Back in the Classroom

Conduct a brief review to help students get ready to write their stories.
First, review the typical elements of a story: characters, plot, and setting. Lead a discussion in which students describe the most appealing features of stories they have read or seen in films and write their ideas on an overhead projector or on the chalkboard. Suggest to students that they might want to keep these features in mind as they write their own stories. Next, review with students what they saw in the exhibition as well as characteristics of the time it portrayed. Compare the period to the present time.

If possible, choose an audience for the students' stories.
A real audience can help writers make difficult but important choices. They must decide, for example, what they want their readers to know about a subject and how best to describe things to people who might not be familiar with the subject. Try to determine a specific audience that the students' stories can target. If another class is studying the time period your students will be writing about, perhaps your group could share their finished stories with this class. They could read their stories to the group, perform them as plays, or publish and distribute them.

If it's feasible for your students to write for a specific audience, explain that, like all authors, they must try to decide what information and qualities such an audience will appreciate. For example, younger students may not be able to follow an in-depth explanation of Civil War politics and battle strategies. However, a general explanation of why the war occurred might suffice, as long as it remains true to the facts.

Have students write drafts of their stories.
Encourage students to describe as truthfully as possible the conditions of life in the past and to be especially careful to avoid using contemporary colloquialisms and attitudes in their stories. Suggest that they visit the library to do additional research, if necessary.

Have students work in groups to revise their stories.
Students can act as editors of each others' work. Explain that this work involves more than just finding spelling and grammar mistakes. They can also point out where the story catches their interest and where it doesn't, where the story becomes unrealistic, and so on.

Last Modified September 19, 1997