My babysitter teaches third grade, and for the last month, every week I've been going to help the kids learn to write stories. They all ended up writing a story called "Ouch!" about a time when they got hurt. Let me tell you, it's really fun to see what these kids come up with. And interesting, to see how storytelling isn't that much different at this level from what I do.
This is not to say that I haven't learned all kinds of artifice, pretty words, sentences, and all that. But what I do notice is that the story itself has some of the same structural elements. There's still the opening. The setting. Setting up the conditions for the main event. The consequences of that event, etc.
I'm finding it's tricky for some of these kids to grasp the idea of functional categories in the story. I asked them today to take each sentence of their story and tell me which part of the story it belongs to.
It might be easy to say they're having trouble because of their age, but somehow, I don't think that's it. If they were older, I suspect they might have been too far indoctrinated into thinking about writing in expository terms, or in terms of pretty grammatical sentences and single words they use to string those sentences together. It can be amazingly difficult even for adults - including me - to see past the pretty sentences and into the function, to consider what the sentences DO.
I'm hoping the students and I can talk about it a little bit more during next week's visit. If we can get it working, then they just might get a little better view on their writing from here on out.
At least, that's my hope.