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Volume 16, Number 4
July/August 2000

View from the Classroom

Student Writers Hone Their Skills


The following drafts were written by Mary and Gloria Navarro, 10-year-old twin sisters in the after-school journalism program in Normal Heights, CA. After interviewing the manager of a magic shop, they wrote a first draft and submitted it to their class for critique. Once the girls had received feedback from their classmates, they drafted new questions to clear up confusing points and returned to the magic shop with a teaching assistant for a second interview. "The hard thing was to get [the magic shop manager] to sometimes confess some things," said Mary, "and sometimes he talks too much and we were like, 'wait, wait, could you repeat that?'"

Mary says she was nervous at first about what her classmates would say, but that they had many positive comments and she learned a lot through the process. She also says she would prepare better questions for future interviews, keeping in mind that readers often need more information than writers may think and that quotations have to be exact. (She learned, for instance, that a person would not normally refer to himself as "he.")

Version One:

We went to interview the manager of the magic shop, John Lee. We asked him why he liked to work here. He said, "He doesn't know, but he just loves it." What item do you sell the most? we asked. Love potions, because it is almost Valentine's Day. This was John's dream to work in a magic shop. He has a favorite customer named Phoenix, who would like to work in the store. He told us spells work because you want them to. He wants to work at the store because it is fun and it is the best place to work at. We asked has a ghost ever visited him? He said, "Yes, it was my grandmother when I was eight. My grandmother told me that she was going to die soon. I got in trouble with my dad for saying that. Then, in the middle of the night they got a call that my grandmother had really died."

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


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