Gifted young writers from St Christopher’s Catholic Primary Panania have become published authors with a collection of short stories about natural disasters.
Fifteen students in Years 4 to 6 were selected from the Writing stream of the Newman Program for gifted and talented students run at the school and worked with a mentor from a Mt St Joseph Milperra (MSJ) Year 8 English class to produce their stories.
Students accessed feedback about their volcano, tsunami, earthquake and flood-focused stories through face-to-face meetings and Google docs.
Deadly Fifteen was launched at MSJ on Friday (August 19) with parents, siblings and grandparents invited to celebrate the achievement and hear about the process behind it.
Acting Assistant English Co-ordinator Jacqueline Simpson said her Year 8 students were primed for the task with the seven steps of creative writing – including sizzling starts and dynamic dialogue – fresh in their heads from a unit on creative writing.
“Because they were so familiar with the process of writing and re-drafting that helped them to mentor,” she said. “They have an innate desire to write and that’s nice too, because it gives the students who are particularly strong in English a chance to develop those skills and mentor someone else through the process.
“There would be days when they would open the document and there would be four paragraphs written. The kids loved it.”
Our mentors gave us input, paragraph by paragraph.
Newman Coordinator at St Christopher’s Panania Lauren Magnus said receiving feedback from like-minded peers was a drawcard for the younger students.
“The kids are very excited now that they are published authors,” she said. “It just makes the process more real.
“The primary kids had something to aspire to and somebody to look up to and learn from. It makes it meaningful and purposeful, and real because we can mark students’ work but it is different when it a peer.
“We asked them to sit with someone they felt drawn to and they all partnered up with similar abilities or personalities naturally. At that first meeting they were just buzzing. Our strongest students ended up together and some of the quirky boys ended up with some of the more outgoing girls for mentors.
“A lot of the [St Christopher’s] girls involved will come to MSJ in the next year or two, and they now have a familiar face and some teachers who are familiar here.
“Our principal was reading some of the stories and he was blown away by the standard, which I think is partly due to the process – to be given feedback and critiqued and time to edit some more.
“They just kept seeing their story get better and better.”
The primary students involved in the project will now mentor Newman students in Kindergarten and Years 1 and 2 at St Christopher’s as they write a picture book.
They have an innate desire to write.
Year 6 student Kate Bishara’s story, about a volcanic eruption during a family holiday to the Philippines, joined other fast-paced narratives in a book with cover illustration by Year 8 student Aimee Giang.
“We had two days at our school the first day was getting started and getting to know our mentor. The second day was when we had finished writing our story and were tidying it up.
“Our mentors gave us input, paragraph by paragraph.
“I like that you can write whatever you want really. I write a lot in class. In Year 5 every day we had ‘Stop, drop and write’, where you got a picture or a quote and had to write about it.”
Kate’s mentor Natalie Alegro encouraged her to user a higher level of vocabulary in her stand-out story.
The MSJ student, 13, said working with the younger students was the best part about the process.
“It was great being a mentor,” she said. “We talked about the techniques to writing a story and we gave feedback about their writing. It was a good theme to start writing about because of the different natural disasters you could choose for your plot.”
About 90 copies of the professionally printed book are available to purchase for $5, with proceeds being donated to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.