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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | A Promising Start!

A Promising Start!


It will probably come as no surprise that I enjoy teaching writing to my 5th graders. However, grading writing can be a drag. Nothing kills the joy of writing more than staring at a stack of expository essays that I need to assess for Focus, Content, Organization, Style, and Conventions.

I started out the year teaching descriptive writing – how to describe people in an interesting way, how to use action verbs, and how to add similes in order to put images in the reader’s mind. The first piece of writing handed in to me this year was an “action scene.”

I ended up laughing out loud while I read my students’ scenes, and that’s a promising start to the year. I see potential here! Okay, their spelling is dicey and their punctuation is horrific, but I can work with that when I’ve got samples like these:

(real student work – but I’ve cleaned up the spelling and punctuation for you …)

How about a scene between two kids fighting over the last bag of Doritos in the store?

Tom knew what he had to do. He catapulted his shopping cart and nailed the kid in the back. The kid flipped into the cart and hit the cereal section. He was buried like a gopher.

I told the students they could write a scene in which they were chased by a wild animal, but I didn’t expect the humor in this passage where a girl flees in terror from a bunny.

Catherine dashed to the woods, but she could hear the bunny behind her. It was close. She could just about feel the bunny’s pointy whiskers brush against her legs!

I had several scenes involving food fights in the cafeteria, but I loved the way this one began …

Jesse told the grape catapults to fire. They did. When he told them to hold position, they would. Anything he told them to do, they would do it.

… and the mature use of language and sentence structure in this one …

“Heads up!” someone yelled. Something slimy hit the back of my head. I realized there were mashed potato globs sailing through the air like rocket ships, and that I had been hit with one. There was also gravy catapulting from one end of the lunchroom to the other. Jerry Bulbs got pegged on the side of the head with a chicken wing and went down.

The first authorities to appear on the scene were the lunch aides. They were still trying to restore order and having no such luck when Mr. Deshidio burst through the door.

They seem to have an over-fondness for the word “catapult” – which is worrisome in a class of 5th graders – but overall, I think this is a promising start to the year!

11 Responses to A Promising Start!

  1. mshatch says:

    These are wonderful! I’m sure I didn’t even know what the word ‘catapult’ meant when I was in 5th grade. Tell your kids to keep up the good work:)

  2. What a great assignment. It’s amazing the works kids know in 5th grade.
    I enjoyed these.

  3. salarsenッ says:

    So sweet. Uh…apparently catapult is a popular word. LOL. It must be so inspiring to read their young work. I know that’s one reason I love working with my daughter. So refreshing.

  4. Loved these. I wondered about “catapult.” I thought maybe it was a spelling word that they had to use in a sentence or something. The great thing about these sentences is that I could visualize the action. Good job kids!

  5. Linda G. says:

    These are great! Sounds like you have a fantastic group of students this year.

  6. Wow, wish I had been able to write like that in grade five. These are great!

  7. JEM says:

    Wooow, that last one was impressive! Love it.

    I’ve been considering moving to teaching, do you really love it?

  8. Jen Daiker says:

    This was very impressive. I love to see children and all their creativity, even if their favorite word right now was catapult. I can say I never gave them much credit, but they sound as good as I did when I first started at the beginning of the year (age 24, if you’re curious).

    Just shows you can write something wonderful at any age!

  9. JEM — I love the kids! But the climate of education right now is not the great in this country. High stakes testing and state mandates have made teaching a very difficult (and frustrating) field right now.

  10. Haha, I love these! You can be my writing teacher if you want 😉

  11. How fun! I loved reading my kiddos work…scoring it was another thing… (LOL) Thanks for sharing them with us. 🙂