Writing Contest: The results are in!

July 22nd, 2009

In his new book, What Student Writing Teaches Us: Formative Assessment in the Writing Workshop, Mark Overmeyer discusses how a writing prompt that might seem limiting actually helps students focus their writing. He talks about a second-grade classroom where students were excited to write about the following topic: “Your baby brother is inside the house and you are locked out and need to figure out a way to get back in.”

We challenged you to respond to this prompt with a 500-word story. We received over a dozen entries and Mark picked a winner and two runners-up. The runners-up’s stories are below – congratulations! The winning story will appear on our blog tomorrow, so check back!

What About My Baby Brother?
By Antonia Lewandowski

The neighbor’s daschund, Aggie, was in our yard again, barking like mad. I looked out the front windows. Was he chasing a raccoon or a cat? And why weren’t our neighbors home yet anyway? Along with Mom,
they’d gone to the movies. I was home with my baby brother, doing my homework and watching cop shows. Kevin-the -Cute was asleep. I’d put him to bed at the regular time, microwaved myself a dinner, and settled into the den. That’s when the dog started.

In the bright moonlight all I could see was a shadow in a frenzy.

Ruff, ruff! Woof! Growl! Something was the matter, I thought. So after checking in with Kevin, who was sleeping in spite of the racket, I slipped out the screen door. Wrong! As the door automatically clicked behind me, I realized that I had no key. Now what?

Nothing, I told myself. The cellar door is always open; I can get back. So I go across the yard, getting ready to tackle Aggie and bring her home with me, when a really loud crash stopped me short.

Roof tiles were hitting the ground, smashing my mother’s rose bushes right under Kevin’s nursery window. Four, five, six tiles. And when I look up, there’s a huge white possum looking at me from the corner of the roof. I could tell it wasn’t happy and neither was I because at that minute Kevin, who hated loud noises, started crying — no, wailing — as loud as he could.

Here we were, the dog, the possum, and me on the outside and the baby on the inside. What now? I grabbed Aggie who was hiding under a bush, threw a stone at the possum, and made for the cellar door. But it was locked too. And then I remembered we had just loaded our new washer and dryer down into the cellar. New stuff, Mom said, so we’d locked the door.

By now Kevin was raging. I visualized his sweet little squished-in face all red and that’s when I began to worry because pretty soon he’d start to hiccup or throw up and things could go from bad to worse. I was pretty scared now. Stumbling over the broken tiles, I let Aggie go and watched her run across the road and through her dog door. My problem was getting to my brother. Meanwhile, the possum was hissing at me. It looked ready to make a flying leap into my face. Wow! Think!

Just as the possum scrunched over the soffit, I grabbed the lowest bough of our old live oak tree. My hands reached a stiff, dry branch.

At the same time I lifted my feet off the ground, the possum landed above me. Together we were too much for the old tree. The giant limb where I used to have my swing cracked. It shook, then tumbled down about eight feet. Forgetting about the animal above me, I scrambled up the limb, reached Kevin’s window, lifted it and climbed in. Quickly I lifted my baby brother from his crib and snuggled him close. We were okay. The dog was safe too. And looking out the window, I thought I could still see the possum too, his eyes glittering in the moonlight.

Good Brother
By Noah Falck

The sound my feet made when as I ran through the driveway was not rhythmic but sad and added to my panic.  My two year old brother, Nicky, was locked inside alone. 

The sky was learning to become a darker shade, though not dark enough where the moon could express its geometry.  A certain kind of shock had settled inside me, which I guess was a good thing considering if I wasn’t freaking out, I wouldn’t consider myself a good brother. 

My mind kept racing around the possibilities.  Nicky falling down the basement stairs.  Nicky climbing upon the kitchen counter and knocking over the set of knives.  Nicky swallowing just about any object in the house.  Though, most of the objects in the house had already been inside his mouth.    

I know mom and dad had told me in case of an emergency to go next door to the Rilke’s and ask them for help.  Was this an emergency? Did I really need to worry poor old Mrs. Rilke, telling her that Nicky was locked inside with the oven on cooking mac and cheese?

Oh, no! I forgot about the mac and cheese. Why mac and cheese? Why not peanut butter? Cheerios?

I sprinted as fast as I could to the porch and tried to peer through the door.  It was curtained shut, as were all the windows.  I couldn’t see anything.

“Nicky! Nicky!” I yelled in a bit of a panic.  I still didn’t hear a fire detector.   I tried to stay positive. 

“Stay positive.” I remember my favorite teacher, Mrs. Schmidlapp, telling me after failing my first spelling test.  “Just remember the first word in can’t is CAN.”

Yes, stay positive.  Everything will be fine.

“Nicky, come to the front door!”  I didn’t hear anything. No thumping of feet, no falling knives, no fire detector.

In the backyard, I surveyed the house.  I noticed that one of the attic windows was left ajar.  That was the way in.  Sure, I could just go ahead and break the kitchen window with a rock, but then mom would hold that over my head until graduation. I wasn’t going to have any of that. 

I climbed the birch tree near the carport and leapt three feet onto its roof.  My footing slipped and I nearly fell backwards onto the driveway. Close. From there, I edged along mom and dad’s bedroom windows.  Just above was the attic. 

As I was about to reach for the attic window, Mrs. Rilke strolled out her backdoor with her cat, Keats.  “Now, you stay out here and think about what you’ve done,” she scolded.

I didn’t move a muscle.  A moment later and she was gone.  I pushed myself through the attic window and fell into a box of Christmas decorations.    

I heard a bleeping noise downstairs.  I heard crying.  I ran.

Downstairs Nicky was asleep on the floor.  The television was blaring a PBS fire safety show. The mac and cheese was still in its blue box unopened on the kitchen counter.  And I was sweating through my favorite skateboarding t-shirt.

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