Monday, April 29, 2013

The Pull of Gravity Goes to School(s) #7 - Oh, the 5th grade!

Listening 5th graders

It's been a while since I've done one of these school recap posts -- not because I don't love each and every visit because I DO!!! --  just because they're a lot of work between gathering the info and photos from the teachers and putting it all together.

(if you want to see prior TPOG Goes to School(s) Posts, the links are down below.)

But, I had to make an exception because I went back to the fifth grade in Monticello, IL, last week and, boy, was it fun!

Granted, 10 - 11 year olds are just on the young side cusp of being the target reading audience for The Pull of Gravity (ages 12+), and so these kids hadn't read it yet, but their amazing teacher, and Nerdy Book Club member, Katherine Sokolowski had just started a fiction writing unit with them, and asked me if I would "come in via Skype" and talk to them about my writing process. Her recap of our visit is HERE.

wonder how they choose who gets that comfy chair?

  • We talked about how crappy first drafts are (can you say, VOMIT?!) even for published authors.

  • We talked about plotting versus flying by the seat of your pants.

  • And we talked lots and lots about where ideas come from. 

  • Most importantly, we talked about rejection, and how, whether you experience it in your writing, or art, or dancing or sports, rejection should motivate you to work harder BUT it shouldn't stop you from doing what you love. That part of succeeding with one's art, is finding the person who is looking for the way YOU do what you do. 

For the past two years, I've done most my Skype and in-person visits with high schoolers and some middle schools, and I love them all! But, especially having two teenagers of my own, I'd forgotten the wonderful, fresh-faced enthusiasm 5th graders.  Hands were popping up everywhere.

working on their story soup

When we were done, I left them with a five-minute writing exercise to make a story soup from these  few common elements, to be decided on by the class: two characters in common, two objects in common, and a setting in common. Here's what they picked:

Characters: girl about their age, dog that’s a runt

Objects: old chair, dust broom

Setting: Abandoned hotel

They shared their awesome story soups with me when they were done! 

Libby was 14 years old, she was homeschooled. She had a dog that she had found on the street – it was the runt of the pack. Her best friend was in fifth grade. Her name was Clara. The dog’s name was Ruffles. They lived in an abandoned hotel. All they had was a dust broom, an old chair, and berries.
- Ellie

Once there was an 11-year-old girl named Emma. She lived in an old house with her parents. All she had was old chairs and a dust broom. Her parents had more. In fact, they were rich but didn’t give anything to her, except a little runt of a puppy. Its name was Jojo. Their house was really old and was connected to an old abandoned hotel.

An 11-year-old girl and her runt dog were homeless; they came upon a hotel that was no charge. They walked in and an old flying chair with a broom as his wife were hovering at the entrance. They said, “Didn’t you see the sign out front? It said ABANDONDED.”

“Well, so are we,” said the girl and she left. When it became night they snuck around the back and went in. The broom and chair heard their footsteps and went looking for people, the girl and dog dragged a board over and picked it up.

A girl named Suzy (11 years old) adopted a runt dog without her parents knowing. But she doesn’t have a home for it, so she’ll have to use the abandoned hotel by her house. First, she dusted the dog off with a duster.
- Kyle

Maggie was an 11-year-old girl who lived in a small apartment. One day she walked by an abandoned hotel when she heard a scream.

Maggie hid behind a dumpster… she peeked her head out and saw a man covered in blood. Maggie covered her mouth. When the man got in his car and drove away, Maggie ran into the hotel to find a woman on the ground covered in blood right next to an old chair with a broom and a runt of a dog.

Claire was an eleven-year-old girl and she was carrying a runt dog – his name was monster and they where walking a saw an abandoned hotel. She wondered, Could I make money by selling dogs?

I walked through the dirt road, my feet covered in mud. By the time I got inside, my brother had already covered the floor in mud, and my dad’s ancient chair as well.

“Mark!” Abby said.

“Yes,” Mark said.

“Go get that broom and clean up the mud!” Abby said.

- Kalyn

As a boy was walking down the street he passed an eleven-year-old girl on a skateboard. Then he got to the hotel. To most, it looked like a regular abandoned hotel.

Gabriella called for Boo-Boo, her dog. They were playing hide and seek. Yes, dogs can play hide and seek. Gabriella couldn’t find Boo-Boo, so she called for him.

“Boo-Boo,” Gabriella called, “Come out! I can’t find you anywhere.” Then she heard the barks of Boo-Boo. He sounded as if he were in trouble. She ran into what looked to be a creepy abandoned hotel. She kept calling for Boo-Boo. She pulled out her flashlight, but as soon as she did, she wished she hadn’t. She saw this chair that had arms. They were holding a dust broom. Every time the chair moved, it creaked. So it must have been old. She started to see the walls move forward.

“Come here,” said Madison to her runt of a dog. Madison was sitting on an old chair. Her dog gave her a dust broom to clean up the abandoned hotel. The dog was very smart – he could sweep a floor just like Madison. But Madison was not so good at sweeping – she would drop the broom every five seconds. People think that she’s a good sweeper, but really it is her dog. People ask her to sweep stuff but she always brings her dog so she can look like she swept up.

An 11-year-old girl walked past an abandoned hotel with her runt dog named Duds. They looked in a window of the hotel. She saw a floating old chair. She was so freaked out. She walked closer to the hotel. She wondered if someone was in there, but it’s an abandoned hotel, no one would want to go in.

Today was show and tell, so Mindy decided to bring her dog to school. Her school was in an abandoned hotel. She got to school and everybody started sneezing. She was wondering what was going on. For show and tell you sit in an old chair. At the end of class, she has to clean up all of the dog hair with a dust broom.

I was there in a hotel. My name is Ella. When I was five, the hotel burned down. Everything inside was demolished but the building still stands. Only a few things were left: a bed, food to last forever, a chair, and a dust broom. The hotel is “mine” and me and my pet dog get the warmest room. (As well as all the others.) My whole family and then some died in that fire.

I’m an eleven-year-old girl. I was walking my runt of a dog when I passed an abandoned hotel. I went inside. There was an old chair and a dust broom. That’s what I saw first. I walked around for a while and found a pool. It got creepy, so I started towards the door.

Claire was walking her dog named Maggie outside, and then while she was walking, she saw an abandoned hotel.

“We should check it out!” said Claire.

The place was dark and spooky, with broken glass, ripped up furniture, and dirty floors. She was walking around when she heard a small moan. She turned around to see what it was, but didn’t see anything.

Once there was a girl named Gemma and the coolest runt dog ever named Josh. They lived in an old hotel. The girl slept on an old chair and the dog slept on dust broom bristles. They lived the life – a pool, an arcade

An eleven-year-old girl named Sam had on shorts, a tattered t-shirt, and a dog leash was in her hand. At the end of the leash is a dog. His name is Sparkle. He has dirty fur and smells. They walked in an abandoned hotel. “This place is creepy, Sparkle,” Sam said. “Woof,” said Sparkle. She saw an old chair

As Julie went into the abandoned hotel with the runt dog, she found a dust broom that flew past her and impaled it’s self into the wall. It came from up the stairs. ON top of the stairs was a chair with a body in it. The body looked as if it were there for a while.

Once there was a girl named Clarisse and her dog named Bowser. They were walking along the street when they found an abandoned hotel. They decided to go take a look at it so they went through a broken window. When they got there they checked all of the rooms, but one was open.

An eleven-year-old girl named Misao sits in an old chair named Mr. Chair in an abandoned hotel. Misao looks out the window and sees a dog-named Maggie that rides a dust broom. So she gets on top of Mr. Chair and stairs at a duck. Misao said, “I am going to name you Mr. Duck.” Mr. Duck was an ordinary duck, but had two feathers.

Susie and Luis both loved pretending. Susie and Luis got dressed up to pretend they were detectives. They went to an abandoned hotel and went in.

They pretended there was a murderer. The suspects were an old chair named Mr. Chair and a dust broom named Phil. They searched and searched and finally saw what happened. Mr. Chair used the dust broom to hit the man. They put them behind bars (in the elevator) and went home

Today I was watching my sister; she was playing with our runt dog, Bob. Then we saw the abandoned hotel. That place gives me the creeps. Susan came over, she’s my five year old sister, and said, “Can we make a club at that place?” Sally said yes. I said all right. We went home but right before Bob was gone, we saw his footprints going to the hotel. We were scared. Just then Mike, my little brother, said, “Mom wants us home.” We said ok but first we have to find Bob in the abandoned hotel. Mike said he’d find our other brother

And, last but not least, this kiddo who decided to use his own “soup ingredients." Okay by me. 

It all started when Daniel was walking to the train museum with his best friend, Stephen. They saw a bluebird. So they just stopped, looked, and kept going. But what did they know about that Bluebird? It was evil! The bluebird followed. When Daniel and Stephen got there, they saw Ed who is the Library owner. Ed ran away as soon as he saw Daniel, Stephen, and the Bluebird!

working on their story soup!

Thanks Mrs. Sokolowski's class for sharing an awesome morning with me!!! 

- gae


  1. Love love love hearing about your visit to Katherine's class! It's so fun to hear how my Twitter friends connect. This makes me even more excited for our author Skype coming up in a couple of weeks, with an author who's appearing at our book fair. You touched a lot of kids, Gae! And fifth graders hold a special place in my heart, actually...

  2. I like the story soup idea and enjoyed reading the students' responses. This is such a great experience for them that they will remember for a long time.