Monday, October 31, 2011

Typewriter Activities: Part I

This is the first of five blog posts focusing on how a teacher can use a typewriter to enhance classroom activities. Most of these strategies are really modifications of existing best-practices.

I’ll start with an activity that has a huge visual impact. it’s called “The Never-ending Story.”
This activity relies on a variation of the big roll of paper that you may have seen mentioned in various corners of the Typosphere.

A manual typewriter (desktop models work well for this).
A very large roll of paper or a significant amount of continuous-feed paper.
A hanger.
3 or 4 binder clips.
Something long, thin, and heavy..a metal ruler would be good. Be creative.

Set-Up Steps
1. Find a nice, safe place where you can set up the typewriter and have the paper feed easily.
2. Hang the hanger from the ceiling above the typewriter. You can jimmy it into the false ceiling of your classroom.
3. Feed the paper to the typing-ready position.
4. Think of a basic conflict for a story.
5. Start by typing the first sentence of that story.
6. Give the classroom Instruction Narrative.

Instruction Narrative
“We are going to use this typewriter for an interesting experiment. We are going to write a story and everyone will have a say in how it turns out. It might be an interesting story or it might make no sense whatsoever. That’s OK. We are trying to be creative.

I have typed the first line of a story. I have no idea where this story will go or what kind of characters will be created. All I know is that this sentence is a springboard. Use it to create something completely unique. I want you to type the next line of this story. The next line needs to make sense and be related to the narrative that comes before. You cannot introduce a Deus Ex Machina. Everything must logically precede from the previous to the next..unless you don’t want to.

Everything must be school appropriate and you must include you name with your contribution. You may contribute once a day. Don’t add your contribution while another activity is going on. Be respectful of others.”

Wrapping It Up
Let this typewriter sit there for the entire school year. Keep reminding the students to contribute. In a school year you’ll have quite the story to read.

When the roll is so long that you cannot manage it, take the end of the paper and feed it through the hanger lodged in the ceiling. After feeding the paper, take the ruler or whatever you have and clip the paper to the edge. This will weight the paper slightly keeping it taught as it leaves the typewriter. It will look silly, but that’s part of the fun.

You don’t have to keep this typewriter out for the entire year. You could make it part of a unit or even a couple-day lesson. It’s imminently scalable. The whole story can even be copied for sharing or used as an editing exercise.

A great use for old paper.