Earlier this year, I was approached by the Cultural Team of East Lindsay District Council to be involved with their creative project ‘Wolds Words Festival’. They had found me through twitter and researched my blog. They read quite a few pieces of my work and obviously liked what they read. They rang me and we had a long discussion about my books and whether I was interested in visiting schools to hold workshops about creative writing.
I explained to them that I had already held several workshops in my local school and they then invited me to become involved with their literacy festival. I was truly delighted because I adore working with children especially when it comes to creative writing. I find if you push the right buttons, probe enough to see what each child finds interesting, you can unlock their imaginations with an invisible key.
I am passionate about writing and sharing my love of the written word with the younger generation is always a pleasure. I was invited earlier in the year by Immingham Oasis Academy to help host ‘World Book Day’ and to also give a lesson to the gifted and talented children of year 7 and year 9.
Click on the picture to find out more about Immingham’s Oasis Academy’s ‘World Book Day’
During this time, I watched how the children interacted with me. I wanted to learn what made them enthusiastic, what they enjoyed about writing and more importantly how to remove the risk of boredom. I have already seen how quickly pupils can become distracted so my aim was to ensure this didn’t happen. How you may ask? Well, you have to plan ahead and make sure the lesson doesn’t flat line.
My Visit to St Michael’s Primary School, Louth, Lincolnshire:
My favourite workshop is usually visual images and I use Pinterest a lot to find wonderful and vibrant pictures. I start the workshop by handing out a chapter from one of my stories to each pupil with a specific picture. This will be an image I have actually used myself to create that particular chapter. I find if the pupils can see for themselves how you have created a story by using images then this helps them to believe in the lesson all the more.
Of course, I like to get the teachers involved too if I can and more the merrier. The chapter I usually bring with me is four A4 sides so that’s quite a lot for one person to read so I break it up. I get each teacher or classroom assistant to read a page (if they are willing and I read the rest). This not only stops me from ending up with a dry throat, but a different voice also changes the tone of the story.
Once my assistants have finished the chapter, I discuss how the story evolved and how I was able to not only set the scene but to make sure that the story moved forwards. For example, here is the picture I used to create chapter 8 of Sinners of Magic:
In this particular chapter, I explain that one of my warriors meets the keeper of the hut. The keeper is a dwarf called Nekton and the Warrior Amadeus is made welcome. He stays the night, enjoys a hearty meal and good company before heading off to his bed for the night. Then, something awakens him and he looks out of the hut to see spies appearing from out of the trees. However, he is shocked to see only yellow eyes glowing in the darkness. He knocks over a lamp and Nekton jumps from his bed and Amadeus is forced to tell him what he has seen but the dwarf doesn’t believe him and so they venture outside to see who’s out there. They are attacked by King Forusian’s men, king of the Nonhawks. These deadly monsters are using a forbidden spell which makes them invisible except for their eyes. There’s a fight and both Nekton and Amadeus are kidnapped.
Once we have discussed the piece and the children have grasped how I have created a whole scene with one picture, it’s their turn to try and create a story of their very own.
I explain how they have to study the image and then write about what they think is happening inside the hut. I try to give them ideas: Is the hut a warm and welcoming place or are there demons/monsters/wolves or something ferocious waiting behind the door? I walk around the class talking to each pupil until I find the trigger that makes them want to write. One of the pupils, a boy, liked stories about WWII so he wrote that German soldiers were hiding behind the door. Another claimed a giant spider with thick webs and dead flies was waiting to eat him.
Once the pupils became engrossed, I gave them ten minutes to write their story before throwing a spanner in the works … Just as they start to get comfortable with where their story is going, I produced a selection of characters I want them to add to their writing. This idea always receives a mixed reception, that is, until the pupils see the pictures.
I bring with me images of fierce wolves, Elvin princesses, dragons, hobbits and witches. The children literally gasped with delight, eager to add these magical characters into their stories. I let them choose which one they like and once again I give them ten minutes to write about their character. Once they have finished writing we still have about ten minutes left of the lesson and this gives us just enough time to read out a few of the stories. I find that most of the pupils are keen to read out their work with lots of hands raised and smiling faces. When they stood up in class it was with confidence and I was really impressed by their description and use of language.
I truly enjoy these day’s as much as the pupils and seeing the teachers smiling, enjoying the lesson too makes it all worthwhile. Children are our future and if I can help just one child nurture their writing then I’m a very happy bunny.