For the last writing assignment of the year for my twice-weekly Comp/Lit class, I assigned this prompt, which comes from the book Unjournaling by Dawn DiPrince and Cheryl Miller Thurston:
“Write a paragraph that starts with this sentence: Why don’t you learn how to talk to a rooster? and ends with this one: She slugged me.”
This has made for some highly enjoyable grading. In fact, I have enjoyed reading the responses so much I may just make this an end-of-the-year tradition. Out of all of them, though, my favorite was the last one I corrected, turned in late by the one student who was often late turning in homework. She is highly dyslexic and the administration wasn’t even sure she should be in my class. However, I had already had her in my Classical Conversations class the year before and knew how brilliant she is despite her struggles with writing, so I agreed to have her included in the class.
All that to say, not only do I love this piece for its humor, and for the fact that she wove the sentences together in a less-than-direct manner, but also because this is what a dyslexic, who last year struggled with complete sentences, can do when given a chance (and, I might add, a private tutor, with whom she worked on the side all year).
“Why don’t you learn how to talk to a rooster?” Arnold, I hoped, joked. We were sitting in his living room looking at the classes to take when he made his outrageous comment. When I explained to him that I was in the middle of deciding which language to take, either Japanese or Spanish, that is when Arnold thought of the rooster language. Mainly, I think, so that he could volunteer me to go to his uncle’s farm this summer and not him. When he saw that I was not convinced he set out to explain why his made up language was better.
“First off, you only want Japanese because you and your cousin are going to Japan in the summer,” he concluded.
“And what’s wrong with that?” I interjected.
“Nothing, but it’s hard and you’ll need more time to really retain it and you are way too lazy and busy to do that well.”
“I am not!” I yelled like a little kid. “But I do see your point. And besides, my cousin does speak Japanese fluently and did say she would love to translate for me. So that leaves Spanish?”
“Well, first off, don’t you speak Spanish effortlessly?” Arnold reminded me.
“Well yes, but…”
“And didn’t you want to really work for your grade and gain something, not just breeze through it like art last year, where you complained the whole time that you were bored?” he lectured.
“Okay, okay, you are right, as always,” I conceded.
“Okay, so rooster it is!” he shouted joyfully.
“No… I have another idea…”
The next day I sat in Latin class, not because that was my idea but because French was all booked and when I told my teacher it was a dead language, she, who must have heard that a lot, slugged me.