It’s lunchtime and I’m writing today’s blog entry from a bakery near Académie Saint-Clément in Town of Mount Royal, where I am doing writing workshops with three Grade Six classes. I did two this morning, and there’ll be another workshop after lunch. The thing is I already have so much to tell you I’m kind of hoping the last group will be DULL – so this blog won’t get too long for you!!
I was a little surprised to see a student wearing dark sunglasses walk into Ms. Cristina’s classroom this morning. I wondered whether Malek (learned his name afterwards) was a Hollywood star – or a gangster! But when I inquired (I am the inquiring sort), a student named Endre explained today is Wear Oversized Clothes at Académie Saint-Clément. So Malek was wearing his dad’s shirt, tie (united), and sunglasses. The things you learn if you only ask a few questions! By the way, you've probably figured out that that's Malek in today's pic.
I had 90 minutes for each workshop – which is my favourite since it gives me time to share tips, tell stories, and also get the kids to do some writing. We talked about the importance of curiosity. Some of the kids admitted they are not curious. So I asked the class, “What can you do about that?” And a student named Alexandra came up with the perfect answer: “Try to be curious.” Exactly, Alexandra!
We did a warm-up exercise in which the students all came up with words that started with the letter G. Gili Anne’s list included … you may have guessed it, her own name! Knox (who got best hair award from me today) had gorgonzola on his list. I was sorry I hadn’t thought of that one since I love gorgonzola cheese. And Nicholas had GigaChad on his list – I had never heard of GigaChad, but the class explained to me that he is a buff model.
For the longer writing exercise, the students wrote a book blurb for a book they want to read. I loved Dina’s blurb and she gave me permission to share part of it here: “Claire… is walking to the library to write her book she’s planning to release in a couple of years…. The building is filled with police.” I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to know what happens next!
My second class was even livelier than the first – and the first was already lively! I chose some immediate favourites – visitors can do that! Haha! They were Yasser, who has cool curly hair, blue glasses and who was smiling and nodding enthusiastically throughout the workshop. There was also Xinyao, who has the best posture I’ve ever seen – she says it might come from doing ballet. When I pointed out that Xinyao’s posture made her look smart, a student named Sophia said, “She has 10,000 IQ!” And then another student named William called out, “No! She has a billion IQ!” As you can see, I took notes about these comments, and also used them to teach the students about DIALOGUE – and how much it can add to a story (or a blog entry!).
Aileen told the class she writes in her journal every day after soccer practice. Jack told us, “I write one page every day before I go to sleep.” That’s amazing, you guys, because like I explained, writers need to keep our writing muscles limber!
With this group, I changed up the exercise and had them write about a memory of learning something important. Chloé wrote about learning to windsurf, and gave me permission to quote a line here: “I felt the wind pushing my hair back.” That makes me feel like I’m windsurfing too! Chloé also had some great questions about inspiration – just her questions made me feel she has the writing bug!
Okay, time for me to head back to school…. we’ll see if I can end right here – or if my last group provides further inspiration for today’s blog entry!
Well, I'm back -- with further inspiration from my third group. Adam made me happy when he looked at the little pile of books I had brought and said, "I think I saw one of those books in my dad's room!" Tamara said she likes to write at night, but added that she's never sure what to write about. So, rather than suggesting topics, I suggested four styles of journal writing that work for me (and explained each one): observation, catharsis (which means expressing emotion), reflection and intuition. Nicole had a great question: "To become a writer, do you have to go to university and get a degree?" My answer was not really, though I added that I have two degrees in English literature. But what you definitely have to do is write and read A LOT! Tristan said, "I really like writing books." He told us that he often gets ideas when he finds stuff on his walks. "But," he added, "I never know what to write for the end." I told Tristan not to worry, that I often don't know the end of my books either. That can be one of the most exciting parts of writing a book -- figuring out the ending as you go along!
I had the last group do a memory exercise -- they wrote about a memory from when they were five years old. Camille said I could share my favourite part of her memory of being in Pre-K: "my blue blanket kwith 'zzzz' written on it in white." For me, that's an example of a detail that helps bring Camille's memory to life. And as I told the students, old memories are often great jumping off points for a story. Don't be afraid to add a strong dose of "What if?" which is my code term for IMAGINATION. And don't forget that TROUBLE gives a story ENERGY.
Thanks to the students for such a fun day. The time passed so quickly -- proof I was having fun. And special thanks to the kids' lovely, calm and fun English teacher Cristina Musila for inviting me to Académie Saint-Clément. I'll be back to meet Ms. Cristina's fourth class on Friday. If they're anything like the classes I met today, I should have plenty to blog about after Friday's visit too!
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