I spent a fabulous day with the 4th and 5th graders at Chamberlin School in South Burlington earlier this week. Their amazing librarian, Cally Flickinger, even set up a special blog so we could chat a little online before my visit.
I did a large group presentation for each grade level; both went long because the kids had so many fantastic questions. They had all read Spitfire and asked very detailed questions about specific scenes in the book – terrific fun for me as an author!
After the two presentations, I got to work with small groups for historical fiction writing workshops! The kids who signed up for the workshops were just amazing. We spent an hour doing different kinds of research — from deciphering 18th century journals to trying out some of the games, tools, and foods that would have been part of everyday life.
The kids went back and forth with their “experimental archaeology,” trying things out and then taking notes with loads of sensory details relating to each experience.
There was the ever-frustrating bilbo-catcher, a game that I managed to win once — the first time I tried it. I haven’t been able to catch the ball on the post ever since. Not surprisingly, some of the 4th and 5th graders were much, much better at it than I was.
The kids also tried their hands at tabletop ninepins…
…making sparks with flint and steel…
…and practicing penmanship on a slate.
They’re using their notes to write stories set in the 18th century, and they’ve already posted some terrific first drafts to the blog their librarian created.
We talked a lot about revision during my visit. I told them some of my revisions stories and pulled the messy, marked-up manuscript I’m working on now out of my tote bag to share.
They’re excited about revising, and I’m excited that I’ll get to play another part in their writing process. After they’ve critiqued one another’s work and made revisions, they’ll post to the blog again, and I’ll be making comments to them online, offering “editor feedback” for one more round of revisions before they complete their final drafts.
With their permission, I’ll post some excerpts from those final stories when they’re done. I can already tell they’re going to be fantastic. Chamberlin School has some seriously talented writers!