From Superteach to Supergran, and at Christmastime, too – congratulations to Anne Stormont and her husband Iain on becoming grandparents to the gorgeous Eva.
And congratulations to Eva on bagging such a wonderful granny. As Superteach, the devotion bestowed upon her pupils is admirable to observe. Anne and her pupils played a huge part in the development of Kimi’s Secret. She came to me with an idea and, well, I’ll let her tell you herself…
Kimi’s Secret rocks the classroom
A fun project – a fab book…
I’m a Support for Learning teacher in a primary school. In early 2009 I was asked to work with a group of eleven-year-olds in order to extend their writing skills. This was a group of able and discerning readers, whom, their teachers felt, had lost enthusiasm and motivation in their writing and who seemed to be underachieving. I was charged with turning this state of affairs round. Simple!
By chance, I was, at that time, reading an early draft of the opening chapters of ‘Kimi’s Secret’. I thought it was brilliant – great story-telling, original and engaging. But I wondered what the target audience would make of it. So I read a couple of chapters to my group of somewhat reluctant writers. Their responses were amazing. They liked the characters and the story and they wanted more, but they also had suggestions and ideas of their own about the text.
And that was the start. I asked Johnny if he would like to be our ‘virtual writer-in-residence’ for a term and to engage with the children on a writing project. I would read the book to the children and they would respond chapter by chapter with critiques, suggestions and comments. In return Johnny would set Kimi related writing tasks for the children to complete and submit to him for feedback. I also asked the children if they would be up for it. Author and kids were raring to go.
Everything was done by email to and from me. Johnny sent me the chapters as they became ready. And during two, hour-long sessions per week, the children listened to the story, sketched and wrote their responses, filmed their round table discussions and debates, wrote Kimi inspired stories of their own and carried out detailed reviews of characters and plot. Film clips, writing, detailed commentaries and sketches (one child came up with a detailed map of the land of Heart, spending a lot of time meticulously checking the facts and then planning out his own fictional landscape on which to base an extended piece of fiction writing) – all were emailed by me to Johnny, and he emailed his (personalised to each child contributor) responses back.
The project was one of the highlights of my thirty-plus years in teaching. We had great fun. The children and I looked forward to our Kimi afternoons and the productivity achieved was astounding. I loved seeing the children drawing as I read. Most of them did this – some drawing a character – others sketching out a scene. The quality of the debate about the effectiveness of a chapter, a character, a plotline was excellent and they didn’t pull their punches if they detected any shortcomings. This, of course, fed into their own writing which they approached with a new awareness of the tricks of the trade, of techniques and of the reader’s experience.
None of this could have happened if the story hadn’t been so captivating. It pulled the children in and they loved it.
And now, two years later,’ Kimi’s Secret’ is published. Johnny sent a signed copy, complete with personal dedication, to each of the children. They were thrilled to receive them and asked when the sequel will be out. Not only that, the school now has twenty copies in the library and a new set of children are currently enjoying it.