Gray Academy – The Stories Beyond the Story

I was very intrigued when the teachers at Gray Academy proposed doing a writing project based on the novel “Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli. Not only was this going to be a new adventure for me since I hadn’t approached a project this way before, the creative ideas that flowed from that meeting got me very excited to be working at this school. The novel turned out to be one of the best books that I read over the summer, and I was looking forward to my residency more than ever!

Students read, studied, and discussed Stargirl together prior to my arrival. That in itself was lots of fun since we were able to chat about the characters and their adventures as though they were old friends! Then, we went on a creative journey together, imagining what these various “friends” lives would be like in the future – in other words, the stories beyond the story. We created character webs for the characters as they were in the book, then added ‘future’ details to our webs. Some characters changed quite a bit while others followed a path deeper into traits we had already seen in the story. In each case, students had to stretch their minds in one of the most important aspects of fiction writing – thinking like your character.

Not only were the early stages of character development a thrill to watch unfold, the teachers and I put our heads together and came up with a “High School Reunion” concept to end the residency. Students “became” their characters, and mingled, catching up with long lost friends. It was creative, fun, and quite often hilarious – especially when multiple versions of a character got together (we decided to pretend that a time machine allowed for this to happen. Why not? We were getting creative! 🙂 )

I was very impressed with the dedication that students showed throughout the project, diligently taking home their work each night and preparing a new, revised draft. It was a lot of hard work, but, as I was so glad to read in your feedback to me, many of you enjoyed seeing your writing evolve from day to day as you applied the revision techniques we discussed in class. Revision is a HUGE part of writing, and, as I hope you’ve experienced, can be just as creative as the initial dreaming, planning and drafting stages.

I have to make a special mention of the incredibly moving Remembrance Day Assembly that I was invited to attend.The Grade 6 students read, recited, and sang from the heart using the power of words for its most important purposes: to remember, to teach, and to imagine a better world. At the end of the assembly, the entire group of students, teachers, staff and guests spontaneously joined together in song; it’s a moment I will not forget and feel blessed to have been a part of. Thank you!

Thank you also to students and teachers for preparing an inspiring book of notes written to me about our writing journey. It’s right by my desk and I read through it often! (there was also a tote bag of thoughtful treats and keepsakes – thank you for your generosity and making me feel so welcome!)

I wish you all a great year and hope to meet again soon!

Karin 🙂