Spring SAVY 2017, Day 5- Writing and Reflection
Our fifth day of SAVY was full of creativity, insightful analyses, and dynamic conversations on the uses of diction and pathetic fallacy in poetry and prose. We began by reviewing literary techniques we covered in our past SAVY classes. Together, we defined “synesthesia,” “cliché,” “ekphrastic poetry,” “imagery,” “sensory language,” “concrete language,” “abstract language,” “pathetic fallacy,” and “scenery.” Each student reviewed the prose piece that they wrote last week, in which they utilized imagery and personification to create a scene that showed the emotion of their speaker. Using fresh images and vivid sensory language, students described in detail an array of frightening, peaceful, and exciting landscapes. One angry speaker was caught in a storm that made “the raindrops droop the huge leaves,” while a happy speaker enjoyed the rain’s “soft drops hitting the lush purple-blue plants.”
After students gave a reading of their new work, we thought about the quotation by Gertrude Stein, “A writer should write with his eyes and a painter should paint with his ears.” After thinking about what Stein means by “eyes” and “ears,” students broke into groups to debate the meaning of the phrase. Next, they wrote answers that included everybody’s thoughts on notecards that they read aloud to the class. Each group had a unique, fascinating idea to share – one group pointed out that Stein could be talking about synesthesia, another argued that to “write with your eyes” means to describe a scene so precisely that the reader can imagine it fully, and another mentioned that a writer should always be conscious of his/her physical environment before transforming that environment through writing. As a class, we developed our collective response to the question: “A writer should write about what s/he sees and what s/he imagines so the reader will understand what s/he is thinking about and imagining. Lots of books don’t have pictures, so we have to use good sensory language to get someone to imagine our writing. The painter can make sense of what she hears through his/her own art, showing sound in his/her own unique way.”
We applied these fresh concepts to Chapter 2 of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Students each read a paragraph, learning new vocabulary and identifying L’Engle’s use of imagery and emotive language. Following the reading, we had an intriguing discussion about the term “diction,” or word choice, and why writers choose some words instead of others. We closely examined several passages of L’Engle, identifying examples of telling and interesting diction. Students paired up to find even more examples of carefully chosen diction, discovering words like “hurriedly,” “piteously,” and “flung,” which tell us a great deal about a character’s situation and emotional state.
For our next exercise, I took out three objects for students to reflect upon: an apple, a white owl figurine, and a spiky seashell. In this exercise, students worked to describe each object as precisely as they could using only five words, which helped them to understand the importance of selecting the best, most precise word to describe an object. Students were encouraged to think about their sensory interaction with the item and, one by one, read their micro-descriptions to their peers, who attempted to guess which object was being described.