Charlotte Elementary School was abuzz on the second day of a two-visit program with Kimberly Ridley, who had spent a day with them two weeks before at Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge. While there, they got to see animals and their habitats up close so that they could return to school and get started on their own book in a similar style to Kim’s “The Secret Pool,” titled “Moosehorn Secrets.” Kim returned with us for this second visit to hear what they had done and to give suggestions to help them with their writing.
The spotlight for this visit was on the students and they took turns sharing what they had written with one another. It was a very fun story of an eagle noticing a funny long yellow thing [a school bus] arriving in the forest, and out jumps loud children and teachers running in all directions. The main character, Eagle, then has to warn his wildlife friends of the danger coming their way!
The enthusiasm was great as we listened to how they started their research and chose the characters for their book. There was much discussion on who would be the main character and Eagle was chosen because of its bird’s-eye view and how seeing the big picture along with being able to hone in on minute details was very important to their plot. Kim agreed that this was a brilliant strategy.
We broke into three groups and each had a turn working with Kim on different sections of the book from beginning to end. The first group was asked, “What makes a good beginning?” After a flurry of answers, she told them to take their good ideas and think about how the animals in their story feel, and helped them connect their research with the story process such as, “How is the eagle regal?” and “How would an eagle talk about itself?”
A similar process was done with the groups that worked on the middle and end of the story. Kim demonstrated how some sentences could help you see and hear the scene more clearly, and that just changing one word can make a huge difference. Kim helped the second group see that the middle of a story should have a conflict that needs to be solved. They wanted to bring in a squirrel that shows up in the end and this gave Kim the opportunity to explain foreshadowing. The last group had worked on the story’s ending and during their time with Kim, creative ideas were abundant! Some were a little far out there and cliffhangers were discussed.
In the afternoon, we returned to the circle and the principal, Peggy White, read the newly revised version out loud to all. What a thrill to be a part of this story unfolding. We cannot wait to see the finished version. We hear it will be available next spring.
Before leaving Kim asked the students each to finish this statement about the book they are writing, “I Wonder…” Here are some of their replies:
“I wonder what the illustrations will look like?”
“I wonder how all 3 parts will be connected, beginning, middle and end?”
“I wonder if many of us will be writers?”
“I wonder if you (Kim Ridley) will come back when you write another book?”