To learn about basic fiction writing techniques and differences in writing for children, students in Mrs. Dirkx’s Creative Writing class were tasked with writing and illustrating a children’s story. Many steps were taken to complete the project including research, prewriting, choosing a topic, drafting and illustrating, to accomplish the end goal of creating a children’s story and reading it aloud to students in the elementary schools throughout the district.
The creative writing students were asked to consider how writing for children would improve their writing style, how to use elements of short stories to create an appealing children’s story, and how to engage young listeners with purposeful questions. To help answer these questions, and prior to selecting a topic, students revisited favorite stories from their childhood and analyzed popular books to create dos and don’ts, serving as guidelines for their own stories.
While one student said that the most challenging part of this unit was finding a really engaging subject to write about, SHS senior, Parker Polaschek disagreed. “The actual creation of the book, surprisingly, was not even the hardest part of this project. I felt like the hardest part was actually going to the schools and reading the stories to the children. It was hard to know how they would respond to your story and how much they would actually enjoy the story you are telling them. When reading to them it was definitely hard keeping the right amount of enthusiasm and confidence when you are in front of them,” said Polaschek.
When asked how the students did with the project, Dirkx responded, “All of the students did an amazing job with their children's stories. Since the high school students are reading their stories to the intended audience, they put in extra effort to entertain the elementary students. While working through the writing process of prewriting and revising and editing several drafts, students received feedback from not only me but also their peers. They also put in a lot time to illustrate their stories and create mini-lessons to teach the elementary students about their books' theme.” Dirkx went on to say, “The elementary students are always wonderful audiences. They answer the questions the high schoolers ask and interject their opinions. The teachers often ask the high school students about their writing process to help make connections for their elementary students.”
Dirkx enjoys how much her students get out of sharing what they created and seeing some of their former elementary teachers. She added that the elementary teachers also enjoy seeing some of their former students. Polaschek said he is happy with how his story turned out and said, “It felt like a very clean and put together book in the end. I was very happy that I was actually able to make my illustrations look good even though I am not much of an artist. Not only did I feel good about my book, I think the kids also enjoyed my children’s story.”