One Perfect Paragraph

The power of anecdotes, that’s the writing mini-lesson coming up this week. Oh, I’m a fan of that short, pointed “storylet” that packs a punch when done well. It’s useful in argument as elaboration for a claim, voice-full for an informational text, and the substance of great economic poetry. We’re starting a personal writing project now that our most basic procedural routines have been established—I know, I know, maintaining routines is eternal, but I’m optimistic—so, the anecdote…

While we’ve got our goals, and our shared learning objectives as per Kahn Academy’s SMART introduction, and Fisher, Frey, and Hattie’s The Distance Learning Playbook, we have yet to peer confer about our “pieces.” At an inspiring webinar on digital literacy offered by my alma mater Rutgers University Graduate School of Education, Dr. Boling discussed a simple acronym she espouses for peer interactions around writing: PQP; Praise,Question,Polish. Simple is my mantra, and this works for me! But we need a text to work with, another pair of p’s: practice paragraph. Hence: the anecdote.

I am using Meg Medina’s short story, “Sol Painting, Inc.” from the wonderful collection, Flying Lessons,” loaded with anecdotal examples, for the introduction to noticing and naming. Medina’s story is particularly great because she uses the Tell-Show combo with such great skill. But I always try to do, and share, Gallagher and Kittle as my guides, whatever my students are doing. All this professional preamble for my anecdote, and here it is.

“Just yesterday as I was collecting the mail from the box, mostly junk, I caught sight of a real letter. Its putty-colored envelope had a New Orleans return address, one I know well, my son’s. A thrill pulsed through my fingers, but I waited until I was inside to open it, anticipation building. The envelope lay heavy in my hands, the handwriting on its face my son’s. I turned it over, gently opened the flap and lifted out a simple, classy card. It was an “official invitation” to his wedding, the small his-and-her-immediate-family-only event that had to replace the celebration that they had  originally planned. He had drawn two boxes, one “yes,” the other “heck [hell] yes” and beneath those the date and time. Then he added the line with the address of the Airbnb he and his bride-to-be had found in the woods, where the ceremony will take place on a deck surrounded by tall trees. They will be married at 1865 JOY ROAD. Tears. That’s exactly what I wish for them, a road filled with joy.”

7 thoughts on “One Perfect Paragraph”

  1. All prepared to agree that Flying Lessons is an amazing mentor text, I read your anecdote about your son’s upcoming wedding. We have to always look for the bright spots on this journey. Congratulations.

  2. What a perfect invitation. So much better than anything a printer could come up with. Anecdotes are such a useful tool because beside making a point, since they are short, they stick with the listener.

    1. Yup! And I can’t wait! The parents of the bride were evacuated from their house and just learned that the fire, now contained (CA), came within 300 yards. This is a fraught time.

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