>Greenville eleventh grade student, Elizabeth Horner, was contacted by http://www.inquirer.net’s U.S.A. Director of Sales, based in Daly City, California, Esther Chavez. Inquirer.Net’s website that is currently reaching a worldwide audience of 2.9 million unique visitors and 30 million page views per month, offered Horner a spot in their youth channel and to go global. The website is the on-e-line news of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a national newspaper in the Philippines. Horner, who has already made local commitments and one commitment in Illinois, could agree to do only an article a month, but Horner decided to go global with her messages and accepted the offer.
Horner, who has recently received an e-mail that reads “while our community isn’t short of talents, you certainly shine and stand out in your commitment to share whatever talents you have and have consistently shown sincere and concrete efforts to reach out to an intergenerational audience,” came from yet another publishing company, the FilAm MegaScene Newspaper who has recently extended Horner an invitation on behalf of the President-elect of the Phil-Am Press Club USA to be one of their guest speakers in their officers’ induction ball in May 2011.
Horner has demonstrated examples of her commitment to share and reach out to intergenerational audience locally and hundreds of miles away from her Darke County home. She recently returned from Skokie, Illinois where she addressed members of the Circle of Empowered Women Association in celebration of the International Womens’ History Month. Locally, Horner agreed to do a short presentation, on April 19, in front of the Greenville School Board on how she coaches GJHS students for the Power of the Pen competition. One of the students coached by Horner, Christal Smith, placed first on March 26, after competing at the Power of the Pen regional contest against twenty-eight (28) schools from nine counties and seventy eight (78) 8th grade students. Smith qualified for the regional tournament after completing the District Tournament on January 8, where she competed against 82 students from 15 schools. Smith advances to the State Finals.
“I want to bring out the creativity in kids and young teens in a fun way. In my own personal journey, many competitions are too much focused on the trophy, of being number one, technicalities that thwart and dwarf creativity and innovation. The youth today lives in a different culture with so much information that is literally available within a few strokes of their finger tips. We should have a more flexible environment with an innovative style of teaching provided with good adult guidance. It should also be about personal development and bringing out the best in the person, and less about out-doing someone else. If you bring out the best within a person, everything else will follow. If one happens to be the very best, then that should only be the great topping on a delicious pie,” Horner stated.
This young advocate’s goal is to share what skills she has learned in her personal journey, with younger peers “if they could benefit from those experiences.” “I have unconventional ideas of training kids in creative writing.” A survey done of her teaching style showed that kids find it effective and engaging.
This picture demonstrates one of Horner’s training methods.
Promoting creativity, innovation, and critical thinking in a fun way by having the GJHS students build the tallest house of cards that they can build. Part of the lesson is also “to ingrain in the students the importance of a good foundation in anything you do, including creative writing”. A physical exercise or game is always conducted to set the mood prior to writing an essay that focuses on the message thought by the game. Pictured are L-R: Leslie Logan, Sammy Lobenstien, Moreah Donthnier
Some examples of other methods used by Horner:
Build alliances – establish a connection and create an engaging/winning environment by being genuinely interested in the students. For example, use quotes from best seller books that the students have already read as examples in teaching certain creative writing principles.
Sing to get them to focus – Let each student sing a different song — simultaneously! They will have fun but they will also learn how to “FOCUS” that will have deeper and far reaching meaning to them. Unless the students concentrate on the words of their songs and ignore the disturbance around them, they would find it difficult to sing assigned song correctly from beginning to end but it will tech them a valuable lesson — how to really focus!
Focus is important to ingrain in students to do activities that they have a passion or talent for. In pursuing one’s goals or dreams, there will be distraction and different types of obstacles. If one wants to accomplish something great, it is important to stay focused despite a not so perfect environment. But it is important that kids have time to be kids — games and fun time should be built into their learning tasks!
In writing competitions, it is important to remember the instructions, the prompts, the time limits, the rules of the contest. It is important to ignore whatever noise there is in the room. Focus should also mean to practice, practice, practice, practice until one brings out the best in oneself!
Play Charades- Two players act out the same part or simulate a cat, George Washington, a snake, butterfly, a child, etc. The remaining team members vote on who did the best, explaining why he/she thinks so. Now, you may ask, how does this help teach writing skills? I wanted the students to see the methods used to communicate non-verbally with the audience, and then apply that to their written work. Did they slink, strut, showed feline grace, etc? If good writing makes the readers form pictures in their head, then why not start with the picture and work backwards? Students also learn those visual cues that a writer should make apparent to his/her readers.
Maze – In doing a maze in paper form, you need to know the starting point and where to exit. A good maze also branches off in several directions, always misleading you about where it’s heading. In writing, one needs to have a plan. What is your starting and ending strategy? Good stories, like a maze, should also have twist and turns that surprises and holds the reader’s attention!
Debate – A verbal debate helps build the writer’s skills in persuasion. In a “Fruit Debate” for example, one can argue that an apple is the best fruit in the world because — “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”; apples can be a great treat in fruit salad, apple pie, apple turnovers, caramel apples, apple juice, apple sauce, or even just eaten the way it is!; Apples also come in a good range of natural, very pretty colors with wonderful flavors! One can talk about “as American as apple pie”; or how fun it is to pick apples and about those fond memories at Brumbaugh’s fruit farm where you see lots of red, yellow, and green globes of fruit hanging from the trees! You like a teacher, give her an apple for present! When I was little, my teacher, Mrs. Hogg cut open an apple and showed us how the seeds inside made — a star! You can put paint over the cut end of an apple and then, press it onto a piece of paper — to form an instant great work of art! The scent of apples is so wonderful, it is my favorite. I use apple scented soap and candles everyday! Apples are so popular that there are even games named after apples like “Apples to Apples” or some parents name their children Apple. There’s also “Apple Computer”! In Ancient Greece and Rome , apples were considered symbols of love and beauty. Red apples are good for your heart, your memory, and they lower your risk for some types of cancer!
In writing a fictional story, it is the writer’s job to convince the reader that it is all real!
“Hearing the Voices of the Mountain” or “Painting the Colors of the Wind” – is a game or exercise to teach the writer how to give the reader a new or different perspective by using similes and metaphors effectively to describe one’s view of the world. I believe that using similes and metaphors enhances or contributes greatly to a short story.
“A Science Paper”- In a short story competition, you only have time to fully develop a few characters. Each of the people you create should fill a purpose, be able to form interesting relationships with other characters in the story, and be adaptable to situations as they arise … just like a good science paper!
Character Profile – After giving the team a list of “Jessica’s’ qualities”, I had them explain what they think she would do in different trying circumstances. One of the most important aspects of story-writing is keeping your characters consistent, logical, or in harmony. Having the class treat characters in a story like real people that they, as writers, have to get to know, teaches the students to think things through.
Bingo- To review/build the student’s figurative language skills, the team plays bingo. A student can only cover a certain number in the bingo card after he/she has performed a specified task like listing four similes, naming one alliteration, etc.)
Pictures of the Sky- After giving each team member a closely but not quite identical picture of the sky, each student gets to describe his/her photo in enough detail that a neutral third party could match up or identify through the student’s description the correct photo.
You can reach Elizabeth Horner at ReadtoSucceed2003@yahoo.com if you want her to do a presentation in your school or organization or to participate in a group she is putting together to get Darke County youth involved in reading and creative writing activities.