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Kids learn to write creatively

By Staff | Oct 23, 2012

Fifth grade student, Collin Smith asks illustrator and storyteller, Bruce Van Patter to sign his work after a presentation at Myers Elementary School for the Title I program. A parent workshop was also given that evening on how to engage children to write more creatively.

MUNCY – On Tuesday, October 16, Bonnie Wisowaty, Title I coordinator at Ward L. Myers Elementary School in Muncy, organized two assemblies and a parent workshop with speaker and illustrator, Bruce Van Patter at Muncy School District.

The purpose of the workshop was to help parents teach their children to become better readers at home. This, in turn, will help them become better writers.

With over twenty years of illustration experience, Van Patter believes that he can see the “whole package, not just the writing part, but the creativity that drives it,” he said. Van Patter is a motivator and enjoys teaching creative writing to the kids. “I can make their stories take shape before their eyes,” he said.

So far Van Patter, who lives in Lewisburg, has spoken to more than 350 elementary schools. “Audiences have watched me draw on three continents.”

Using Adobe Photoshop and an Apple computer laptop, he started his presentation by writing 4 large letters on the whiteboard. (Remember, blackboards are very seldom used now in the classroom.) TALE written vertically illustrated how each letter can mean something to inspire a child to write.

Starting with the letter ‘T’ a character can be created simply by answering the statement “There once was a …” “Don’t think of an every-one idea,” Van Patter told the elementary grades. He drew a pirate, a common theme for a story, and changed him around just a little bit to create something unique. Using slides and caricature drawings before the students, he created a girl pirate with a patch over her eye.

Next he advised to give the character both a strength and a weakness for a more “well-rounded” character. “How does your character relate to people? Let’s give the pirate a fear,” Van Petter asked the group of students who were attentively listening as they sat before him and threw out suggestions. “Don’t be afraid to mix things up,” he added. And so the female pirate could be in a cave or a jungle or a beach, or a museum. ‘A’ is for at…the location or setting for the story.

While inspiring the children with their ideas, Van Petter would quickly spin each setting using his talent as an artist and a public speaker.

He explained how everybody wants to tell a story. ‘L’ means “Looking for….”. Every character has a want such as money, gold, secret map, or a sacred book. And finally the ‘E’ is for “except” because something will go wrong. “Have a problem in the story,” Van Petter concluded. He was able to get the ideas out of their heads as he brought some of the students up front to create a team for a story. The students came up with a lazy chef named Barb who was making lasagna at a soccer stadium. In the meantime, Van Petter captivated the scene with his illustration on a large screen for all to see.

Making random connections forces one to be creative and develop a story. The outline presented can easily prompt the children to write. “It brings the story to life.”

A free dinner and an engaging workshop for parents on “How To Invent Stories With Your Kids” were also given last Tuesday night.