Friday, June 23, 2017

Creative Writing at Explore the Arts

Some of you may remember that last summer I volunteered at the Explore the Arts camp in Greenville, SC. I was thrilled when the camp's director, Donna Shanks-Major, asked me to teach the creative writing class this year. 

I had two classes: the first one consisted of eleven 6th-8th graders who wrote and published a camp blog. After receiving instruction about Muscle Words and the Who? What? Where? and Why? of reporting, they practiced observing and taking notes in a "Paint on Canvas" class. They wrote it up, received my edits and feedback from their peers, revised, and then moved on to observing other classes running concurrently in the Fine Arts Center. I hope you take a few minutes to read our blog; I'm proud of the way in which they learned how to incorporate figurative language and specific details into their work.

Photo courtesy Joanna Henn

The second class included seven eager 4th and 5th graders who came ready to write a story. (When they introduced themselves quite a few said they'd been "writing their whole life.")  Using lesson plans from my book, Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8,  I taught them how to Create a Character, Set the Scene, and Plan a Problem. They were each anxious to start their stories--many had constructed intricate plots in their imaginations before coming to class. 

We used some of the artwork displayed on the Fine Arts Center's walls to prompt their imaginations. In this exercise, they were looking at these pictures and imagining what the story was behind each character. I asked, "Who is this person?" and "What is she feeling or thinking?"

Photo courtesy Claire Natiez

When we studied setting, I asked the students, "What could happen here? What is the mood of this picture?"

This painting

inspired this descriptive paragraph:
The tornado rushes by as howling winds blows dust into the air, and tress bend against the wind. Gritty sand rushed into his mouth every time he took a breath. There was suddenly a chill in the air as hail pounded upon him. Suddenly all he could see was darkness. When he woke up it seemed that all of his bones were aching. Jeffrey L., rising fifth grader. 

I taught them these young writers the basics of writing fiction and they taught me how to dab

Photo courtesy Lydia Hammond

I'm not sure who was enriched more this week!


sheri levy said...

This is wonderful. You do such a good job of teaching writing! I love using your book, Teaching the Story. Congratulations on your next job!!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Sheri. You know I love doing it too!

Linda Phillips said...

Carol, I'm energized by your enthusiasm here, and I love the look of the student blog. Wondering if the students will keep up with it going forward? What a wonderful experience for both you and them!

Carol Baldwin said...

Glad the energy is contagious, Linda. I don't expect them to keep up with this blog since it was just for camp...but you never know!

Sandra Warren said...

What an inspiring blog, Carol. It may just encourage me to get back to doing school visits where I had students write open-ended stories. They loved it when I told them I was giving them a writing assignment that they didn't have to it?

BTW: I loved the paragraph by the 5th grader. Awesome!

Carol Baldwin said...

Yes, Sandra, that was a fantastic paragraph! And now you'll have wikis at your fingertips to teach writing!

Cat Michaels said...

As Sandra Warren mentions, this Inspires me to get back into the classroom and libraries for more author visits, Carol. I also love the idea of doing a summer camp....way more relaxed and more fun -:D. I'd love to teach older kids how to write for blogs and the web.

Carol Baldwin said...

I hope you take my ideas and make them your own, Cat!

Kathleen said...

Carol, what an awesome way for the kids to learn about writing. The blog for the summer camp is very interesting and the writing is impressive for this age group! I'm sure they have learned so much from you and I love that they taught you how to dab-which I had no idea what it was :)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kathleen. It was a great week and now I can dab with the best of them!!

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