The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
How does creative writing make a difference in the lives of students?
The following narrative by Lurinda Lam from Hillsdale is a good example of how creative writing makes a difference in the lives of students.
Miss Heidi has visited our class every Wednesday morning. Each visit includes a new topic for the kids to focus on. Many of the kids were initially hesitant to really let themselves write.
One particular student’s story exemplifies the impact Miss Heidi’s guidance has had on my class. Prior to WITS, this student did not like writing and refused to write during our first WITS session. With the help of Miss Heidi, he gradually began to write.
Miss Heidi recently brought in a model text that personified Africa and the kids were given time to write and share. I never expected the amazing piece this young man shared that day. He told about how he had encountered a planet that held an “immense variety of life.” He described that “over the course of 700,000,000 years” he had “never encountered such a planet.” He went on to tell how he usually ate “sweet tasting suns” for dessert, and imagined “this planet full of life would taste even better.” He ended his story leaving us wondering whether he would eat planet Earth or not.
As the day’s writing was being collected and Miss Heidi was leaving, this student came over to talk with me. With an enormous smile and bright eyes, he told me, “I think that was the best piece of writing I have ever produced!”
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
Some of the student’s comments about what they have learned during the residency are listed below:
I learned that details and description can help to create setting.
I used my own ideas to write stories, poems, and nonfiction.
This program helped me understand more about writing than I ever have.
I now understand how to use my own ideas to write stories, poems and nonfiction.
I have learned that I can use my own imagination and my world to tell stories.
Creative writing might be a good career for someone like me!
Longtime teaching-writer, Danny Stewart, had one of the most impactful experiences at the SWIJDC this year. He describes it below.
Elijah is a student I had for nearly the entirety of my residence. He wrote nearly 300 poems while in Ada County—probably 30 with me—and this year says he’s decided he is a writer, and was going to keep his notebook of poems to one day hopefully publish them. He placed a piece in Cambia, and several in the classroom anthology. He’s committed now, and will be until he turns 18, but I hope he still uses writing as a way of expressing himself—he’s deeply remorseful about his crimes, and how they affected his family. Elijah is truly talented: playful and inventive with his use of language, original in his use of imagery, and creative about how he approached the writing prompts I gave him—all signs of a true artist.
One of the best examples of reflection is often told through the eyes of a teacher, like Leah Stevens Clark, who works closely with students and has the joy of watching students discover a love of reading and writing!
For the past two years, I have been the liaison between Foothills School of Arts and Sciences and the Cabin WITS’ program. This year, we have a range of students; from highly gifted to students with dyslexia. We brought in teaching writer Katherine Kyle, who specializes in comics. The first class created a buzz that caught all 28 students and infected them with a love of story through comics, graphic novels and cartoons. The enthusiasm is exploding!
One student in that class has a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is sometimes disconnected in class and in his own world. I have never seen him raise his hand and contribute to a conversation and exploration in school as fully as he has with Katherine in the study of comics. In my opinion, this residency will be transformative to his education; unlocking the door to literacy for him and giving him the confidence to speak up and share his work.
Several of our students were chosen to be published in the anthology, Cambia. These students were a part of an evening at the Linen Building which featured writers from across the valley, reading their poetry or short story for a large audience in celebration. This culmination brought learning out of the classroom and into the community.
WITS is integral to our curriculum at Foothills School. The support The Cabin receives from the ICA, ensures our future students have the opportunity to find joy and passion in the written word, and see themselves as writers.
Leah Stephens Clark