Our Attempt at Writing with Chiasms

Dear Reader,

I have posted about how we are doing writing this year and some thoughts on the traditional 5-paragraph essay. In an effort to apply my new ideas, I had my oldest two (12 and 10 years old) try a big of chiastic writing last week. Though I will confess, I hadn’t prepared very well, I was very pleased with their results.

We began by looking at Acts 2:22-37 which is a portion of a sermon by Peter. In a recent sermon, the pastor had discussed how this passage has a chiastic structure that serves to highlight the middle two verses. That is, it has a pattern like this:

A      B

B’      A’

If you were to connect the A’s and B’s, you would make an X which is the Greek letter Chi, hence the name chiasm for this kind of structure. The pastor also compared it to a double-stuff oreo. The stuff in the middle is the best part and that is what the writer or speaker is drawing your attention to.

So I explained this all toi the children and then gave them some ideas of what they could try and write and set them loose. Honestly, I did not have high expectations which may be why I was so pleased with what I got. My 10-year-old wrote a long story and my 12-year-old wrote a poem (bonus points in my book for voluntarily writing poetry!). Here is what they came up with:

From the 12-year-old:

“A ship, a sailing vessel.

The Swimming Fly, a fishing boat.

Getting ready to leave preparing to embark.

12 sailors, a dozen fishermen.

Going, going, gone.

Far away from port, very far from shore,

The nets were let out, the fishers fishing.

Waiting, waiting, persisting, persisting.

The nets hauled in, the traps pulled out,.

2 trout, a flounder.

Rain fell, water poured.

Lightning flashed, thunder roared.

Blacken sky, sheet of rain.

Came on down and down again.

Boom! Boom! Crash! Roar!

Sailing vessel tossed and turned.

Frothy water mixed and churned.

Waves so high then so low

“Man overboard!” did the captain bellow.

For it to stop did they all yearn.

Rain stopped falling, water still.

Nets let out, traps dangle.

Hurrying, hurrying, pulling in.

Tons of fish! Millions of shrimp!

Time to go to port to home again.

Coming home, into port.

Lots of fish to sell or trade.

6 men come out again.

A broken mast, a torn sail.

A ship, a sailing vessel.”

I suppose there are not really two middle parts int his poem. Its structure would really be ABCB’A’, but I am still really pleased with it. I like his use of language and images too. I have no idea where he got this. And I think we were all shocked to hear at the end that half of the 12-man crew were lost. I also think we might be reading too much Hebrew poetry with its parallelism.

My 10-year-old chose to model Peter more closely by writing an essay arguing for a particular viewpoint. Here is what she wrote:

“Raccoons, Owls and Bats

In the dark, at night, lots of animals come out. Owls wake up and come out of their burrows to catch mice, squirrels, and snakes. Bats also get up and catch food. Raccoons see if a nice garbage can will provide a meal.

Now, one of you out there might be saying, “I’m scared of bats” or “Owls are creepy.” Really, there is no reason to be scared of any nighttime animals.

These animals are just trying to get a decent meal. There is no reason to blam them for that.

Owls, bats, wolves, etc. might eat other animals such as mice, chipmunks, snakes, rabbits, etc. Some people might think this is cruel. But if these animals didn’t get eaten, there would be too many of them and we would become overrun by them, like with rabbits in Australia. So, you see, these animals are just helping the eco-system work.

All these animals come out at night, and help the ecosystem. Even though they might seem creepy, they really aren’t.

People often scare animals away and shoot them until they are very scarce. Wolves especially are not very populous anymore. People should not shoot for fun and kill off these endangered species.

Many people kill off animals until they become extinct. This doesn’t help the ecosystem. When an animal becomes extinct, there becomes too many of what it eats or the animal that eats it dies off because it doesn’t have enough food, and then the animal that eats that animal could die off, and it would ruin the whole ecosystem.

Please don’t hunt for sport, and shoot animals that are becoming endangered. It will ruin animals’ lives. It might even affect you some day!”

I tried to keep her punctuation. We might need to work on commas a bit. But mostly I was pretty pleased. She has a good vocabulary and makes good arguments. Apparently she is quite the eco-scientist. I think it’s from watching too much PBS.

But I am encouraged that if we just read lots of good literature and occasionally stop to really look at how a few pieces are written and to emulate them, that we can develop good writers.


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