You see the kids in today's pic? They're Ms. Roberts and Mme. Bournival's Grade Five students at Birchwood Elementary in Saint-Lazare. (Hey, I kept mixing up fives and sixes yesterday, so if I got that wrong, one of you Birchwood students better tell me so in the comments section!!) I had also worked with Ms. Sellitto's Grades Sixes -- and you know what all the kids had in common? They wanted to KEEP WRITING!! Let me tell you, as someone who does A LOT of school visits, most kids do not want to keep writing, and many of them don't even want to start writing!!
So a funny thing happened yesterday... I was telling Ms. Sellitto's GRADE SIXES (I just realized they are Grade Sixes because Ms. Sellito taught them last year too, when they were in grade five) the story of how I set all the action in one of my novels on a schoolbus -- and they said they knew that already... which made me realize I'd already done my usual how-to-become-a-writer presentation for these kids last year. So guess what? And I don't mean to sound show-off-y here, but I am kinda proud of myself... because I INVENTED A NEW PRESENTATION ON THE SPOT.
Because the kids will be writing a narrative for Ms. Sellitto, I gave them all my pointers for storytelling -- such that a narrative requires a beginning, middle and end; the characters have to be well-rounded; the narrator needs a strong voice; and of course, there needs to be TROUBLE! Then I gave the students an exercise in which an imaginary person talks to them... and well... they got so busy writing, and I was so busy reading over their shoulders that someone had to come and get me because I was five minutes late for Ms. Roberts' and Mme. Bournival's students! (And later, on my way out at the end of the day, I ran into Ms. Sellitto, and she's the one who told me HER STUDENTS WOULDN'T STOP WRITING!!!)
Then it was on to the Grades Fives -- and these kids were just as enthusiastic and hardworking as Ms. Sellitto's. I shared my writing tips and if you know me, you'll know I told a couple of stories. I find that hearing (or reading) stories inspires us to tell stories. So while I was there, Wesley told us a great story that I think belongs in a book. Wesley gave me permission to share it here: "My mom said I could get a bird if I researched about it. So I did." That's the story of how Wesley ended up with a budgie named Sunshine. I smell TROUBLE in the part where his mom told Wesley he'd have to do research -- if you write that story up, Wesley, maybe you can make the narrator (based on you) NOT WANT TO STUDY. See! That would add good tension to your story, and make the resolution more satisfying.
When we were talking about birds, a student named Dia impressed me by saying, "I read Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I read all the time. I read about immigrant women." All I could say to that was WOW WOW and then again WOW. Dia, one day, you need to write your own book about an immigrant woman!
Later, Ben told us, "I have an idea for a story, but it's kinda weird." That made me like Ben's story (about an evil man and a dog) right away. Weird is great for stories!
I'll be back next Friday, Oct. 22 at Birchwood -- and because I'm hoping the students will keep working on the stories they started, I plan to get to school early and hang out with the students when they are eating their lunches. So if you're one of those young writers I met at Birchwood yesterday, add me to your agenda -- and do some writing!
Thanks to my friends at Birchwood, and to librarian Ms. Hausen for arranging my visit. And thanks especially to the teachers for letting me in to your classrooms -- even though I realized the visit hadn't been confirmed, so I was a bit of a surprise. But hey, that makes a good story too!!