Alexander and Bucephalus - Feedback on Rough Draft please?

This board is for discussion of Classical Writing - Aesop. CW Aesop teaches writing through rewriting of shorter stories, like fables.

Alexander and Bucephalus - Feedback on Rough Draft please?

Postby hether » Mon Nov 18, 2013 7:14 pm

Both my kids just wrote a rough draft retelling of Alexander and Bucephalus, and I'm not sure where to go from here.

This is not the first narrative rewrite they've done, and it's not the first time I've wondered whether I'm giving them enough/useful feedback. I know as with many things, practice is how one gets better, but before sending them off to do yet another narrative, what kind of feedback should I be giving them? Both of them will often embellish with their own details "to make it more interesting". DS will often take an overly casual tone in his writing style.

So far my feedback has been basic punctuation/spelling/run-on sentences -- in other words, more mechanical things, though I've told DS to make his writing voice a bit more formal. At this point I'm not "supposed to be" concerning myself with writing style, but rather mechanics and showing comprehension, right?

I'll type both kids' drafts below and I would really appreciate it if someone would mention a thing or two that jumps out.

I can think of other suggestions besides my would-be feedback below to improve fluidity of sentences, but again, that is not the primary intended focus of Aesop, right? (or early Homer? I bought Homer as well because I thought maybe Aesop wasn't challenging enough, but I realize that the problem is probably that I'm not challenging them enough. So I'm doing a bit of a hybrid thing and that's where I'm getting muddled.... for instance, after reading Alexander and Bucephalus (which came from Aesop), I had them fill out a table for Theon's 6 components of a narrative (from Homer). They used that Theon table as an outline to write their rough draft.)

DS' draft:
Once upon a time in Macedon, King Philip bought an expensive horse named Bucephalus. All his servants rushed over to Bucephalus to try to tame him. All failed horribly. "Well," King Philip said, "I don't think that horse can be tamed. He is wild. Take him away!" So the servants started to take Bucephalus away. Then, Alexander, the prince, ran over to Bucephalus and said that he wanted to have a go at taming him. "I will pay you the price of the horse if this fails," declared Alexander as he jumped on the wild horse. Everyone thought Alex would be killed. But Alex kept his wits and eventually tamed Bucephalus. Everybody whooped and cheered. "My son," boomed King Philip, "Macedon is too small a place for you to rule."

[My feedback here would be along the lines of: Don't refer to Alexander as "Alex", "wanted to have a go at taming him" is too casual]

DD's draft:
Once upon a time, in a kingdom called Macedon, there was a king whose name was Philip. He had a son called Alexander, and together, they lived in their palace.
There's also a horse. He was wild, unpredictable, and dangerous. No one could tame him. The servants and guards tried to calm him by whipping him, but that just seemed to make him worse.
The horse at last became unbearable, so the servants asked Philip and Alexander for help. Alexander had an idea! He explained to his dad the idea. His dad, Philip, liked it. "I think you can do it," he said encouragingly. "I know you can."
Alexander went out to the horse. He told the guards his idea. They looked nervous, but let go of the horse. He charged straight at Alexander. Alexander bravely jumped onto its back. He spoke softly to the horse, and gently patted his mane. He told it that it would be treated gently now, and that its name would be Bucephalus.
Bucephalus gradually calmed down. Alexander proudly rode on his newly earned horse. Anyone who could congratulated him. When Bucephalus got tired, Alexander jumped to the ground and ran to the palace. He bumped into his father in the hallway.
Just by looking at Alexander's face, Philip immediately knew that he had succeeded. "You did it!" he exclaimed. Alexander could only nod, he was so happy. The king told Alexander, "You must move on and explore the world. Macedon is simply too small for you." THE END

[My feedback here would be along the lines of: "There's also a horse" is suddenly in present tense, the two ITs in "He told it that it would be treated gently no" is a little awkward, add a comma between "Anyone who could" and "congratulated him"]
hether
 
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Re: Alexander and Bucephalus - Feedback on Rough Draft pleas

Postby Kathie in VA » Thu Nov 21, 2013 12:31 pm

Hether,

I can give you what I do when I grade my kids, but hopefully you can get a response from one of the CW folks also.
You don't mention the age of your kids or if you are using the workbooks. If you are using the wkbk then you are probably in Aesop A as I see it is used in week 9. For that assignment they are using this model for Writing Project #2. The goals for that one are laid out in the Aesop core pp. 41-44. Looks like you want to check for:
--basic readability... did they retell all of the story? did they tell the story in an order that makes sense?
--basic spelling & grammar
--encourage some dialogue .. this is new to this writing assignment. They should be encouraged to find a way to add in dialogue or maybe expand their dialogue.... watch for punctuation

These are the basic ideas for grading that I use at the younger level. My 3rd grader dictates her narration to me, I type it, then she copies it (over a day or two). Soon I will dictate it back to her instead of her copying it. Once that is easy then I will help her to capture her thoughts on paper herself (but we will work together here for a bit also). I'll work more on the greatness of her composition after. We have all of Homer for that one.

However, you asked for specific comments on these papers... so the only other thing that I might discuss with them is how did Alexander master the horse? He had an idea but neither paper explained his revelation ... about the shadow.... So once they understand that part then I might let them go back to their papers to find a way to add that portion.

Hope this helps some!

When you get to the Homer books, there are 'Homer Editing Checklists' for each paper in the workbook. I use these to grade my student's papers.... since this is what they should be using to check their own papers.
Kathie in VA
 
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Re: Alexander and Bucephalus - Feedback on Rough Draft pleas

Postby hether » Thu Nov 21, 2013 9:06 pm

Kathie, thank you so much for your response.

We are using the workbooks. DD is 9 (the one with the longer draft) and DS is 11. Previously, I'd followed the "Step II. The First Draft" guidelines on page 37-38, and I'd been having them do "Option 2 - Develop an Outline First", then letting them write their draft independently based on just that outline.

What I found was that they would basically rewrite the original story word-for-word because those original sentences were fresh in their minds. So rather than coming up with their own phrasing and writing "in their own words", they were basically regurgitating the original model. It was becoming more of a short-term memorization task for them, as they'd take the few words for each sentence that they'd culled from the original story, and remember the exact sentences from the model. I thought maybe we were taking the "Imitation" part of Aesop's "Analysis and Imitation" too literally, and both kids were noticing that their finished product was basically a copy of the original model.

I know in the beginning of Chapter 3 of the Aesop book (page 15), it says specifically that beginning imitation is simple reproduction. And we did do that, copywork and dictation. But when their writing project comes out and looks almost exactly like the copywork and dictation, the writing project feels more like a memorization exercise. But maybe that is not a bad thing? Is that kind of the point of the "Analysis & Imitation"?

I then borrowed "noun synonyms" from Writing Project 3 (page 45) to give them an opportunity to add something of their own. This worked well in that they had fun coming up with synonyms (not only for nouns, but also verbs and adjectives), like when we did Androcles and the Lion, "the beast" instead of "the Lion", or in "The Crow & The Pitcher", "the vessel" and "the container" instead of "the pitcher". So now they had the outline plus their list of synonyms for the most frequently-repeated words in the model as they wrote their first draft. The result? Fable retellings that still looked like the original model except for some words replaced by synonyms. I suppose it was an improvement, as they did come up with some good synonyms that fit well into the story. However, they still read very much like the original models. Again, maybe this is the whole point of the "Analysis & Imitation"?

After we went through several iterations of their writing projects looking exactly like the original models (and then later, the same except with some original synonym choices), I decided to skip the outline to see what would happen. Suddenly, without those 3 or 4 words jogging their memory for each sentence, they were retelling the story in their own words. They'd remember the gist of the story and even add embellishments that they KNEW weren't in the model because they no longer felt like they were trying to replicate it.

(Note that when we were doing the outlining, I never told them that their goal was to replicate the original model. But the act of developing the outline and using it for their first draft caused them to gravitate towards original-model regurgitation.)

After going sans outline, their writing projects started feeling to me (and probably to them) more like an exercise in retelling a story (vs. an exercise in memorization). However, as you pointed out, both of them missed the point about Alexander noticing the shadow. An outlining step would have saved that detail, though I suspect the rest of their story would've been much closer to the original (to the point of being word-for-word).

So, am I missing the whole point of Analysis & Imitation, where the goal IS actually for the student to pretty much memorize the original author's phrasing? Does the fact that they both missed the "shadow" detail with Alexander and Bucephalus mean that they do need to outline?

Actually for one model I had them try outlining at the paragraph level (vs. sentence level) instead. That helped, though I'm not sure that would have saved the detail about the "shadow" in this case because our outlining process has involved choosing 3 or 4 words that summarize the whole point. If the 3-4 words from the "shadow" paragraph had been "Alexander gently leaped horseback", it is possible the detail about the shadow may not have made it in. So maybe it is a matter of their outlining skills?
hether
 
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Re: Alexander and Bucephalus - Feedback on Rough Draft pleas

Postby admin » Sat Nov 23, 2013 9:14 am

I did respond to this post, but I have no idea where the post went, which is really strange. Obviously it never went public. I will look for it and repost. Sorry, Hether.

Lene
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Re: Alexander and Bucephalus - Feedback on Rough Draft pleas

Postby admin » Sat Nov 23, 2013 9:22 am

Ok, my post went the way of who knows what.

But I still remember essentially what I said.

1. your students write well, congratulations!! That is the most important point.
2. sounding like they memorized the piece is not a bad thing, i.e. they have good memories. Congrats, again! Do not make a big deal out of this.
3. They sound like the writing projects are not much of a challenge, so focus elsewhere on grammar, or spelling, and if this is too easy, move faster through the material.

Now, for the informal tone. Yes, they need to know their audience and know the expected tone. That being said, DO give them outlets for their semi-sarcastic or humorous or 'slightly deviant' commentary. We all have 'tones' we need out of our systems, from time to time, and they need a diary or some other outlet that you are willing to read WITH THE UNDERSTANDING, that their writing projects need to follow the tone you specify.

I mention this because on occasion I have college students in my classes who don't seem to understand the appropriate tone for an occasion, and I do knock points in essays for not following the specifications on an assignment, whether that be unprofessional comments in a presentation or in an essay. When you are instructed to perform a certain task to a certain standard, it is important that you follow the instructions carefully. (This will be a great aid to success in the job market).

That being said, if one of them is 9, I would not be legalistic or overly dramatic about my above point about tone. Kids are kids, and they learn through trial and error and play, and we shouldn't take ourselves too too seriously. It is delightful when kids begin to discern tones and develop a sense of humor.

Lene
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Re: Alexander and Bucephalus - Feedback on Rough Draft pleas

Postby Kathie in VA » Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:39 am

Glad my comments helped.

The synonym idea is a good one. I like to take whatever they recently worked on for their A&I and try to suggest using that in their editing. For example, once they worked on different types of sentences, perhaps they can find a way to have at lest 2 different types of sentences in their narrative.

BTW, they don't have to add in the part about the shadow. It still works fine without it ... but if you are looking for a way to edit, that's one thing they can add.

As for the outlines not helping, my kids didn't really need outlines either. However I would sometimes have them write one anyway. Usually this would just be from memory, not looking at the model. I'd say something like, "So basically what happened first?" Then we'd jot down a few words to remember. We'd continue to just jot down a few things and put them into a simple list, ordered chronologically for the story. We'd keep these short as if we were on the phone and running out of time to explain it before the phone died. I might even wait a few days after introducing the model before working on this simplified list... and not re-read the model. If they can still retell the story orally and put this list together without looking back, then their wording tended to differ from the model even more. But, honestly, sometimes even then it was similar. That's okay also... it's just time to move on to the next one. But first remember to let them know how great they are doing. Some kids really do struggle with this part, others have little to no problems.

Remember Aesop is an introduction to writing narratives. They will get to play much more with their narratives at the Homer level.

Enjoy your time with them!

Blessings,
Kathie in VA
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Re: Alexander and Bucephalus - Feedback on Rough Draft pleas

Postby hether » Mon Nov 25, 2013 6:24 am

I really appreciate the feedback. It has given me some new things (that make a lot of sense) to think about with regard to our approach to writing, so I will put them into practice and see how it goes. Thanks again!
hether
 
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