Going back to school and the climax

It is Monday and some things never seem to change, like the feeling on Monday morning. It was a busy weekend we jammed in high school football, chores, leaf cleanup, church, cooking, and spending time together. Beth got home from Ohio Sunday night and the kids were excited to greet her, having momma home is the best.

Today is the day I teach how to write and what to include in the climax portion of the story my students are writing. It seems simple, but it never is. When I think back to my own writing instruction, I don’t ever remember writing until, sadly, the eleventh grade in Mr. Wright’s class. But, that is another story in itself. In seventh grade, we did not have Language Arts block but two separate classes: RWS, which stood for Reading, Writing, and Spelling and English. I had Mrs. Guinn for English and Mrs. Atlee for RWS and I have a few recollections from class, but I don’t remember writing, at all, but I am sure we did. I liked both of them and I think I did okay in their classes.

I have spent time going back in time and have written my sample climax, it is where the action reaches its peak and the character changes and begins to realize the lesson learned and the theme becomes clearer. Below, is what I will be sharing with class this morning.

Notes for the Climax

  • 1-2 paragraphs in length
  • Focus on action and emotions
  • Use active verbs and descriptive detail

 Mr. Watkins’s  climax

The time between school letting out for Christmas break and the day after New Year’s and the following Monday went quickly, it always does. It’s not fair, time in school goes slowly and vacations and weekends go quickly. My friends and I had played football in the side yard and I watched bowl games on television and the NFL playoffs. My team, the Houston Oilers, did not make the playoffs, they never did but it didn’t stop me from watching. I had an okay Christmas. I remember I got a few model airplanes, some clothes, and a couple of books. I got what was on my list, what I wanted and what I had asked for, but what I really wanted couldn’t be on a list and no one could have given it to me, it was having my mom and dad back together. But, that wasn’t going to happen and I needed to come to grips with it.

Monday morning I got up, my mom woke me; I got ready, went to the bus stop and waited just like every other day. At the bus stop we talked, we joked, and played and we wished we weren’t going back to school. The bus picked us up and we rode to school. The bus stopped and I went through the routine, put away the trombone, head to my locker and get ready for class, then head to homeroom. I sat down and waited. School wasn’t my favorite place to be, but I had a few favorite parts like social studies with Mr. Gilbert and RWS with Mrs. Atlee. We pledged and then the classroom got quiet, quieter than it have ever gotten.

“…. and we will have a moment of silence,” blared the loudspeaker.

Those were the only words that I can remember. I remember hearing Coleen, family, dead, tragic accident; but it didn’t make sense. None of it made sense. I looked around the room and where Coleen sat, the desk was empty. A few of the girls cried and I sat there in shock.

Questions to think about:

  1. Have the narrator’s feelings about his Christmas vacation from the intro to the climax of the story? What words in the narrative suggest this change?
  2. What are some of the descriptive words or phrases used in the second paragraph to show the actions of the narrator? What are some of the descriptive words or phrases used to show the actions of those around the narrator?

NOTE TO STUDENT: My rough draft needs work, it may seem polished but it isn’t. When I put the pieces together, it is going to need to be cleaned up, bits removed, bits added and polished. There are 345 words in my two paragraphs and 393 words in Mrs. Line’s sample on your sheet, but 1-2 paragraphs including 175 – 300 words that focus on action, show emotions, and show how the character has changed from the introduction until this point in the narrative.

Like my Christmas vacation in 1974-75, the time this past weekend went quickly, even with the extra hour. We went to church Sunday and Olivia sat didn’t want to go to Sunday school so I let her sit beside me and follow the service. It was All Saint’s Day in church, though it was really November 1st and they had the reading of the saints – those who have passed away in the previous year. It is always a solemn time and I always think of my dad and my grandparents. Dad’s name was called in 2009. This year, I had another person, another family on my mind – Coleen and Coleen’s family.

There are two more parts left to write – the falling action and the conclusion. I have outlined them but haven’t drafted them, yet. I find writing with my students helps me to understand what they are going through and helps me be a better writing teacher to them. I hope that when I my students look back on seventh grade they will remember what we went through, together. However, maybe not and I am not going to fret about it. Today is going to be a great day.  Making the Days Count, one Monday (thankfully) at a time!

Is there an event in your adolescence when you experienced conflict and learned an important lesson?

Thanks for visiting MtDC. How are YOU Making YOUR Days Count?