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Saturday, July 6, 2013

I Can Do It Continues Part 2

I Can Do It Continues Part 2

It has been quite a challenge to not only work to create a book that truly is written by both my grandson and myself but also the process of teaching writing to a child of this age. I know of others who listen to the ideas and then write the story. That would be the process of writing with a coauthor but I wanted it to be more.

I feel if I hurry to write the story I might miss the opportunity to be a part of an experience in learning that could carry on later in life. I have no idea what Zander wants to do when he grows up, but firmly believe that learning all that we can is never a waste. A friend of mine marvels at his enthusiasm saying it is because he is his grandma's boy and grew up watching me writing, typing, discussing, and shares my passion, feeling a part of it. That is probably true but I believe it is also in his own heart and his own desires no matter where it originates. Helping a child to enjoy learning is like an adventure for me. We have fun.

I think having fun in learning is especially important to the young. As we grow older we know there are assignments or things we need to do and learn and may do it because that is what we need to do. A young child might not feel the need or understand the advantage and their attention might wander to other things they find more fun and appealing. It is exciting to see them want to do and learn because they can not wait to do and learn more. Seeing them filled with pride and confidence in the new things they understand and now can use is only a start. Seeing them with a desire to continue and learn more is more than I can resist.

That is the reason I am working to write a book that will take others through the processes we are doing to learn and write our book. I plan to share things here too but am actually doing this second book in the same manner I use when I teach Zander or speak with school children or any others wanting to learn. It will not be a work book although it will have spelling words, learning definitions, concepts and hopefully a new way to think and see things as we work creating something special.

Zander has a pretty good understanding of many things relating to writing but I am going to try to relate some of them here and in the book. When I have tried to teach him some things especially if they are things he might not run across in everyday conversations with his friends I try to make it either fun or challenging. Often it is like a puzzle if he can figure out how it works.

One of the first things we discussed is what it takes to make a story. I asked him if he knew. He frowned not knowing what answer I was looking for. I explained that it takes a beginning, middle and end. If we tell all about someone and where they are, maybe even what they are doing but that is all, there is no end. “Sam was a big boy with brown hair ran swiftly. He ran in the race and was one of the fastest runners of all in the race.”

He waited for me to continue explaining. “We know that Sam is a big boy and has brown hair. We know he was fast when he ran and that he was running in a race. Did he win? Did something happen? Who else was in the race? What things do we need to know to make it a story instead of just telling me about Sam?”

A big smile came across his face. “Sam was only one of the kids in the race. There were a bunch of kids and one of them was mean and tripped him. When he fell he lost the race.” He laughed and asked it that was the end or did I want to know more?

That was the beginning of understanding for what we were about to begin. I want him to understand how important words are. We use words to write our stories. We use words to communicate with each other. We use words in many ways. We need to understand the words we use and the meanings.

I asked if he knew what a protagonist is and he gave me one of his special looks. He did not know and was not sure he cared but it was a challenge between us. I waited for him to ask what it was and was not disappointed. My momentary silence was soon filled with him wanting me to tell.

We have made such good progress since my last blog but I will try to bring us up to date and get ready for next week.

Spelling Words and definitions

Protagonist : the principal character in a literary work (as a drama or story) The chief character in a play, novel, or story
a leading actor, character, or participant in a literary work or real event

“I guess we could say that the protagonist is who or what the story is about.”

Zander smiled with understanding, “I know now. It is the person the whole story is really about.”
I love to create a bit of a challenge to think a little deeper. “It could be a person, but what if the story is about a talking dog, or a pumpkin that comes to life or even a ghost or an alien? Those are not just people. One reason we have words to have better understanding of what we are trying to say. If I just said the person the story is about that might not be good enough depending on our story. The words protagonist tells us all of that with one word and we know who or what in the story we are talking about.

Antagonist one that opposes another. “Who or what is causing the problem? If we know who the protagonist is and we know what is going on then what is the problem or thing that is happening in the story? What is keeping the protagonist from doing what he is trying to do? He smiled and said, “In the little story, it is the mean boy that tripped Sam.”

I was thrilled. At that moment he had learned two words I have never heard an 8 year old use before, but as we continued to talk and discuss ideas for stories and examples of things involving the protagonist and antagonist I could see him growing more accustomed to hearing and using his new words. I did not want to give him words so that he could learn the definitions and memorize them, but own them by knowing and understanding them in his own discussions and use. We continued to talk of many things but I found ways to use the new words as we did enjoying his responses when he too used the words. At first he seemed hesitant but soon seemed proud.

I mentioned since he knew what a protagonist was then he understood it was about the main character of the story. When we say character it could mean more than one thing. Some words have different meanings depending on how you use them.

We know that just as the protagonist is the main person or character of our story...the character is what? The character is a person or something that is one of the actors or participants in the story. You may have many characters.

The boy who was a fast runner is the protagonist that is the main character. They boy that tripped him is also a character but not the protagonist, or one the story is about. You could have other characters in the story such as “When Sam fell, two other runners stopped to try to help him up and see if he was hurt. All of the other runners ran right by and did not seem to care.” There may be many characters.

He had to think on that one for a bit. A smile came across his face and he was ready for more.

I told him what about this? “Look at that little dog chase his own tail. He runs in circles. He is such a cute little character.”

He looked confused. So I tried a different example. “The little old man could tell such funny stories and made us all laugh. He is such a funny character.”

What was it about the old man that made him such a character? Was it because he did something different or odd compared to others? Was the little dog doing something odd, different or funny? Was the old man doing something different that caught their attention with his stories?

Character an odd or peculiar person
a person in a story, novel, or play

We could also talk about what kind of character a person might have that made them trustworthy and honest. Are they of good character? Would the word character then describe something about a person?
Character can be moral excellence

We went on discussing different ideas for stories using the new words and he seemed to delight in one idea after another using his new words.

Ever so often as we used the words protagonist and antagonist I would spell it. Casually as we talked he was learning new words and how to spell them.

PLOT is another word that can mean more than one thing depending on what we are saying and how we use the word.
Plot and mean the main story (as of a book or movie) I like to use the word and give an example as we talk. You notice I did not say teach, because I am teaching by including him in the conversations or allowing him to crave an understanding, knowing he can figure out the puzzle or answer with it in the end.

“As I read the story it was so interesting I could hardly wait to see how it ends.” You could think of the plot of the story like a guide of how the story goes from beginning to end.

What about other ways to use the same word? If we are talking about a ghost story it would be a paranormal story. That is something that is not normal or out of the ordinary and normal. We could say “I was afraid to go near the plot of the old man who is supposed to haunt the cemetery.” We know the plot is a small piece of ground where the old man is buried.
a small area of ground : <a cemetery plot>

If I told you to be careful because I think some of the characters in the story will plot mean things for the protagonist, what do you think?

Zander laughed and said “That is easy. The main character had better look out because there is some bad stuff ahead.”

“That is right. We might say they have an evil or unlawful scheme of plan that is what they are plotting to do.

We continued talking and using the new words we had learned. I mentioned the original children's story The Pumpkin Field. He had heard it so many times he almost knows it by heart. Through the years he never seems to tired of it as he looks for other meanings for the same phrases. I wrote it hoping it would be something to stimulate thought as well as tell a story. I mentioned if we wanted to write the rest of the story as he had thought we could actually use the words from the first story in the second and develop it into a new story with the other story included.


I got out a copy of the book and he smiled as he read and looked at each page. “You will have to do some pictures for our book too. I know we have mostly words and the story but I still like the pumpkins.....and the witch....and the cat.... Well I like them all.” He remembered watching me as I did each of the original pictures. The pages are full size art works with the words included in the art.  I was amazed when I saw the first book at how exact the print quality was. I could see it just like the ones I have in a folder.

It would be a challenge, but so was creating a story that did not have characters he so loves such as Iron Man or Spider Man. We had to learn to create our own characters from our own imaginations and not use what other people had created. That was a bit of a discussion before he understood and accepted that he could not use any character or story from the television.

It was exciting as day by day we learned new words and worked to develop what the new story would be. He wants it to be for older children. He loves the pictures of the story book I wrote and illustrated but he said there is so much more to this story he wants to tell. He wants it to be one that he and his friends could read.

We began to actually put a story together. He chose the characters and names. We had to work to find solutions to problems early in the story. I loved watching the expressions on his face as he thought and would propose one idea after another until we could find on that might work. Sentence by sentence we made a small beginning. I know it will be written and rewritten many times before we are satisfied but that is part of learning to write a book. I want him to understand and question even his own writing. “Is what I have written easy to understand? Did I describe the characters well enough the reader knows what the look like and what they are like as people? How do they work out their problems? What are their problems? What are they wanting to do? Why?” These were only some of the many things we talked about and tried different things.

After we came up with the first part I typed out what he thought the story should be. We have his ideas, his characters, his story and me putting it together. I asked many questions leading him to analyze the story and develop it as we went along. When I asked a question challenging something the would do or wanted to do he would think and come up with what he thought it should be . This is the first bit we did.........

Beyond The Pumpkin Field

Several years ago, I decided to see if the rumors I had heard about a haunted pumpkin field were true. It was almost Halloween and many whispered about the spooky field down the old gravel road, not too far from my house. It was a night I will never forget. I was afraid to tell others about it, fearing they would never believe what I had seen and heard.
It was the dark of night but the moon shone bright, casting shadows on things below. I was younger then and those shadows looked spooky. I was afraid but did not want the others to know how afraid I really was. I should never have gone without telling my parents, but knew they would say no or think it was silly. We did not think it was silly and I really wanted to know the truth. I had heard many times that there was nothing in the dark that was not there in the daylight, but it sure looked like there might be anything hiding there in the dark.
As the years passed I began to wonder if even in time, we might never know what was the cause and the reason for it all. I just know what I saw, or thought I saw. I know it was true but then again, could it have been a dream? Those were things that I thought about from time to time.
When I think back to that night it was as if some kind of eerie spell had crept in and strange things were all around. The only way for a person to know for sure what was really going on, would be for them to go and see.
In the day it was a field that looked so peaceful with all of the plants the farmer had planted. When I went there before that night in the daylight the field was full of pumpkins the farmer had grown and corn stalks bundled here and there. The scarecrow hung limply on his perch looking old and worn with hay peeking out here and there. His blue shirt was faded with age and his hat hung down low on the head full of hay.
The moon had a silvery light and almost blue in the shadows. I felt a chill in the air and I began to shiver. I remembered the stories I had heard and the rumors of how haunted the place was.
I had also heard about the spell the old witch they told tales about was said to have cast on the land. There were many stories about her too. They say she used to own that land, but the farmer took it away from her. She was so angry she moved far back in the woods, casting spells and haunting anyone she ran across. The other children said a single look from her could turn you to stone or some other equally bad spell she might cast. There were other stories about her too. Each time they were told, the stories became more fearsome.
I have to admit that I was afraid. I was so afraid that night that I could hardly walk. I am still afraid. I have only told a few people about that night but none of them think it was real. Some people think that I just fell asleep because it was late and I had a bad dream. Some told me they thought I was telling lies. Some just laugh and think I am making it all up to scare them. When I think about it, I see no way it could be real. I wonder myself how it could have happened like I remembered. To this day I remember it all.
I walked up to the pumpkin field down a long road lined with big trees and bushes. I expected for one of my friends to jump out and try to scare me any time but it seemed like I was all alone. I could hear the frogs singing their night song not far away in a pond near the field. There were lightening bug or fireflies that flickered in the dark. I had a flashlight but was afraid if I used it, someone might come to see who was there and tell my mom and dad I had been sneaking around in the dark of night. I did not want to get into trouble.
I did not realize that if I got hurt, no one would know I was there. Any bad thing could have happened. It was really not a smart thing to do but here I was thinking about doing it again. Since no one believed my story I began to wonder about it myself. It all seemed so real but I could see no way that it could be real.
Now that I am a teenager you would think I would have figured it out, but I just have more questions. I decided I would have to go back. I might have to go back more than once. No matter what it took, I would have to figure out if it was real or only a dream. I had a plan to take a friend or two this time. I was going to have a witness if there was anything special to see.
This time it would be more than just me that saw things in the dark of night that sent a shiver down your spine. The next day at school we were eating lunch with everyone laughing and talking. I decided to confide in my two closest friends about my plan and hoped they might decide to join in too.
Matt could come and stay with me on the weekend. We would be able to sneak out together and be back home before daylight. I did not like to sneak but that night haunted my memory for all they years after it had happened.
Mary was friends with my older sister. Her name is Amie and she is only a year older than I, but thinks she has the right to always boss me around and treat me like I am only a little kid. The only way I could think of for Mary to be able to come with us, would be for her to stay overnight with my sister. My sister might tell on us and then none of us could go. She also might think it would be a lot of fun or another chance to show how stupid I am. It was a risk I would have to take and hope that Mary could convince her that it would be fun.
When I first began to explain what I had in mind, they both laughed and asked me if I was serious.
“I remember when you first told me all of that and can not believe you are serious. Are you telling me after all this time you still think you saw all those things and that place is haunted with an old wicked witch waiting to catch people?” Matt laughed and I worried others might start to wonder what we were talking about.
“Keep it quiet. You two are the only ones I trust with this. The last thing I need, is for everyone to find out and start telling the whole world. I would be in a lot of trouble if my mom and dad found out. I don't want to listen to some of those bullies teasing me or making fun of me either. I know it sounds crazy but maybe you are just too afraid to come and investigate with me. There are all kinds of groups that investigate things like this that are haunted. They call them paranormal investigators. We would be like them, doing an investigation.” I waited for them to think it over and hoped they would not think it was silly too.
A big smile came across Matt's face. “Have you got a plan on how we can all get there in the middle of the night? The more I think about this the more I think it would be fun. We could be the official Pumpkin Field Ghost Chaser Team.” He broke out in peals of laughter.
“I don't think this is funny. I am serious and hope you will be too. You could come and stay the night with me this weekend and Mary could stay with my sister. They are both in the choir together and I think still friends. Sometimes I wonder how anybody could be friends with my sister as bossy as she is.” I waited to see if I would have company or have to make the investigation on my own.
Matt and Mary both started to smile but it was Mary that spoke first. “You can count me in. I would not miss this for the world. I think we will have to change the name a little. I will go for the Pumpkin Field Ghost Hunters but have to leave the chasing to you guys. If I find a ghost I will be busy runny away.” They all three laughed at her new name for their little expedition.

We have a long way to go and I am considering changing it to third person point of view. For right now we have had fun with him acting as if he was the protagonist and telling his own story. We will wait and see what develops. We have had such a good time and the hours flew by as we talked back and forth about, what if this or what if that? They could have done this but what if that? Questions and answers and before long it is as if we know them.

When I finished typing it he read it allowed and said, “I think we got it Mamaw. This is really going to be cool. I think we have enough ideas we will have to write at least 20 or 30 books. I know we can do it.” I had to laugh. He has told me that several times and his mother and grandpa too. We can do it. We are doing it. What a summer adventure.

We began making a list of things about our story........



Jimmy main character Protagonist

Matt his best friend Character

Mary another friend Character

Amie Sister... 1 year older Character