from today's Waukesha Freeman -
Middle school students share feelings, high school
students adapt them for stage
WAUKESHA – When the man who walked into their classroom
told Mary Kuemmel’s fifth-grade students that they didn’t need to worry about
grammar or spelling for the rest of the day, they knew that the writing activity
he had for them would be different than the rest.
“Think of a time when you were really happy,” instructed Tom New, an
English teacher and drama director who was visiting from Catholic Memorial High School. “The main thing is to
get ideas on the page.”
The student writings
that stand out as particularly unique or descriptive, he said, will become part
of a high school drama production in late April. In addition to seeing his or
her story come to life on stage, any grade school student who has his or her
writing selected as part of the KidsWrites program – which creatively links the
two grade levels – will be credited as a contributor.
This is the second year New will travel to grade schools in the Waukesha
Catholic Schools System, prompting students to
submit their most descriptive writing.
of who you were with when you were happy,” he said. “What time of day was it?
What were the sensory details? What did you see? Smell? Hear?”
Over the course of the next few months, high school
students use these narratives as source material to create their
“Twenty to 25 percent of what the
kids write will be used,” New said. “This means 60 to 90 middle-school students
will have contributed toward the finished product.”
New’s first stop was Kuemmel’s class at St. Mary’s School Tuesday. Other
stops this month include St. John Vianney in Brookfield, Holy Apostles in
New Berlin, St. Dominic in Brookfield, and St. Leonard
The absence of the usual
parameters, such as punctuation and spelling, allows students to concentrate on
the flow of ideas and how to communicate them effectively, New said.
This year’s prompts are designed to facilitate a discussion
of feelings. Questions are meant to make students focus on times when they were
happy, worried, triumphant, or embarrassed “Grade-school students experience the
full range of emotions,” New said. “It would be wrong to not acknowledge that
fourth-graders experience the full gamut of emotions that adults experience.
Sometimes they even feel them more deeply. Generally, adults tend to hide their
emotions, where children are more in touch with what they felt.”
Students were quick to discuss what they wrote
When asked to write about a triumphant
moment, Elijah Sledge imagined he was the first kid to make a pizza 7,000 feet
wide. The dish took a century to eat, he wrote.
Amy Wildes shared a moment when she was truly happy.
“My sister came home from college ... and I hadn’t seen her
since she went away to school,” she said.
Wildes was watching a movie in the dark, so didn’t know the figure
approaching her was her sister until she got close.
When asked to share a moment that worried her, Valentina Medrano chose
the time when she nearly fainted in front of the whole class.
“I was really sick,” she said.
When her class participated in KidsWrites last year, Kuemmel said she
saw the benefits right away.
blossom under this kind of freedom,” she said. “And there is a real buzz leading
up to and following the production.”
school students benefit as well, New said.
“They get the thrill of realizing a project as it goes from germ to
fruition,” he said. “They work together as a team to complete a project on a
Photo credit: Charles Auer/Freeman Staff Tom New holds a stopwatch
Tuesday as he talks about the timed KidsWrite exercise during a visit to St.
Mary’s Catholic School. Fifth-grade students
participated in the creative writing exercise.