Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Great ideas for schools #7: Handbook FOR kids, BY kids

The very second school residency I did, in 2005, was at a Connecticut school that wanted to create a handbook for new students—created by the "old" students (namely, the entire fourth grade). I loved the idea. To date it remains my largest literary collaboration: I had 80 co-authors (who doubled as illustrators).

We spent a day brainstorming questions that new students might have. Teachers and I selected a diverse mix to include in the book. Day two was about writing: how to make your short entries pop. Day three was a cartooning workshop, since each student was not only writing the answer to whichever question s/he was randomly assigned, but also crafting an accompanying cartoon/illustration.

I helped each student with his/her writing and drawing. Some kids needed more direction than others, of course, but most seemed to enjoy being part of such an ambitious project. It required multiple talents and would benefit their peers for (ideally) years to come.

The school held a contest for a student to design the cover (which became the endpapers), and I helped pick the winner. Then the school printed and bound the book.

Day four (which was three months later) consisted of a launch party and book signing. It was a blast watching these young people proudly sign books for their friends and classmates. The cookies weren't shabby, either.

A few sample entries:

And a personal favorite (which I didn't suggest, really):

I just checked with the school. They are still using the handbook! (It's stayed in print longer than some of my other books...)

1 comment:

Alexis O'Neill said...

Marc - I love that your writing project was about kids helping other kids and that it had a real practical application. And I love that in the question, "Do authors come to visit?" that they didn't mention you in the answer because they probably thought of you as one of their own team members!