monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

4 minutes reading time (832 words)

Working with Lively Young Writers at St. Monica Elementary School


I hope your week is off to a good start. Mine is! That's becauase I started this week with a visit to St. Monica Elementary School, which just happens to be a two-minute walk from my house, and where I have many friends.

My day started with a happy surprise -- you can see him in today's pic. That's Grade Four teacher Nick Hamel (the kids call him "Teacher Nick") whom I recognized straightaway, because guess what, about 12 years ago HE WAS IN MY ENGLISH CLASS AT MARIANOPOLIS COLLEGE!! How fun is that for a retired teacher to get to work with a former student who is now a wonderful inspiring teacher?!!

I was invited to St. Monica by Ms. Venuta, another grade four teacher, and I also worked with Madame Banon's grade fours. Together, thse kids made a lively group and we had a long session -- nearly three hours. Hey, I think I promised to give the kids some time to run around, but I just realized I got too busy, and I didn't keep my promise. Sorry, guys! But at least you got a break from me at recess!!

I had met about half of the students before when I visited Ms. Woodward's Grade Three class last year. Anyway, I was pleased that many of the students remembered my writing tips -- and my story of the brass monkey. Also in today's pic is Gahye, whom I met last year. When I explained that in July, I lost the original brass monkey (I now wear a silver replica of the monkey around my neck), I asked the kids what is more important than the object-- and I told them the answer begins with the letter S. The word I had in mind was STORY, but Gahye impressed me when she answered, "Sentimental value"!! Wow, those are pretty big words for a student in Grade Four.

I don't think I have ever managed to do some many writing exercises with one group of students! That shows you how creative and high-energy this gang was. We started with a word game -- the students had to come up with words that start with the letter A. I was blown away when Muntasir came up with the word arachnaphobia. I had to chuckle when Muntasir admitted he had forgotten what the word means -- so I reminded him that arachnaphobia is a fear of spiders.

I also asked the students to make a list of three older people they could interview. (I had told them that in my opinion, older people have the best stories and the most SECRETS!). Gahye has four grandparents, all of whom live in Korea, but she explained she can interview them on Kakao -- which is like a Korean Zoom. Cool, no?

We also did an exercise in which the students wrote about their favourite object -- the one they'd pack up if they had to leave their homes in a hurry. For Muntasir, it was his glasses, because he wrote, "they help me see." For Dasia it was a blanket she received from her nana. Dasia described the blanket as "white, green and teal." I loved that Dasia even knew the word teal -- and that she spelled it correctly! For Penelope, it was her favourite book, "called Bounce Back because I love to read it non-stop and I got it at the book fair." Lovely use of details, Penelope! And Jahquil cracked me up with his clever answer: "I will bring my house because the suitcase can be any size." You outsmarted me there, Jahquil!

As if those weren't ENOUGH exercises, I did two more before the end of my visit. In one, the kids imagined the book of their dreams. For Dasia, it was "a book about a unicorn with rainbow poop." Original and funny, don't you agree? Foulques's dream book would be about "a dragon named Deathbringer." Wow, that's some name, Foulques! I hope you write that book about Deathbringer.

I also read the students my new picture book, The Brass Charm. For me, that was a very special part of the day -- especially because many of the students recalled having seen the original brass charm when I visited St. Monica last year.

Many thanks to the teachers for sharing your kids with me; extra thanks to Ms. Venuta for the invite; to Teacher Nick for making me proud; to principal Mr. McKelvie for coming to meet me and for reminding me that we had met many years ago when he was a young teacher (he's now a young principal!). Thanks most of all to the kids. You may have required a bit of shushing now and then, but hey! you were amazing writers -- and your imaginations and sense of fun helped make today's visit a great start to this writer's week!! Don't forget to look for me and say hello when I'm jogging by your school!!



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Tuesday, 05 March 2024

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