Sunday, 2 March 2014

What if there were dragons hiding in the woods?

Visit to St Mark’s CE Junior School, Salisbury, Friday 28 February

I had a lovely time at St Mark’s on Friday. I was able to present some of my work. I read a little from Kiters and told the students about how I used to enjoy reading when I was their age and about how even then I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was so full of story.
I worked with one Year 5 and Year 6 group on Magic and Mystery and two groups of years 3 and 4 on Dragons.
I got to meet the resident dragon and to hear and see some of the work the students have been doing with other writers all week.

What if

Stories often come from the words “What if” I explained as I introduced the children to Kiters. In this case, what if, as you got the hang of flying your kite, you suddenly find yourself becoming the kite and find yourself looking down at the beach?
I read the part of my story where that happens to Robbie for the first time.
I also told them a little of how that story came to me: I’d been watching a kite festival at Newport Rhode Island and I as I watched the beautiful stunt kits dipping and diving I could almost feel myself holding the strings and the wind pulling against the kite. I then I wondered what it would feel like to be a kite, looking down. A story was born.
And did you know – the word for “kite” in many languages is the same as the word for “dragon”.  No wonder with those long tails and the way they fly.   

Magic and Mystery

The Year 5 and 6 students wrote slightly more complex stories than the Year 3 and 4 ones.
I reminded them of “What if”.
We looked at the W words – who, where, why, when, what, how (yes, I know – but it does begin with W in German – Wie?)  so that we could get a good setting for the stories.
We looked particularly carefully at our “who”. We identified four main characters – the hero, his/ her friend, the mentor (who brings some magic) and the enemy. We must know of them:
      What does the hero want that they can’t get?
      What does the enemy want that upsets the hero?
      How can the friend help?
      How can the mentor help?
By the time we had worked through this, the students had a good idea of their characters and their settings. Now we had to tell the story. We did that in six simple sentences that answered the following questions:
      What happens first?  When?
      What happens next? When?
      What happens then? When?
      What happens that can’t be undone? 
      How do they get out of that?
      How does it all end?  


The Year 3 and 4 students started by focussing on their dragon. We talked a little about dragons to start with. Then each student was invited to draw their dragon. They worked in silence at this point so that they could really get to know their dragon. It was fine, though, to take a peep at what your neighbour was doing.
Next, they had to decide if their dragon was the hero of the story, the friend, the enemy or the magic one.
They then gave a little more focus to the dragon:
      What does your dragon look like?
      What is your dragon good and bad at?
      What does your dragon like?
      What is your dragon frightened of?
      What is your dragon’s problem in this story?  
Finally, they told the story:
      What happens first?
      And then?
      And then?
      Now something really big happens?
      How do they get out of that?
      What happens at the end?  

Presenting the work

I only had an hour with each group and some of this was taken up with beginning and ending logistics so there wasn’t a lot of time for getting the work into a polished form. I hope I left something the children can carry on with later.
However, they were invited to present their work to other children. They had their notes on the back of the sheets and a picture on the front. The older children also wrote out their six-sentence story. 
The younger children practised first reading out to the rest of their table group. A few volunteers in each group read out their work.

Super stories, super students, super staff, super school


I was very impressed with the writing the students produced. There were some fabulous stories. The students were also confident about presenting their work. Staff members were very warm in their welcome and supported me very professionally in the classroom. The children were polite and well-behaved. 
This is a lovely school. I hope I’ll be invited again sometime.   


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