Lois is available for school visits to talk about her historical novels, the history behind the novels and just what it takes to write a novel. She is also available for age appropriate hands-on writing workshops.
Winds of L’Acadie – Time Travel
Best suited for grades 5-8. Be prepared to time-time travel via Lois’s magical Mi’maq porcupine quill box! In this session students journey with Sarah to the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia just as the deportation of the Acadians is taking place. It is an opportunity for students to glimpse behind the scenes of writing a historical novel as they gain a deeper understanding of this tragic event in Canada’s pre-confederation history.
Teachers will appreciate knowing that although this is a work of fiction, the history as it is written in the novel is accurate and has been approved by historians at both The Grand Pre National Historic Site and The Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site.
The Journal – Time Travel
Best suited for Grades 4-6. Kami is reading an old diary she found from 1929 while poking around in her grandparents old house in Edmonton, when she accidentally finds herself transported to that time period. In this session students will join a 1929 New Year’s Eve party which then launches them into some exciting events. Wilfred May is flying a Mission of Mercy to the North (radio broadcast) to deliver some badly needed medicine in an open-cockpit plane during a January snowstorm and Emily Murphy is rallying the female politicians we now know as The Famous Five to have women recognized as persons. Students love this time-travel experience where they get to participate in a 1920’s dance craze.
The Great Escape! – An Animal Adventure.
Who doesn’t love the antics of animals! In this guided experience, students will build a story from idea, through problem solving and over-coming obstacles to a satisfying ending. Children love making up stories. Working within a guided framework models story structure and results in a proud, confident storyteller. In kindergarten, the focus will be on creating an oral story, and by Grade 3, it will be more of a writing activity. Students will have the opportunity to create at their ability level, using a variety of tools and techniques to inspire and support them.
DIVISION I, II
Tricky Tales to Tangle the Tongue
Word play is a wonderful way to engage children in language. Through our tongue twisters, students will not only appreciate the rhythm and satisfying sounds of alliteration, but will also enjoy creating their own. The challenge: the longest alliteration that makes sense and maybe even tells a story. From the youngest to the oldest, tongue-tangling twisters are hilarious fun as students learn about parts of speech, and alliteration. Sessions will be customized to be age/grade appropriate.
Curriculum connections: ELA Outcome 2.2 Appreciate the artistry of texts. Outcome 2.3 Experiment with language. Outcome 2.4 Create Original text. Outcome 4.2 Grammar and usage. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs.
Making the Ordinary, Extraordinary
It’s all in the detail! In this session students discover key ingredients in the magic elixir that turns ordinary, everyday situations into something extraordinary, maybe even magical. Students will explore the significance of detail, emotion and curiosity in this recipe for powerful writing, while adding tools and techniques to their writer’s toolbox. Everyone gets to try their skills as an alchemist!
Curriculum Connections: ELA Outcome 2.4 Creating Original Text (generate ideas, elaborate on the expression of ideas, structure texts)
A Random Story
Students explore how random, everyday objects can spark the imagination and ignite a story. After choosing an object from the virtual “random things collection” students will use their creative genius to devise a history or a backstory for the object. From there anything can happen! A whimsical way to create scenes while developing crucial skills for improving writing. Always a popular activity!
Curriculum Connections: ELA Outcome 2.4 Creating Original Text (generate ideas, elaborate on the expression of ideas, structure texts)
DIVISION II, III
Compose Yourself – Stories and identity
In this brand-new writing session, students explore how to be the hero in their own Hero’s Journey. We all have unique stories that only we can tell. Sometimes it is through fiction, rather than fact, that our true selves shine through. Includes skills and strategies for writing scenes, creating conflict, and coming to term with personal truths in a creative way. Writing is a powerful tool for creating confidence and encouraging personal expression. Who doesn’t want to be a hero?
Curriculum connections: ELA Outcomes 1. Students will write, to explore thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences. 2.4 Creating Original Text (generate ideas, elaborate on the expression of ideas, structure texts) 4.2 Improve thoughtfulness, effectiveness and correctness of communication
Writing is one of the most difficult subjects to teach. It comes with a considerable amount of angst, for teachers (who may not feel confident as writers) and students (who fear that they will be judged by what they write.) Lois Donovan is a former classroom teacher who enjoys inspiring students and sharing tips and tricks for exercising your imagination and successfully navigating the writing process.
With the basics and a bit of imagination thrown in, every student can craft a story and build confidence in his ability as a writer.
Personality Quiz – This quiz can be used to help determine the main character’s personality OR to become more aware of the student’s strengths in case they want to be the hero of their story.
The idea of this quiz is for students to get a sense of where on the continuum they are for pairs of character traits. Students can interpret their personality as being within a range, rather than a specific label.
This quiz can be used for developing characters for writing fiction stories, or it can be used as an activity for exploring identity.
How to do the Quiz
Students decide where along the line between the two traits they see themselves most of the time. They draw a dot on the line to mark this spot.
The most important part of the activity is for students to think about their strengths and how they typically respond to the world around them. We are all a work-in-progress. How we see ourselves at one point in our lives can be quite different from where we see ourselves at a different time.
If it is done for character development, students could do a personality quiz for the main character. I have students fill in this quiz for themselves as part of preparing to be the hero, in their own Hero’s Journey story.
Where do authors get their ideas? Ideas are literally everywhere! It’s what you DO with the idea that makes the difference. Try this!
Random Things Collection
The idea of the “random things” collection, is to exercise the imagination and inspire a story sparked by one of these random objects. What if someone found a… (random object?) What if someone received a…(random object) as a gift?
- What if the object held magic powers? What if the object gave the person in possession of the object magic powers?
- What if the object transported the main character to a different world?
Does Writing Help you Think?
What if your students wrote a story about condo construction destroying a valuable wetlands area? When students put themselves inside the story, they understand concepts better, synthesize the learning, and think critically to solve the problem. And, it’s fun. A great side effect is that the student’s writing also improves.
What if, as they dig deeper into the construction project, they realize the community is in dire need of affordable housing. Now things are getting a bit complicated.
As students write more, their confidence in writing increases and when confidence in writing increases, student’s self-esteem goes up along with their grades. Writing as a valuable tool for learning, is probably being under-utilized.
The key is to start small. Make it easy. Make it fun. That’s the best way to get kids to write more. It is a case of quantity over quality. Writing a lot, even if it isn’t perfect, is much more effective for developing strong writer
Following are some ideas that may help you get started or perhaps expand on what you are already doing.
Math, Science Journal
Remember, the key is to start small. Have students write one sentence about what they did in Math or Science that day. Or one sentence about an observation outside of school. At the beginning, keep expectations low. One sentence a day adds up. Once the students are more comfortable with the routine, the expectations can increase. Perhaps they could do one statement and one question.
Below I have listed a few ideas for getting your students started. Click the MATH JOURNALS. link to find more ideas.
- How did you use Math/Science at home or somewhere else outside of school?
- Ask a question each week
- Explain to a classmate who was absent, what today’s lesson was about
- Write a Math problem for today’s lesson.
- Journal Prompt -this could relate specifically to the current unit
- What the student would like to learn more about.
Create Math mini-stories
Give the students examples of story problems related to the Math concepts from picture books. I model some of these problems off The Math Curse by Jon Scieska and Lane Smith. The students should write their mini-stories in first person. They should include information related to routines, special events, or personal belongings. It is fun to write these beginnings as a class. This helps students who aren’t sure how to begin and students whose first language is not English. Once the students are familiar with mini-math stories, they will be able to create them on their own, giving you many examples for future math classes.
Example: School ends at 3:30pm, the bus leaves at 3:35. It takes me three minutes to get to my locker, and one minute to walk to the bus? Will I get to the bus on time? How long do I have to put my homework in my backpack?
Complications: Just as the bus doors begin to close, Ms. Pramanik sticks her ruler out to block them from closing. “Liam stayed after class to ask a question,” she says. The bus driver will need to wait for him. The bus driver looks at his watch and says he has a schedule to keep. He will wait five minutes. No longer. (name of student) arrived in four minutes.
The student continues the story. How long will it take to get to his/her stop. What information will need to be included? Encourage students to add complications. Do they have lessons after school? Where are they? How long will it take to get there? Will they arrive on time?
Ask students to include number sentences to solve the problems in their story. Have students switch stories and find solutions in stories written by other students.
Writing in Science
“Writing in science is not only for communicating with others; it is also a tool for learning that supports scientists and students alike in clarifying thinking, synthesizing ideas, and coming to conclusions.”
Karen Worth et al., The Essentials of Science and Literacy, Heinemann, ©2009
Become an Eye Witness Grades 4-9
This activity is a fun way to illustrate the importance of being observant. Being observant is a critical skill for Science, Math, History, and, of course, fiction writing and journalism. Come to think of it, when isn’t it necessary to be observant?
Have you ever been witness to a situation and been asked to explain what happened? Was your retelling the same as other people’s? Here is an activity to test your student’s observation skills as they participate in this “Eye Witness” event.
Plan ahead to have someone come into your class. We’ll call this person Sam. Give students an assignment (or quiet reading) to do at their desks. When Sam comes into the room he needs to do several things, such as:
- Put a book on the teacher’s desk
- Take a stapler from a table and put it in a bag
- Put a magazine on the ledge of the whiteboard
- Tack a notice to the bulletin board
- Talk to someone
After Sam leaves the room, have the students write down all the things that happened. Once everyone has finished writing, find out what everyone remembers and what they did not.
What details do they remember? What did Sam wear? How long was Sam in the room? What book did Sam take? Who did Sam talk to? Etc. Compare how everyone’s memory was the same and different.
Extra Challenge: Wait until later in the day to get the students to answer the questions. Or ask leading questions to influence the answers, such as What style of jacket did Sam wear? (if Sam was not wearing a jacket.)
Create a Science story
Write a story from the point of view of a plant or animal that has been drastically affected by human activity. This can be done as a class story or an individual activity if students have some confidence in story structure. By writing a story about an environmental issue, students will more effectively internalize the issue and think more creatively about the solution. Students that make an emotional connection to the learning are more likely to remember it and to act on what they have learned.
The story itself can be as magical as the student likes, as long as the focus is the environmental issue and that this is reflected accurately in the story. The research behind the problem needs to be solid. Likewise, the solution needs to reflect critical thinking on the part of the student. The problem can’t simply magically disappear, but the turtle may be able to talk.
Show us where your main character is at the beginning of the story. Introduce the main character (MC). What does it look like? Does it have a particular strength that may come in handy? Or a personality quirk? Does it have a special power? (Maybe it can communicate with a human child who will help it.)
The conflict. Introduce the evil antagonist that will cause big problems for the MC. Things are looking very bleak, and first attempts by the MC and the human friend don’t appear to be working.
The Turning point. The MC will summon all of its strength and determination and come up with a way to take on the bully. Maybe there is a surprise discovery or event that gives the MC hope that it can take the bully on, after all.
What happens next? Was the MC successful in its plan? Did it learn something important as a result?
How is the problem resolved? Is there a final battle in which the MC and his helpers overcome the evil bully?
Mindless musings is a timed free-writing activity to get the creative brain warmed up and the ideas flowing. The great part about it is you can fit it in easily at the beginning of class. Start with 5 minutes and move up to 10, depending on the age of your students. Students must write in a notebook or keep pages in a folder or binder. Everyone is accountable for doing the writing but not for the content/quality. To begin with, you’ll want to make sure students can write about any topic, even jumping from topic to topic. The only rules are:
- Keep writing. Don’t let your pencil stop.
- Write using complete sentences. No lists for this activity.
- Save your writing in a notebook.
Do this activity several times a week.
Write at the same time as the students. Modelling is important.
After several days of insisting everyone write at the same time, yet giving them free-rein over the topic, you’ll be amazed how quickly you get everyone on board. Soon, every student will have a notebook full of ideas!
Now your students will be ready to move on to timed writing that isn’t quite so “mindless.” In other words, mindful writing. For this you will assign a topic. Perhaps one that fits in with Math, Science or Social Studies. It’s a great next step to brainstorming, where students can explore their thoughts and ideas around a particular topic, before being asked to share with the class what they think.
Speaking of sharing. If a few students are allowed to share what they wrote, this is motivational and also helps students who are struggling by giving them models for what they could write. Always give students the choice. If there is an expectation that they have to share what they write, this becomes another block to doing the writing in the first place.