collage writing assignment

Since my AP students will use KidBlog this year and it’s not viewable to the public, here’s their first writing assignment.  Feel free to borrow / revise for your own classes.  I would always appreciate a backlink or a shout-out through Twitter @missyfeller.


Think of collages you’ve made in middle school or even high school.  You page through magazines already picked over by earlier scavengers, looking for the perfect images to illustrate your point.  Even though you’ve selected a random mix of words and letters, photos and illustrations, some unifying element, often unspoken, exists.  These things, though seemingly disconnected, belong together.

Such is the case with collage writing.

Although collage writing represents one final piece, it is composed of several short selections from disconnected prompts linked together by an underlying theme–one you may identify outright or leave for the reader to discover.

During our first day together, we watched, took notes over, and discussed Riding the Rails, a PBS documentary about the teens of the Great Depression who sought adventure, work, and escape by illegally jumping freight trains and traveling cross-country.  The PBS website has plenty of information connected to this documentary for further study, such as Added Obstacles for African AmericansRailroads and their Musical Heritage, a timeline of the Great Depression, and a transcript for the film.  I would recommend you check out at least one of these additional articles for your first writing assignment.  For your prompts, I’ll pull from the Teacher’s Guide for this documentary.

In addition, I would like for you to read and process “Homeless” by Anna Quindlen.  I will refer to some of the prompts from this link in this writing assignment.

After the selection by Anna Quindlen, we’re going to read a selection from last year’s Imagery.  We’ll look at that together during class.

I also need you to understand, as we discussed last year, that writing is a process.  While creating the product, whether it is an essay, story, poem, song,etc., we must also acknowledge and respect the stages our writing must go through in order to move toward a more comprehensive, “finished” piece.  You should never create only one draft of a piece of writing and submit that as the “final” piece.  For one, it is probably so glutted with mistakes you’d be embarrassed to claim it as your own.  As AP students, that is inexcusable.  And while looking at what other people have written is okay as a starting point, you should never commit the ultimate sin of writing by stealing their words unless you would like to live in infamy or go through a whole lot of hassle.  Consider yourself warned.

When we finish this unit, you’ll have a collage with over ten sections all unified by a theme or tone you determine. (In case you forgot, the theme of this first grading period is “I could never obtain the one thing I always wanted.”)

During your initial drafts of the first few sections, you’ll have about 5 minutes to gather your thoughts and record them on the screen (or on paper, if you prefer).  At this point, do not worry about grammar, spelling, punctuation.  Focus on the topic, the emotion, the essence of what you’re trying to convey.  The rest (yes–I do want you to correct your grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes) will come later.  I’ll deliver these topics to you one by one and I want for you to write.  Write.  Don’t sit there looking at the blank screen with the excuse that you have no idea what to write.  And don’t waste your and my time writing things like “I have no idea what to write.”  Do the work.  You’re in AP for a reason–prove it.  Aim for at least a paragraph per prompt–you can always go back and add more later (and by the way, I want for you to do this.  Writing is a process, remember?)

Prompt 1:  What do you know about homelessness today? What are the reasons for homelessness? Why do you think people were homeless in the 1930s?

Prompt 2:  Write a diary entry or letter from the point of view of a teenager during the 1930s who has run away to ride the rails. Explain why you left and what you are experiencing. What are your hopes? What are your fears?

Prompt 3: What are your plans for college?  Where will you live?  Explain your choice.  Or, if you do not plan to attend college, what are your plans for after high school?

Prompt 4:  Compose a reflective paragraph collecting your thoughts about one of the supplementary resources from the PBS site.

Prompt 5: Do some preliminary research about hobos online.  Write about the most interesting thing you find.

Prompt 6: Which facts or opinions in Quindlen’s essay did you find most important or significant or disturbing?

Prompt 7: What do you think Quindlen wants the reader to do or to believe when she says, “It has been customary to take people’s pain and lessen our own participation in it by turning it into an issue, not a collection of human beings”?

Prompt 8: Quindlen believes that homelessness is a major problem. Her source is a series of interviews. Do you think interviews are a credible source? Are they enough, or are statistics also necessary? Give your reasons.

Prompt 9: Respond to the student’s piece about homelessness. What is your reaction?

Prompt 10: Compose a persuasive paragraph proposing a realistic, doable action you and your peers could do to help address homelessness in Evansville.

Once you’ve written your first drafts for each of these prompts, begin the process of selecting FIVE of them to edit and revise.  Editing involves spelling, grammar, punctuation whereas revision means looking at the paper as a whole, deciding what works, what to throw out, what to rewrite completely.  If your first draft looks identical (or really, really close) to the next draft you submit to me, you will lose some if not all points for the first draft.  Separate the sections with ***.  They should not be presented as one, fluid composition.Yet.

NOTE: This essay will be viewed by other students in this class.  Peer editing and discussion will be part of your grade.

You’re going to post your five (or more, if you choose) in your own blog (do NOT reply to this post with your collage.  Reply with questions ONLY!).  From the dashboard, control panel, or course blog home page, selectcreate a new post.  Then, I would like for you to post your most recent draft (the best one you have).  Comment to your own post with your original, first draft.  If you do not post the original, first draft, you will be docked points.  Give your post a title, tag with #collagewriting #homelessness #greatdepression and any other relevant (school appropriate) hashtags you would like to use.  If you use a picture (you don’t have to but most blogs use them), make sure it is free to use under creative commons and include a backlink to the image source.  You can also use hyperlinks with the text to make your writing more dynamic and interactive for the reader.  Imagine that this may end up on a public blog for student voices, or that you might turn this into a podcast.  Keep that imagined audience in mind.

If you can’t figure out KidBlog, here is a tutorial video from the student dashboard.

Here’s the point break-down:

  • rough draft (10 sections complete, posted on time, different than most recent copy) –> 10 points
  • first revision (5 sections edited and revised, posted on time, professional with few errors) –> 20 points
  • followed instructions (title, tags, picture cited if used, posted in correct place, commented with original draft in correct place) –> 5 points

This collage essay will undergo many more stages within this unit.  This part of it–the rough draft and the first revision–will be due on or before our next meeting which will be Tuesday, August 20.  If you do not have it on that day, you may turn it in on Thursday, August 22 for 20% off, but after that day, it will not be accepted.  You may still want to complete the essay since you’ll be submitted a second revision in the next week after we read Of Mice and Men.

Any questions, you know where to find me.  Reply to this post with questions, message me via MyBigCampus, send me an email, or request (from me) a pass to visit during enrichment.

I look forward to reading your first essays.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: