Is there an author inside of your child waiting to be awakened?
From treasure maps to fantastical creatures, from play dough poems to larger-than-life characters, Sleeping Giant classes and workshops aim to stretch kids' imaginations and show them how fun writing can be! I teach at various locations in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as offering online classes to families near and far.
Why "Sleeping Giant"?
My first book, The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, revolves around a giant asleep under a mountain, and when I began thinking about launching my own writing classes, this familiar phrase seemed to fit perfectly what I am trying to do as a teacher: awaken the imagination and creative talent that lies within each child.
I approach teaching in the same way I approach writing: from the fundamental belief that at the heart of creativity is the ability and freedom and courage to play. I write children’s books because when my imagination sits down to play, that’s what naturally comes out. I teach children because I love catching glimpses into the immense worlds of wonder and creativity within their minds.
Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Whenever I plan my classes, at the back of my mind is the desire to whisper into a child’s imagination: Don’t ever let this part of you grow up completely. Keep this freedom. Keep this playful delight. Since I believe that delight is essential fuel for learning, I try to make sure that laughter finds its way into the class, as well as a healthy dose of silliness, especially in creative expression—in invented words, in unusual points of view, in madcap plots. My activities often incorporate visual art, music, sculpture, and movement in order to unlock creativity in as many ways as possible.
A friend recently pointed me to this wonderful quotation by Madeleine L’Engle: "The creative impulse, like love, can be killed, but it cannot be taught. What a librarian or teacher or parent can do, in working with children, is to give the flame enough oxygen so it can burn. As far as I'm concerned, this providing of oxygen is one of the noblest of all vocations." L’Engle reminds me of my most important task: Fan the flame and get out of the way. Let wonder breathe.
What I teach and what I don't teach
My focus is on nurturing creativity and introducing kids to the joy of writing stories and poetry. My focus is therefore not on teaching the mechanics of writing—spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. I am not a traditional English teacher in that sense and assume that my students are already studying the more technical aspects of writing in their normal curriculum. I am clear up front with students that my classes are not school, I do not give grades, and I don't correct spelling and grammar in their writing assignments—I am concerned primarily with how well they are using their imaginations. In my tutorials with advanced students who have taken my other classes, we will work more in depth on writing techniques and on the discipline of editing and revision.
My friends at Story Warren recently asked me what I love about teaching creative writing to children. Here was my answer:
I love existing, for a few hours a week, in a world where imagination has no ceiling and no floor. Where the most discombobulated spelling can frame the most marvelous and hilarious thoughts. Where self-consciousness and criticism have not yet squeezed creativity into a box.
I love reading stories about talking cats, portals, ninjas, dinosaurs, giant sloths from outer space, adventurous pizza delivery boys, treasure chests, princesses who go on quests, skeletons who wear high heels and chase butterflies, fiddling skydivers, screaming flowers, and bizarre creatures no one else has ever imagined except for one small extravagant brain.
I love watching kids play with words and ideas as if they were toys instead of computing them as if they were equations. I love the fact that they have not yet grown into the cynical and literal worldview of adults.
I love being reduced to tears when I see a student’s heart blossom in a poem that I know goes far beyond what she ever thought she could write. Yet that poem was in her all along. She just needed the words—and the encouragement—to express it.
You can read the rest of the interview here: http://www.storywarren.com/a-majestic-interview-with-author-creative-writing-teacher-jennifer-trafton/