I really enjoy leading workshops. I qualified as a Higher Level Teaching Assistant and it’s great to be able to call on these skills and experience as a visiting author.
My workshops are fun and imaginative, encouraging children to think laterally and creatively, whilst responding to Curriculum demands.
All exercises listed here should have an impact on the way your students think about character and editing their work in future.
Workshop Age Range: 6-11 approx.
Books : Knitbone Pepper Ghost Dog (1-3) and Picklewitch and Jack
Shared themes: Friendship, animals, Nature, magic, humour, creative vocabularies, rounded characters, what it means to be different, empathy and acceptance. Character driven narratives.
Workshops: 1 hour.
Numbers limited to 30 at a time, with suitable classroom support.
The Witch’s Bag – relating to Picklewitch and Jack
Witches were often said to keep a bag of magical objects with which to concoct spells, and Picklewitch is no exception. Using the text we inspect Picklewitch’s spells and invent one of our own.
This is a very focussed activity, all about quality rather than quantity and taking their time. Each small group (approx. 4) are given a selected object from Picklewitch’s bag to discuss. Ultimately, together we will create a powerful class spell.
Purpose: to encourage a higher standard of descriptive sentence construction. Understanding the importance of editing and re-editing.
Skills required: Working with others, visualising, using a range of writing techniques (imagery, alliteration, rhythm) and speaking aloud – how a sentence feels in their mouth. Planning sentences orally, extending vocabulary and sentences. Observation using the senses – texture, colour, smell, shape. How words sound sitting next to each other.
Dependent on how long the children want to take over this ( approx. 40 – 50 mins) any remaining time will consist of readings and a Q&A.
The Beloved Imaginarium – relating to Knitbone Pepper
Knitbone Pepper belongs to a gang of Beloveds – a special kind of animal ghost that loved their special person so much they didn’t fade away.
Together we create a Beloved using a series of questions to determine their character and backstory. Then the children will be given worksheets to create their own – and draw them too.
In addition, I provide a visual approach to plot shape and the ultimate writer’s challenge – how to keep the three tenets of a good story in the air at the same time.
Purpose: how to kick start a character into life through a methodical series of questions. Then, once they have created their character’s fact file and illustrated them, I ask them to think about what might happen to them next, now that they have made them real. I point out this is the responsibility of all authors!
Skills required: Following instructions methodically. Using humour in writing. Empathy. Using a varied and colourful vocabulary. Pushing the boundaries of the imagination.
Wanted and Missing Posters
A more general workshop suitable for a range of ages from yr 1 to 6. What do you think makes a goody? What makes a baddy? What sounds, smells and tastes lead us to make judgements? Children are already familiar with certain story touchstones before they even get to school age. The theory that we are born understanding what makes a good story – it’s shape in particular – has been posed by experts in the field*. What if you subvert character stereotypes by thinking about them in the context of a missing person or a ‘wanted’ poster?
Purpose: to encourage an understanding of the value of character complexity in a story, something that encourages creative thought and interesting writing outside of the norm.
Skills required: An understanding of stock characters and the expectations we have of them. Sitting and listening, drawing. An ability to bring a brand new character to life.
A quick, fun and exciting way of creating characters with backstory. Dependent on how long the children want to take over this ( approx. 40 mins).
In addition, I provide a visual and memorable approach to plot shape and the ultimate writer’s challenge – how to keep the three tenets of a good story in the air at the same time.
Reviewers say about Knitbone Pepper:
‘“Funny, wonderfully imaginative and beautifully illustrated the Knitbone Pepper books are highly recommended.” Charlotte Heathcote, The Daily Express
Reviewers say about Picklewitch and Jack
“Very funny, lots of good pshe messages about friendship and acceptance, but the absolute best thing about it is that it’s a longer chapter novel that is PERFECT for Year 3 or a strong Year 2.” Ashley Booth, primary school teacher and English SLE
But don’t just take my word for it. Click here for testimonials.
*Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We tell Them. John Yorke.