What’s a ‘Dirty Wow Wow’?
When you hear a name like “Dirty Wow Wow,” it’s hard to imagine what this ninth-grade English project is going to be about.
And you may be afraid to ask.
KHS English teachers Jill Pratt and Carrie Snyder have been assigning the project since 2007, the longest recurring assignment for the duo. Former KHS English instructor Karin Gonzalez first developed the idea from a National Public Radio segment on a book that soon became the project’s namesake.
So what is a “Dirty Wow Wow”? As a book, it was “a tribute to the threadbare childhood companions” that children grow to love, and perhaps love so much that the object of their affection gets a bit worn down. As a project it is a narrative of the students’ connection and adventures with their own favorite childhood companion.
For some of us, our Dirty Wow Wow may have been a blanket, one that helped us feel secure. It may have been a doll or a toy or even an article of clothing that we held dear. For Pratt, it was a Beanie-Baby Dalmation representing the real dog she once had that ran away.
Regardless of the object, most of us likely had our own Dirty Wow Wow, and the project aims to turn those affectionate memories into not only a narrative paper, but an opportunity to bond, to find out what we all have in common.
Each student composes the narrative and reads it aloud to the class. The assignment must contain certain literary devices such as similes, metaphors and personification. The stories must also include vivid descriptions of where, when and how the Dirty Wow Wow was obtained.
Pratt said the that originally, Dirty Wow Wow was an end-of-the-year project, but soon became the annual kick-off tot he new school year as the teachers realized the project served an important function.
“Dirty Wow Wow helps the class bond and create a kind of geeky family,” said Pratt. “It helps teachers get to know students in a very personal, non-threatening way.”
Students tend to agree.
“It definitely relieves class tensions,” said Kings sophomore and former project participant Vlad Gilaziev.
The Dirty Wow Wow project creates nostalgia that everyone in the class can connect with. Some students still have their Dirty Wow Wow, perhaps packed in a box somewhere in the attic, forgotten for years. The emotional connections can be so strong that at times, Pratt said, hugs are necessary by project’s end. Some Dirty Wow Wows may also remind students of loved ones they have lost.
Pratt said the strong memories only bond the class further.
The 2014-15 school year brought some additions to the Dirty Wow Wow family, as other teachers took on the project. Now every non-honors freshmen English class participate in the assignment.