“The universe is made of stories not of atoms.” ~Muriel Rukeyser, American poet

A well timed open-ended discussion on a relevant topic can take a class far. We had just finished our second whole novel study of the year of When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Students were beginning to get good at interpreting the elements of the story and identifying the author’s craft decisions–both the ones that they liked and the ones they felt were weak. They had great fun trying their hands at rewriting fictional scenes, adding characters, killing characters, spinoffs and sequels to the novels we’d read.

I knew students were learning a ton about the work that writers do, the power of words, and the power of their own thinking, and I knew they were enjoying it. But I wondered if my students were aware of what they were learning about and why we were bothering with it!

I decided to devote some time to an open-ended discussion about stories. I started with the quote from Muriel Rukeyser above. We discussed what she meant by the quote and the ways in which it could be true. It lead to some interesting conversation about where stories come from and their role in our lives.

Here are some notes I took on the board as we talked. A lot is missing of course, but some of the main things students touched on are here:









And another one, from another class…









My co-teacher (learning specialist for my CTT & SETTS push-in classes), came up with a great reading for homework about what reading fiction does to your brain. It was a good day. It confirmed for me the value of taking time, on occasion, to just talk about the things we might consider obvious, but are actually much more than meets the eye. I’m hoping to take time more regularly for these types of discussions to help students develop metacognition around the work we do.

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