Using "Brags and Whines" as a Creative Writing Technique

Article excerpt

The Common Core State Standards (CCSSO and NGA 2010) call for an integrated approach to literacy where content-area classrooms routinely incorporate research-based writing. How can we routinely incorporate writing in the middle school science classroom? Constructed essay responses, research reports, and science notebooks are useful examples. Creative writing can also be a dynamic addition to the science classroom, as it gives students fun and meaningful opportunities to fuse facts with imagination. In this article, we examine using brags and whines as an example of creative writing and provide steps for and the benefits of implementing these activities in the science classroom.

Importance of creative writing

Creative writing allows students to discuss not only their understanding of content material, but also to blend elements of various writing genres and tap into their feelings and opinions about a topic (Grainger, Goouch, and Lambirth 2005). The National Commission on Writing states, "If students are to make knowledge their own, they must struggle with the details, wrestle with the facts, and rework raw information and dimly understood concepts into language they can communicate to someone else" (2003). There are many benefits of using creative writing. Writing is an instrumental component in the development process of children's thinking skills (Palmer 2011). Creative writing allows for a deeper reflection by students about their ideas and can lead to a deeper examination and understanding of the content material (Elbow 1973). Students learn problem-solving skills by examining alternative possibilities and asking questions through their writing (Grainger, Goouch, and Lambirth 2005). Through the process of exploration in creative writing, students can find their inner voice to express their thoughts and feelings (Elbow 1973). Writing brags and whines is just one creative-writing activity that teachers can implement in their classrooms.

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Introducing brags and whines

Middle school students are notorious for bragging and whining about their lives, so why not give them the chance to use this "skill" in the science classroom with a type of creative writing called "brags and whines"? Described by Turner (2004) in Essentials of Elementary Social Studies, brags and whines are "comedic devices" where students write a narrative as if the topic itself is boasting or moaning to an exaggerated level. This is a novel spin on the traditional first-person-style report and is easily adapted for science class. For example, imagine the water cycle talking about its job. Could it be whining about its continuously demanding work schedule? What might rocks say if they could talk? The metamorphic rock might be guilty of boasting that it is the best rock around (Figure 1). Students can thoroughly research science topics or conduct scientific investigations and then use that information to write as if they are the science topic they studied. Allowing middle school scholars to put words into the mouths of science topics can add excitement and humor to content learning.

Steps to creating brags and whines

Brags and whines can be adapted for use with almost any science content. The following are steps to using brags and whines in your classroom:

* First, based on grade-level curriculum standards, begin a scientific exploration with your students about a topic.

* Share with students that you are going to have them pen a creative-writing piece based on the content they are learning and discovering. With lots of flair, read aloud a sample brag or whine. We have provided two models: One was written by the creator of brags and whines, Thomas Turner (Figure 1), and the other was written by the authors (Figure 2). Providing an exemplary model helps students establish a schema of how their finished writing project could sound and look. After you have integrated this learning task into your classroom a few times, students will grow familiar with the format and will not need a model. …