Our inaugural session of PageSlayers wrapped up a little over a week ago. We had a lively group of students who came in each day ready and eager to participate.
Our days generally started off with a short writing exercise to get them warmed up. Each exercise built on a previous day’s lesson so students would have a chance to practice right away using tools such as metaphors, similes and the five senses in their writing.
After fifteen minutes of warm-up writing, students and their instructors sat on the carpet to share out. Chioma Urama, our lead instructor and self-described nature buff, brought in a classroom plant students were charged with nurturing. After reading their responses to the morning prompt, each student took turns watering the plant.
At the end of the share out session, students read out loud a list of classroom rules they created on the first day. Some of the rules included being respectful of others, trusting inner voices when writing and taking responsibility for all actions.
Following our morning writing was a lesson from our instructors that varied each day. During week one, instructors began by discussing the mechanics of poetry such as how to use figurative language and how to create images with words. Toward the end of week one, lessons moved on to fiction to discuss setting, world building and developing unique characters. By week two, lessons focused on non-fiction, writing about memories, personal narratives, and crafting reflections on neighborhoods and families.
Although the content of each lesson was different, they all followed a similar format beginning with a discussion to see where students were in their knowledge of concepts. This transitioned into specific exercises and activities allowing students to flex their writing muscles and build on their previous day’s work.
Some students created new stories and narratives each day, while others wrote about one consistent theme. For example, Avery, an athlete who became known as the class novelist because of the long entries he penned, frequently used these activities to create stories and poems incorporating the various sports he plays.
Peppered in throughout the two weeks of lessons were visits from special guests such as the acclaimed author Edwidge Danticat who joined students to discuss narrative structure, read from one of her novels, and answer questions about the writing life.
We were also joined twice by Ingrid Schindall, who taught students how to create zines from scratch that they later filled with their own writing, drawings, collages and other artwork created throughout their two weeks at PageSlayers.
When the program came to a close on Friday, June 30, it was a bittersweet day. Students and teachers celebrated how far they had come but also reflected on how much they would miss their time together.
Nonetheless, it is clear from the sheer volume of work produced in two short weeks that each student left the program better writers than when they entered. It is our hope that they took away lessons and inspiration to continue their writing in the future.
And who knows, perhaps they were even inspired to become the next great novelist or poet? Only time will tell.