How lucky are we that the Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival brings incredibly diverse authors to town and encourages them to share their craft with our students? This week Kelly Canby, Mark Greenwood and Josh Langley demonstrated their storytelling skills as they held workshop talks for students across year levels, with Rebecca Haggie to follow on Monday.
I joined the Year 3s as author/illustrator, Josh Langley, took them on a journey of self-discovery with more than a touch of self-deprecating humour. He introduced his books as good advice from his old self to his young self (who found school a very difficult place), offering practical suggestions to students to help them get through difficult times.
Each of his books explores EQ pearls of wisdom, using colour and cartoon-like images which will certainly bring a smile to your face. Some of those gems are characters like Graeme the Giraffe who found out that “practise doesn’t always make perfect, but it does make progress”, so when he found that practise didn’t make him any better, he decided to be brave and try something different – and it worked because it brought him joy.
He touched on some of our school values, promoting the magical power of kindness and empathy, suggesting that we could all “…be wildly kind to other people” to make them (and us) feel good, and he showed them how to use the healing power of a smile.
Josh encouraged optimism and resilience, reminding students that being different is okay because “it adds to the richness of life”, sharing pages from his books “Being You is Enough” and “It’s OK to feel the way you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be you”.
Josh reminded students that they are all unique humans, explaining that every one of us has a great gift hidden in our brains – imagination! and that every one of us can use that imagination to see our world from a unique and more positive perspective. To demonstrate their hidden power, he set a task for students to invent something entirely new, drawing their designs which would change the world.
Through humour and personal anecdotes, this self-confessed daydreamer gave students a wonderful heads up to how to overcome difficult times and build self-esteem.
Mark Greenwood was the perfect choice of author for the older students, as he shared his passion for history, music and rhythm.
A natural storyteller, Mark held students entranced with tales of adventure, mystery, courage and triumph.
His lyrical writing style evokes a strong emotional response in his readers which, coupled with the colourful illustrations in his picture books, certainly “brings history to life”. This is one of his aims. Mark has a passion for history and rigorously researches his topic, always travelling to the site to feel the atmosphere for himself.
He has a knack of hooking in his readers from the first sentence, and he mirrored this with our students. They were fascinated with the mystery of Lasseter’s Reef, and enthralled as they held gold nuggets in their hands. But then they had to work out if the gold was real? or if the myth was real? or if the gold was real, or could it possibly be Lasseter’s gold? And it is exactly this kind of questioning which leads to exploration and inquiry, and the knowledge and understanding which is learning.
The power of Mark’s storytelling lies in his skill of personalising historical events – giving them a face and personality with which readers can identify. These characters offer us a better understanding of historical events. Through their actions we form opinions and make judgements – developing critical thinking skills in a seamless way as we experience what they experienced, we feel what they felt and we suffer or rejoice alongside them.
It’s an interesting synergy that sees MRPS introducing philosophy to our classrooms when, at their heart, all of Mark’s stories have an underlying philosophical question to be answered, such as “What is courage?” in “Simpson and His Donkey” and “Midnight”. We use these texts in our classrooms to engage students, and the rhythm and cadence of his words keeps them turning the pages, just as they pricked up their ears during his talks.
This ‘history hunter’ is always on the lookout for a mystery or asking questions and posing wonderings (just as we do with Inquiry learning), which take him on voyages of discovery and exploration to uncover the truth, which he then shares in the most beautiful way through his picture books.
He calls himself “a curious explorer” and through his books he hopes that his “… readers can discover not just the truth, but also an understanding of the past.” [markgreenwood.com.au]
I think he’s onto a good thing and so are we, having his books – so thank you, Mark!
Once again our Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival has brought a richness to our experience of reading, and given students an insight into writing as a well-honed art form. Our thanks go to the Festival organisers, Ms Robb and Ms Angell for organising the school visits, and to the authors who shared so openly with our students: Kelly Canby, Josh Langley, Mark Greenwood and Rebecca Haggie.
Photos by Mr Thomas, Mrs Ralston and D. Veary; Written and posted by D. Veary