November in East Harlem

Over the course of a week in November, Zetta Elliott visited Ms. Mayers’ 6th grade class at JHS 13 to conduct a workshop on picture books, with a particular emphasis on the role of symbol, image, and memory in storytelling.

Students had read and generated responses to Ms. Elliott’s Bird, a wonderful narrative of a young man’s first experiences with difficult relationships and the loss of loved ones.

Student work inspired by "Bird"

Ms. Elliott led students in a discussion of the book, focusing especially on the function of symbols in a story, and the relationship between image and text in a picture book. Illustrated beautifully by Shadra Strickland, Bird made for a great axis for such a discussion.

Ms. Elliott then conducted a thorough set of pre-writing exercises, beginning with word associations, moving on to memory-stimulation through music, and culminating in a post-card written to a person of great personal significance who is far away. Ms. Elliott went through the process herself, sharing with students her own journey through her memories of an important relationship.

Zetta Elliott guides students through a writing exercise

In a subsequent visit, the class discussed elements of a story, and developed an outline for a story of their own, based on their postcards. Students also learned about sequencing by arranging a set of ten events from Bird in the order in which they occur in Elliott’s original narrative.

Students discuss the best order in which to place different fragments of the story

They then created a ten step sequence for their own stories, which they will develop into illustrated short stories as a final project.

In related news, Ms. Sheryl Mayers was awarded Teacher of the Month, and has a ton of pizza coming her way. Way to go! Good education should be just that delicious.


3 thoughts on “November in East Harlem

  1. Pingback: silver lining « Fledgling

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  3. Pingback: Guest Blog: The Real Value of Free Books « Behind the Book

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