I am beginning a new school residency with grades one through four, at a school where I lead an annual 12 week project of arts integrated across the curriculum. This year we (the school librarian and I) chose creative writing as the theme. Yes, I am a puppeteer, but creative writing is a huge (and my favorite) part of what I do. I have also been studying and working to write and illustrate children’s books myself.
This is a Catholic school in which the majority of the children attend on vouchers paid by the state. My intent is to nurture enthusiasm for words and understanding of their potential for personal expression. Vocabulary building will be a big part as students earn stickers for bringing in interesting words for the Word Treasure Net, among other projects.
There are some collaborative projects I’ll write more about as they develop.
Week One (45 minute classes): Word Awareness and Autobiographies!
1. We passed around a geode, listing a different descriptive word for it from each student.
2. Each student grades two through four quickly filled out a Personal Word Sheet, of 20 prompts, such as My Favorite Word, The Word I Hate Most, A Scary Word, A Grown Up Word, A Word That Makes Me Dream, A Word That Sounds Funny, etc. (an idea from The Book Book, by Sophie Benini Pietromarchi, an exquisitely imaginative book for children on writing and making books which I found in a bookstore in Chennai, India, last year). These will be kept in their folders for writing inspiration. One teacher suggested we have them fill these out again at the end of the project to observe vocabulary and thought changes.
3. Write an autobiography: Children folded paper into a book with pages, then were instructed to write about what they would like the world to know about them. They were extremely enthusiastic about this, and all began writing immediately.
Many wanted us to snip folds to create more pages to write on.
Most classes did not finish their books, and when asked if they would like to take them home to finish, all wanted to. They are supposed to bring them back, so I hope that happens. Some teachers are more involved with the class than others, so that could be a determining factor.
So, I am excited that the children were immediately enthusiastic about writing. We are not correcting spelling at this time, although many ask how to spell words and we help them.
Next week, more vocabulary, sequencing, and Scroll Books!