Young writers show their creative word skills |

Young writers show their creative word skills

A good story, said Deborah DeKoff’s sixth-grade language-arts students at Ecker Hill International Middle School, must start with a catchy quotation, or teaser. For instance, if a reporter were to write a story about sixth-graders publishing their first short story and visual books, that reporter should start with an exciting line about sixth-graders. The sixth-graders of DeKoff’s class are like mini-DaVincis, they said humbly as an example.

The next step in story-writing, the students continued, is to back up your story with a little bit of evidence. In this case, the second paragraph makes an appropriate juncture to mention that these students wrote and published two books. One book is a compilation of stories told by shoes. The other, "The Misuses of Literally," gave students a chance to illustrate their favorite applications of the world "literally" in its not-so-literal usage.

With background set and ready, stories should start at the beginning. The students in DeKoff’s class received their assignment to write stories from their footwear’s point of view in February and they immediately engaged their imagination to get into the "mind" of a ski boot, or a pump, or a tennis shoe. Erin Garinger, a student in the class, said, "I just kind of stared at my shoes thinking about what it must be like stepping on things and how it feels."

After entering the sole of a shoe, students brainstormed their ideas and wrote topics in search of a beginning, middle and an end. "I like coming up with topics," said Annie Holbrook, "it’s (just) hard putting ideas into words." Many of them put down their thoughts with paper and pencil and others, of course, committed them to the computer.

Even with a beginning in mind, students still had to struggle with the middle or the challenge to their characters. Their conflict, assigned by DeKoff, was to tell the shoe’s story using voice and eight literary devices. But, according to Jack Loughlin, another student in the class, the most difficult part of writing and artistry resided in the actual process. He had to overcome his tendency to be lazy, he said, to complete the assignment.

When students completed their art or finished their stories they then emailed or tendered their work to DeKoff who gave the materials to a self-publishing company called Along with some technical assistance, allowed her to create professionally-bound products. Claire Schomate said of the final product and her inclusion in it, "I was like wow ’cause I didn’t think I was that good of an artist." Austen Hastings added, "We couldn’t have done it without Ms. DeKoff."

This marks the third year that DeKoff has published her student’s work. She does it, she said, "(because I) believe in the celebration at the end of a project." Interested parents can actually purchase the books at Last year, around 15 total books were sold through the Web site.

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