A Story for Linda

I often have interesting classes with students. For instance, this article isn't even going to be about the six-year-old from two days ago that is fluent in English and when the book wasn't working shared a 30 minute conversation with me that included her desire to be a DNA scientist so that she can resurrect the dinosaurs, and her further plans to become an engineer to design a lightsaber to fight off the dinosaurs, which was all followed by our debate about whether pterodactyls would be able to kill t-rex babies better or whether t-rexes would be able to kill pterodactyl babies better. Nope, this article is about a ten-year-old named Linda.

Linda is learning phonics and she's doing pretty well. She can read early children's' books. By the time we had come to the end of the material (I don't select the teaching material when I'm working with this company) we still had a few minutes of class left and she had seemed a bit bored with the material anyway. Unfortunately life can be boring, and sometimes it's unavoidable, but I do consider boredom and confusion to be two of the primary sins, maybe thee primary sins, in life. So, I attempted to make things a little more interesting in her last few minutes.

Often at this point I'll work on conversation skills. Conversation skills usually aren't a problem for a native speaker, but a second language speaker will sometimes, and not uncommonly, learn to read and still lack the ability to carry a conversation. Sometimes they are able to understand and speak English, but no one has ever taught, encouraged, or allowed them to ask questions in English. I tell them, often whether they can understand it or not, that if they can read and ask questions then they can learn anything. That's why I emphasize those two skills.

But, even though Linda's reading skills are progressing nicely she was not able to respond to the question "What is your name?" It's commonly taught as a route question, so many people can answer that question that don't know anything else in English other than "Hello." That's where I start, I expand into the normal things that they also probably would have been taught like age, where they live, what their favorite animal and food is, and what they like to do. After each question I have them ask me the question. Asking and answering are different skills. If all of that is going well then I open it up to questions about anything, questions about me personally, about English, about the United States, about the world, about history, about the future, about anything they want. Some kids take to that like fish to water, others can't believe that a teacher would let them ask anything they want. They usually learn to like it pretty quickly.

Since our ability to have a conversation was stalled and she was doing well at reading but bored with the material I thought she might like to see some material invented. This is a version of live writing. There is a whole history to it. Harlan Ellison used to do tours around the country where he would sit with his typewriter in bookstore window displays and write a new story on the spot. Each page that he finished would be taped up in the window for people to read. It makes me think of writing as a sport. In this event I had 2 to 3 minutes to both write the story and to help Linda read it as I went. Here's what happened.

- - - - - - -

Once upon a time in a land far away there lived a little princess.

She was out walking with her little dog when the dog ran off into the woods.

She was scared, she loved that dog, and she ran after him.

But the dog was very fast and got away. Now the little princess was alone in the scary woods.

What could she do?

Go home and tell her parents of course.

She walked and walked, but she could not find the path. It was getting dark and she was lost.

Soon she sat down against a tree and began to cry. She didn't know what to do. She heard a sound. The bush started to shake and something was coming.

It was her dog. She laughed. She hugged him. And they went home together.

- - - - - - -

Such a simple story you may say, and you would be right. But it was quite extraordinary to see and hear Linda reading it. There was a bit of amazement in her reaction. She didn't know what was going to happen, neither did I, and she was excited to find out. This story isn't better than the one we were provided within the book, although the book did have pictures, but there is something unique about knowing that the story is being created, invented right there and then - about seeing something new come to life. I quite enjoyed being a part of it.


I've written two fictional pieces that I like so far.

"The City of Peace" - A future history science fiction utopia/dystopia action adventure in a framed story of a father telling his son a story about the child's grandfather.


"The Birth of Hanniba'al" - A dark, somewhat alternative, historical origin story for the Carthage General Hannibal.


Here are three of my most popular posts.

"The Making of a Great First Line in Fiction"


"A Letter to My Niece in 2034"


"The Most Important Question in Philosophy - Part 4 of 4"


You can find more of what I'm doing here: http://www.JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

You can support this page at https://www.patreon.com/JeffreyAlexanderMartin


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