Drawing from the Well

Chapter One - Digging the Well
Lesson 7 - An Old Object

Setting the Stage:

Discovering the story behind an old object can lead students into new discoveries about their families, neighbors and sense of place. In the appendix of the Drawing from the Well curriculum there are two examples of student writings that show where this investigation can go. For one student, the inquiry about a particular stone led him to learn about his grandfather's years of herding goats, mining and ultimately his death. Another student chose to focus on an old fashioned skeleton key that led her into comparisons between how people's homes and private property were loosely guarded in the past and how they are tightly guarded in today's highly protective world. Encourage students to find objects that have histories, may have a tie with the essential question and/or open up comparisons between yesterday and today.

This exercise helps develop student interest in personal histories of family members, neighbors and friends. It is another way to exercise proficiency in "point of view," writing in first, second or third person and pursuing investigative research. It is best to allow a few days for this assignment so students can identify an object of fascination and have the time to gather information about it prior to engaging in the writing assignment.


  • The student will identify a point of view from an old object.
  • The student will engage in the pre-writing process to develop a narrative.
  • The student will create a narrative from a chosen point of view for a specified
  • audience using detail, appropriate senses, and vivid description

NM State Standards: Language Arts I-A (7-1, 2 & 8-1, 2) I-B (7-1 & 8-1, 2) II-A (7-5) II-C (7-1, 4 & 8-2)

Materials and Resources Needed:
Notebooks for working portfolio and writing materials. Old object from home (Students need to be asked to bring an old object to class in advance.) If the object is too precious, bring in a description or photograph of the object. As the teacher, you may bring in your own object or ask one student to bring in two objects in order to model the exercise.
Tape recorders, microphones, cables, batteries, tape (if including the technology extension exercise)
Handout #4: Old Object Exercise (Appendix/Samples and Activities)

Day 1: Visualization, Free Write and discuss with partner and/or group
Day 2: Pre-writing exercises and writing a story about an old object

Day 1. Activities:
As preparation to this activity invite your students to take part in a visualization exercise. A visualization is another method for accessing one's imagination and a way to begin a brainstorming session. The following visualization will be the way into the Old Object exercise. We recommend you do the visualization at least a day before you start the classroom activity.

Class willing, turn down the lights in your classroom and have students close their eyes or put their heads on their desks. You may read the following visualization suggestions or put these ideas in your own words. Be sure to allow space between the spoken words to allow students time to fill the suggestions with their own imagery.

With your eyes closed, envision a blank screen in your mind's eye. Like a TV or computer screen, see nothing but empty space. Slowly, bring onto your screen the image of a house that you know. It may be your home, a home of a friend, a neighbor or a relative. At first, stand outside of this home and notice what's around you. What time of day is it? What kind of day is it? What season are you standing in? As you go toward the door, listen to the sounds around you. Do you hear any familiar voices, familiar sounds? Walk into this house that you know and consider which way to turn. Which room in this house is calling you? Where is it you want to go first? Enter this room or special place in this house and realize you are free to look at anything you choose. In this room, there may be closets, desks, bureaus, drawers and shelves. Look around. Look inside and behind things. As you look around, find one object, one artifact that is very old and intriguing. Choose an object that carries a story. Examine this object; look at it from different perspectives. Can you pick it up? Is it hot or cold - rough or smooth - small or large? If you can, hold onto this object and bring it back into this room. When you're ready, open your eyes and write a description of this object.

After the visualization conduct a Free Write for students to write about what they have just visualized. (Refer back to the Free Write process.) Have students work in pairs or teams to read their writings and receive feedback. Have students add this writing to their working portfolios.

Give students the assignment to find an actual object that holds a particular fascination for them. We're interested in objects with a history, objects that somebody owns or treasures that hold a story. Have students bring the object to class for Day II activities.

Day 2. Activities:
Use an object for the class to answer what they imagine to be plausible responses to the following questions:

  • What is this object?
  • How old is this object?
  • Who owned it?
  • Where did it come from?
  • How was this object used?
  • What activities do you associate with this object?
  • When was this object used?
  • Does this object hold a specific memory or story?
  • How does this object represent change and how do you feel about this? Why?

Put the answers on the board and ask students to reflect upon the range of responses. Can any conclusions be made of why some people have particular associations with this object?

Continue the exercise by having students work independently with their objects. Encourage students to identify individuals who know about the object and have them ask these individuals the same questions. With the acquired data about the object, have students choose to write a story about the object in one or more of the following manners:

  1. Write a third person narrative, giving names and dialogue to characters in the story.
  2. Write a first person narrative as the object itself. Give a voice and personality to the object and a reason to tell its story.
  3. Write a story in a "guess who I am" format, where clues about the object are presented, but the name of the object is withheld until the end.
  4. Write a personal narrative about the object and the significance it has for you.
  5. Write about a historical time and feature the object within the context of this time period.

Technical Skills and Extensions:
Once students have developed their stories, have them team up in pairs or a group of four and read their stories. After each reading have the listeners give feedback to the author in two ways: appreciations and "what stays with you." Have students choose one of the stories, or a combination of the stories, from their group to dramatize. Have the group assign characters for the story to be dramatized. Expand the notion of characters to include both people and objects. Have the characters act out the story without a narrator. These dramatizations can be recorded on audio tape or video.

Use the same strategies as in the Old Photo exercise. It helps students to use routine assessments that they become more comfortable with as their work develops. The assessments can be done at multiple stages or at the end stage of the writing process.