The Other Side of Me

“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.

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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.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

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?

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

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.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

Day(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.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

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.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

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.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

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”.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

Proud writer showing us her story.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

Proud Mama with her two little authors.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

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.

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

 The Other Side of Me Our Journey with the Writers' Exchange There's a Book for That

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!

18 thoughts on “The Other Side of Me

  1. Pingback: The Other Side (and side and side and side) of Me | Curiosity Racers

  2. What an amazing experience! I can only imagine how excited your students were to receive their published book! I really noticed how much emphasis was placed on the process – and while the product was certainly rewarding – I can really see how your students learned the process of getting there. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Yes! This is exactly what I was hoping to convey! How hugely rewarding the process of writing was. Of course, the book is a treasured thing. Richer though? The connections we made with Writers’ Exchange staff and mentors, our learning about the writing process and the joy of the experience.

    • Me too! I think this entire process really had an impact on the kids. They talk a LOT about so many parts of our experience. What do I love most? That they self-identify as writers.

  3. I’ve seen some of this, but didn’t know the “whole” story, Carrie. How amazing to see the happiness in your class, working on the stories, and then seeing the final result. I just read an article that said a good teacher is the single best indicator of student success in later life. I see that you value other “teachers” in the classroom too, working with students. It’s such a gift to them.

    • Thanks Linda. Absolutely, I am a big fan of many adults working with my students. I always say bring me a Three Ring Circus and I will get each of them engaged with children! My students learn so much working with others.

  4. Pingback: Monday May 5th, 2014 | There's a Book for That

  5. Pingback: Independent Writing: 10 Ways to Get Students Published in the Real World | TWO WRITING TEACHERS

  6. Pingback: The Writers’ Exchange | TWO WRITING TEACHERS

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