This fall we welcomed to the fold our southern-most school in Washington County, Ella Lewis School in Steuben, and brought Ellen Potter to visit. Arriving at the school right behind a sixth grade boy who was declaring his love for SLOB, the book his class was reading, was a gift for both Ellen and IRW. He was thrilled to be introduced to her and tell her all about his project based on the book.
Upon entering the school, we were greeted by a huge welcome sign, smiling faces, and walls and doorways plastered with student artwork and writing. Their learning was literally spilling into the hallways.
PreK made “Peek-a-boo” island and put chocolate kisses in their fairy tree to see if someone might take them.
Grades 1&2 created a lobster boat mural and made their very own Poet-tree during class time with Ellen.
In grades 3-4 students came prepared for their workshop with journals and pencils, and teachers were fully engaged. During Q&A one kid declared, “I started writing just a few days ago.” Students were very focused on the writing prompt even with limited time. After one student read aloud and Ellen asked his peers for feedback, a girl responded, “I felt like I was in the story.” That is great feedback to hear for an aspiring young writer! “Can I get back to writing my story?” another asked the following day.
One teacher told us that her class refers to Olivia Kidney by first name now, “because she’s our friend.” Olivia Kidney is the main character in one of Ellen’s books.
In the Grades 5-6 classroom, Ellen led a workshop in writing suspenseful scenes. We were thrilled with the students’ creativity – one student had his character fall into a giant pit of cat litter! This class also used Ellen’s book SLOB as a launchpad for discussing bullying, and creating signs for the hallway with anti-bullying slogans. One student even created a Nemesis model, which he connected to an iPad playing retro television shows.
Ellen repeated this workshop with seventh and eighth graders, and as she also did with Gr. 5-6, asked them to provide feedback on each other stories. We were so impressed with the way these students articulated their ideas about their classmates’ work!
Ellen wrapped up her session with them by introducing WordCraft, the three-week online learning experience IRW designed for them, where they will connect with Ellen and Gr. 7-8 students from Princeton Elementary to learn Three Secrets To Writing and receive feedback from Ellen in one-on-one Skype sessions.
Teachers relayed that the anticipation and day of the visit felt a lot like Christmas and, we have to admit, it felt a lot like that for us, too! A day for the books!