The Return of the Riddles

by Kori Linn, WITS Intern

What’s the only thing harder than solving riddles? Why, writing them, of course.  So, after spending last week solving riddles, this week we asked students to write their own.

The lesson began with a free write: write about a scar or write about what scares you most.  It was Halloween, after all. Then Rachel told the students that they’d be writing their own riddles based on mystery items in brown paper lunch bags. She encouraged the students to use their free write tactics as well as their five senses in an initial brainstorm. What was the life of this object like? We also reviewed the tools available in riddle writing: figurative language, alliteration, and parallel structure among others. Finally we handed out the bags, reminding the students to keep their objects secret.

As the students discovered their objects, there were many groans and laments.  There were professions of confusion.  There were bouts of enthusiasm and pensive silences. Then there was writing. As I walked around the room monitoring their progress, many students requested I read their work.  We discussed the clues they used – what was effectively tricky, what gave the answer away, what would give the riddle more mystery.

Each student had a unique skill set. One student described a book as being constructed like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Another wrote about how a pair of sunglasses crosses its arms when it goes to sleep at night. One said that his object, a butter knife, lives in a drawer with a fork and his wife. Some riddles rhymed and others had song-like rhythm. The students worked diligently to find the right words and structure to fit their work. When they presented their riddles, I could almost see the gears turning as the class tried to work out the meaning. They listened intently, every detail clearly counting towards the solution.

I must report that my students are better than I am at solving riddles, and probably at writing them, too.  As proof, I will offer you an excerpt from a riddle by Scott W: “I marry annually / but I never divorce / Every year another ring for my collection.”

You might think that the answer to this riddle could not fit in a brown paper lunch bag (which is a clue in its own right), but a miniature toy version could.  Any guesses?

PS don’t worry – I’ll reveal the answer in my next post.






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