CROTHERSVILLE — Schoolchildren are using technology more these days to get their work done in the classroom and at home.
They no longer put a book in their hands to read or a pen or pencil to paper to write as much as before.
With these ideas in mind, Crothersville Elementary School fourth grade teacher Tiffany Orrill came up with ways to encourage children to read and write as often as possible.
Her students no longer read books and then take accelerated reading tests, so she said she wanted to empower them in some way and created a fun way to let them choose the books they want. want to read.
The 40-book challenge involves Orrill’s students reading at least that many books over the course of the school year, and she wants them to choose books that are outside of their comfort zone.
On Friday, they did something that involved learning to read and write that was also outside of their comfort zone.
She arranged a Zoom call with author Ellen Potter and invited the other fourth-grade class and the fifth-grade class to join. It gave the students a chance to interact with Potter, pick up writing and reading tips, and ask questions.
On her website, Potter said she was 11 when she realized she wanted to be a writer. Her school librarian recommended that she read the book “Harriet the Spy” and, upon reading the first chapter, she said she had decided that the best books in the world were written for 11-year-olds. She then wanted to grow up and write children’s books.
After many years and piles of rejection letters, she said she’s written more than 20 award-winning novels for children and young adults.
So how does she come up with ideas for her books? They come from all over, she told Crothersville students.
“The cool thing about being a writer is kind of like it’s two jobs,” she said. “One of your jobs is to write stories to write books, but your other job is to be observant. It’s almost like you’re a detective in the world. You’re always listening. You are still watching.
Story ideas can come from things that have actually happened to you or other people, in your dreams, heard in conversation, reading other stories, or on TV or movies, he said. she declared.
“We just want to be careful that you’re inspired, but you’re not copying,” she said.
Borrowing it and using it for one of your own characters or settings is fine, she said.
“You just want to make sure your own imagination, your own sense of humor, and your own way of seeing the world comes through,” Potter said. “That’s what people want to read. They don’t want to read a copy of another story. They want to read something straight from you.
Potter said she considered her story ideas to be story seeds. Just like you plant seeds, water them and give them sun, she said you have to tend to them to see what they become.
The way she grows her “story seeds” raises a lot of “what if” questions.
“When you have a story idea, try thinking about these ‘what if’ questions and let your imagination run wild,” Potter said. “What’s probably going to happen is you’ll start generating more and more story ideas and you’ll get so excited about the story that you’ll be like, ‘Get out of my way. I want to write this story.'”
Potter also shared her top three writing tips, which she says are really easy things students are probably already doing.
The first is to read a lot.
“Writers are great readers. Every professional writer I know usually devours books,” Potter said. “It teaches us to become better writers. Your best writing teachers are actually books, and they could be any book. …When you read, it’s like you’re taking in all this information about how to write, and you’re taking in information about how to create great characters or create suspense or create a terrifying scene.
The second piece of advice is to write a little each day.
“When you write a story, you’re actually doing something magical,” Potter said. “If you think about it, what you’re doing when you’re writing a story is you’re creating a world out of nothing. You create a world out of absolutely nothing. You create characters from scratch. It’s the most fun thing to do, but it’s also very tricky, so the way to do it to keep it fun and to keep the pace and momentum of your story going is to write every day.
As you write, Potter said you knock on the door of a world you’ve created, waiting for the characters to let you in, then connecting with them.
“When you write every day, you bring this world to life,” she said. “Your world that you’re writing about is going to start to feel really real to you, and if it feels real to you, guess what? It’s going to feel real to your readers as well.
The final tip is to do revisions. After writing the first draft, she said you weren’t quite done. You have to go back and read it again, and you’ll find things to improve a bit.
“I usually revise my books 20 to 30 times before giving them to my editor, who then asks me for more revisions,” she said. “There are a lot of revisions that go into writing books or stories. In fact, I spend more time revising my books than writing the first draft. Then I end up with a story that I really, really like.
During the Q&A portion of the Zoom meeting, one of the fourth graders asking Potter a question was Owen Ingham.
He said he had read Potter’s book “Big Foot and Little Foot”.
“I saw the book at the library, so I was like, ‘Mom, mum, can I have this book?'” he said. “I started reading it, and I liked that it was about a Bigfoot kid meeting a human, and then they became best friends and did stuff together.”
When he asked Potter what his favorite book was, she said it wasn’t her favorite, but it was the most popular she had written. Ingham was pleasantly surprised to learn that the main character’s first name is the same as his own.
“That’s why I want to read it now,” he said of Potter’s book “Slob.”
Having the opportunity to interact with an author was an experience Ingham will remember.
“It was my first time, so I was pretty excited,” he said. “We got to ask about books and stuff, and she told us about the book, which made me want to read.”