Over the past few months, I’ve been working on an exciting new project with pupils from Ruthvenfield Primary School. Pupils from their p6/7 class have worked long and hard to create their very own book titled ‘Ruthvenfield’s Portal to the 19th century’.
I didn’t want to post about it until it was all ready. There can be a lot of changes to a book even after a first draft is completed so I felt that it was best to wait until they were ready to share their creation.
I just got back from a wee event they put on today in the forest that features in chapters three and four of their book. (I even got a wee thankyou from the kids written in sticks in some eco-art they worked on this afternoon).
Now that the book is here I’m so glad to finally get the chance to share what we’ve been up to.
More than a one-off workshop
One of Ruthvenfield’s pupils read one of my books (‘Jack Reusen and the Fey Flame‘) and his mum suggested to the headteacher (Sarah Burke) that she get in touch. Initially, I was happy to put on an ordinary book talk for World Book Day but Mrs Burke asked me if I would like to do a workshop as well.
I’ve always wanted to try something a bit different when it comes to workshops. I thought that it would be good to have the pupils themselves put in all of the work; creating their own book from start to finish, illustrating, editing, and marketing it. As far as I could see this was the best way to let them feel invested in their work.
This sharing of the workload also helped them demonstrate excellent teamwork. The project was a little ambitious, as it tied in a creative writing project, with young enterprise components, as well as a degree of community engagement/PR/marketing elements. I knew from the start that we were asking a lot of the pupils but they seemed up for it.
The pupils put together something fantastic. They’ve surprised me often, not that I had low expectations, it’s more that I knew this would be a challenge and they’ve met that challenge and gone above and beyond.
I left as many decisions as I could in the hands of the pupils. During our initial workshop, we listed genres and subjects on the board (nominated by the pupils) and they voted for their favourite; a horror story, focussing on relationships (both enemies and friends), set in their own school.
From this moment on they seemed extremely connected to their book (once the writing itself began one pupil, off ill, even logged in to the shared editing system and worked on his chapter). Miss MacKenzie (the p6/7 teacher) noted that they were all highly motivated to make their book as good as it could be.
About the book
I had the enjoyable task of looking over their work and offering editorial comments. It is a genuinely fun (and scary) read. It follows a group of classmates as they are flung into another time with a set of tasks to complete. If they fail they will never be allowed to return to their own time.
It’s a unique story with a perspective on primary-school-aged children that is both enlightening and very honest (because it’s written by primary school children). The book was divvied up with chapters written by small groups of pupils.
Despite the shared workload, they had a structured book plan and character maps for their main characters so the overall tone of the book is coherent and makes for an accessible read. I’m probably biased but I strongly suggest you get hold of a copy.
Copies are available from the school at the end of the day tomorrow (27th June), or from Fun Junction in Perth and Crieff. Priced at £4, it’s a great summer read for anyone aged eight and up.
For Teachers/Group Leaders/Educators (Obligatory Self-promotion)
This was a new take on my usual school visits but one that I feel went very well. If you would like to run something with your own class/group please get in touch.
The full writing task from the first workshop to a finished, printed, book is a complex and multi-faceted project.
In theory, a class could have a finished book in as little as two to three months (depending on the level of time that pupils have available for it each week).
It’s definitely possible to start in September and have a finished book completed in time for a school’s Christmas fair. However, I would personally recommend spreading the workload out a little further (especially for a larger school).
A more realistic timeframe would be to run from September until the following spring. This would allow pupils more time to work on their book. What’s more, this timeframe offers the added benefit of additional time to organise a ‘book launch’ event where the authors can sell (and autograph) their books.
I still have dates available for initial workshops in September (2020) and I’m happy to discuss additional details and requirements. You can reach me by e-mailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best, John