Part of living a life with Christ is giving back to others in your community. This weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to volunteer to teach Kindergarten through second grade students how to write a good story, the parts of a story, how to identify problems, and find solutions. The Young Writer's Conference was held at Sherrod Elementary School in Palmer, Alaska. Students from all over the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District came to participate.
I ended up teaching 54 students in three groups, who came with their parents and grandparents to the event. I began by sharing the story Mimsy Mouse Searches for a New Home by Linda N. Walz and Stephan Linton. Students learned about the three parts of a fiction book: the beginning, middle, and end. Each section was later broken down to help students identify the problem, the turning point, and solution. All the students fell in love with Mimsy's story and who wouldn't; it's a wonderful tale of friendship.
After explaining what makes a good story to the kids, I brought booklets for each student to create his/her own story. Perimeters were given to help students focus on writing their stories in the given amount of time. The stories had to be about a main character that was a moose. The moose had to have some problem based on a desire or talent the moose had that was not "normal" for other moose. I gave the examples of maybe the moose wanted to play the piano, ski down a mountain, or ride a bicycle. Then the students began the creative writing process.
In the end, I loved all the different stories the children created. There was a moose who lived on the sun and wanted to move because he was so hot. He moved to Antarctica and was much happier. There were two young ladies in the last group that really surprised me by working together. None of the other children had thought about coauthoring. These two girls attended the same school and were friends. When the first little girl started her story about a moose, named Bilmy, that was scared of everything and lived in a cave to feel safe, the second little girl made her story about a friendly girl moose, named Emily, who befriended Bilmy to teach him the world isn't scary when you have a best friend. Together the young ladies wrote a very touching story of friendship, which displayed their own good hearts as well.
It was wonderful to share with the kids and watch them learn. I also laughed a lot at their imaginations: from moose going to the moon to driving trucks or ice skating, these kids had endless ideas for problems and solutions. I also loved that every time I asked as question, they jumped right in to answer. Every child thought he or she was a great artist. They all tried their best to draw moose, even when their skills were not as well-honed as others. Most children thought they were good writers too. Every student believed he had something to share. Saturday made me wish many adults would go back and capture their child-like hearts, when they believed in themselves so completely as these kids did. Somehow adults lose sight of their abilities and imaginations. Trials have made us stop believing in ourselves or start comparing our gifts to others, who have are "better" than us. These kids didn't have that problem. Each child worked diligently on his drawings and story, regardless of whether other students were better or worse in those talents. Spending time with children can help bring our own childlike qualities back to our lives. We can learn to believe in ourselves again and use our gifts without comparison to others. We can not only have childlike faith, but childlike confidence too. Yes, you can write a book. It might be as crazy as a moose on roller skates, but it would be fun and creative. Judging from the 54 students I worked with on Saturday, we are all born with creativity. Don't let the world steal your joy from you!
An Alaskan Author, Prospector, Homeschool Teacher, Ordained Minister,
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