Young students show their talent for writing a good holiday story
© Guardian photo by Jim Day
Teacher Brenda Larsen poses with some of her young Christmas scribes. In front is Carter Barlow. In back with Larsen, from left to right, are Madelyn MacPherson, Ella Donovan, Matt MarFarlane, who has already given away his published work called Let's See Santa, and CiCi Fan.
Editor’s Note: This article contains some fictional Christmassy reporting intertwined with actual true stuff.
Grade 32 is a special, magical place.
Children come here to learn how to write Christmas stories.
Brenda “Falalalala” Larsen teaches the boys and girls all about writing. She has Grade 3 students in her class. She also has Grade 2 students.
Together, all these eager, purple polka-dotted pupils make up Grade 32 at the Elm Street Elementary School Publishing Company located in snowy Summerside, Prince Edward WonderIsland.
Larsen wanted her students to have a whole lot of fun writing a fictional Christmas story.
Sure, there would be all that learning stuff. There was pre-writing, there was a draft and there was editing.
The stories, the children were told, needed to have an interesting title, characters, a setting, a problem, dialogue, events and/or adventure, a solution to the problem, and, of course, a happy ending.
The students didn’t disappoint. Their creative minds were filled with fantastical tales soon to be put to paper.
There is the story of a boy helping Santa push his sleigh out of a snowbank.
One child wrote of poor old Saint Nick getting mowed down by his reindeer as they bolted from the barn into the forest.
A young author conjured up a boy named Zayne who needed to learn what Christmas is about (spoiler alert: it is all about giving) after Zayne moved from India to Summerside, P.E.I.
Santa getting his sleigh stuck on the roof of a school bus that was home to a kid named Jordan highlighted another charming story from the literary Grade 32 gang.
Another bit of holiday season fiction details a boy scratching 20 of 23 items off his Christmas wish list (he still wanted that soccer ball, iPod touch and Batman puzzle) after learning that giving is more important than receiving.
The trick to this writing assignment, notes Larsen, was tapping into the immense creativity that children possess.
“Each child comes with a multitude of past experiences and because of those life experiences every child has a different story,’’ she said.
Matt MacFarlane, the seven-year-old author of Let’s See Santa, turned for inspiration to the Christmas movie Blizzard in which a young girl’s aunt tells her the tale of a young ice skater and an enchanted reindeer.
Matt came up with three boys and a snowman hitching a ride with two reindeers to set out for a visit to the Man in Red.
“I love writing,’’ said the Grade 32 writer. “I don’t quite know why. I just like it.’’
Madelyn MacPherson, also 7, set the bar high for her Christmas story called The Big Problem.
The short book, featuring her own colourful illustrations, is about a girl named Taylor leading Mrs. Claus to her husband who somehow had gone and got himself stuck in a hole on a hill.
“I would hope that they think it was the best story that they read,’’ said Madelyn.
Grade 32 teacher Brenda took care of the “they’’ of which Madelyn speaks. She wanted her students to know that they were writing for a “real audience that is purposeful and meaningful.’’
So she made sure the children got to read their stories to the residents of Wedgewood Manor.
The young writers were also treated to a large turnout of family members at the school for a potluck dinner followed by Author Celebration sharing time.
The Grade 32’s work was also among 95 submissions of Christmas stories, poems and memories for the Guardian’s Christmas Magic.
Supported by the Prince Edward Island Teachers’ Federation, the project encouraged students aged five to 18 to submit their writings online to The Guardian’s contest page.
In total, 95 submissions were received from Elm Street Elementary, Central Queens Elementary, Prince Street Elementary, Vernon River Consolidated and Belfast Consolidated. They are currently rotating on the contest page. To view the entries, visit www.peitf.com and click on Christmas Magic then click on ‘view entries’.
Also, all the submissions will run in The Guardian’s special Christmas supplement Wednesday.
Be sure to pick up a copy of Wednesday’s Guardian which will include our Christmas Greetings special edition.