2nd year English students enjoy a Macbeth-themed dinner after finishing the text in class.
Photo Credit: Nehal Chheda
Seated on a public bus in Chicago on a winter morning, our English teacher, Nehal Chheda, observed her co-passenger scribble in his notebook for no longer than five minutes. On asking him, she learned about his practice of writing for five minutes everyday on any minute observation or sentiment he had. He even allowed his writing to be incomplete or complete within those five minutes. Inspired by this stranger, Nehal decided to incorporate this as a regular exercise with her students; she would provide them with a prompt and allow them to write on it for no longer than five minutes.
These prompts range from an absurd observation and a memorable experience to the faintest shade of an ignored emotion. They often become a venting space for some sentiments or a opportunity for spontaneous creative expression. Some prompts require us to really stretch our imagination. For instance, a prompt such as ‘What’s behind the closed door? ’ demands us to expand our imagination to its farthest reaches.
Other prompts push our minds to think positively about the strangest creatures. “What’s interesting about a spider?” compels us to think differently about the most ordinary findings. Some can be endings rather than beginnings such as “… And this goes round and round.”
The responses are just as uniquely charming as the prompts; they are raw with emotion and creatively incomplete. As a response to “How would you like to be cooked as a potato?” a student wrote:
“A precise perpendicular incision should be made after I am boiled and peeled off my coat. A droplet of sour chili sauce should be added that extends to the ends of my soft skin. This will make me a legacy.”
Another responded to the prompt “Write a letter to your 9-year-old self.”
“Never feel excluded, because the ‘tall’ friends fall short easily. The best is yet to unravel…”
These writing exercises not only foster new ideas in a young writer, but they also help us to pause and rethink our small gestures and supposedly trivial acts. Writing these short notes is often the most difficult task of the day. Yet, they leave us with so much thought and imagination, often leading to the birth of an idea or a challenge.
– Soumya Rachel Shailendra (Class of ’17)