Another Writers’ Club teacher and I are standing in front of the kids who have chosen to work in our collaborative space. They are all spread out on the large bleacher-like steps, in small groups working, talking, writing.
One kid asks me if it would be okay for him to make brochures and fliers.
“Sure!” I said. “What are you going to make brochures and fliers about?”
“I don’t know, ” he said as he skipped away.
We are watching them, and kind of laughing. They don’t really need us. Sure there are a few who need our support. But for many of them, if they aren’t ready to share and celebrate their work, they don’t really want to be interrupted. They are busy creating worlds, characters, and books. They are writing a series with their friends or planning a new story to co-write. There are a few who end up making paper crafts, like a boy I noticed who was taping post-it notes into cones that he could fit on his fingers. Creative, yes. Writing? I don’t know.
One of the many joys of Writers’ Club is that sometimes you can sit and write with a student or two. Sometimes you can even do some writing near them, and hope they get interested in what you are doing.
So, I sat near the boy making finger cone claws. I had a stack of index cards, a sharpie, and a pair of scissors. I drew a stick figure and cut around it. Then I drew a stick figure dog and cut it out too. The boy took a break from his post-it note claws and scooted a little closer to tell me how cool my stick figures were.
“Isn’t he so cute?” I asked. “I want to make a story with him. What else do you think I need?”
He suggested a friend. Then he suggested the characters could be at a park. A park would need a tree, swings, and a slide, he told me. He thought probably the main character was wondering where he could plant a tree. As he told me elements, I drew them and cut them out. Then we started placing them on the steps.
“What do you think this guy should be saying?” I asked.
“Probably something like ‘Where can I plant this tree?'” my co-writer said. And I tried to put the tree in the stick figure’s hand. He stopped me and suggested that maybe the character should plant a seed, not a fully grown plant. I asked him if he’d ever seen someone plant a tree, as I drew a sapling in a sack for our main character.
He thought the dog should say “arf arf arf’ when he was asked where to plant a tree in the park.
I suggested that the cat have a real answer, and he suggested that the cat say sarcastically, “Maybe like in the ground??” We laughed as we put all the pieces together.
We decided that the friend should be looking for his cat.
I drew the friend, moping about his cat. “Now I’m going to have to figure out how to draw a bench!” I said.
“Oh. I can do that,” the boy said. “I think I can draw a bench.”
He got his own stack of index cards and a sharpie and drew a bench. He cut it out and added it to our story.
“This story is amazing!” he said as I took pictures so we could clean up.
I think sneaky-style I do, we do, you do might be one of my absolute favorite ways to write with kids.