Learn About a City by Writing About a City
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A writing manual based on the city of Chicago.

Larson (The Creative Writing Handbook, 1992) and Boone (Forest High, 2011) collaborate to produce a guide primarily for students, although it’d be useful for anyone “curious about Chicago and anxious to write.” Their guide covers nearly a dozen of the nationwide Common Core State Standards for writing, including orienting students to the rhetorical forms of argument, exposition and narrative, and to disciplines like planning, revising and rewriting. The authors approach their task by presenting students with a series of archived headlines from different pivotal points in Chicago history, from the days of fur trader Jean-Baptiste Pointe DuSable in 1790 to the passage through town of President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train in 1865 to the Great Fire of Chicago in 1871, as well as the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, the World Series of 1906 and newly elected Barack Obama’s victory speech from 2008. In all these cases and many more, the authors encourage writing students to extrapolate from the headline and quick bullet points of the event, with pointed motivations to consider as many angles as possible, such as the president’s Secret Service detail or the engineers on Lincoln’s train. It’s also recommended for students to go online for further research and to imagine how they would have reacted at the time. Finally, students are encouraged to envision a new scenario spun off from the headline’s setting but involving them personally. In all cases, students are carefully guided through the use of educator Benjamin Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning Objectives, first using so-called lower-level thinking (knowledge, comprehension and application) and then higher-level thinking (analysis, synthesis and evaluation). The headlines are well-chosen to represent a wide range of interests—everything from the social reforms of Jane Addams and Hull House to the poetry of Carl Sandburg and the prose of Studs Terkel—and the concept of making writing exercises come alive through local history is an inspired one.

A stimulating, well-presented approach to getting students interested in writing.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 2013
ISBN: 978-1937484156
Page count: 180pp
Publisher: Amika Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2014