Writing a Story with Masha, and What Kids Know About Religions

Masha and her mother specifically came to me to help her work on writing skills.


We've written a few interesting things, and there is a story further below. But first, I've been asking kids in China and Russia what they know about different world religions. I've been a little surprised by how little they know. And, really, for the most part they just don't care.

Here are some of the different religions that I've been asking if they know: Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christian Orthodox, Christian Protestant, Christian Catholic, Islam, Judaism, Ancient Greek, Ancient Norse/Viking, Zoroastrianism, and Druze. I realize some are more philosophy than religion, some are dead religions, and that some are obscure. What I've found is that most kids seem to know a tiny bit about one or two, and have heard of another one or two. That's usually it. (Carrie is a 14 year old in China who is an exception because she likes studying history on her own.)

Often, the kids know more about the Ancient Greek and Ancient Norse religions than anything else. Why? It's because those are the ones where the stories are emphasized. The human mind is largely a narrative processing unit. Where the stories are at the forefront the kids are interested and absorbed in the material. Where other things take the place of stories, the information misses the mark.

The moral of this story: if you want kids to learn an important subject, find a story to embed it in. Also, stories contain more useful information because they are symbolic behavioral patterns which are applicable in the world. Kids want to know how information applies to them, stories already contain that info.

Masha and I covered what we've been up to over the last week, and then covered comparative religions in just a few more minutes. I asked her what she wanted to do. He answer was, "Write." I asked her what she wanted to write about and I wrote down these notes based on what she said: daughter of some type of god, powerful, at school. She said she watches too much Youtube and laughed.

I started, and then we alternated back and forth. I think it will be hard for most people to tell at which points we switched who was writing. There are six parts here, we both wrote three. I think it's pretty seamless.

- - - - - - -

Stacy didn't want to look up from her food.
"Hey," said Martha, in a voice that let everyone know she was in charge, "I said you should move to a different table."
Stacy got up, kept looking down at her tray the entire time, and moved to an empty table on the other side of the cafeteria.
"Hey, look," said Martha's friend Kim, "she is alone again. What a pity."
Everyone laughed. Kim and Martha went to Stacy and threw away her food.
"Oh, you want to eat? Then eat." Martha threw food in Stacy's face.
Stacy just stood there looking down at the floor. Some people were laughing, others were looking at the whole scene unfolding before their eyes in horror. Even though Stacy was standing completely still, the air was not. It may have been a small breeze moving through the cafeteria, even though no windows or doors were open. Or maybe it was a fan, even though there wasn't a fan. It may have been those things; only, it wasn't.
"Could you leave me alone for once?" Stacy slowly looked up at Martha."I don't like it, and I'm sure, that you won't like it too, if you keep going. You don't know me."
"That is funny, you are nothing. Nobody likes you, and you don't even have parents. You are adopted, you're family hated you." Kim high-fived Martha.
Stacy's face tightened and her eyes widened. Eyes that flickered and flashed with power. She spread her hands directly out to her sides and opened her hands wide. There was a flash. A flash like the world had been ignited. And then a sound, like thunder, as if the cafeteria were in the clouds. Everyone was bent over and rubbing there eyes and whining in discomfort.
Kim was on her knees with the palms of her hands pressed into her face. Martha slowly blinked open her eyes and looked at Stacy.
Stacy stood tall, her arms still spread out wide, but with her hands closed. In her left hand she held a large hammer with inscriptions laid into the bright metal head and down the dark wooden handle. In her right hand she grasped a blazing piece of jagged light.
"I warned you to stop bullying me, you didn't listen." Stacy smiled. "You are lucky that I am in a good mood now."
"Psychopath! You almost killed us! What did we do?!" Martha shouted.
"What did you do? WHAT DID YOU DO?! Are you serious? You have been bullying me for 10 years, and now you ask what did you do?! You betrayed me, that's what you did. We were childhood friends, remember? We were hanging out together and laughing together. But of course, now I am a monster with no feelings, and you are innocent humans, who got too close to a psycho!"

- - - - - - -

Masha is quite an impressive writer for being 11, and the fact that English is her second language after Russian. She's been getting better too, I only made about 15 minor corrections in her writing here. She still has a tendency to not use contractions, which we haven't worked on yet. I did that when I first started writing too. We'll work on that soon.

Masha was writing at the end. When she got to "Stacy smiled." she paused. I said, "Ooh, that's a good spot to stop." But Masha just kept on writing and finished it out by adding both emotional depth and background in the final paragraph. Good stuff.

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To read more from Jeff go to JeffThinks.com or JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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