Friday, February 09, 2007


Once you've mastered the garter stitch scarf, you pretty quickly realize you need to learn to narrow or increase. I like diagonal garter stitch dishcloths for quick mastery.

There's the obvious narrowing of a shawl or hat, but even subtle narrowing makes a delightful difference to a sock with a shaped calf or a fitted sweater like the cable down raglan in Interweave Knits. I take a quiet joy in a K2tog beautifully balanced by a SSK.

For awhile, I favored the unfitted sweater: slouchy, relaxed, loose. They're fast to knit, but the trouble is, they end up resembling tents, which is never a good look.

My students today are also struggling with narrowing. They have to write a paragraph on a significant event in their life. That's right, a paragraph, one paragraph. It seems fairly obvious to me that you can't cover three months of boot camp in a paragraph. Six weeks of hockey try outs? Not a good candidate. Nor is the entire process of a DWI arrest and the subsequent court case and driving classes.

A lot of them choose to write about accidents, but even that can be too big. They start talking about the drive and why they were distracted, then the impact, what happened to the car, what happened to the other car, how everyone was hurt or not hurt, telling their parents, and how it all worked out in the end, and how they learned to drive safely and not take life for granted, the end.

Buried in all that, however, is often a nugget, a narrow focus that would make a great paragraph. The DWI kid is going to focus just on calling his mother, as is the accident kid. The boot camp guy is going to focus on the very first day, the hockey guy on going to Canada for his big game. Once they're narrowed, I may enjoy reading them; otherwise it's like reading someone's grocery list translated into a novel form.

Other kids get too narrow, at the expense of having any perspective. I read a funny description today of a kid who got his head stuck in a stool and had to be escorted, with fellow students laughing and taking photos all the way, to the shop class and extrication. Very, very funny, but he has no perspective on it. As a person, he doesn't have any awareness of why he stuck his head in the stool--other kids were teasing him about having a small head and dared him to do it. He gets that basic part, but he doesn't yet realize what that reveals about his responses to his own insecurities. Maybe he will, maybe he won't, but the paragraph is due Monday.

There's also the first unplanned pregnancy paper of the year. I'm used to those also, but this one is a current unplanned pregnancy, as in just-found-out-on-Wednesday unplanned pregnancy. Perspective is pretty hard there too, although she seems to be seeing more clearly that her boyfriend is a jerk. I doubt she'll have it all figured out by Monday either.

So, since my students love to slap a little moral on the end of their paragraph, here's mine: There's good narrowing, which provides shape and focus, and there's bad narrowing, which is pinchy. The end.

1 comment:

Larry said...

Hi, Deborah! I enjoyed your comments on teaching clueless kids to write. It's not as easy as it may seem! I'm sure you are doing them some good.