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Growing Writers

Communication skills for 21st century learners. Join third grade teacher Shana Sterkin to see how she incorporates purposeful writing into her classroom every day, and strives to create a joyful, confident community of writers. 

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About the program

Learning to write is a challenging task. Students need to balance purpose, audience, ideas and organization with the mechanics of writing (sentence structure, word choice, spelling). They also need to learn the importance of editing and revising. That’s a lot to think about! That’s why it’s so important for kids to start writing as early as possible — beginning in preschool with simple marks on a page. In the early elementary grades, a good writing curriculum introduces children to different genres — descriptive, informative, narrative and persuasive writing — throughout the school year.

In these video segments, you’ll meet Shana Sterkin, a third grade teacher at Springhill Lake Elementary School in Greenbelt, Maryland. Sterkin brings her training with the National Writing Project into her classroom each day. It all begins with the understanding that they are a community of writers (including Miss Sterkin herself) and that the ultimate goal of writing is to share your ideas with others.

This 30-minute program is the twelfth episode of our award-winning PBS series, Launching Young Readers.

The primary goals of writing are to communicate, to persuade, to inform, to learn, to reflect about yourself, and also to entertain others. What really makes writing motivating for young children is sharing it and being successful with it.” 

Steve Graham, Arizona State University

A Room of writers

Go inside Shana Sterkin’s third grade class as she engages her students in writer’s workshop. Everyone shares their writing, including Miss Sterkin. Watch as she helps the kids learn to identify “vivid verbs” and think about how they might use their own examples while writing their original fairytales.

Digital tools for young writers

Today, writing doesn’t always mean putting pen to paper; now it can also mean putting finger to screen. Teacher Shana Sterkin uses iPads as a writing tool to help her third grade students organize their ideas and share their writing. In this clip, she demonstrates how to use a simple, free writing app.

Imagination collaboration

Author Erica Perl (Dotty) visits Shana Sterkin’s third grade class to share her own writer’s notebook and storyboards. Then, it’s a lively afternoon of collaborative story writing — and a chance for the kids to act out the elements of their story. (Watch our video interview with Erica Perl.)

Watch the program

Meet the teacher

Third grade teacher Shana Sterkin talks about how she integrates writing into her class every day, the importance of sharing work, tips on building vocabulary, the role of iPads and other technology tools, what she’s learned from her National Writing Project workshops and much more.

Helping Hands project

Students at Springhill Lake Elementary School in Greenbelt, MD, take environmental action! See the kids at work cleaning up their local stream and watch the newscast — written and produced by the students themselves. Helping Hands is the brainchild of our featured teacher, Shana Sterkin, who saw a great way to combine community action with real-world practice in research, writing and sharing what you’ve learned with a wider audience.

Voices of experts

Listen to these national experts talk about what good writing instruction looks like, writing in the Common Core, the elements of effective professional development for teaching writing and how parents can support writing at home.

Steve Graham

Dr. Steve Graham (opens in a new window) is the Warner Professor in the Division of Leadership and Innovation at Arizona State University Teachers College. His research interests include writing development and instruction, learning disabilities and the development of self-regulation skills.

Jane Hansen

Dr. Jane Hansen (opens in a new window) is a professor in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, and the director of the Central Virginia Writing Project (opens in a new window). An experienced researcher and teacher in the field of writing instruction, she brings knowledge about writing across the K–16 curriculum.

Karen R. Harris

Dr. Karen R. Harris (opens in a new window) is the Warner Professor in the Teachers College at Arizona State University. She has worked in the field of education for over 35 years, initially as a general education teacher and then as a special education teacher. Her research focuses on informing and improving theory, research and practice related to writing development.

Paul M. Rogers

Dr. Paul M. Rogers (opens in a new window) is an Assistant Professor of English at George Mason University and the Director of the Northern Virginia Writing Project (opens in a new window). In addition to working with K-12 teachers throughout Northern Virginia, he teaches courses in writing, including graduate seminars in composition theory and research methods in professional writing and rhetoric.

Recommended resources

PBS shows and webcasts

Especially for teachers

Especially for parents

Digital tools

Research, reports and books

Featured organizations


A Room of Writers

Narrator: At Springhill Lake Elementary in Greenbelt, Maryland, a class of third graders is living in a real fantasy world.

Aracely: There’s a big castle and you can hear birds singing and you can only drive limos.

Narrator: In actuality these students are getting a very grounded education in writing thanks to their teacher Ms. Sterkin.

Sterkin: It was little scary at first to teach writing because of all the different layers that go into writing. There’s mechanics, and ideas, and purpose, and audience, and genre, and then on top of that, you want them to be able to express themselves in a really interesting way for their readers. But every single year, I learn something new to help them to just keep layering their skill level in writing.

Narrator: Ms. Sterkin set a solid base for this scaffolding by creating a classroom environment where writing is fully integrated into the day.

Graham: When you take a look at elementary schools and the state of writing instruction, there’s two things that stand out. One, there’s very little writing going on by kids. Second, there’s very little instruction writing going on.

Sterkin: Okay, you can begin.

Narrator: Ms. Sterkin is determined to make sure her class is an exception. For example, to keep her students writing every day, Ms. Sterkin had each of them create a writers notebook. In it, they can brainstorm and draft ideas, which they can then share with the class.

Student: The house is red and white. Outside is quiet and peaceful.

Sterkin: The first week of school, we start with their own writer’s notebooks. We talk about the kind of space they need as a writer. We talk about the tools. And we also give them a lot of time to share, so that they’re comfortable sharing their writing and when it’s time for them to go through the revision process, they know that they’re able to share in a way that isn’t really scary for them.

Sterkin: Yes. What are some things you like about Mohammed’s details? What’d you like, Daira?

Daira: That it smells like strawberry and flowers.

Sterkin: Yeah. Wasn’t that a really good detail. It really helped us visualize with our five senses what it’s like there. Nina, what did you like about Mohammed’s?

Nina: I like about Mohammed’s that he kinda added a little bit part of poetry.

Narrator: And it’s not just the students who take part.

Christian: Ms. Sterkin, would you like to share?

Sterkin: Yes, Christian, I’d love to, thanks.

Narrator: Writing teachers need to see themselves as writers too.

Rogers: Teachers of writing must write. You have to be confronting both the satisfactions and the challenges of the writers task and then modeling that for your students. Being willing to show them a piece of writing that you have to fix and revise. You can’t just be one who assigns and grades.

Sterkin: Shimmering purple trails, led me to the journey to his kingdom. I might have to re-read that and make it sound a little better. With each step I took, purple sparkles swiftly scooted from beneath my feet. Swiftly scooted. That’s right. And what is it when I add two words together with the same beginning sound?

Student: Alliteration!

Sterkin: Alliteration. Good job.

Narrator: Besides creating regular writing opportunities for students, this workshopping provides a chance for them to give and receive feedback effectively.

Sterkin: I think the students cheer for each other because we would cheer for them when they share their own writing. And when we start in the beginning of the year, we would specifically find examples in the students writing that they should be proud of. And then we would invite the other students and specifically ask them, “what are some things you noticed in this person’s writing that you really think they did a great job on” and ” what are some of the things that maybe you can suggest that would make it more interesting as a reader”?

Narrator: After Ms. Sterkin’s class, these particular entries also acted as a pre-writing exercise for their unit on fairytales.

Sterkin: Okay, let’s talk about what we’re going to do today. Today we’re going to start writing our fairytales. And before we write our fairytale, we’re going to talk a little bit about what some really good writers do. We had some awesome examples of good writers in the last couple of days.

Narrator: Ms. Sterkin is referring to her use of mentor texts, which are pieces of writing whose idea, structure, or written craft can be used to inspire students own writing.

Sterkin: And we’re also going to read a story today called Crickwing. And it’s not a fairytale, but the author did something really special in that book that made the story sound exciting when we read it. And it helped us visualize what the characters in the story were doing. So we’re going to see what special trick that author used and we’re going to see if we can use it today in our fairytale writing too.

Hansen: The ideal way to look at the notion of mentor texts is that children, as readers, are noticing what they can use as writers., and finding mentor text that work for them.

Rogers: So it’s not just saying here’s a model text, everyone be Shakespeare. Here’s the perfect text — imitate it.

Student: Vivid.

Sterkin: Vivid verbs. When something is vivid, it’s really easy for us to see. So when we have a vivid verb, it’s easy for us to visualize it in our head. And in this story, Janell Cannon used a lot of vivid verbs. Tons of vivid verbs. I don’t think she used a whole lot of plain verbs. All of them are so easy for us to visualize in our head when we read her story. So, as we read, if you hear a vivid verb, I’d like you to hold up “V.” What is “V” for?

Students: Vivid verbs.

Sterkin: “Far below the great forest canopy lies a shadowy world that many insects call home. Among the damp clutter of fallen leaves and branches, leaf-cutting ants toil all day while large cockroaches await their evening search for food.” What did you hear? Nico, what did you hear?

Nico: Toil.

Sterkin: Toil. So if they’re toiling, what are they doing?

Students: Working hard.

Sterkin: Working really hard. Yes. We toil all day. “Pow! Swoosh! A sharp-eyed monkey clobbered Crickwing and swiped his sculpture.” What did we hear?

Students: Swiped.

Sterkin: Swiped. So if he swiped his sculpture, that means he did what?

Students: Took it.

Sterkin: He took it, but it didn’t just say he took it. How did he do that?

Students: Swiped.

Sterkin: What does it look like if you swiped it? I see you’re all moving with your arms very quickly. When you swipe something… She swiped it from me! Go ahead. Swipe it. She swiped the word swipe. Do it again so everybody can see. Swipe it. She did it fast. So we know that monkey was moving how?

Students: Fast.

Sterkin: Why do you think Jannell Cannon decided to use these special vivid verbs instead of plain old verbs?

Student: I think when she used vivid verbs, so her story, so it like, makes the story more interesting.

Sterkin: It sure does. Wasn’t the story more interesting when we can visualize the special way the character moved or felt.

Students: Yes.

Sterkin: Yeah. And now, at this point, we’re such good writers that we want our readers to be interested in the story just like you are interested in listening to Janell Cannon’s story. So we’re going to try to put some vivid verbs in our fairytales that we write today.

Narrator: Ms. Sterkin follows up the whole class work with more explicit instruction, in small groups. This gives Ms. Sterkin a chance to assess the students’ understanding of vivid verbs, while the students get a chance to practice with the text in a more intimate setting.

Sterkin: “I can’t do this, Eartha blurted as last.” If you blurt something out, what does it sound like?

Student: I can’t do this anymore! That’s exactly why I visualized that.

Sterkin: Perfect. If I say, in the classroom, Tylere blurted out the answer, what does it mean?

Student: Shout.

Student: Two!

Sterkin: What do you think?

Student: He just screams it out.

Sterkin: He just screams it out. So if Eartha blurted out “I can’t do this anymore,” what does she do?

Students: I can’t do this anymore!

Student: Like…just talk, talk.

Sterkin: Do you want me to keep talking? Are you the director now? Okay. So we’re talking about the word…

Student: Stop!

Sterkin: Ah! So, she blurts it, like and interruption.

Student: Yeah.

Sterkin: Good thinking. So, if she had just used the word “said” in the story, we would no visualize that she interrupted, but since she used that word “blurted”…That was a perfect reenactment of the word “blurted.” She interrupted us. I’d like you to read the rest of it by yourself. And I’d like you to find your vivid verbs just like we did together, and circle them, or you could put “VV’s” on them. And then I’d like you to find one that you think is a really beautiful example of how that vivid verb helped you make an inference about the character.

Narrator: Ms. Sterkin is giving the students multiple chances to work with this new material and varying her lessons between whole class, small groups, and individual instruction.

Sterkin: Did you find the one that you really feel like was a good example of a vivid verb?

Student: Quavered.

Sterkin: Quavered. You like that? So why do you like that one?

Student: Because, it’s like “shuttered.” And then this one is almost like this one.

Sterkin: So, what does it help you infer about that character?

Student: Maybe this one was nervous, maybe he’s nervous.

Sterkin: Mmm hmm. Yeah. Did they have something to be nervous about?     
Student: Yeah.

Sterkin: Yeah, they do. So it’s a great way to help us visualize how the characters are feeling without just saying they felt nervous. It doesn’t even say the word nervous in there does it? But because she used special words, we can make these inferences by ourself, as a reader.

Narrator: For Ms. Sterkin, success with writing means creating a respectful community of writers.

Sterkin: I make sure I take the time to listen to listen to their concerns and make sure that, they feel like when I’m talking to them about their work that I’m not really criticizing what they’re doing, but that I’m there to help them. That we’re here to help each other. I learn from their ideas. I can take what they’re doing and share it with the rest of the class because they might have an idea that’s better than mine. And to do that frequently, so they know that this is just not, like, a one woman show in my classroom. We’re all learning together and helping each other.

Student: It doesn’t have “they lived happily ever after.”

Sterkin: Classic fairytale line, right? Yep. Let’s see.

Digital Tools for Young Writers

Narrator:Today, writing doesn’t have to mean putting pen to paper

Narrator: It can mean putting finger to screen.

Student: “T” for text.

Sterkin: Springhill Lake was lucky enough to receive a grant for iPads. We’ve been using the iPads a lot to organize their thoughts and even different applications, or apps, in the content areas that just get them excited to learn. So the use of the iPads has not only been helpful for the students to acquire knowledge, but just as a general tool for engagement.

Narrator:Technology is an integrated part of the modern classroom.

Narrator: And one of Ms. Sterkin’s goals is to show her students how they can effect social change through their writing. Technology can help them craft and share their ideas.

Sterkin: and I’d like to share with you some really cool ideas I found in this book. “If you want one year of prosperity, plant corn. If you want ten years of prosperity, plant trees. If you want one hundred years of prosperity, educate people.” What do you think that might mean? What do you think, Jasmine.

Jasmine: Educate people. That means make people that they have to save the earth and not pollute it.

Sterkin: If I plant one little tree, that’s great, right? What if I share that information with everybody in this classroom. And then what if Jasmine and Mohammed and Lavontay and Symiah and Dennilson and everybody else in this classroom — what if you all told people to plant trees. Then what would happen?

Students: More.

Sterkin: More trees. And say that again.

Lavontay: And then they tell people. And the other people tell people and it goes on and on.

Student: And then there would be more trees. And even when they cut it down we can plant more and more.

Sterkin: Exactly. There’ll be more and more and more. So if we keep teaching people these important ideas, then everybody will learn what we really need to do to help our earth, won’t they?

Narrator: Ms. Sterkin’s students learned about natural resources in science. Now she’s asking them to incorporate what they learned into their fairy tale drafts.

Sterkin: Once the students are immersed in content, they have a lot more to say and they have a knowledge base to write. We’re always encouraging the students to integrate the content and knowledge that they’ve gained in the classroom in to their own writing.

Sterkin: All righty. We’re going to show you how to make a popplet, which is a cool way to organize some of your ideas. And then you’re going to make a popplet…

Student: Like a web.

Sterkin: Yes, like a web. That will help you with your fairy tale writing and help you teach your readers…

Student: (cough)

Sterkin: It’s okay. (laugh) About the environment.

Narrator: For writers, understanding the purpose and audience of a piece is essential.

Harris: If you don’t have a clear understanding of why you’re writing and what your goals are and how those goals involve the reader — do you want to effect their emotions? Do you want them to learn? — if you don’t have a clear concept, you can’t set the goals that will guide you through the writing process and the writing tasks in front of you.

Sterkin: Okay. I want you to think back to your fairy tale. On your iPad, I’d like you to do a double-tap two times and you should have your first popple come up.

Student: Push “t”.

Sterkin: Say it again.

Student: Push “t”!

Sterkin: Push “t” for text. In the middle of your popple, I’d like you to type your natural resource. So if your natural resource was water, type in water. If it was trees — your welcome — type in trees. Ms. Schnupp and I made an example of what yours will look like. And you notice that we have some special colors here. You’re going to put some special colors on your popples too. We have a natural resource and ours is oil. We have two blue boxes, because in those blue boxes you’re going to write a cool fact about that natural resource. So a cool fact that I know about oil is that oil is used to make plastic. So I would type in my box, for cool fact, that oil is used to make plastic. I also have two red boxes. What word do you notice in the red box?

Students: Problem.

Sterkin: Problem. We also know this word from when we write a story. Our story has a problem. This is your chance to brainstorm some really good problems in your story. Maybe in my story, somebody, maybe the villain, spilled oil in the oceans. That would a problem. So I’m going to jot that down in my problem box, “spill oil in the ocean.” Think about the cause and effect of what would happen if we harmed those natural resources. In the green box, what special word do you see here.

Students: Setting.

Sterkin: Setting. And in this box we really what to know, where is this natural resource in your setting. I know that Christian’s setting is on a pirate ship in the Atlantic Ocean and his natural resource is air. Am I right?

Christian: Yeah.

Sterkin: Okay.

Sterkin: When we’re planning the lessons we don’t focus the lesson solely around using the iPad. We want to use that as a tool to enhance the students’ learning.

Sterkin: So when you’re done you’re going to have a popple that’s actually not only going to have some cool science ideas on it about your natural resources, but it’s also going to help you with your story writing. Because we’ll have some problems we can look at to include your natural resource in the story. And you might also have some really cool facts that you can include in your story as well.

Rogers: One way to think about the goals of writing for young children is to think about it in terms of both the cognitive and the social. There’s the familiarity with language and structure and parts of speech, but there’s also a social dimension of writing that we really need to emphasize. Because why do children engage with writing? They engage with writing because it gives them positive interactions with adults and with peers.

Sterkin: So what else do you think is another problem that we would have with our water natural resource?

Student: Um. It gets polluted.

Sterkin: Okay. So how could water get polluted?

Student: By throwing trash in the water?

Student: Okay, so who might throw trash in the water to pollute water?

Student: People.

Sterkin: Okay. So people throw trash in to the water and it pollutes the water. What is the effect of that?

Student: An animal would die.

Sterkin: So animals could get harmed? Okay.

Student: Let me do that.

Sterkin: The growth that the students have made this year is just…it’s just so much to take in because they’re so proud of the work that they’ve done. We’ve tried new things that I’ve never done before and that they’ve never done before. And together we’re learning how all of these pieces take shape.

Imagination Collaboration

Shana: So boys and girls we have a new featured author. Her name is Erica Perl.

Narrator: Featuring an author on a class bulletin board is great.

Shana: Let’s share this book today called Dotty that she wrote.

Narrator: Enjoying one of her books together is even better.

Shana: Thirteen, she silently added. Whose nose did she want to count?

Students: Dotty’s

Shana: Dotty’s

Narrator: Meeting her in person…

Students: Erica!

Narrator: Amazing!

Students: Ooh!

Shana: Our featured author’s here!

Narrator: Author visits may seem like just fun and games but they can have a major impact on students.

Rogers: Students will sit in rapt attention listening, engaging, asking questions and if that author will talk to those students as fellow writers, it is so affirming.

Erica: I thought that we could read Dotty together and I could tell you a little bit about kinda how I wrote it. And I could hear about the kind of stuff you guys are writing. Maybe we could even do some writing together. What do you think?

Student: Yeah.

Erica: Now, everyone here brought their imagination today right?

Students: Yes.

Erica: Good

Boy: I forgot mines at home.

Students: (laughing)

Erica: You left your imagination at home. That’s not good. You’re going to have to go get it right now.

Narrator: Reading aloud to students engages them with the written word and gets them excited about books.

Erica: So when Ida started school, she took her new lunchbox, and…

Students: Dotty.

Erica: I am a huge fan of reading aloud and I really believe that it should be the most fun part of a teacher or a parent’s day.

Erica: Ahhh!

Erica: Because if you’re enjoying it, the kids will enjoy it. So I think getting excited about the books that you’re sharing, getting silly with them, I think that all hugely important.

Erica: Say it all together. Ready?

Students: Wham!

Narrator: Writing can seem a daunting task to students. And while teachers can offer a lot of guidance, instruction, and practice, a published author has real-world weight behind her words.

Erica: Because they all start with an idea, right? And so, in the case of Dotty, when I was growing up I had all these friends. Right? Friends, just like you guys. Alright. But, I also had some friends who not everybody else could see. What do you think is a good thing about seeing something nobody else can see?

Girl: You have real friends, but some kids make fun of you, that you don’t have friends but you really do.

Erica: And your imaginary friends, would they ever make fun of you?

Girl: No.

Eric : No way.

Erica: When I go and talk to kids about writing. I always tell them that the thing about writing fiction, is that it has to have a truth in it. It has to have an emotional truth. And so, for me, in every book that I write, there’s an emotional truth that comes from my life and my experience. And so, with Dotty, the story of having an imaginary friend was a story that I could relate to when I look back on my own experience as a kid.

Erica: I would always worry that if people knew about Dotty they would say “Oh my goodness. Have you heard about Erica? Bah ha ha.” And they would laugh. So, I didn’t tell people, but I always wrote my ideas down, or I drew them. So, this is sort of a storyboard, of the story of Dotty. And as you can see, I drew these little sketches like here’s Ida here. She’s walking to school. And then, there’s Dotty who still looks sort of like a goat.

Narrator: Erica is showing the students that there are many ways to start writing and they don’t always involve using words.

Erica: So, I started drawing the class, and drawing my ideas out because sometimes that’s how I get my ideas flowing. And then, usually I write the words down in one of my journals. Do you guys do this? Raise your hand if you do this. Do you guys write stuff down just in writer’s notebooks? Because, my idea’s if you don’t write it down it kind of flutters away. But I don’t just write stories in it and I like it to get good and messy.

Narrator: The writer’s notebook is a great tool for encouraging daily writing from students. Keeping it free from grading, and the red ink of a correction pen, helps students see it as a pressure-free outlet for their ideas.

Erica: And then, sometimes I will get on the computer. Raise your hand if you ever get on the computer and do some writing there. Yep. And I start taking my ideas and putting them onto paper on the computer. And then I go through and change things, little things here and there. I revise it. Do you guys revise? Okay. Yes?

Students: Yes!

Erica: Yes! Good! Because if your revising, you’re writers. That’s a huge part of the writing process. You don’t just show up day one and write and you’re done.

Narrator: Revising can be one of the trickiest things for students to understand, but it’s also one of the most important steps in the writing process. Learning that a professional writer has to revise, often multiple times, is a terrific learning experience for young writers. Not even professional, adult authors are perfect!

Erica: ‘Cause I never get it just the way I want it the first time, and so I start kinda changing it around. So I go through it a million zillion times changing ideas. And you’ll see that some of these things ended up in Dotty and some of them didn’t. And I also read it out loud to kids.

Narrator: A key component to the revising process is peer editing. Once the students understand how to give constructive feedback, sharing their work with each other will result in stronger writing and more confident writers. And this is a message Erica is happy to underscore.

Erica: Sometimes I talk to my grown up writer friends and sometimes I talk to my kid writer friends, and we all talk about how the story can get better. Like a big collaboration. Do you guys do that? Do you share your work with each other?

Students: Yes.

Erica: Again another important part of the writing process, is sharing your work. So now we’re going to make a story together!

Students: Yay!

Erica: Yay! Okay.

Narrator: Group writing a story with students is a great way to have fun, while checking their understanding of story elements.

Erica: What does a story need to have? Yes!

Boy: Characters!

Erica: Characters! Characters! Okay. So, we gotta have some characters! Okay. What else?

Student: Words

Erica: Characters.

Boy: Setting!

Erica: And setting okay.

Erica: We’re going to put.

Student : Plot

Erica: Plot. What does plot mean?

Students: Beginning, middle, and end.

Erica: Beginning, middle, and end. Everybody give me some beginning, middle, and end.

All: Beginning, middle, and end.

Erica: Yeah! Okay, plot.

Student: The theme.

Erica: Theme, okay What does theme mean?

Student: Um. What it’s all about.

Student: Oh, the message.

Erica: The message. What has to happen in the middle? Something that has to happen in

the middle of the story. To make it dramatic. Or surprising!

Student: Drama!

Erica: Drama, would be good. Yeah.

Student: Problem.

Erica: Some sort of…thank you.! Say that again.

Student: Problem

Erica: Problem! We have to have a problem.

Student: And solution!

Erica: And solution!

Narrator: Erica is going to keep the class active by having each student represent an element of the story.

Erica: Okay. Okay, I’m going to need two people to be the characters.

Students: Me! Me!

Erica: Okay. You and you.

Student: A baby with giant diapers!

Erica: A baby with giant diapers. No, no, no, no.

Student 2: Superman.

Erica: Superman. Okay we got Superman and?

Student 3: a princess

Erica: And a princess! Superman and a princess. Excellent. Okay.

Erica: Setting. Where are you guys going to be?

Student 4: I want to be the tree.

Erica: You’re a tree. Good. So, we’re sort of outdoors.

Student 5: I want to be the boy.

Erica: A boy?

Student 4: Maybe a guard.

Erica: A guard? Like a castle guard?

Student 5: Like a castle

Erica: Castle guard and tree.

Erica: Who’s going to be our problem? You two are going to be our problem. Come up here problems. What are the problems? Two problems.

Student 2: A giant monster is going to attack the city.

Erica: A giant monster is a pretty good problem. Do you guys want to be a giant monster?

Student 6: Yeah.

Student 7: Okay.

Erica: Okay. Good. We’ve got a giant monster and a castle in the woods. Let me just put giant monster behind you.

Erica: What’s our theme going to be?

Student 1: If you’re mean to someone, then someone will be mean to you.

Student 2: When you help other people, they might help you back.

Erica: Those kinda fit together. What do you guys think?

Student: Yeah.

Erica: It’s sort of like two sides to the same coin.

Student narrator: Once upon a time in a land far, far, away. There was a queen in a castle and her mother. And then, there was this green, ugly, smelly, one-eyed monster.

Erica: Let’s pause for a second, so we can see that. We’ve got the princess and the queen. Right here.

Erica: Look at the monster. Where’s the monster? There’s the monster! Let’s see some monstering.

Student monster: Grrrrr!

Erica: Good good good. Okay. Okay. Now.

Student narrator: The guard’s Omar. He came in. He tried to stop the monster, but the monster was too big and too strong.

Erica: Okay. We’ve got conflict going on, clearly the monster is having a conflict with the guard. Let’s see where we are so far. Are we at the beginning, the middle, or the end of the story?

Narrator: Erica pauses the story, because while the students are enthusiastic and engaged, it’s important to make sure that they also understand the story elements they’re acting out.

Erica: We’ve got the beginning, right? We’ve got the middle. Problem. How are we going to end it? How are we going to resolve this? And let’s remember — what’s our theme? Who said our theme so beautifully? You, said our theme so beautifully. Say it again.

Student 1: When you help somebody, when you’re nice to somebody, then someone will be nice back.

Erica: Will be nice back.

Student 4: I think the monster has to be nice because Superman takes the thorn out.

Erica: Okay, Let’s see that part acted out.

Student narrator: The monster attacked.

Student monster: Grrrr…

Erica: Superman. Superman, go help. Where’s the thorn. Who’s being the thorn. There you go. Good. Very good thorn removing. Excellent.

Student narrator: Can we — when he starts fighting. He just thinks why is he fighting? And then he puts his foot up and he sees it.

Erica: Oh, that’s good. That’s very good. So you discover it. Okay. So you discover the thorn. Thorn, in position.

Erica: Okay. And you discover that there’s a thorn in his tentacle! So, superman pulls the thorn from the tentacle! Okay. And then the monster says?

Students: Ahhhh!

Erica: Thank you! Awesome! That was really good. And then the princess and queen say?

Student princess and student queen: Oh, you’re my hero.

Erica: And how does the story end?

Student: And everyone lives happily ever after!

Girl: Superman and the princess get married!

Students: Yeah!

Erica: How about. How about they all…

Student: Live happily ever after.

Erica: …have friends and eat imaginary ice cream cones together.

Students: Yeah.

Erica: Yeah! And then they dance. And now, can everybody give me a nice “the end” bow? Ready? One, Two, Three. The End.

Student: For now.