Book Beat Babes

Book Beat Babes

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Preparing for a Writers Workshop for 4th Graders! by DL Larson

I'm excited to share my knowledge of writing with other writers, but to host a writers workshop at my library at the request of the 4th grade teachers, has my two worlds crashing together in a symphony of beautiful music. It's a dream come true, well almost. The scheduled day is next Tuesday. We have one and a half hours together. I will lead the workshop along with another youth librarian who has agreed to help with moral support and crowd control.

The biggest hurdle is space. Our library is small, but the children's section boasts of four good size rooms, with numerous book shelves, dvd stands and various cushions and chairs taking up a great deal of space. No conference room at this library, we will have to make do with spreading out on the floor, at least for the first part of the presentation.

I have no idea where these children are in their writing development, so I've opted for a basic overview to help them realize the tools they need in order to write. I've called it a writer's tool kit. We'll talk about such items as imagination, conflict, plot, high stakes, strong verbs, setting, heroes and villains, and the reason the main character must keep going. I've prepared a survey for getting to know a character. We'll do an outline together so they will see how to take one idea and turn it into a plot. I made a plot/problem/progress sheet for students to realize who does what as their story progresses along. Another topic I added is genre. We'll discuss how a writer might blend different genres together.

Since their theme is about Halloween, I plan to read an easy reader version of, 'The Headless Horseman.'  Since it is an adaption of the original story by Washington Irving, I gave myself leeway to dabble with the story for the sake of learning. Each child will take a page and find weak verbs, strong usage of words, etc. Then they will do a mini rewrite, using strong verbs and vivid images in order to understand the editing process first hand.

We'll talk about writing a first draft and how to build from that. We also want to allow time for the kids to work on their own stories. They can browse the stacks and displayed books to examine how other authors write. We'll set up plenty of tables so kids can spread out across the many rooms.

I've made plenty of copies of the topics we'll discuss, along with 'Tips for Writers.' Each child will go home with plenty of knowledge on how to proceed to the next step in their writing journey.

I don't remember having a writing assignment like this when I was in 4th grade, let alone 5th, 6th, 7th or 8th. Writing in those days was very structured. Noun, verb, noun ... with an occasional adjective. We dissected more sentences than we ever wrote and I always wondered when I would ever need to do such a thing to a sentence. I can safely say ... never! I also never related writing sentences to writing a story. We read, we dissected, we didn't write all that much. So reflecting back, I wish I had had an opportunity to learn more about the writing world at a young age rather than waiting until I was nearly 40 before starting!

I'm tickled to be helping these kids with their writing skills. I'll let you know how it goes.

Til next time ~

DL Larson

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