Workshops can be as short as a half hour and as long as three consecutive days with multiple classroom/assembly visits.
Below, please find descriptions of general workshops for elementary school students, specific workshops for Reading Beauty, and workshops for older students, including middle school and high school students. Interested? I’d love to hear from you (click here to write to me).
Presentations for Reading Beauty
We read the book, of course! Then I introduce myself, talk about being a writer, a reader, and a person, and discuss where I find ideas. I emphasize the importance of writing from your own experience and setting; the art of listening and observation; and why you should ask a lot of questions!
Then we get down to business! I talk about the delight of ‘falling into a deep read’ like Ellie. I share a few of my own favorite books.
Book Parade: I ask teachers/librarians ahead of time to help a number of students find their favorite reads. They bring up their books (to music) in a book parade. Students get to take home a cool bookmark that says Fall Into a Deep Read.
Be an Author: For smaller groups (like individual classrooms), students can join in an activity for Reading Beauty, “Add Your Own Book to the Library:” (These generate amazing book jackets that can be displayed in the library!)
Materials Needed: Paper, Markers/colored pencils/crayons
Prompt: Libraries really are magical places. Have you noticed that you can find books just about anything? That is because librarians know that each person who walks through the door will be completely unique and interested in different things.
At the end of the Reading Beauty, Gabe falls for a book about gum chewing.
Think about what you really like or what you’re really good at. As a writer, you get to write a book about it to add to your library. What would it be? First, decide on your topic. Then think about the title for your book. Finally, design your own book cover.
We begin by talking about what happens to us when we read a good book and read some good poems, like “There is a Land” by Leland B. Jacobs.
Then we do a poetry exercise either together (for younger grades) or separately (for older grades), using the poem “I Opened a Book” by Julia Donaldson, which begins “I opened a book and in I strode. . .”
Then I encourage the students: Now let’s write our own poem (s), using Julia Donaldson’s poem for inspiration. (I provide a template and we write our own).
(For older grades (5th and up), we use Dylan Thomas’ poem, “Notes on the Art of Poetry” and then write our own poems using Thomas’ as a template.)
Students write their own haikus, using concrete language, beginning with a metaphor; for younger grades like this kindergarten class, above, we use the drum to keep up the rhythm each ‘word picture’ (and students LOVE this drum from Kenya!):
Books are. . . .
Books are red dragons,
Breathing fire into the night
Hot, wild, gleaming words!
Other Writing Workshops (Elementary Schools)
Workshops I have done in the past include:
Write What You Know: I lead students to think of an ‘ordinary’ place in an extraordinary way. (I use my stories, “A Day at Liberty Bay” and “Daddy’s Garden” to illustrate the magic of the familiar.)
Build A Story: I open with one of my stories; from there I introduce students to my “Story Bag.” Students pull mysterious objects from the bag. Using the objects (bananas, rocks, pencils, cars), we write a story together, covering important ideas of Setting, Characters, and Plot. Uproarious laughter ensues, as well as the great satisfaction and excitement of communal story telling!
Workshops can also be as simple as Listen to Words! workshop, where we pound a drum as we perform a well-known poem, listening closely for the musicality and rhythm of language. We talk about the “color” and “taste” of words as we weave our own poem.
Perhaps you as a teacher or librarian are focusing on a certain theme like nature, friendship, environmentalism, or community. I would love to design a writing workshop or a reading that highlights your class’ interests. (For example, themes in my stories touch on all the above themes).
Presentations for Middle School/High School
What can middle school and high school students learn from a children’s author?
In my presentations for these more mature writers and readers, I talk about my writing journey, beginning as a student, then as a high school English teacher to a newspaper columnist to a writer of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction for literary journals. . .to what I write today.
Using quotes from famous writers, I also discuss:
Why write? (keep a journal/notebook)
Why read? (read to become a good writer)
Why listen? (become adept observers and listeners)
Why me? (finding your own, distinct voice)
Optional: Finally, we share student writing—a wonderful element to incorporate, and one that either I or teachers can facilitate before the presentation. We use the poem, I Remember by Edward Montez (another poem may be used) as a template to encourage students to write about their memories using sensory language. Students may read out loud in front of their peers or they may request that I read their poems for them.
This format is very flexible and can be tailored to school’s individual needs. I am also open to doing a series of smaller writing workshops with smaller groups of students before the presentation.
Is a workshop too much? I love to pop in, share one or more of my stories, and engage in a conversation about writing.