Elementary students discover storytelling inspiration

Claire Oliver
Celebrating writing in all forms, the Linfield Department of Education will host its second writing camp
May 16.
The camp is an offshoot of a pilot program created last summer by Mindy Larson, assistant professor of education and elementary education coordinator.
Eight elementary education majors became involved with the project through a collaborative research grant and helped run the camp, worked with students and observed their writing skills.
“The idea was to give students an opportunity to have access to time to write and to get feedback and encouragement,” Larson said.
She said some campers would otherwise have little chance to do so.
About 50 students attended the first camp held May 2, which was divided into two sessions: a morning camp for Pre-K and kindergarteners and an afternoon session for first through fifth graders. The May 16 camp will follow the same format.
Both sessions featured a variety of stations with materials and activities that campers could interact with and be inspired by.
For example, younger students in the morning session could play with bubbles and liquids of different densities at a science center, build structures out of blocks at a building center or write letters to be mailed from a post office station.
Student teachers said they then asked their students to share the stories they had written.
“We encouraged them to write how they think they could write,” senior Laurel Newberry, one of Larson’s assistants, said.
Because most children of this age view writing as pictures and scribbles, Newberry said she encouraged her campers to see how this form of storytelling is also a form of writing.
“We’re looking for them to be able to take what they’ve made and make it something bigger — to see how they see writing,” she said.
Larson agreed and said the program is meant to help students develop their identities as writers by honoring all forms of it.
In the afternoon session, student teachers also observed this type of creativity.
Newberry, for example, said she ran a how-to station where participants could create sculptures with Popsicle sticks and then describe the steps they took to complete them.
She said she didn’t always see the same final results as the students do, but she was impressed with their ability to explain their method.
First through fifth graders could also choose from a variety of stations where they could write poetry, tell fiction or non-fiction stories or even create a graphic novel on a computer.
Newberry said the camp was a learning experience for student teachers as well as for campers, as it put into practice many of the concepts she learned about in Larson’s classes. She has already re-created her how-to station for the kindergarteners she works with as part of her part-time student teaching.
Although Newberry worked primarily with second and third graders at the writing camp, she said she was surprised with the proficiency her kindergarteners demonstrated when completing the same task.
“It’s amazing; I never knew how much [writing] impacted a child,” she said.
Larson said that the information collected from the team’s observations will help tailor future programs. She hopes to expand the camps in the future and is hoping to eventually fuse them with local public schools as part of the Kids on the Block program.
With 60 students registered for this weekend’s camp, Larson said she considers the camps successful.
While the events have provided a valuable research opportunity for Linfield students, Larson said the team’s ultimate goal is to be a part of improving the skills of the camp’s attendees.
“[We] want them to leave knowing that they arewriters,” she said.

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