Summer SAVY 2022/Session 5 – Tremendous Transformations in Writing for Rising 3rd/4th Grade
I have never been so sad to see a class graduate! These kids built a family together, and they opened their hearts and talents to each of us as they created and grew as writers. I am so incredibly impressed with every one of them!
To start the last day, we watched an interview with J.K. Rowling, and we also watched the interview with her first publisher. The recurring message I wanted them all to see is that it takes perseverance as well as talent! She talked about how she became inspired to write the Harry Potter series one day on a train ride to London, and since she didn’t have a pen, she literally spent hours imagining what would happen if you there was a boy who didn’t know he was a wizard until he was invited to wizarding school. She showed the papers she had written on and even how she charted each character and their houses, talents, etc. We have been talking daily about the importance of developing a character and their backstory, and then determining where you want to go with that. She created the whole wizarding world in great detail and pulled on her schema (yes, they learned that word! What you connect ideas to or prior knowledge!) of classics and mythology as a basis to create the wonderful stories that have made her one of the most successful writers of the time.
It was also great to hear the story of how the publisher started reading her first chapters and then his daughter loved them so much that she wouldn’t stop reading them! When he called her to say he wanted to buy it, she thought it was a joke! I love that we could talk about how someone who had just been fired, writing in a coffee ship, but had always wanted to be a writer was able to be successful. That could be any of the kids in the class!
I then connected the imagery and character development into poetry through Dr. Seuss, Langston Hughes (Mother to Son), Robert Frost, and even Shel Silverstein. We talked briefly about how even Shakespeare and some of the classics are written in poetic form, but the beauty of poetry is that it doesn’t have to rhyme. It can be free verse and you can just write it. They had some time to play with poetry before lunch.
After lunch, they shared stories, continued writing, added to their stories because there were some cliffhangers that we demanded to know what happened to the characters, and even some amazing, shocking plot twists that captivated our attention. They shared and created until dismissal and still wanted to share some more!
The Tremendous Transformations in Writing were not only topics that we discussed, but also perfectly summed up how much they transformed as writers. They were so eager and excited to write and the creativity and collaboration was palpable. Ask them what they learned, talk about inspirations, ask them what their favorite genres are, and encourage them to continue to write. They are amazing. It has been my honor to work with such talented writers, and I can hardly wait to see what they achieve.
Thursday: Good evening!
We finished putting our idea cubes together and proceeded to put them to work. We categorized them by character, conflict, etc. and after showing the kids a picture that we used to infer information about a character, the kids started a story and incorporated suggestions from the writer’s block ideas. That was a fun way to go deeper into character.
After we had finished that, we had some free writing time, and the kids were really excited to share stories they had been working on. They were really good and we can see a big transformation from Monday to today!
We worked on the process of writing and introduced the antagonists and protagonists. We explored about conflict, and while we deal with lots of mini conflicts throughout the day, there is a main conflict that has to be overcome. We also talked about how antagonists and protagonists can sometimes be misunderstood. Some of the girls talked about Wicked, and how Elpheba thought at first she was doing the right thing, but how eventually she was doing the wrong. There was also discussion of Snape and Harry Potter. There was good discussion about how villains/protagonists may sometimes be purposely negative but may also be misguided.
We worked heavily on imagery and the importance of painting a picture for the reader with your words. Even the use of colorful vs. black and white (Wizard of Oz), illustrations, and the choice of words can influence perception and imagery.
For the second part of the day, they listened to the first page of The Hobbit and they were able to draw the Hobbit’s house based on the use of imagery and word choice. We then looked at Redwood trees and how describing them as big just doesn’t do them justice. I gave them a poorly written paragraph, and they were able to work with a partner and transform it into something that was much stronger. For the final activity, they were given an animal and adjective describing it, and without being able to use the name of the animal or the words animal, legs, or claws, they had to write a description of the animal and the class tried to guess it. If they got the adjective or synonym of the adjective and the animal, it was worth 2 points, just the animal was worth one, and if they couldn’t get the animal, they got zero points. That was really fun, and they have already voted to try that game again tomorrow!
They are doing a great job!! Their writing is becoming so strong! I am really proud of their effort and how deep they are willing to think. Their discussions and writing are amazing!
Have a great night!
Wednesday: Well, it was definitely a Wednesday when the kids came in, so we decided to have some fun. We shared our favorite characters and explored that if they could be transported to them, or even be them, what would they do? Then, they got to create their own character for a story! They got to choose a dog, and they were very inquisitive about types of dogs, and then create a backstory for their dog character, including name, breed, where they came from, where they live, etc. They then got to act out how their character would act. They could have created talking dogs, magical dogs, etc. It was a lot of fun and gave them a chance to move around, laugh, and really think about their characters. They then wrote a story centered around their character. They were so engrossed in that activity that it was hard for them to stop to go to ORA!
I love that when they came back they automatically jumped back into writing! They got to share their stories with the class, and everyone enjoyed hearing the variety of ideas that were shared. They used great devices to weave their stories and all were very entertaining and well written! It was fun!
Next, I read an excerpt from The Call of the Wild by Jack London in which he describes the main character, a dog named Buck. We analyzed how he described him, his word choices, and the imagery he created with the way he presented Buck to the reader. They were absolutely fascinated that instead of simply describing him, they were led to discover more about him as the story progressed to finally determine that he was a dog, what he looked like, etc. They were very invested in the character, which was the point. Having that connection makes you want to continue to read the story!
After lunch, students shared stories they had been working on, and we saw and heard different genres of writing. We talked about fiction and nonfiction writing with a purpose, how there can be multiple reasons for the way a story or piece of writing is presented. We finished the TED Talk about The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, and talked about situations, language barriers, and challenges can impact the way information is presented and what the purpose is. We talked about how his story was picked up by journalists who published his story in newspapers, and how the article was picked up by a blogger which led to the story going viral, and his consequent appearance on TED.
We talked about how important it is to consider what kind of message is being sent when we write or post things on different forums, and then ended with watching Kid President. He is from Memphis and posted videos on YouTube with good messages that had a positive impact. His purposes were to persuade people/kids to be positive, influence his audience in a positive way, but he is also entertaining and funny. They really enjoyed that and the story of how he started doing that.
We ended with making cubes that the kids can use when they get writer’s block. They will be using them tomorrow as a fun means of creating a story with ideas they roll. They will get to keep those for days when they are writing and get stuck!
Have a great night!
Tuesday: Greetings parents!
Today was so exciting and busy! The first thing we did was share the stories and books the kids brought in. They shared what made the book successful and made posters that emphasized what they liked about the book. That was a great segue into our topic for today: What makes a story great? We had a big discussion about that, and we narrowed it down to: A good hook, strong plot, a conflict that keeps you interested, different events and settings, twists, the genre is important, they liked if it was part of a series, had cliffhangers, or drama to make it spicy, strong descriptions and imagery, and a well-developed character. All of these elements combine to make you, the reader, want to read and finish the book, because you want to know what is going to happen. They agreed that if it is too predictable, it isn’t as exciting, and if you don’t like the main characters, it isn’t that interesting because you don’t care what happens to them. We looked at how those elements were consistent in the books they brought in, and talked about how important that is to make you want to read the book.
We then watched an interview with James Patterson that talked about how he develops his ideas, and we talked about how both he and J.K. Rowling went through a lot of rejections before they were finally successful. It was really fascinating to see how many story ideas he has in the works and how many outlines of stories he has created to develop his ideas. I stressed to them that they are capable of becoming famous writers too, if they feel passionate about it and want to pursue and persevere. I have had students that I taught that are now country music artists that write their own lyrics, comedy writers for the Golden Globes and Nickelodeon Awards, and even a student that is the copy writer for NewsChannel 5. They were just like the kids in my class now: strong writers who found a genre they felt passionate about. I think it is important for them to hear that!
We then reviewed Point of View with a really informative TED-ED talk that helped clarify some of their questions. They went to ORA and came back eager to continue writing on their stories from yesterday. We also looked at ways to make the writing better and stronger by developing the characters and really planning where their stories are going. Writing is a process, and it can have different inspirations and starting points, but you have to start creating a direction to develop it.
After lunch, the fun and challenging part began. They were shown a picture of a creature with 3 eyes and purple fur with a smiling face and a girl walking through the woods. They had to work with a partner and develop a backstory and decide what the characters were going to be. They then had to write a story in 3rd Person that expanded the development of the characters. We looked at how stories have structure, and they needed to create an introduction, build to a conflict or event to overcome before they concluded the story. Their stories were amazing! They read them to the class and all were given lots of positive feedback about things they did that really got the listener invested. Some created different formats, but the end results were amazing.
Finally, we talked about how writing can serve different purposes, and how speeches or “TED Talks” can be created to persuade, Inform, or Entertain. We started with a TED – Ed about the importance of drinking water – very relevant with the heat warnings, and we ended with a cliffhanger – The Boy Who Harness the Wind, William Kamkwamba, talking about how he used science books in his villages library in Malawi to build a windmill that was able to create irrigation and electricity and saved his family and village from starving. We had to stop halfway through due to time, but there is a children’s book that is about the struggle of teaching himself English to be able to read the books.
I think the biggest compliments are that the kids really enjoyed writing, and that as soon as they came back from lunch, they were so eager to finish their characters so they could write their stories. I am so proud of how supportive they were of each others ideas and what a great job they did! I can hardly wait to see how they do tomorrow!
Have a great night!
Monday: Welcome to the first day! This morning, we shared information about ourselves and got to know each other. That was really important because writing is very personal, especially creative writing, and in order to be able to share ideas, peer edit, and support each other, we had to learn more about each other and build a community. The kids are so sweet and did a great job! They also took a pre-test so I could see where they are in the writing process, and we went over the goals of the class and misconceptions about writing.
Next, we talked about some famous writers and how they worked to get published. We also talked about how fairy tales have been around for more than 500 years, but they still persist today because they are well written and have relevant lessons, such as stranger danger, listen to your parents, etc. They went to lunch after reading a funny version of The Three Little Pigs, and they discussed how they would change the version to make it their own. We then had some free writing time, which they were so excited for, to begin work on their own stories. Each child has their own composition book they will be writing in throughout the week, and they will get to keep it at the conclusion of the class.
For the second half of the day, we broke down the elements of The Three Little Pigs, such as character, setting, challenges, moral, etc. and discussed how they were used in the story. We then took notes on Point of View, and analyzed the story to identify the POV, which was told from the 1st Person Point of View. I then took the story we had just read, and changed it to make the POV 3rd Person Limited and 3rd Person Omniscient so they could identify how that changes the presentation or version of the story. We then read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, which is told from the wolf’s point of view, and examined how that changed the story. For the last of class, they were taking the examples of the stories we had analyzed, and were rewriting the story with their own flair with a specific point of view in mind. My TA conferenced with every child multiple times during the day to give them feedback and help them when they were stuck. Their ideas were so creative! I can hardly wait to let you see their finished products once they finish!
Homework: Bring in a story or book that you like, and we will analyze what makes that book or story a good book! They can be stories from when they were little or ones they like now.
Have a great night!