Being a Rock

One of my favorite activities with my 8th graders is a creative writing exercise. The activity itself is not high on excitement for me, but the outcome is why it makes my top five list. We do this activity after we have spent some time learning about the rock cycle. This can be my culminating exercise, though this year I did it a little earlier in the unit and still enjoyed the products. It is simple to implement – all you need is a piece of blank paper (I use a colored piece of paper) and a pencil for each student. This generally takes at least an entire class period, sometimes two!

  1. Have the students fold the paper in half both directions. This provides crease lines that divide the paper into four equal sections. Using both front and back, you now have eight frames on which to write.
  2. Have the students number the frames on the first page. I am specific about how I want them ordered so that I can read them all the same direction.
  3. Explain to the students that they will be engaging in a creative writing exercise. You will guide them through each frame and their job is to first listen, then think, then write.
  4. Ask the students to close their eyes. (This year I assured the students my eyes would stay open and I would make sure they were safe. This seemed to relax some students enough to close their eyes). Tell them this setting, or something like it: “You are a rock. You are inside a magma chamber. All of a sudden, you feel the Earth begin to shake and pressure increases around you. You are shot up the volcano and out into the open air.” Then ask the students to open their eyes and write about this experience. (You may want to let them know you will be developing the story in the next frame, so they should focus on just this portion – the volcano erupting and you flying out into the world).
  5. When students have finished writing, I ask them to remain silent until all students have finished writing. They are encouraged to add illustrations if they finish before others, however, the emphasis is on the writing so they must have something written first. When all students are finished, we move onto frame 2. I begin each frame by asking them to close their eyes.
  6. Frame 2 scenario: You landed on the side of the volcanic mountain. The volcano rumbled and you tumbled down the mountain. You tumbled, and tumbled, and tumbled. Each time you hit the side of the mountain, you broke pieces of yourself off. You finally landed at the bottom of the mountain and are surrounded by bits and pieces of yourself. Open your eyes and write about this experience.
  7. Frame 3 scenario: You have been at the bottom of the mountain for quite some time. The volcano has had several eruptions and with each one, new pieces of rocks have landed above you creating layer upon layer of rock pieces. Open your eyes and write about this experience.
  8. Frame 4 scenario: It has been so long and you have not seen the sun in what seems like forever. You have no sense of time anymore. The layers of rocks above you are now creating so much pressure you begin to compact and cement together with those around you. You are a new rock. Open your eyes and write about this experience.
  9. Have the students turn the paper over and number the frames 5-8 in the same direction as the other side. Ask students to write their names at the bottom of frame 8.
  10. Frame 5 scenario: Just as you were getting used to your new self, the heat and pressure increase and you change again. You are a new rock. Open your eyes and write about this experience.
  11. Frame 6 scenario: The interior of the earth is in constant, slow motion. Being part of this interior, you too have been moving. Your move has taken you to the edge of a magma chamber. You fall into the magma chamber and melt. Open your eyes and write about this experience.
  12. Frame 7 scenario: Unlike your previous magma chamber, this one is below the ocean. You are in an underwater volcano and it erupts. You flow into the ocean and quickly cool and crystallize to become a new rock on the ocean floor. Open your eyes and write about this experience.
  13. Frame 8 scenario: You get to take your story any direction you choose. Finish your telling of the story on this frame.
  14. When we are finished writing our stories, I ask students to go back to frame 1 and tell me what kind of rock they were. Then we go frame by frame together and label the process or the rock type. Here is what they should be.
    1. Igneous Rock
    2. Sediments (erosion)
    3. Sediments
    4. Sedimentary rock (compaction and cementation)
    5. Metamorphic rock (heat and pressure)
    6. Magma (melting)
    7. Igneous Rock (cooling and crystalizing)
    8. Varies – have them label it appropriately depending on the story, or allow them to not label this frame.
  15. I then collect the stories and ask if I can read a few of them. I always ask permission before reading a student’s work out loud. I only read a few as they are all similar, but I enjoy this part and so do the students.

I hope you can use this activity in your classroom, or at least the process. Please share how you engage your students in creative writing exercises in content classes!

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