Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Writing Possibilities from a Football Play

On Tuesdays, the writing community at Two Writing Teachers hosts the Slice of Life. Everyone is welcome to join in by writing, commenting, or just reading slices from around the world! 

Over the last few days, I have been reading many narratives as students complete the first writing unit of the year. Even with extensive instruction on small moment stories and the importance of elaboration strategies that include dialogue, description, action, and feeling, I'm still reading some stories that are basically play by play sporting events. (Anyone familiar with these? I hope I'm not alone!)

Over the weekend, I visited my daughter who is a University of Michigan Wolverine. My husband and I watched Michigan State beat the University of Michigan in the last ten seconds on a missed snap to the punter. If you haven't seen the play, here it is:

My husband and I were in mixed company in our seats at an Ann Arbor bar. The Michigan State fans were pretty quiet during most of the fourth quarter, but they erupted during this final play. After I consoled my daughter, and convinced my husband that those last ten seconds really happened, I thought about some of the student writing I'd recently seen. This video clip has some unbelievable small moment stories!

  • the imagined narrative of Jim Harbaugh, the UM coach as he watches the play
  • the imagined narrative of the punter who dropped the ball
  • the imagined narrative of the UM fan whose dismay is evident in the video
  • the imagined narrative of the Michigan State fans who are in a sea of blue and maize
  • the imagined narrative of the Jalen Watts-Jackson, the Michigan State player who ran the ball into the end zone where he was tackled and had his hip dislocated before his entire team piled on top of him (that really happened!)
For those boys who like to tell every last play of a game, this is a video clip I will save and share with them, as a strategy to help them focus on one important play and how it can be stretched out or told differently depending on perspectives. Frequently, these boys are the ones who struggle to find stories they are excited to write; maybe this will become a tool to help them unleash the story-telling expertise they have within them.

Happy writing,


  1. Too often an event happens and we move on. Yet from those few seconds, you've given numerous points of entry for writing. Great for your students - even for yourself. If we could only use this for inspiration always.

  2. Melanie, this is really smart. I am totally stealing this. :)

  3. Points of entry through which to stretch the narrative - love this idea!

  4. Points of entry through which to stretch the narrative - love this idea!

  5. This is great! I have some of those sports boys in my class. When I told one of them that he needed to provide a setting, he said, "I said it's in a hospital." Have to laugh.

  6. As a college sports nut, this is an amazing idea! And you have moved so far beyond "telling" what happened! (Thanks for including this. I was getting my game on text highlights during the Saturday Reunion.)

  7. Hi Melanie,

    This is a fabulous idea! I'm psyched to bring it to some reluctant writers at the high school level in CT.

    Kaitlin McIntyre