Sixth grade sentences
Hilarious writing from the front lines
Every year I keep a file called “Sixth Grade Sentences” collecting anything the kids write that makes me laugh. Best enjoyed out of context, I haven’t kept up as much recently, and there was just one entry last year:
It was the day after Christmas and me and my family were going to Nantucket. I was very excited because I had never been and I wanted to hear about all of the history that happened there. But also there was the worry that a bear was going to break into the air BNB and rip my family to shreds.
When I say I find sixth graders hilarious, it’s because so many of them are genius comedy writers whether or not they know it. Sometimes they’re trying to be funny, sometimes they just put things together in a way that I find hysterical. One kid considered whether money can buy happiness:
Say you just bought a jet ski. You decide to take it out for a ride. You fly up and down the beach. Are you happy? Yes you are. Everyone who has a jet ski is happy. I mean unless you’re old, or you’re just plain boring I guess. Other than that though, everyone who has a jet ski is happy. Money can buy a jet ski, money can buy happiness too.
Was this kid trying to be funny? Probably not as funny as I found that twist ending. They start with a familiar premise then veer to the unexpected.
Picture this: an opportunity walks by. You can imagine the opportunity however you like. I’m going to picture him in a suit with glasses and a tie.
I love the idea of anthropomorphizing an opportunity into a cartoon spy. Was it an attempt at humor or is it just funny to me? Likewise, was this meant as deadpan gallows humor?
At age five, her four year old brother got lung cancer. The last she said to him before he was rushed to the hospital was “You know, I saw you picking your nose just then.” Three months later he died.
For some reason I don’t put kids’ names in the doc, just initials, and farther back than a couple years it’s hard to remember who’s who. I don’t remember the author of this one, but I remember the story:
Did you think that windows are always safe and that cows stay as regular normal cows? Well in this story that was never a thing.
Some make a deep impression. Like, how can your opinion of student not go wildly up after a paragraph like this:
You might want to eat 2 year old bad milk with someones barf in it. Maybe you wanna be the best NBA all star and have a 2 billion contract. Maybe make a flying car out of 1 wire. Or be the winner in america’s got talent then do the moonwalk on stage. You might fail but you will give inspiration to someone to keep on going to make ur goal higher than you ever expected.
This whole post should be taken with a few thousand grains of [SIC] as I preserve the spelling, grammar, and spacing errors that mark this as thoroughly sixth grade work. Finally, an all-time favorite from nearly a decade ago:
In fiction you can make the characters do whatever you could think of. For example: Thomas Jefferson turned into an alligator and hurtled to the future in 3014 to warn them about the alien invasion. You can’t do that in nonfiction. it has to be things that really happened. For example: Thomas Jefferson was our 3rd president. Boring.
I gave that student an award for being my favorite writer of the year.
The Week in Dog Poo
We’re dog-sitting the sister-in-law’s pooch, and Quinn is a different beast. 85 pounds, versus our 30 and 13. Three different varieties of poo, proportional in size to the generator. I’ve chronicled her dinosaur poos before, they continue to astound. Normally I try to use one bag for everybody’s output, trying to save some cornstarch or whatever they make the eco bags out of. Even when Ginger goes Mosi Ta-three-poo, one can typically hold it. But Quinn has such a voluminous output that more cornstarch much be expended. The cost of them doing their business.
The Urban Blah
Back in 2009-11 I collaborated with the brilliant Lovisa to make a webcomic that failed to become syndicated across the globe. I am pro-recycling.
A couple lifetimes ago, I hosted a comedy night and one of my regulars was Kevin Kataoka, maybe best known for asking the question that launches the sublime Review episode “Pancakes, Divorce, Pancakes.” (An all-time favorite episode of television.) He had a joke that was something like, “So, King Tut was a dick!” He’d wait a beat, then say, “Too soon?” Did I rip off that joke for this Urban Blah comic? I’d rather think of it as a cover version, I “covered” his joke, put my own unique spin on it. RIGHT?!?!
Jam of the Week
I got to play deejay at our end-of-year staff party last year, and of course I killed it. It devolved into a karaoke party, and because my phone was running the soundtrack, I was in the middle of the action the whole time, singing here and there. When everyone took a pause to check phones and collect themselves, I found myself with a free mic and a golden opportunity. I instantly made the questionable choice of singing George Michael’s “Father Figure.” Ignore the lyrics! I wanted to croon, and croon I did, it wasn’t a failure but I’m not sure it was a success. I should have done “Never Tear Us Apart,” unload on SOME OF US DON’T KNOW WHYYYYYYYYYY.
And if the Blah has cover versions on the brain, I’ll give a strong shout out to the Weekend Lovers’ cover of “Father Figure” from 2020. Love it.
My Back Pages
In 2019, I participated in a UMass Boston seminar on argument writing. We were given a tremendous amount of leeway on the final assignment and I took wild advantage. From “Act V, In Which I Am Asked to Write a 2nd Draft of an Argument Essay (Broadly Defined)”
I voraciously consume opinion pieces, so I leapt at the chance to express my super important, singular and unique, very special and totally exciting opinions. But the longer I ruminated on the task, the more I came to the conclusion that many of my sixth graders attempt in my classroom: Aw man, this task is too hard.
And that was my thesis: I wrote an argument essay attempting to prove that the assignment was too hard. First, I determined that doing research would be too much work.
The topic I would choose therefore needed to require little research, so I thought about what I’m an expert on: The best season of Futurama is the fifth. Anything can become a rice bowl. Metallica was better with Dave Mustaine. After rejecting each of these nuggets of brilliance (all for sale, have your bitcoin ready), I settled on the much easier topic of “Dan just says a bunch of stuff.” It seemed like a totally allowed and legitimate application of what was described in the email as “a piece to share that makes an argument, BROADLY DEFINED” (emphasis mine, and I overdid it).
I then dispatched the idea of writing about politics as well as anything funny.
I considered humorous topics: The correct order of silverware in the drawer is fork-spoon-knife. There are no funny numbers. Hippos are jerks. None of these ideas spoke to me, and I’ve actually known some lovely hippos.
I even addressed the counter-claim that Gee, I couldn’t be bothered to come up with one stinkin’ thesis, huh? Nope, I stayed in bounds.
Maybe you’re realizing that, although my claim is thoroughly stupid and the reasons are not much better, it technically is roughed into a serviceable argument essay. It’s not like I fully shirked the task. Not based on how we “BROADLY DEFINE” an argument essay.
I tried to do stuff like this in high school, and it wasn’t the right arena and I wasn’t particularly artful. But it certainly struck me that this time, when graduate school credits were on the line, I got no detention, only plaudits.
This was a difficult task that I’m certain everyone else grimaced at but then dutifully aced like the top-quality teachers they are. Good for you! This is the way I went.
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