Writing Activities for Too Nice
by Marge Pellegrino
Boundaries. When has being too nice or too mean or too anything felt
uncomfortable? Describe one of those times including some of the following:
Where did it take place? Who was there?
What happened? How it made you feel?
After sharing the writing, ask students to write about at least one thing that
could have been done differently if the situation happened today.
Seek Wisdom. Telling her grandfather how she felt helped Amy. Sometimes we
gain wisdom about a situation by writing it down and then speaking it. Hearing
ourselves tell our own story helps us understand them better. We can be more
open to thinking of a solution after we’ve laid it out so someone else can
understand what we’re feeling or what we experienced.
Think about times you faced challenges.
List as many as you can think of and then chose one.
Write the story from a neutral point of view, referring to yourself by
your name or as “she” or “he.”
Write it again from the point of view of someone else who was there.
Share and discuss how a shift in point of view can add to our insight.
Metaphors. Metaphors enrich writing and can serve as a means of self-discovery.
What was a central metaphor in Too Nice? (The fence for good
boundaries representing being just-right-nice and the open gate for a
weak boundary, being too nice.)
Ask students to think of metaphors that would help us understand how
they are in the world (I am the sun, shining light into dark places. I am a hurricane that leaves a mess in its wake).
Consider a metaphor for their family, for their relationship about school, friends or siblings.
Practice. Amy practiced being more assertive with her grandfather.
Brainstorm actions or attitudes that you do better when you practice.
Write them down.
Write other things that help you reach goals, or do a thing better
(practice, good mentor or teacher, a great attitude…)
Which of those things could you schedule this week? Today?
Details help the reader see what’s going on. They make the story more interesting for
the reader to read and easier for the writer to write. What details do you remember
from Too Nice?
Detail through action and description. Use the list of feelings gleaned from the Feelings Quilt activity below to ask students to act out a feeling so we can guess what it might be. This is a powerful way to reinforce the critical writer skill of “show don’t tell.” For example, model acting like Amy acted when she ended up cleaning the lunchrooms all by herself; “While she worked, her mouth was a hard, straight line….” Do we know from the description how she was feeling?
After each student has the group guess his or her feeling, ask the entire group to write down the behaviors that caused us to believe the feeling. Those behaviors that we can see are details that support strong writing. Readers have come to expect good writers to “show, don’t tell.” Details help the writer fulfill that promise.
Change. An important ingredient of any story is change. The protagonist, the person the story is about, should be different because of the events that take place in the story. That doesn’t mean other characters can’t stretch too! Describe who changed and how in Too Nice.
Creative Writing Springboard. Use the Feelings Quilt described below. Have each student take one of the similes that describe one of the feelings or have the whole class take the same feeling. Students write the story of how the character came to have those feelings, or how a character transformed or got rid of those feelings.
Integrate Art and Writing Craft: Create a feelings quilt
Read about how rotten Amy felt when she ended up sitting all alone on the school bus on page 18: “…Amy felt as rotten as a moldy peach at the bottom of a fruit bin…”
Discuss other feelings they noted in the book like confusion, pride and the happiness of having a friend.
Ask for other kinds of feelings and list them on the board.
Ask each student to accept one of the feelings listed and work on a simile to show what the feeling is so that we can see it, so it can be illustrated.
As a group, decide ahead of time whether the squares should be created horizontally or vertically.
Each illustrates their feeling using glue and paper scraps on an 8 1/2 by 11” paper.
Write the simile on the page in marker.
Hole-punch quilt “squares” and connect with 2-inch lengths of yarn. For a longer lasting quilt, slip squares in plastic page protectors before hole punching.
Poetry. Write a poem about one of the emotions, using concrete images that we can see. Example: “I hope that I could make a machine/that if you want something to happen/you just press a button/that has the picture/and you say the thing that you want to happen/and it happens.” Hope poem by Oumou, age six.
Marge Pellegrino teaches writing for schools, libraries and community settings including ArtsReach, the Pima County Public Library, KARE, and the Hopi Foundation’s Owl and Panther program. On the Artist Roster of the Arizona Commission of the Arts, Marge is also the author of My Grandma’s the Mayor, and I Don’t Have an Uncle Phil Anymore published by Magination Press, an imprint of the American Psychological Association, www.maginationpress.com. Her forthcoming young adult novel, Journey of Dreams is with Frances Lincoln. The teacher resource book she co-wrote with Joan Daniels, The Folded Spiral in the Classroom, is available at www.exceptionalstudentstore.com or Antigone Books in Tucson. Marge can be reached at email@example.com.