Writing fiction in the sixth-grade classroom does more than give students a chance to let their imaginations run wild. According to the Common Core State Standard Initiative, it also helps them apply their knowledge of literary elements, learn to engage an audience and use language creatively through description. Sixth-graders can write effective short fiction by learning brainstorming techniques, creating interesting characters and plots, and using specific descriptive language.
Sixth-grade teacher Judith Eggemeier says that keeping a writer's notebook can help students become more confident in their abilities, express themselves and come up with ideas. A writer's notebook is a journal where students record things that inspire them, such as interesting daily events, thoughts and inspirational quotations or passages from books. Teachers can have students write in their notebooks for homework or spend time at the beginning of each class doing writing prompts. Through the writer's notebook, students can collect kernels of ideas that could become full-length stories.
One way to begin writing a story is to come up with a central character. Students can either create a character based on someone in real life or invent a fictional protagonist. To help them think creatively about potential characters, you can cut out figures from magazines and let students select one at random. They can then write a biography about the character in their notebooks, imagining his occupation, family, hobbies and personality. The more they imagine, the more material they'll have when it comes time to determine a conflict and plot in which to insert the character.
Plot and Conflict
Plot, a story's sequence of events, is driven by conflict, a character's struggle with internal or external forces. Students can reread their character biographies for traits or interests that could provide conflict. For example, if one of your character details is that she loves animals, your conflict could be that she is upset about her neighborhood's population of abandoned cats. The plot could then involve her attempting to adopt all the cats until they overrun her house. Students can also make timelines of the events in their stories to follow as they write their first draft.
Show, Don't Tell
"Show, don't tell" is a rule of good writing where students use specific nouns, verbs and adjectives to bring the characters and events of a story to life. "Telling" writing summarizes what happens; "showing" writing puts the reader in the middle of the action through vivid, dynamic language. Students underline any sentences in their drafts that "tell" what is going on. They can then transform them into sentences that "show." For example, "The cats took over Marcie's house" could become "Marcie's house reeked of cat litter and the furniture was covered in hairballs."
In fiction writing, revision often means more than just orrecting spelling and grammar. It may include elaborating on part of the plot that seems thin, adding more details or writing an opening or conclusion that satisfies the reader. Jefferson County Public Schools recommend using "mini-groups," where small groups of students focus on particular areas of revision, such as structure, plot and description. And your teacher's critique of your story will help you determine the parts that need revision.
- Jefferson County Public Schools: Teaching Students to Read and Write Short Stories
- Maupin House: Picture This - Classroom Activities for Show Don't Tell Writing
- Annenberg Learner: Developing the Craft of Writing in the Sixth Grade Classroom
- Common Core State Standards Iniatiave: English Language Arts Standards - Writing - Grade Six
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