I think it is even harder when trying to convey these ideas to kids. Remember the childhood axiom “sticks and stones may break my bones. but words will never hurt me?” I can’t tell you how many times I myself heard it as a kid. Unfortunately, while the sentiment is meant to empower, it doesn’t. Words have incredible magic, and that magic can be quite dark. So in talking to my students, I find out that the phrases “Here’s what’s working” and “here’s what’s not” work just as well for them as they do for the adults in my two critique groups. The structure of the class doesn’t allow for as much critique as positive reinforcement, but that’s to be expected in a class that lasts an hour. Kids are also more likely to write if they are mostly encouraged. That was the case for me, anyway.
I also found that the kids got inspired to write more while I was reading to them from either my own work or a children’s book of some kind. It was very gratifying that my own work had the kids on the edges of their seats. I frustrated one of them whenever I stopped reading to answer a question from one of the others. I found that while my literal reading skills are very good indeed, my kid reading skills are somewhere in the remedial range. I couldn’t figure out if one of the students was having a good time in the class because well, she’s rather like me, very quiet, very reserved, and holds her cards very close to the vest. It turns out that I needn’t have worried. He parents contacted me and asked if I had plans for classes for returning students. So I put my thinking cap on. Their daughter made a comment that she has notebooks filled with new scenes for stories that have already been written. In the writing world we know this as fan fiction. So I offered a choice: we do a course called scene stealers. In that course we take popular children’s stories and write all new scenes or we take a scene she’s already written and devise an all new story around the scene. All the while building on the concepts that I taught in the Short Story class. So for instance we’d write a scene from a fairy tale focusing on character description. Or add a scene in Little Red Riding Hood that examines the relationship between Little Red Riding Hood and her grand mother, or the mother that is only briefly mentioned in the story.
Today and saturday mark the last classes of the current session. Today, we stand up and read our work to our families. It will be an eye opener for me as well. Now, I must dash off, and get the stories from the printer, as they have bound the stories for me, and go write. Because, well, that’s how I have fun. Next up: At the last class ad what we found there.
This article was written by Tina