IRW and Lauren Wolk, author of Wolf Hollow (Newbery Honor), visited students in Grades 5 – 8 at Jonesport Elementary School in October. The 7th/8th grade ELA teacher Marcia McDavid read the book with students before Lauren’s visit, and challenged her students to create scenes and characters from the book out of clay. They were all laid out on a table in Marcia’s room with scrabble tiles for the title. Grades 5-6 educator Marni Crowley prompted her students to engage with the book through creating character profile posters.
During an overview presentation with the fifty-one students in Grades 5-8, Lauren told the group, “You are much smarter, much braver, and much more tuned in than people give you credit for.” This generated respect and understanding between her and the students, and among the students themselves, setting an excellent tone for the upcoming group discussions.
Lauren then met with students in their classrooms to address questions and lead a discussion about Wolf Hollow. Students had delved deep into the bones of the story and had an impressive amount of thoughtful questions. Multiple hands shot into the air to share their thoughts, and Lauren was masterful in teasing out questions from and engaging the quieter students by turning it around and asking them questions. She noted that, “Still waters run deep. There is often a whole lot going on with the quieter ones.” She prodded one student, “If you have someone who is just plain nasty and does terrible things, and someone who just goes along with it, who’s worse?” Following this was a lengthy discussion on Upstander vs. Bystander, and what it means to be a bully.
In addition to plot and character questions, they had plenty of questions about the writing process. Lauren impressed upon them the idea that we have two universal languages – our senses and our emotions – and they should remember that when writing.
She advised students to, “Slow down and focus. You’d be amazed at what happens in an ordinary day. Take what you know and invest it in a character.”
Most of the students chose Toby – a quiet gentle character who suffered from PTSD and was sorely misunderstood – as their favorite. A young man asked, “Why does Toby carry the guns?” (You’ll have to read it to make your own assumption.) “What do you think?” Lauren asked. She affirmed the students’ responses telling them, “These are all beautiful, wonderful answers and there are many more valid possibilities.”
Upon reading the end of the book one young man shared that he told his teacher, “I’m really mad at the author right now because she made me feel!” Lauren responded, “That is why artists create.”
And there was great interest in whether or not a movie might be made. “What if you were in the movie?” One student asked. “I’d be the telephone operator,” said Lauren. “I hope they do make a movie,” said another, “I will watch it 150 times!” And this from the young man who confessed that after reading the first chapter he wanted to burn the book. But now he, “Love, love, loves it!! I think your book was like a learning book too because it teaches people not to judge a book by its cover.”
Lauren received a gift from the class – a clay sheep from the Wolf Hollow table display that she’d said she loved. (They also threw in a clay duck for her bring home!)
After the visit, Marcia McDavid said, “I noticed not one single copy of Wolf Hollow was left in the room.”
PS: Special thanks to educators Marcia and Marni who welcomed Lauren and her mom (the inspiration for Wolf Hollow) the evening before the school visit by bringing them homemade lobster rolls (which, of course, were a huge hit)!