“When you lead a young writer through the writing process, it’s almost like you rediscover all the steps yourself and remember why you fell in love with writing.” — Josie, October’s Volunteer of the MonthJosie Scanlan has been a regular in Big Class in-school projects since last Winter, when she helped 3rd graders create magical stories at ReNew Cultural Arts Academy. She’s since helped with poetry, zombie tales, field trips, and is currently helping 4th grade at Samuel J. Green Charter School create animal origin stories. Josie is deeply positive, focused, and knows her way around the written word. She’s been a major part of all of our in-school successes since January, and we’re proud to announce her as October’s Volunteer of the Month!  We asked Josie about her experience as a volunteer with Big Class over on our blog.Special thanks to our friends at Shake Sugary for celebrating Josie with a gift certificate so she can pick up delicious muffins on her way to the next field trip.
-What first brought you to Big Class?
 I love writing, and I wanted to share that love with other people. Learning how to write well is empowering. I also love kids.
 -What keeps you coming back?
I love when a kid has an idea in his or her head and I can help get that idea onto the page.  They think something or feel something, and then they get to read it and know that when other people read it, they will think and feel the same thing.  That is tremendously exciting. The entire writing process is exciting for kids. When you throw out preconceptions students have about writing, a whole big world of possibility opens up. The other day I was in a writing group, and we were listening to one student read a story about how tyrannosaurus rexes got their short arms and there was all this funny dialogue in the story, and another student said, “Oh you can make them talk?”  And I got so excited to say, “Yes!  Yes, you can make your characters talk.”  When you lead a young writer through the writing process, it’s almost like you rediscover all the steps yourself and remember why you fell in love with writing.
-What are some skills you have that help you out at Big Class?
Listening.  And having a good sense of humor.
-What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at Big Class?
A lot of students have such incredible and wild ideas.  They can spin elaborate tales with tons of detail, but when it comes to actually putting a pencil to paper, they get stuck.  The actual writing part is always hard.
-What are some great pieces of writing you’ve helped with? Tell us the story behind them if you can.
I helped this student with a story about a dog that was completely over living in France.  The dog was tired of fromage and the French language and so the dog decided to move to New Orleans.  I don’t want to spoil the entire story, but there was this part where the dog gets to America and smells a McRib and the student described how the dog rose into the air as if in a trance and floated toward the McRib.  I always think about that description, how good food can move you.  Really though, every story I have worked on with Big Class has been so much fun.  I smile every single time I read a new story.
-What are you up to when you’re not volunteering with us?

I teach and write in New Orleans and I spend a lot of time with my golden retriever whose nickname is Bad Dog Oppie.

When you lead a young writer through the writing process, it’s almost like you rediscover all the steps yourself and remember why you fell in love with writing.” — Josie, October’s Volunteer of the Month

Josie Scanlan has been a regular in Big Class in-school projects since last Winter, when she helped 3rd graders create magical stories at ReNew Cultural Arts Academy. She’s since helped with poetry, zombie tales, field trips, and is currently helping 4th grade at Samuel J. Green Charter School create animal origin stories. Josie is deeply positive, focused, and knows her way around the written word. She’s been a major part of all of our in-school successes since January, and we’re proud to announce her as October’s Volunteer of the Month!  We asked Josie about her experience as a volunteer with Big Class over on our blog.

Special thanks to our friends at Shake Sugary for celebrating Josie with a gift certificate so she can pick up delicious muffins on her way to the next field trip.

-What first brought you to Big Class?

 I love writing, and I wanted to share that love with other people. Learning how to write well is empowering. I also love kids.

 -What keeps you coming back?

I love when a kid has an idea in his or her head and I can help get that idea onto the page.  They think something or feel something, and then they get to read it and know that when other people read it, they will think and feel the same thing.  That is tremendously exciting. The entire writing process is exciting for kids. When you throw out preconceptions students have about writing, a whole big world of possibility opens up. The other day I was in a writing group, and we were listening to one student read a story about how tyrannosaurus rexes got their short arms and there was all this funny dialogue in the story, and another student said, “Oh you can make them talk?”  And I got so excited to say, “Yes!  Yes, you can make your characters talk.”  When you lead a young writer through the writing process, it’s almost like you rediscover all the steps yourself and remember why you fell in love with writing.

-What are some skills you have that help you out at Big Class?

Listening.  And having a good sense of humor.

-What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at Big Class?

A lot of students have such incredible and wild ideas.  They can spin elaborate tales with tons of detail, but when it comes to actually putting a pencil to paper, they get stuck.  The actual writing part is always hard.

-What are some great pieces of writing you’ve helped with? Tell us the story behind them if you can.

I helped this student with a story about a dog that was completely over living in France.  The dog was tired of fromage and the French language and so the dog decided to move to New Orleans.  I don’t want to spoil the entire story, but there was this part where the dog gets to America and smells a McRib and the student described how the dog rose into the air as if in a trance and floated toward the McRib.  I always think about that description, how good food can move you.  Really though, every story I have worked on with Big Class has been so much fun.  I smile every single time I read a new story.

-What are you up to when you’re not volunteering with us?

I teach and write in New Orleans and I spend a lot of time with my golden retriever whose nickname is Bad Dog Oppie.

Teachers: Submit your class’s writing to be published into a book by Big Class and celebrated with a reading at the New Orleans Book Festival! More info at bigclass.org/nolabookfest.

Teachers: Submit your class’s writing to be published into a book by Big Class and celebrated with a reading at the New Orleans Book Festival! More info at bigclass.org/nolabookfest.

Our newest publication, Letters to the World, now available for perusal at Latter and Algiers Regional Libraries, and for purchase at bigclass.org/our-publications!

Join us on Saturday to learn about how you can help a young New Orleans writer become a published author. Visit http://bigclass.org/get-involved to sign up!

Join us on Saturday to learn about how you can help a young New Orleans writer become a published author. Visit http://bigclass.org/get-involved to sign up!

Aaron Lopez-Barrantes, Big Class Volunteer of the Month

Aaron Lopez-Barrantes has been volunteering with Big Class since February 2013, when he joined us for our first Giant Steps Jazz Workshop. Aaron is a regular on Tuesdays at Open Studio, where he helps students with their homework and writing projects. He’s also an incredible illustrator for many of our books.

Since Aaron is one of our longest-tenured volunteers and has been a huge part of the Big Class community, he was a natural fit for our first Volunteer of the Month award. Aaron received a $25 gift certificate from our friends down the street at Shake Sugary.

We asked Aaron a few questions about working with Big Class, and what keeps bringing him back.

-What first brought you to Big Class? 

I initially heard about Big Class through a friend who was working on one of the Big Class short story projects. I’m a big fan of art, illustration and drawing, and I loved the idea of being able to illustrate short stories written by kids. Once involved in that, I began coming to the Open Studio after school program and working with the kids. Had a blast, loved the kids, haven’t stopped coming back since.  

-What keeps you coming back?

Obviously the kids keep me coming back. It’s great to be able to interact with the kids in an out of school context. It’s a more laid back atmosphere, a lot more one on one help, and you really get to form close relationships with the kids you see every week. I realized how important it was for a lot of these great kids to not only have after school help with homework, Big Class art projects, and writing, but to have an adult that they can look up to and ask for help, and advice with in school and out of school issues.  

-What are some skills you have that help you out at Big Class?

I’ve learned how to work with kids one on one. Trying to be a better listener, and trying to find ways for a student to better understand whatever task he/she is working on. Even if it’s not a conventional way of teaching, I want to try to help them figure out ways to complete homework or a project when they feel they’ve run out of all ideas. Also, being a fan of drawing, it’s easy to captivate kids by drawing stuff they like and identify with, I always get a lot of love by attempting to draw Spongebob, and their sports heroes. I like being able to show kids that being creative and artistic is actually something they can do in the future whether it be high school, college, or getting a job in art. 

-What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced at Big Class?

Learning how to be patient. Kids are kids, they’re going to be crazy sometimes, especially after school. They have a lot of energy that they need to release, and some days the craziness is hard to manage. I’m not a teacher, but I’m trying learn how to balance my power as an adult and as a friend to create a place where I’m respected but also can be approached as a mentor. Some days you have to let it all go because these kids have harder days than I do, so you have to pick your battles. 

-What are some great pieces of writing you’ve helped with? Tell us the story behind them if you can.

I love the Big Class books. It’s amazing seeing what these kids come up with in their stories. I loved being apart of the Zombie Tales book project. It was amazing to read the zombie stories and also help with the illustration side of it. Being a big basketball fan, I personally loved being able to draw zombie Lebron James, who was in a lot of the stories. 

-What are you up to when you’re not volunteering with us?

When I’m not at Big Class, I’m with my guitar. I’m a full time musician, singer songwriter in the french quarter. I play five nights a week (Tuesday-Saturday) at the Maison Dupuy Hotel, where I play an acoustic set of my songs and other music that I love. I’m very big into blues, folk, and americana music. I’m really lucky to do what I love. Every now and then I take time off to travel and do little tours all over the country. On August 20th at 8pm  I’ll be at the Republic doing the opening set for the RAW artists organization of New Orleans. It’s a really cool event showcasing New Orleans artists, and I’m honored to be apart of it.

For three weeks, Big Class held a writing workshop at the SoFAB Culinary Library. Elementary school students from schools around New Orleans wrote fiction, non-fiction, and poetry for the Encyclopedia of Eats. In this video, see a few of the students reading their work during our end of workshop party at the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Center.

Created in Big Class Writer-in-Residence Carrie Chappell’s after school class at Akili Academy, Automatown is a made-up place for which students invented stories and fashioned machines.  Automatown is one of many new publishing projects from this school year now available on our web site at bigclass.org/our-publications. Proceeds from publication sales benefit Big Class’s free creative writing programs for New Orleans’ youth.

Like kids? Pizza? Books? Big Class is looking for interns! Come exercise your writing skills, work directly with teachers, students, families, and our amazing volunteer community, and gain valuable experience in many aspects of educational programming, event planning and nonprofit organization. Learn more at the above link.

diversityinya:

yaflash:

The news just broke… Walter Dean Myers has passed. In his lifetime, he wrote over 100 books, served as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, won too many awards and honors to list, advised and inspired kids and young writers everywhere, and impacted thousands of lives. He was a lifelong proponent of diversity in children’s literature, and just a few months ago wrote an article that once again sparked the discussion.

Rest well, sir. You will be remembered always.

Beyond this, words fail me.

Not only did we lose a fine writer, but a trailblazler and advocate for more inclusivity and diversity in kidlit. A sad day indeed.

(via prairielights)