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Writing Workshop (Part 2)

After working on his first personal recount of the year, N wanted to try writing another story. He didn’t like any of the ideas that he recorded in his Ideas Notebook, and asked if he could write about being lost in the Amazon Rainforest. I was rather reluctant initially, but he was adamant, and excitedly told me his proposed storyline.

I printed out the template that I created for him, and this time round, his story was 10 pages long! I got him to verbally tell me what he wanted for each page, then to write the key words at the top of each page. He worked on the story and illustrations over a few days, before I sat down with him to discuss how he could edit it.

For this round of editing, I followed Lucy Calkin’s Writing Workshop and moved on to focusing on Intention/Purpose. We talked about what he wanted to achieve through the editing process, and I jotted his answers down on a post-it note, so that we could refer to it when necessary (which was each time we started on a new page).

N wanted his story to be exciting, and to provide information about the Amazon Rainforest as well as survival skills, because he has been reading a lot of comic books about surviving in the desert/jungle. After some prompting, he said he wanted to “make people feel like they are there”, and to incorporate some humour into his story, because he loves being funny.

I helped him to find out how to get to the Amazon Rainforest when he was writing this first page, but didn’t provide any input at that point.

I got him to look at the “Intentions” post-it after re-reading his first page, and we came up with these points to focus on for editing this page.

He added details to show how we got the idea to visit the Amazon Rainforest, but when I suggested adding information on when our trip would be, he refused. I guess it’s a good thing, as it shows that he wants to have ownership over his work?

I am really pleased that he used quite a bit of dialogue here! He still needs help when it comes to punctuating dialogue accurately, but this takes time and plenty of practice, so I’m starting early with him, and hoping it will become a habit soon.

I love this picture he drew for his story, because there’s so much detail in it. He drew Didi using C’s iPad to take a photo of Meimei, who is apparently making the peace sign. Too cute!

I was honestly disappointed when I read his second page, as it was just a laundry list of things to pack. I think he got carried away thinking about what he would need in the rainforest, and was so relieved when he commented that it was too long and boring, after re-reading it during the editing stage.

He came up with these points on his own, after referring to the “Intentions” post-it. In an ideal world, he would have thought of this before he even started writing, but since this is only his second time writing a proper story with me, I think it’s a good learning point for him.

I suggested adding some context and splitting the list of items up, but he surprised me by saying he wanted to cancel the entire page and re-write it. It’s a big move, but I encouraged him by telling him that it was great that he was unafraid to make big changes, in order to improve his writing. This is what editing is for!

He couldn’t think of a way to make his story funny, so I suggested getting Didi to ask for biscuits repeatedly, since that’s what he does in real life. N thought it was hilarious, and worked on the dialogue with minimal help.

He also worked on a new drawing for this page. It’s a much simpler list of items for sure!

Page 3 was quite brief and when we re-read it together, he came up with the editing points on his own.

We looked at his “Intentions” post-it again, and he decided that he wanted to describe the rainforest “to make people feel like they are there”.

He again opted to delete everything he wrote, and added details about the flight and journey to the rainforest. While writing the dialogue, he sniggered to himself, and refused to let me see what he was writing until he was done. I love that he used the dialogue to show how whiny Daddy was!

I was proud of how he made an effort to describe the rainforest by considering the different senses. He was even inspired to write the bit about the dancing trees when he looked up and saw the tree outside our balcony swaying in the breeze!

He was pretty excited when he was writing the following pages, because he likes all those “survival” books. I tried telling him that it’s really not that easy to start a fire, but he insisted that it’s doable.

He has been very amused by the dialogue that he added to the previous pages, so his very first editing point for this page was to add humour. I told him also that the fire-making process needed to be clearer, so he agreed to describe it more.

One thing we’ve learnt from our first editing exercise is that we have to read the previous page(s) first, before editing the current page, to avoid using the same or similar linking words to begin. He chose to use dialogue to link the previous page to this one, and I’m glad that he seems unafraid to use dialogue now, and seems to understand that it can be used to move a story along.

After using dialogue to link this page to the previous one, he also decided to cancel his last few sentences, and replace them with dialogue to add a bit of humour. He also edited the bit about the fire, to add more details about the process.

I thought this was quite a funny page, and liked that he introduced a “problem” to his story to make it more interesting. Content-wise, I didn’t think there was much to edit, but he surprised me by wanting to edit quite a big part of it.

These were the things that he wanted to focus on when editing this page. Humour is a HUGE part of his “Intentions”!

He cancelled the entire second paragraph, then added more details and dialogue. What amused me was that the dialogue was quite realistic, because these were things that we would say in real life!

I was pleased that he remembered how to use the ellipsis, and even used it twice, in different yet effective ways. I liked how he showed how loudly Daddy yelled by describing the birds’ reaction, and used Didi’s simple response to create humour.

This page is actually a continuation of the “problem” that he created for this story. I thought the content was pretty decent, but he said he wanted to add more information on how to catch fish without a fishing rod. Like I said, he takes this whole “survival in the forest” thing very seriously.

While re-reading this page, he noticed quite a few spelling errors, and asked me to write down “check spelling”. Haha.

I try very hard not to direct his editing, but I just had to get him to edit the Singlish out, as it really irked me. He wasn’t too pleased with his last paragraph, so he cancelled most of it, and rewrote it to include more details on the fishing process.

He refused to let me look at it while he was writing, so by the time I read it, he had already written a long paragraph. I convinced him to split it into two paragraphs, so that it would be easier to read. I was very tempted to tell him that it wasn’t really possible that all five of us shared ONE fish for dinner, but I held my tongue because it’s his story, and I didn’t really want to get into an argument with him over that detail.

When C read the story, he laughed and commented that N thinks he’s Aquaman or something, diving into the water and catching fish with his DIY spear. I actually really wanted to tell N that it wasn’t as easy as he thought it would be, but again, I exercised a lot of self-control, and reminded myself that it is HIS story, not mine.

He continued with his “problem” and I was quite amused by how he made himself look like a real expert and hero throughout this story. I had a long debate with him over the machete, as I didn’t think it made sense for him to carry a machete around, much less own one. I explained to him that it’s considered a weapon, and he wouldn’t have been allowed to bring it on the plane, that it was difficult to even buy one, but he said we could have purchased it when we got to Manaus.

He spotted more spelling mistakes, and at first, that was all he wanted to edit. I got him to look at the “Intentions” post-it again, and he decided that he wanted to describe how we got lost, and to make it funny.

I pointed out that his first bit was repetitive, so he cancelled part of it out. After some thought, he decided to remove the bit about the machete, and changed it to marking the trees, as he read about it in one of his books previously. Hallelujah!

He wanted to make it funny by getting Meimei to “draw poopoo on the floor”, and I tried to be as objective as possible by telling him that it would be too difficult for her to draw. He then suggested drawing butts, because “it’s just two circles”. *facepalm* Thankfully, I managed to convince him to be more practical, and he changed it to kicking leaves around, because he figured it could be funny too.

I was really happy when he automatically thought of using “scolded” instead of “said” at the end!

Page 8 had more “survival” tactics. I guess I should be glad that he remembers what he reads in books, although he seems to have a slightly warped sense of reality.

Since he changed the ending of the previous page, he had to edit the first part of this page, so that it would be linked.

He added a short phrase to link this page to the previous one, and worked on explaining how to figure out where East was. I thought it was too wordy, so I offered him some ideas on how to tidy it up and make his explanation clearer. He chose to use dialogue for this part, since it’s one of his “intentions”.

I also got him to try out different ways of spelling “appeared”. He knew he spelt it wrongly, but couldn’t quite figure out the correct spelling. In Writers Workshop, the kids are encouraged to sound out the word, write down different ways of spelling the word, then pick the one which they thought was right.

Editing this page was interesting because he changed his mind and wanted to change the storyline. I was more than happy for him to do so, as to me, it showed that he’s really into this story, and wanted to make it better. He could have taken the easy way out and just edited things like grammar, but I could tell that he was continually thinking of how to make this story interesting.

I gave him a new sheet of the template and he came up with this. He had so much to say that he needed more space to write!

He only wanted to do the first point, but agreed to the other two points when I suggested them.

He edited the minor spelling and punctuation errors first, before deciding to change “triumphantly” to “while rolling my eyes” after I explained what “triumphantly” meant.

I honestly found this page way too lengthy and long-winded. He gets really carried away when he writes about survival skills! After some discussion, he agreed to cancel the entire second chunk, and rewrote it. I had to be his scribe because he said his hand was tired from writing so much earlier.

I got him to explain the tent-making process more clearly, as I couldn’t quite understand what he was trying to say at first. I also taught him to use “in unison” when he said he wanted to write “said together” for the twins’ dialogue bit.

Again, he chose to use dialogue to inject humour, and added the last sentence to create a smooth transition to the next page.

He added this page because he changed the previous page. He wrote it on the same day, but we edited it the next day because he was too zonked after editing the previous page. I usually get him to work on one page each time, so that he would be fresh enough to see how he can edit his work.

It was raining that morning when we started working on editing this page, so he was inspired to add details about the weather and surroundings. He wanted to try something new by adding sounds, and I gave him a quick lesson on what onomatopoeia is. Not sure if he understood it or if he will even remember what it means, but no harm introducing the proper terms for the literary devices he uses, right?

He added some description of the weather, as part of his “Intentions” to “make people feel like they are there”. Originally, he didn’t want any dialogue on this page, but changed his mind when he realised it was easier to express feelings through dialogue.

This was his original ending but it was no longer suitable, so he had to rewrite it.

His new ending. I liked that he threw in a “plot twist” of sorts at the end, and used some pretty good vocabulary too.

He didn’t quite know how to end the story, and was quite frustrated, but I told him we could work on it during the editing process.

We talked about this last page, and he said he wanted to make it more exciting, but didn’t quite know how, so I gave him some suggestions.

He described how we ate the food to show how hungry we were, and added more dialogue to make the story funnier. I was his scribe again, and for the record, I played no part in coming up with the story. C keeps insisting that I instigated N to write all these things about him, but I really didn’t! N was so pleased with himself for coming up with the funny things that C did. I think he liked making C look bad! Hahaha.

He agonised over the conclusion, and I even gave him some suggestions on what to write, but he suddenly came up with this on his own. I think it works!

N was sooooo excited when we finished, and asked me to type it out immediately. He loved having his first story printed out, and wanted me to print this one out as well. I think it makes him feel like a real author, which is exactly what I want.

He also asked if we could sell his stories, so that he could make some money to buy more books. I posted it on my IG stories, and some kind folks really bought his story! One of our friends bought it and told me that her daughter loves the story so much that they’ve been reading it daily, and she has even started colouring the illustrations that he drew. I totally melted when she sent me this picture of her sweet little girl colouring N’s drawing!

Anyway, if you’re keen to purchase a soft copy of N’s story, please DM me on IG/FB with your email address. Each copy is only SGD2, and you can pay via bank transfer, PayLah! or PayNow. Thank you in advance for supporting N and encouraging him in his writing journey!

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