with Bruce Van Patter 2009-2010 School Visits

My third visit to Bucher Elementary!

Persuasive writing can be just as imaginative and fun as creative writing, if you know how to come up with interesting topics. Wow -- did we dream up some crazy topics!

The topic: Should detectives try to escape from evil giant chickens?

The verdict: NO! Why? We had kids come up with some awesome reasons for both pro and con, but the audience loved the idea of our girl detective staying and confronting the giant chicken with her martial arts skills?

We didn't really work out all the story behind this giant chicken. I thought maybe it was growing giant farm animals to take over the farm, or the world. The girl wants to get to the bottom of this evil plan.

The story behind the topic isn't really important. What matters is that we had good ideas for both PRO and CON . And we had fun thinking about persuasive writing!

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The four ingredients: a dog on a volcano looking for a job up against a lion

The story: This was a story-writing assembly for younger students and four of them gave me these ingredients. I thought of a story where a dog hangs out on the beach of a tropical island. Everyone thinks he is lazy. But to prove them wrong, he takes on the toughest job of all -- getting rid of the Fire Lion!

That is supposed to be a coconut shell and he's throwing coconut milk on the fire lion. I thought about him bringing up a hose, but that didn't seem to fit the setting.

I think he's going to need a lot of coconuts!

Workshop combinations:
Throughout the day, we took the remaining index cards with ideas from volunteers in the assembly and made combinations to decide our topic to debate. Each one was crazy and fun!

Our topic: superheroes playing chess. Our assignment: to do a book review.

So we imagined a book where a superhero and villain take on each other in a chess game where the pieces have the powers! The bad guy cheats, so the old men (former superheroes) who gather in the park help the hero by putting their powers in the pieces, too.

We debated the pros and cons of the book. In the end, the kids

decided they liked the book, particularly the old guys. So I had to put one in the drawing!

Our topic: an army woman picking up moon rocks. Our assignment: a travel brochure.

This was a tough topic to put into a travel brochure, but we spun a globe to see where moon rocks might have crashed on the earth and then discussed how we would sell this vacation spot to tourists. We liked the saying, "Hold the Moon in Your Hands."

But then we thought that maybe the government was up to something -- like maybe the rocks had mysterious effects on people. Finally, we came up with the best suspicion: the rocks were alien eggs!

As soon as we said that, I knew the kids would vote CON on this as a vacation spot, suspecting a plot behind the moon rocks. I was right. Kids do love aliens in a story.

Along the way, we had a good time using our senses to describe the scene, which is a good skill to have even with creative writing!

Topic: skateboarding teacher scuba diving. Assignment: a letter to the editor.

We imagined a former skateboard teacher who invents a new sport: Sharkboarding! It's underwater skateboarding. Then we discussed what might be good about it, and what might be bad. Our discussion was similar to the kind of debate that goes on for similar activities, like snowmobiling and using ATVs.

In the end, they loved the idea of using the board to escape sharks, so they voted PRO.

What a fun day! And Bucher students showed me that they can not only come up with fun topics to discuss, but that they understand how to see both sides of an issue, even wild and silly ones like those we invented.

Remember, kids, you have opinions that other people ought to hear. Your ideas matter. And you can change the world around you -- or at least you can change the mind of another person.

And just like with creative writing, it feels good to get your idea down onto paper and have someone understand it. Sharing ideas is why we write.

Thanks for working with me today!

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