By Eric Williams, PLWP Administrative Assistant
“Writing camp is fun the whole day through. I hate it when my teacher says ‘Time to leave.’ Writing is life”— Haleigh McCamy, camper
Eighty-seven of St. Joseph’s top elementary students from 20 different schools learned to “Live, Love, Write” at this summer’s elementary writing camp, sponsored by Prairie Lands Writing Project and the St. Joseph School District.
“We built our camp activities to reflect this year’s ‘Live, Love, Write’ theme. The kids came because they love writing, and we tried to instill the idea of writing for life, not just writing in the classroom,” said Christie Leigan, PLWP Program Director and St. Joseph School District Elementary Instructional Coach, who coordinated the 2012 camp with five other Prairie Lands Writing Project Teacher Consultants: Ann Dotson – sixth grade teacher at Skaith Elementary School; Tia Frahm – communication arts teacher at Spring Garden Middle School; Misty Burright and Jerri Fischer – sixth grade teacher and kindergarten teacher at Lindbergh Elementary School, respectively; and Mya Mikkelsen – fourth grade teacher at Hall Elementary School.
Selection for writing camp by invitation only:
To attend the camp—which met at Missouri Western State University for four mornings a week for four weeks, May 21 – June 14, campers had to be nominated by their teachers as one of the top two writers in their class and complete a camp application, which included writing a letter about their writing style and interests.
“The camp gave these talented kids time to focus on their writing, especially on the crafty elements of writing” said Ann Dotson. “And they got to do so while being surrounded by other students who wanted to write.”
When campers arrived on campus, they usually met in two groups (third and fourth graders and fifth and sixth graders) for their opening session. They wrote to a variety of prompts such as read-alouds from published writers and responded to music and tried out various genres such as poetry. They shared their pieces out in Open Mic time, and on some days, they participated in literature circles, discussing the fiction book they had selected to read with other campers. After a short break, students broke into four groups for breakout sessions led by one of the camp teachers. These smaller-group sessions allowed campers to focus closely on certain elements of writing including story structure, character, setting, using description, and different types of poetry.
Teachers share their writing, too:
To show the campers what it meant to live a life of writing, the teachers shared their own personal writings. They showed their scribblings in notebooks to help prove that real writing is often messy, and always a process. The teachers also asked the campers to give them suggestions on how to improve the writing, because as Leigan said, “Writing is not an isolated incident, it’s a collaborative effort. I got a great revision suggestion for my shared piece from one of our campers.”
As a special activity, the campers completed a writing marathon at Missouri Western, visiting and writing about the Kansas City Chiefs’ training facility and the planetarium. Misty Burright, camp teacher, said, “Missouri Western provides a different writing environment for the elementary children, and they get to interact with good writers from other schools.”
Campers now published authors:
The campers are also now published authors. They selected their favorite piece of writing to be published in the camp’s anthology. This way the students were able to take something home with them to remind them of camp and what it means to “Live, Love, Write.”
Haleigh McCamy, a fifth grader at Noyes Elementary, captured the essence of the camp in a piece of writing. She wrote, “I like writing camp because of the awesome teachers, creative writing prompts, cool read alouds, great book choices for literature circles, sharing different writing, and much more! I also enjoy meeting people from different schools. You also get to meet old friends again. Writing camp is fun the whole day through. I hate it when my teacher says ‘Time to leave.’ Writing is life.”
View pictures of this year’s writing camp.
For more information about PLWP’s writing camps, contact Christie Leigan.