“Lost in a book? It’s the best place to be!” I often say this in our classroom when the bell rings and everyone is so busy reading or listening to a story that nobody has noticed the time. But how much better is it when the book we are all reading (see below) is a book of stories written by our classmates? Add to this that each of us has our own copy to keep! And . . . that this book is the product of a whole lot of amazing process work: talking about, planning, writing, editing and illustrating a story with the help of staff and volunteer mentors from the Writers’ Exchange.
This was our journey:
On Day 1, Jennifer from the Writers’ Exchange arrived at our class with four volunteer mentors ready to begin working with students on a creative story. We split into four working groups and Jennifer led us through some engaging get to know you guessing games. Students then filled out a story planning sheet in preparation of writing a transformative story – where they would turn into another “version” of themselves to have a small adventure. With the help of the mentors and school staff, all of the children made a great start on story ideas.
One week later was Day 2. The day we called “Sticky Note” day. Our young writers added various details to Story Maps to flush out their story ideas. Clever mentors seemed to know that these colourful sticky notes were great inspiration for writing a lot of details! And they also make great moustaches. Don’t you think?
While I knew we were on route to some really fun stories, I particularly loved all of the talk time with our mentors. Students were so engaged and so excited to discuss their ideas. They were able to listen to feedback and were inspired to stretch their thinking.
Day 3 (one week later) was our day to write drafts. Jennifer explained that in some places we could just transfer some of our sticky notes and write details/words around these ideas. This certainly took the pressure off students who were worried about rewriting everything again.
Look at how many adults were in the room talking and engaging with students! It was a beautiful thing! Many students actually wrote and edited their drafts in this one hour work period.
Day 4 was a busy, busy day! Final edits and drafts were completed and then there was time to make masks, complete illustrations and celebrate creativity! The room was full of language, sparkles and the buzz of imagination.
And then we had to wait . . . Jennifer and her team brought our stories and illustrations back to the Writers’ Exchange where they would be passed along to those people who worked on the editing, design and layout of our book. In the meantime, we had to decide on a title for our book. We thought The Other Side of Me was a brilliant idea! It captured the essence of our stories of transforming into another “enhanced” version of ourselves.
On April 23rd, we had our Book Launch party at the Writers’ Exchange (located just a few blocks away from the school). Yes, there were treats (the brownies were perhaps the biggest hit!) but first we received our books and students were invited to come up and read in front of classmates, Seymour staff and mentors. We even had two Moms come along to celebrate!
As our brave students read their story, everyone else followed along. The respect and focus was incredible. Some of our quietest children volunteered to read. Let’s just say that the adults in the room were in a constant place of “emotional awe”.
Proud writer showing us her story.
Proud Mama with her two little authors.
A few days later, students filled out feedback forms about the experience. Here are some answers to the prompt: My favourite thing about working on this project was . . .
- writing my story. I like when we made our own books
- reading, making and drawing my character
- the nice mentors. I get to use my imagination.
- making us better at writing
- that we can put anything we want. We can write mythical!
- our story! our own ideas! And now we can make our own book at home
- we made our own stories with our own ideas and they are brilliant ideas
- everyone feels like a star
- everyone feels like a real author
Students then did some writing about what this project meant to them and what they were grateful about. I typed out key ideas from each child and these were used as part of a thank you photo series for the staff and mentors who worked with us. This thank you post (The Other Side (and side and side and side) of Me) can be found on our classroom blog. It is well worth taking a peek at! Here are just two photos that are part of the post.
More information about the Writers’ Exchange can be found on their website. From the inside of our “chapbook”:
The Writers’ Exchange makes literacy exciting and accessible for inner-city kids through free mentoring and creative writing projects like this chapbook.
Our gratitude is huge for everyone who helped make this book possible: staff and volunteer mentors from the Writers’ Exchange, Seymour staff and volunteers and the huge generosity of all those who provide donations for this amazing program!
Our little writers feel all kinds of pride!