Posts Tagged With children

Friday, May 4, 2012 / 9:41 am

Young Storytellers: This Magic Moment

The school’s act could be more together, but all that’s forgotten when the kids get cooking.

by Nathan Walpow

Tags: Young Storytellers | children | writing


If the school I’m a Young Storytellers mentor at wasn’t so darned close, I’d probably have switched to another by now. Every session there’s a few things that demonstrate their lack of commitment to the program. One time the mentors showed up for the first session and found the school had neglected to pick any students. At one Big Show, entire classrooms of students got up and left partway through.

So the problems this time around haven’t exactly been surprising. After a week off for spring break, we returned for our third session. Which was missing the four fifth grade students, who were off on a field trip. Which the school had neglected to mention was going to happen. So several mentors (me included) sat around during one-on-one time, and the energy in the room was way off.

The next week we got going again. The kids learned screenplay format. I think way too much time is spent on this kind of stuff. Do we really need to spend ten minutes explaining parentheticals to the group when it can be done in two when student and mentor pair up? It’s a delicate balance between group and one-on-one activities, and I think a lot more would get done if we shifted to the latter.

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Friday, March 30, 2012 / 9:51 am

Young Storytellers: The Whole Exceeds Its Parts

In the second week, a mentor bursts a muscle and the students play Mad Libs.

by Nathan Walpow

Tags: Young Storytellers | children | writing

bouncing off the walls

The alternator was going on my car, and it crapped out when I tried to start it to go to Young Storytellers Week Two. I called one of our co-head mentors, and she picked me up, but I walked several blocks to meet her, and I walked too fast, and my legs ached. Which is why I wasn’t surprised when, during the game of Kitty Wants a Corner that we started out with, something tore loose in my right calf and I was barely made it to a chair.

We went over all the stuff we learned last week about the elements of a story. The kids got most of them right off the bat. They’re smart and they have a better vocabulary than the high school kids my wife teaches. They’re also bouncing-off-the-walls crazy, and the fact that we’re in the school auditorium instead of the classroom we’ve had each time before gives them plenty of room to bounce.

I was assigned to explain objectives, obstacle and conflict. I used Twilight as an example, wowing the students with my extensive knowledge of Edward and Jacob. One girl who’d said she wasn’t getting it professed to understand when I was done, and explained it all to another who didn’t get it because he was too busy running circumnavigating the room.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012 / 11:11 am

Young Storytellers: Let the Games Begin

There are few things more fun than helping a child write a script, then watching their face when actors perform it.

by Nathan Walpow

Tags: Young Storytellers | children | writing

Young Storytellers

I’m not much of a volunteer-er. I worked on the McGovern campaign way back in 1972. When I first got to Los Angeles 30+ years ago, I hung out with TreePeople for a while (I suspect mostly to meet women). And that’s been it. So when a friend emailed three years ago, said she was head mentor at a local elementary school for something called Young Storytellers, and asked me to join in, my normal reaction would have been the delete key. But something called to me. There was writing, and there were kids, two things I enjoy moderate doses of. It was just a two month commitment, once a week for an hour.

So I signed up. And it’s been a blast. My sixth mentoring gig started yesterday, and it promises to be the best yet.

The Young Storytellers Foundation works at a few dozen schools in the L.A. area. Most, like the one I’m involved in, are elementary schools. The tagline: Ten Students, Ten Mentors, Ten Actors. Each fourth or fifth grade student gets a mentor. They work together, in the group and one-on-one, for (usually) eight weeks. The student writes a five to six page screenplay. No violence, no existing characters (except the occasional cameo). Then there’s The Big Show. Ten actors come in, the students cast them, and the actors perform them in front of an audience of classmates, friends and family. Hilarity ensues … and that’s the first time I’ve ever written that and meant it.

My five previous mentees have written about:

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012 / 5:00 am

Bad Bald Barbie

Yes, that's right. We are about to be mean to little girls with cancer.

by Kersten Wehde

Tags: children's health | Barbie

bald Barbie

Last week, news outlets jumped all over the populist online push for a bald Barbie. Obviously. Any Barbie news is front-page, segment-leading material, because we’re in America and Barbie is like our mascot. If Toddlers & Tiaras has shown us anything, it’s that we love our little painted dolls and we appreciate—nay, enjoy!—their suffering. Second, this particular campaign involves a grassroots appeal to a massive corporation and sick kids. Combined with dolls, that’s basically the bump-set-spike of morning news programs.

The Beautiful Bald Barbie movement is led by mothers whose daughters have lost their hair fighting leukemia and lymphoma. The Facebook page where this campaign lives has more than 125,000 fans, many with helpfully shaming messages aimed at Mattel for not flinging itself at the chance to create this hairless doll yesterday. Of the moms, CBS News lamented, “… both women realized that young kids fighting the disease or any disease that dealt with hair loss were missing a positive role model.” We can only assume the darlings had plenty of positive role models when their little heads abounded with auburn curls, and that the sudden loss of heroes was directly attributable to that of their hair.

So naturally, they turned to the Atticus Finch of the mass-produced doll world, a paragon of the positive self-image: Barbie.

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