by Albert Bierstadt:

 

As the title reveals, this painting is a storm in the mountains. But what lies beneath, waiting to be seen? Study the painting. What do you see? What sticks out more now than before? Perhaps the little house, vulnerable and small. Or the trees, blowing in the intense, billowing winds.

 

At first glance, this painting looks almost like the calm after the storm, rather than the storm itself in full swing. But by looking at the painting closer, you see details that make you realize that there is in fact, a small battle going on in the little country town between safety and wreckage. The clouds are lifted as if to attack. If you happen to look up through your window and see this harrowing scene, you would likely pull down your blinds, rock back and forth on your couch and hope that it would all be a dream. But for the people in this painting, it's anything but. It's all up to nature to decide what to do: to anniliate or to be peaceful once more.


#2 Farrar

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 01:34 PM

It's lovely! Bierstadt is a great choice for this sort of deeper thinking.

 

Such great imagery! She really makes it a big, dire play on nature's power. And she introduces it really well, engaging the reader. She has a really great vocabulary level too - I'm guessing she's an avid reader.

 

I spied a couple of comma errors, and obviously she made the choice to use fragments in the opening. But generally, you're right, no issues with her mechanics.

 

To contextualize it for you - this does read to me like it was written by a younger writer - I assume she's your 6th grader. It reads to me like it was written by a precocious 4th-8th ish grader, so that's well in line. Which is not to undermine it AT ALL. Just to say... Rather than being ready to head to college, I can see the ways in which she's relying on the sorts of books she's read to develop her style, which target younger readers, not adults. Her super dramatic tone also screams tween to me.

 

I think the challenge for great young writers like her is keeping that vocabulary and voice while also learning to conform to the expectations of academic writing. This is genuinely hard for a lot of kids. The formulas of academic writing can wring all the joy that's evident in this short writing out of them to the point that they don't ever relearn it. On the other hand, when she eventually does go into a class like AP Art History or something, this won't be quite right for her assignments.

 

But in terms of now... I'd just keep encouraging her and don't push her into conforming to those academic forms too soon. It's tempting with a "good" writer to feel like they should be doing that type of writing as soon as possible, but I think it can ruin some good writers and she might be one of them. She has so much time. Her voice will naturally mature. I'd keep her doing this type of writing but maybe see if she'd like to try writing about other arts - a song, a dance, a film, etc. Faltering Ownership has good projects, so if you're still using it, that's great - as is NanNoWriMo and MCT (or, MCT *could* be - the writing is a mixed bag to me, but if it's working for her, great) - it sounds like you have the perfect lineup to nurture her already. If she is a big reader, as I suspect, make sure she has good nonfiction to read in the next few years, maybe a good magazine subscription like National Geographic as well. I'm always suggesting the book Breakfast on Mars to people because it's a great book of personal essays specifically for middle school/younger high schoolers - and that's a format that kids will have to master, but which they rarely read.


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#3 Raifta

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 12:19 PM

Thank you - this is very helpful.    We are using many of the things you mentioned but I will look into the Breakfast on Mars book.

 

She is very much a creative writer so having her read some more nonfiction would probably be a good idea as well.  



#4 PeterPan

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Posted Yesterday, 11:16 AM

Farrar already did the technical and thorough very well, so I'll just pass on that she reminds me of my dd. Let her keep writing and don't correct her work so much as providing models and inspiration for the next work. We did a lot with reading essay collections in high school, and Farrar's suggestion to find some now is spot on. She's correct that your dd, largely, will write like what she's reading. 

 

The essay collections we used were from books in this series.

The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2017 (The Best American Series ®) They have them for all kinds of topics (travel, crime, food writing, etc.). That was for high school, so I wouldn't foist them on her before she's ready/interested. Until then, keep her reading good things. You can analyze essays together once in a while to see why they work.