Good morning, dear pupils! Please settle down, take your seats. Today’s class will be another exciting lesson in our infinite series of teachable moments. Hush now, stop the giggling. This is important, and we’re never going to graduate until we master the basics of how to read and write. We will begin with a nice little fairy tale that I’d like you to read aloud:
"Old Man Sherrod and his wife had a farm. It was a black farm because they were black farmers (not that any God-fearing person can actually see color, but the Sherrods were always making a terrible fuss about how being black was just so gosh-darned awful). The Sherrods beat their cows and mistook nonblack farmers for pigs and plowed their fields with salt. Plus, they were socialists. When a kindly banker wrestled the poor farm away from the Sherrods’ greedy proprietary grip, the black-hearted thug-king of the realm threw the kindly banker into the dungeon, knighted Farmer Sherrod (now to be addressed as ‘Sir,’ no less!) and welcomed Farmer Sherrod’s wife into his court as chief counselor on how to grow turnips."
So, dear class, here is your assignment. Take out your crayons and draw a picture of each one of the characters in the story. What do they look like? How much of what you have drawn comes from the actual words of the story? How much of your picture comes from your imagination? Use a green crayon to circle the parts of your picture that come from the actual words. Use a flesh-colored crayon to circle the parts that come from your imagination. Now here’s the hard part: try to think of the pathways in your head that took you from the actual words to the imaginary parts. Give each of those pathways a name.
OK, now stand up, arms to the sky, then touch your toes and let’s move on to the next exercise. Now that you’ve read a story, it’s your turn to craft one of your own. This time, I want you to rewrite the tale you just read, only from Farmer and Mrs. Sherrod’s point of view. Ready? Set? Go!
Time’s up. So, was that harder than just reading the first story as given? Could you write about the Sherrods as heroes of your story using the words in the original story? Was the first story hard to get out of your head? Draw your story. Is the picture entirely imaginary? Is it as easy to draw pathways from the actual words of the original story to the images in your story?
OK, time to frame your pictures. First, let’s think about perspective and ask ourselves how they should be hung on the wall. Is there a relationship between the first picture and the second? Should they be hung in the order that we worked on them? If I’d asked you to write your heroic farm story first, before we read the one I gave you, what might you have written? Does it matter that you were told the Sherrods were villains first? Does the sequence of the stories affect our perceptions of their meaning?