Today was day one in the first of our pilot 4-part creative writing series, the Basics of Storytelling. We had 5 participants join us: Kate, 12, Matt, 13, Haydon, 13, Josh, 12 and Xalan, 13. Daanon started off the class with an ice breaker exercise: he asked each child to say their name, what school they go to, and name 1 ot 2 of their favorite books. He got them talking about what they liked best about their favorite books, what they liked about the characters, what makes a good villain and what makes a good hero/heroine. The last half hour of the class, we had them create a character profile for their own villain or hero/heroine and have them share what they wrote (if they wanted to). Haydon, Matt and Josh were the only ones who were comfortable enough to share. Kate, interesting enough, drew her character and then wrote something about her; but she didn't share and only showed it Daanon.
At the end, Daanon asked them what kind of stories they like to write and Matt said that he only writes for school. But don't get me wrong, the kid makes a good storyteller. He was one of the most active participants in this session and he overproduced every time. He was very descriptive and explanatory in his responses. It was great to see their interaction, I just wish Kate had spoken up more. It might've been the fact that she was the only girl and her mother said she was reluctant to come in the first place, but coaxed her into giving it a shot.
We told them that this was a pilot series and they seemed to enjoy the fact that they were our guinea pigs. We encouraged any feedback with this session and assured them their responses would not hurt our feelings. We also encouraged them to write something before the next class and to send it to us to get our feedback, if they wanted. We hope they'll come back in two weeks.
1) Always have a backup plan. We had planned for an author panel of YA authors for the first hour, allowing the kids to ask questions. But, over the course of the past couple of weeks, we had cancellations. We hope to have this panel during the third session, after they've got some writing time under their belts. But this little snafu led to…
2) Information overload. Daanon ended up going over information that wasn't supposed to be covered until the session on the 28th. We gave them too much information at once and we started to lose them at certain points. We needed to stick to one aspect of storytelling (characters) and focus on that during this session. We quickly realized we had to get them writing, especially after Xalan said "Are we going to be using these notebooks?"
3) Start with writing, end with discussion. Next time, I suggested to Daanon he start with a writing prompt to get them writing first thing. Start the class lesson and then have them share what they wrote at the end of the class (if they so choose).
This is a learning experience for both Daanon and I. We are both writers. We have both learned our craft by taking writing classes, and attending workshops and writer's conferences. But neither one of us has teaching experience, so we were a little nervous going in. So now we know how a teacher feels, getting up in front of kids and hoping we'll be able to hold their interest for an hr and a half. Let alone for 4 separate sessions. We now know what needs to be tweaked, what needs to be improved upon, and we'll try it out in the next session.