by Cori Hilsgen
At the end of the school year, local artist-in-residence Douglas Wood worked with fifth-grade students at Kennedy Community School to explore “A Writer’s Path.”
Teacher Vicky Olston-Smith said Wood first met with students in a large-group session and entertained them with story telling, personal information and a song he had written. The song related to a story he told about perseverance.
Later in the day, he met with individual classrooms where he encouraged students to follow a “writer’s path.”
Through his sessions, Wood worked with students to help them understand accurate descriptions, creative language and word choice, and more.
Wood helped the students describe a path they had seen, either in real life or in their imaginations. He also gave the students the three rules of being a successful writer – start, finish and edit.
Wood finished the sessions by assigning the students to write about a personal path they’ve traveled and how they may have overcome some of the obstacles blocking their path.
Two fifth-grade students shared their stories about Wood’s visit.
Here are the two responses:
What I learned from Douglas Wood
by Paige Cox
The first thing we learned from Mr. Wood is he is a singer, songwriter, an author and so much more. He told us a story called The Windigo’s Return, and he sang us a song he wrote called That Minnesota Mosquito. Everyone enjoyed that. He showed us a couple of the books he wrote. Later that day, he came to our classroom. The first thing he taught us was the three steps of writing: Start, Finish and Edit. It doesn’t seem like much, but that second step can be extremely helpful. For his visit, we had to write an essay about a physical path. He told us to always keep your stories detailed so even if you made it up, it seems real. He also told us to use our five senses. For example: the tall red roses smelled fresh. Idea pile. Douglas Wood told us to use it. It’s where you pile up your ideas so you don’t get writer’s block in the middle of the story. When we started our story, he told us to misspell the first word. Why? So our rough drafts weren’t perfect. He showed us his first copy of his famous book, Old Turtle. It was pretty hard to read.
He came back to our class about a month later to read our essays. Some of us read our stories to the class. For the people who did read theirs, he told them what he liked about it, and what they could change.
I think Douglas Wood coming in to talk to us made us all better writers. I hope we get to see him again.
Our visit from Douglas Wood
by Lydia Peters
Douglas Wood is a musician, a motorcycle rider, a nature lover but most of all, a writer.
Doug grew up not being able to read. He wrote a book many years later about his struggles with reading, and the teacher who taught him to read. It’s called: Ms. Little’s Gift. Once the book was published, he showed up at her house with the book and gave it to her. He told us about how happy she was when she saw him. This book is about not giving up.
He told us the story Windigo’s Return, then played a song about that story. It was really funny. He told us more about himself then we had to go to recess. But he told us he would come to each of our classrooms separately. When he did, we talked about paths. Like what is on a path and stuff. Then we wrote about how our lives are like a path.
Wood’s residency was funded by the Central Minnesota Arts Board. He is a published author of more than 30 books for children and adults. He has received many awards, including the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award for Old Turtle and the Christopher Medal for Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth. Wood is also a musician and plays the guitar, banjo and mandolin.