I’m trying to teach some aspects of reflective, empathetic writing, and I find that I’m having to cheat more than a little. How can we teach students to go from generic summary sentences, to being able to delve deeply into the events and explain them to a reader in a way that makes the reader feel the writer understands the past strongly?
You teach them to fake it, and hope they gradually develop the skill from the outside in.
I’m not actually sure this will work, but here’s the strategy. First, teach them to write the kind of reflective/meditative sentences that use the word “I” in their structure. Those sentences allow them to imagine ways in which their current lives are similar to the lives of people in the past.
Second, ask them to reflect their awareness of the present day back in time to the era they are studying. Ask them to flip the sentence around so that it deals with people’s real issues. Open a channel for them to speculate or imagine life in that era.
Third, refine the new sentence(s) so that it/they are about people rather than things. People have a hard time having empathy for things, even readers who love delving deeply into a good book. So, let the writers invest their imagined objects with the creativity of their long-lost human creators.
What do you think? Is this strategy for teaching kids to be empathetic writers going to work?
I’ll let you know how I think it turns out on my end in a few weeks, when I’ve had a chance to assess the results.