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!

Celebration: All things literacy

celebrate link up

I love ending each week thinking about all that I have to celebrate. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link up on her blog each week. Thank you to Ruth for the inspiration.

What am I celebrating this week? All things literacy. Some conversations. Some great books. Celebrations of writing. Thinking. Sharing. Listening. Creating.

Celebrating . . .

1. A Skype visit with Liesl Shurtliff – author of Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin (one of the best read alouds out there!)

 Celebration: All things Literacy There's a Book for That

This was an absolute highlight of our week! I shared our experience on our classroom blog here (including how we prepared). This was our first author Skype so it was especially exciting! Liesl was so charming and the kids cannot stop talking about the day!

Students shared with Liesl that they had just had a book of stories published as well and that we had even had a publishing party. (Thanks Writer’s Exchange!) Such fun to find out that Liesl had brownies at her publishing party too! All about the treats!

Here is one of the many pixies that we shared with Liesl during our Skype. All of them can be seen at the link I shared above.

 Celebration: All things Literacy There's a Book for That

2. Friday afternoon in my class was hot. The air circulation is terrible. And yet, my classroom looked like this:

 Celebration: All things Literacy There's a Book for That

Recipe for such engagement? I asked the students to think about what their dream house would look like if they could design it, have it built (or build it themselves) and then live in it? We split into two groups and spent 15 minutes sharing our ideas. Ms. Wilks, our Project Teacher and I recorded all that was said on chart paper. Kids got totally excited just listening to what other people suggested. A few examples:

  • Gummy worm walls that grow new candy when you pull it off
  • Trampoline floors
  • An aquarium full of dolphins to swim with
  • Water slides leading to an outdoor pool
  • Chalkboard walls to draw on

I quickly showed them the end pages in Chris Van Dusen‘s If I Built a House as some added inspiration. (Next week we will do a related project in Art) We then passed out writing books and told everyone to go draw, sketch, label and write. Some kids were so into it, they continued working through their Choices time.

In the middle of the brainstorming, one student who had been listening from his desk sailed a paper airplane over to us. Written on the back? Be Smart! He thought we were being absolutely ridiculous in our dreaming, “No house could have all of that!” I loved his message system! Not every activity is going to speak to everyone!

 Celebration: All things Literacy There's a Book for That

It was so interesting to examine all of the different ideas and how they were represented.

 Celebration: All things Literacy There's a Book for That

This little house designer showed me that she would have a book gnome (bottom right corner) that would get you any book you wanted for your book shelf. 🙂 A little reader with big book dreams like mine!

 Celebration: All things Literacy There's a Book for That

3. Last week we celebrated publishing a class book of stories.

 Celebration: All things Literacy There's a Book for That

To thank the amazing Writers’ Exchange for working with my class, I have been working on a blog post with the children’s words and photographs. We wanted it to be a sent along to surprise all of the staff and mentors who worked with us. It’s supposed to be a surprise but these photos are just too cute. So I’ve had to share one . . . or two . . .  or . . . four. . . via twitter. It has been joyous both taking and sharing these photos (text comes from individual writing from each child). I’m hoping to have the post finished in the next few days.

Wishing everyone a wonderful week!

Celebration: April is a beautiful month to . . .

celebrate link up

I love ending each week thinking about all that I have to celebrate. Join Ruth Ayres who shares a Celebration Link up on her blog each week. As always, thank you to Ruth for the inspiration.

This week, I am celebrating for two weeks as I was away with my family last weekend. Springtime in Vancouver is magical. And April is a beautiful month to . . .

#1 Take an Easter trip with my family

Over Easter, we spent four nights away at our favourite beach house to rent in the San Juan Islands. I treasured this time away with my family – to read, to play games, to talk over long breakfasts. And to walk on the beach and explore.

I did many walks with my son in the first few days when my daughter and husband were ill.

 #Celebratelu April is a beautiful month to . . . There is a Book for That

And then my daughter recovered and the three of us had wandering beach adventures.

 #Celebratelu April is a beautiful month to . . . There is a Book for That

I celebrate our conversations and time shared.

#2 Have a birthday

While we were away it was my birthday but I began celebrating the day before when I received this beautiful book from my class.

 #Celebratelu April is a beautiful month to . . . There is a Book for That

Thank you to Miriam who works with me for putting this together (she covered an old Dick and Jane reader to make the book).  I had tears opening it up with the children and read it many times over the weekend. It is something I truly treasure. Each page is covered in little notes, pictures and words from the children. The messages are full of love and the little touches from Miriam are so thoughtful. Notice the title which is a take on the name of this blog and the author (The Curiosity Racers) is the name of our class blog (representing the children in our class).

 #Celebratelu April is a beautiful month to . . . There is a Book for That

#3 Launch a class book of stories

Thanks to the Writer’s Exchange (amazing, amazing, amazing), my students got to work with volunteer mentors over a 4 week period to write a creative story. In our stories, our characters transformed into a different version of ourselves and had a bit of an adventure. During Spring Break, the stories were published into a class book titled The Other Side of Me. Each child received a book to take home and we had a book launch party on Wednesday morning.

Some children were brave enough to read their story aloud to their peers while everyone followed along.

 #Celebratelu April is a beautiful month to . . . There is a Book for That

These sisters were very excited that Mom came along to celebrate!

 #Celebratelu April is a beautiful month to . . . There is a Book for That

I am thrilled to celebrate the pride my students feel being published authors!

#4 End Friday afternoon with outside yoga

We are so fortunate in our classroom that Miriam teaches us yoga. On this beautiful Friday, we headed out and did yoga in the sun with cherry blossoms all around.

Stretch

 #Celebratelu April is a beautiful month to . . . There is a Book for That

Balance

 #Celebratelu April is a beautiful month to . . . There is a Book for That

Reach

 #Celebratelu April is a beautiful month to . . . There is a Book for That

Breathe

 #Celebratelu April is a beautiful month to . . . There is a Book for That

Wishing everyone a wonderful week with much to celebrate!