The Year 8 Perspective by Hadia Mirza and Grace Thackray

Yarrawonga College P-8 was privileged to experience four weeks with Dee White, an Australian author who has published more than 20 books. 

Dee has spent four weeks sharing tips on how she writes her stories and encouraging us with our writing.

The Your Story is Our Story project that brought Dee to our school was a one-off event that was supposed to happen in 2020 but due to covid-19 it could not go ahead. Luckily this year it took place.

Hadia and Grace

On 10 of June 2021, Hadia Mirza and Grace Thackray finally got the opportunity to interview some people about the Dee White project. We wanted to see what students thought of this new experience. Here are the responses of the year eight students. 

Most students rated this project highly, scoring it between 6-10 stars. Some students, if they could, would want to change the amount of time put towards the project and would love to work with Dee longer. Some people said that this project really affected their opinion on writing. In the Year Eight grade, students are writing all kinds of stories from drama to action. 

This project not only helped people develop their writing skills but also other talents they could put into creating a story. Students look forward to having better writing skills at the end of this project. 

Dee said, “I have loved working on the project. It’s great to see how enthusiastic you all are.” 

She also said how much she loved the students’ ideas. 

We are all so lucky to have had this experience. Thanks to all the students who contributed to our research, and thanks to Dee for helping us. 

Hadia and Grace

Author in Residence Day 2 – Your Story is Our Story

Another hectic, fun day at Yarrawonga College P-12.

One of the Year 7’s was so excited after completing a character profile, they declared, ‘I’ve got my whole story plan already now.’

So great to have the chance to inspire these talented writers and see their stories grow from small seeds..

I also worked with Year 8’s developing their characters by looking at internal traits and character motivations.

My stories always start with characters because they drive the story and make things happen.

Picture prompts for character ideas. Students chose from contemporary and historical characters.

So this was the focus of the Year 1 sessions too.

We used puppets again to demonstrate concepts and talked about how I developed my characters for Reena’s Rainbow and the Pippa’s Pets series.

Students had created their own puppets to use in their stories and they were amazing.

The Year 4s were also very creative developing characters to be featured on their ‘missing’ milk cartons and used in their stories.

So wonderful to see such enthusiasm and talent. Everyone has a story to tell.

Dee

Thanks to Creative Victoria and Creative Learning Partnerships for making this program possible.

Your Story is Our Story – author-in-residence Yarrawonga College P-12

24 May 2021

Great first day at Yarrawonga College P-12 working with enthusiastic and talented young writers.

Brainstorming characters

In my first sessions with Year 5 and 6 students we talked about how everybody has a story to tell and anyone can be a writer.

Using picture prompts of contemporary and local historical characters, writers started work on their stories. First step, getting to know their characters.

Students interviewed their characters to find out more about them including  their personal character traits, life situations and possible problems they might face.

Talking writing careers with an enthusiastic student.
Using puppets to develop characters

We also talked about point of view and who should be telling a story. So many creative and engaging characters and story ideas.

In Year 3 we worked on creating ‘missing’ characters and objects. Students will make their own milk cartons, which also covers understanding geometric shapes. The milk cartons will display details about their ‘missing character’ or ‘object’, just like the milk carton kids of the 1980s.

Students are creating their own ‘missing person’ or object milk cartons

These characters or missing objects will form the start of their stories.

A big first day, but so much fun.

Thanks to all the staff and students for being so amazing and engaged with all the activities.

Dee

Thanks to Creative Victoria and Creative Learning Partnerships for making this program possible.

YOUR STORY IS OUR STORY – Author-In-Residence May/June

YARRAWONGA COLLEGE P-12

On 24th May I start my ‘author-in-residence’ at Yarrawonga College, P-12 and I can’t wait.

I’ll be working with students in years P-8, helping them tell their stories.  The theme of the project is Your Story is Our Story

There will be puppets

There will be puppets, writing crafts, museum visits and research – all part of the project. The residency is for four and a bit weeks and at the end of it, student stories will be written, edited and compiled into anthologies. Every student will have a piece of work published.

It’s a huge undertaking, and the staff at Yarrawonga College have been truly incredible in getting behind the residency, and Project Coordinator and Leading Teacher – Curriculum and Pedagogy, Rebecca Sprague has gone above and beyond to ensure that everything’s in place and the needs of both students and staff will be met.

I’m truly privileged to be spending time at this regional school. They haven’t had an author visit in a very long time and my ‘author-in-residence’ works in with their mission and commitment to boost literacy levels and inspire kids to write.

WHAT I’LL BE DOING

  • Running writing workshops for P-8, showing them how authors create their stories and the different forms that stories can take.
  • Encouraging writers in Years 5-8 to start their own writer’s groups and experience the fun of writing.
  • Running Writer’s Workshops at lunchtimes for Years 9-12.
  • Working with a Marketing and Editorial committee comprised of students to design, edit and compile the anthologies.

MY PROJECT GOALS

  • I want every student to believe that their own personal story is just as valid and important as anyone else’s. Everyone has a story to tell.
  • Inspire students to create their own works, and to understand that there is more than one way to tell a story.
  • Empower students to tell their stories in the way they want.
  • Meet Australian Curriculum learning goals that enhance student’s understanding of their place in the world.
  • Inspire students to love storytelling and writing as much as I do.
  • Introduce students to new ways to tell stories and techniques that authors use
  • Inspire students who love creating to follow their passion and consider a career in the arts. 
  • Help students who love writing to help each other by setting up writing partnerships and writer’s groups that will continue after I’ve left the school.

PREPARING TO BE AN ‘AUTHOR-IN-RESIDENCE’

There have been many steps to get to this point including:

We’ll use characters from my books including
these amazing illustrations of Eddy and Chewy created by Benjamin Johnston
  1. Providing an outline of how I have inspired kids to write – and the kind of program I will run at the school.
  2. Worked with the potential Project Coordinator on a submission for funding from Creative Victoria through their Creative Learning Partnerships program (other state and federal funding bodies may have money available). We were successful in getting funding but due to Covid-19 the project was postponed for 12 months.
  3. Visited the school and spent a day with staff discussing how the project would work and what they hoped to get from it.
  4. Worked on a plan for how many sessions each year level would need to brainstorm, write and edit their stories.
  5. Devised a plan to fit with the school’s timetable.
  6. Worked with the Project Co-ordinator to obtain printing quotes for the anthologies.
  7. Outlined a volunteer program to encourage local residents to get involved in the project at the school – helping students with learning differences to tell their stories, and potentially providing assistance putting together the anthologies.
  8. Provided press releases and other publicity suggestions to secure support for the project and interest volunteers in assisting with the program.
  9. Identify which of my books are relatable to the project, and help the school share them with students in advance. For example, Beyond Belief (inspired by the true story of Muslims at a Paris mosque) will be used in upper primary and early secondary classrooms to demonstrate the importance of setting and the importance of telling our stories and understanding our place in the world.
  10. Made introductory author videos for the students to excite them about the project and encourage them to be comfortable with me being in their classrooms.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT

In spite of all the preparation, this will be an organic and creative project and I can’t wait to see how the students respond.

I’ll be blogging about the residency here so stay tuned for more over the coming weeks.

Dee

Thanks to Creative Victoria and Creative Learning Partnerships for making this program possible.

Kids Being Creative

Last weekend I was honoured and inspired to present the young writer’s awards at the 2019 Daylesford Words in Winter Festival.

The event took place inside a blanket fort, the brainchild of one of the young writers I was lucky to meet.

There were so many things I loved about this event. So much colour and so many amazing primary school aged creators.

Prep to Year 2 winners

The stories I read were evocative and powerful, sometimes funny, always imaginative.

I was moved not only by the creative vibe I found in Daylesford, but also the love of story and story creation.

Grade 3-4 winners

There were hundreds of entries in the competition and every prize winner and contestant at the event was accompanied by at least one proud and supportive adult. I was born into a household where writing wasn’t considered to be a ‘real job’ so it was heartwarming to see the family and community support for these young writers.

Grade 5-6 winners

Many of the writers had also been encouraged to enter the competition by a supportive teacher or librarian.

I was so lucky to be invited to be part of this event, and it reinforced to me how much we can do to encourage kids to write, and to love writing as much as I do.

 

INSPIRING YOUNG WRITERS

Last week I ran a school holiday writing workshop with a group of very enthusiastic young writers on plotting and planning your story .

We made up stories from photos, puppets and all kinds of  things. We talked about beginnings, middles and endings of stories – about working out what your character really wants and how they are going to achieve it.

A box full of characters can be fun to choose from

The young writers ranged from 7 to 15 years and they were so inspiring.

I was also lucky enough to have writerly friend, Karen Collum drop in for the workshop with her niece, Elysse

Pictured are Karen, Sarah, Elysse and me.

INSPIRING YOUNG WRITERS

In August this year, I started working with a group of very enthusiastic Year 6 to 8 Victorian students, all keen to hone their writing skills.

We talked setting, we talked story ideas – we talked about everything writerly. We used butcher’s paper to build a story from scratch – brainstormed ideas then arranged them into a logical sequence. We talked about how character inspires plot, and we explored the plot arc – reached for the high point in the story where all the action culminates in something gripping for the reader.

What a wonderful experience it was for me to work with such inspiring young writers. Each and every student had their own writing style – each had an obvious talent for writing.

At the end of the seven 1 1/2 hour sessions, we had produced an anthology, Our World & Beyond, which all the students could be proud of. Stories ranged from around 3,000 to 5,000 words and students spent a great deal of time writing and editing between our sessions.

Of course the odd vampire made its way into the book – and yes there was romance – and plenty of action. But every story featured well developed characters, original story lines and great writing.

It was so much fun for me to work on this project and witness such persistence, and the dedication of young writers to their craft.

Clearly, there is plenty of young Australian writing talent just waiting for the opportunity to emerge.

Dee

Tips for young writers can be found at my blog http://tips4youngwriters.wordpress.com