This second six weeks, my students grades one through four are writing and illustrating stories from their own experience to turn into simple books. They remain very enthusiastic about the project.
I shared with them a few picture books about ordinary, everyday occurrences, which were, or could have been, from the authors’ actual lives. Each student then came up with an event they would like to write about, which I recorded in a list in case they forgot their topic by the following week. A few had difficulty focusing on the fact that this had to be something that actually happened to them, but finally grasped this. The selected topics were diverse, including trips, new pets, an activity with a family member, birthdays and other holidays, and more. Telling the stories was something all were anxious to do. One second grade boy actually told a story involving physical abuse by a family member, to which the class listened quietly and respectfully. I had to corroborate the story, and be assured he was receiving counseling, which he was. He decided to tell a different story in his book, but I was impressed that he felt free to tell this story.
They were then given a ¼ sheet 8.5×11 paper to write their title and full name. Then, folded ½ sheets became the spreads for pages 2-3, 4-5, and 6-7, then another ½ sheet for the final page 8. This was helpful, as the pages were not attached, so could be rearranged if needed. These pages formed their book dummy – a quick model of the book, including text and quick drawings.
Only when this was completed with text and sketches did they receive the 8.5×11 drawing paper for the book. The smaller dummy was the model, in number of pages and content of each page. They were free to combine collage and other marking tools to create their title page and spreads. The books will be “bound” in plastic folders.
These students do little if any creative writing in class. The younger children are more likely to have to copy sentences from the board, and the older children, write simple reports.
Through this project, students are learning:
- to value their own life experiences as worthy of interest
- to put events in sequence
- to include important details
- to stay on one topic
- to build a story arc from actual events
- that writing serves as communication
As I, at this same time, am working hard on my own writing, with many opportunities to critique fellow adults, I am seeing that many adults struggle with these exact same issues.