April 21, 2014

Teaching Language through Creative Writing

by limebirdkate

Children of all cultures know story. Whether they’ve been read to, read on their own, or listened to a storyteller – people connect and learn through the familiar tool of story.

In 2010, the US Census reported the United States had over 40 million foreign-born people. The National Center for Education Statistics cited an increase in students speaking a language other than English at home, from 4.7 million in 1980 to 11.2 million in 2009. Needless to say, English as a Second Language (ESL) programs are offered in most public school systems.

Typically, foreign-born students come straight to school barely knowing much more than a few necessary words to get them through the day. They learn the language and culture of their new country through various methods taught at school.

We have a small percentage of foreign-born students in our school system. George was born in Vietnam. His parents, also native Vietnamese, came to America knowing only a few English words. How they ended up in my small town in New Hampshire is anyone’s guess. George’s parents signed him up for my after-school enrichment creative writing program, with the intent of helping him learn English.

I was nervous. I don’t know a lick of Vietnamese. I can’t even pronounce the menu items at a Vietnamese restaurant, and here I was, expected to teach this little boy how to write a story? In English?

On George’s first day of class, he was quiet. He doodled a lot. When I sat down with him and asked if he understood the lesson, he nodded. But, when I asked him to explain it to me in pictures, he couldn’t. Admittedly, I was stuck. He went through the first class having written nothing.

Not only was he challenged, but so was I. The chance he would write a story that made sense from beginning to end was not exactly in the realm of possibility. So, I focused instead on making him want to write. Even if he never completed a story by the end of the session, I would consider it a success if he enjoyed himself and learned at least a few English words.

The next week, I asked George his favorite movie. He knew the words to this one: Star Wars. I asked him to draw pictures of his favorite scenes. I wrote the words that applied to each picture (i.e., Main Character, Problem, Place, Bad Guy) to help him grasp the concept of what goes into a story.

He started his own Star Wars story, which was pretty much like the original. But, that’s expected from kids learning to write. They’ll imitate something they love first, even copying it scene by scene. This isn’t anything to worry about. They’re getting the feel of story into their veins. When they’re ready, they’ll move on to writing their own stuff.

He got frustrated easily, because he had to struggle to write words he didn’t know. He was happiest when he could tell his stories by pictures, so we did a lot of captioning instead of narrative. When I wouldn’t let him goof off, he made faces and sighed loudly.

Despite the obstacles, he came to and left class with a smile on his face. He never forgot his notebook or pencil, and he never refused to write.

By the end of the session, he’d written half a story, drew lots of pictures, and played all the writing games. I feared it wasn’t enough because most kids accomplish more than that. But, I had to remember my original goal. Even if he didn’t complete a story, he did learn and write new words. He knew the difference between ‘hero’ and ‘villain’, he knew what a ‘problem’ and a ‘solution’ meant. Through coloring his pictures, he learned ‘blue’, ‘green’, ‘black’. Through games, he learned all kinds of directions and rules.

Plus, he had fun, because he asked to take the next class. And, he asked in English.

April 7, 2014

Writing Competitions and Opportunities Digest – Edition 40

by limebirdvanessa

Howdy all! Welcome to the 40th Edition of our weekly writing competitions and opportunities digest. The last edition is available here.

This week’s offering consists of short film scripts, flash fiction, travel writing and a multi-anthology call out.

Hope you have a good writing week…

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Opportunity type – Short film script submissions sought for Arts Educational school.
Theme – A contemporary subject matter, with a cast of people mainly in their 20s.
Word count – Equivalent of 10-12 minutes film time (i.e. approx 10-12 pages).
Organiser/publisher – Arts Educational Schools London.
Reward – “Successful scripts will be filmed by a professional director and director of photography and the subsequent film will be edited to broadcast standard. Writers will be fully credited for their work and receive a professional standard showreel of the film.”
Eligibility – Not specified.
Deadline – May 23, 2014.
Link for info – Arts Educational script submissions.
Notes – They plan to produce eight short films.

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Opportunity type – Flash fiction competition.
Theme – Seize the day, but don’t be surprised if it bites back.
Word count – Maximum 500 words.
Organiser/publisher – Erewash Writers’ Group.
Reward – First Prize is Maggie Cobbett’s book, Anyone For Murder / Had We But World Enough / Swings & Roundabouts, and one free entry to the Open Short Story Competition. Second prize is one free entry to the Open Short Story Competition. Winners will be published on EWG’s website and blog.
Eligibility – Not specified, other than to say entries must be in English, and entrants can be any age.
Deadline – June 5, 2014.
Link for info – Erewash Writers’ Group flash fiction competition.
Notes – If this is your first time entering one of their competitions, then your entry must be in the body of the email, if you have previously entered then it can be an attachment.

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Opportunity type – Travel writing competition.
Theme – Travel: can be fiction / non-fiction / poetry / prose.
Word Count – Maximum 1,500 words.
Organiser/publisher – Travel Expert.
Reward – Publication on the Travel Expert website, plus £50 .
Eligibility – Residents of any country aged 18 or over.
Deadline – May 1, 2014.
Link for info – Travel Expert writing competition.
Notes – They say that some entrants may be contacted and offered the chance to write for the website, irrespective of the outcome of their competition entry.

——————

Opportunity type – Call for submissions to several anthologies.
Theme – Several (there are 6 anthologies being produced).
Word count – Generally 800-7,000 words (Short stories and poetry/prose).
Organiser/publisher – Phoenix Fire Publishing.
Reward – Publication in the anthology (payment terms not specified).
Eligibility – Not specified.
Deadline – They range from April 12 to November 20, 2014.
Link for info – Phoenix Fire anthology submissions.
Notes – General submissions are also accepted, see here.

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Good luck everyone!

Every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of information given here, but please verify details yourself before submitting anywhere as Limebird Writers cannot be held liable for any inaccuracies. Listing of opportunities here is not necessarily an endorsement of them. 

March 31, 2014

Writing Competitions and Opportunities Digest – Edition 39

by limebirdvanessa

Hello guys and gals, and welcome to the 39th Edition of our weekly writing competitions and opportunities digest. The last edition is available here.

If you noticed that there was no digest last week, then well spotted! Did you miss us? Well we’re back this week with a new selection of writing opportunities to get your creative juices flowing. Do you ever feel like you don’t know whether you’re coming or going? If so, then the first on today’s list with its “Arrivals and departures” theme should be perfect for you.

As always, do let us know if you submit to any that we list, we love to hear about your writing endeavours!

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Opportunity type – Submissions sought for an anthology (poetry, stories and memoir).
Theme – Arrivals and departures.
Word count – Up to 2,500 words .
Organiser/publisher – CommuterLit.
Reward – They say “Authors whose work is accepted for the anthology will be compensated”.
Eligibility – Not specified.
Deadline – April 21, 2014.
Link for info – CommuterLit anthology submissions.
Notes – They also accept general submissions on an ongoing basis, see website for more details.

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Opportunity type – Short story callout for an anthology.
Theme – Fire (needs to be horror, fantasy or science fiction).
Word count – 3,000 to 7,000 words (firm).
Organiser/publisher – Nocturnal Press Publications.
Reward – Publication only.
Eligibility – Not specified.
Deadline – May 15, 2014.
Link for info – Nocturnal Press anthology call.
Notes – They expect to publish the anthology in July.

Continue reading

March 21, 2014

Formulas and frames

by limebirdster

I was teaching a unit on legend writing recently and, in order to ensure that the children included all the features of a legend, we used writing frames. For those of you that have never encountered them, a writing frame has each section of the story listed with a space for notes or ideas. It’s basically a very detailed plan, ours was paragraph by paragraph. First paragraph – setting. Second paragraph – introduce good character. Third paragraph – introduce bad character and problem. Fourth paragraph – solution to problem. Fifth paragraph – ending.

(If you’re wondering why the stories were so short, the children were nine and half of them were writing in their second language.)

We used another writing frame for persuasive letter writing: Introduction; first argument and evidence; second argument and evidence; third argument and evidence; conclusion.

And the frames worked well. The higher attaining children wrote very long paragraphs with ambitious language (everyone was obsessed with the word iridescent for some reason – iridescent jewels, iridescent sword, iridescent castle) and the lower attaining children wrote well-structured stories that they most likely wouldn’t have got anywhere near if we had just told them to write a legend.

But the very prescriptive plans got me thinking about similar stories that are written by the same writers. Because while their stories were not identical, there were obviously very alike, they had all followed a pattern or formula because that was how they were told a legend should be written. Continue reading

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