Our Eighth Graders Are Published Writers!
Every year, Eighth Grade Humanities teacher Terry Ashkinos leads his students in an interesting and challenging project: the creation of an entire book of short stories! With a help of a few prompts, each student produces rough drafts of three different stories. After some feedback from their peers, they pick one story to focus on and spend several weeks producing a final draft, with more critiques and support from their classmates along the way. This year’s collection of stories—forty-one in all—has just been completed, and it’s now available to buy online.
The students explored many different subjects and tones. Some of their tales involve topics such as suicide and oppression; others are comedic (one of them involves TV personality Marie Kondo taking over the world; the author states that “it’s up to the reader” whether this is a good or a bad thing); and some even take non-narrative forms. It wasn’t always easy for the students to choose between their three options, and one of them came up with a particularly ingenious solution: she combined all three pieces into a single story, showing three different perspectives on the same events.
The process of revision was important for all of our writers. Looking at his own work after a first draft, one student decided that he had written “the most random story” and set out to revise it on his own. Meanwhile, others took more inspiration from their peers. One writer said that she could not have completed her story without her critiquing partner, who suggested a new ending and a way to communicate the story’s “hidden moral.” The eighth graders were interested to see the range of reactions that readers had to their stories; one of them observed that “it’s really difficult to make a moral because everybody interprets what you wrote differently.”
Another question was what to title the book. After a spirited debate (suggestions included Finger Guns, Rap Cult, and There’s Gonna Be Bad Air Quality on Thanksgiving), the students decided on Awkward Thumbs Up. Now that the book is finally complete, the entire class is proud of their work. “You have a real variety of stories,” Terry said. “It’s all really creative.”