Rationale for Running a Writers’ Camp
Writers’ Camp has proven to be a highlight of the Writers’ Club and is eagerly anticipated, particularly by those who have attended previous camps. Most students only experience a critical audience for their writing as teachers and parents help to support their responses to written assessment. Few ever have an audience who enjoy their words for simple pleasure. My intention for each camp, is to provide a venue for students to find their voice, draw upon the joy and liberation of words, while discovering and utilizing skills that can help make their work tighter. By creating an immersive world to focus the girl’s attention, they have a safe space to build their own stories while integrating and incorporating the characters contrived by
each student attending. The students’ investment in their own characters and the constructed world gives authenticity to their words and while we include short skill based workshops, they are always delivered in role and contribute to the suspension of disbelief. Students share their stories and constructively critique one another. This year we created a sister school to Hogwarts and students had a hand in creating the back stories for each of the newly founded houses as well as their own characters. Unfortunately one of our long time members was unable to attend due to a nasty fall, but rather than allow her to miss out, we made her character the focus of the complication and she was gifted with the stories that her character is central to. You can read more on the MSM Writers’ Website https://goo.gl/IUflHg.
The camps are a wonderful immersive experience which both students and teachers enjoy. They normally take a term of consistent magpie acquisition and application to bear fruit but each of the four camps I have run thus far, have been successful on a number of levels. I aim to make each camp quite distinct from the previous one and naturally each focus commands different priorities in terms of stimuli (hence the busy lead-up).
I use one particular camp because of its ease of access, location in a more rural location and because of the privacy it affords us. In the four years I have used this camp, we have not needed to share the venue. This adds to the writing immersion, adding to the sense otherness that the students enjoy so much. Camp Warrawee is a YMCA camp facility. I have found the staff to be very helpful and friendly and easy to co-ordinate with. I use the same cabins each year and the girls who attend, love the familiarity of it. It has become their place. http://www.ymcacamping.com.au .
OVER TO YOU
Step 1: Think, Pair, Share
Brainstorm possible themes/contexts below. Consider what you are most passionate about and then extrapolate to include the things your students show interest in. Try to look outside the school context.
Step 2: Mind-Map
In pairs or small groups choose a theme and mind-map all of the ways you could use your chosen context to create an immersive experience.
Consider the following:
The size of the group so that roles (characters) are easily developed
Venue for camp and how it can contribute to the immersive experience
Costumes and props needed
ESSENTIAL: Possible interventions you can develop to create the complication necessary to drive the writing
Set pieces to window dress your venue
The backstory/context for your theme.
Gather a couple of trusty minions from your staff that have blue cards
Make your booking after getting the various permissions from administration and complete the risk assessment documentation.
Organize information and permission letters. Models can be found on the website I created for you.
Search the internet for ideas and keep your eyes open. The more attention you give to detail the better it is. Involve the students in the preparation. They are normally become so invested that the quality of their contributions can’t be underestimated. I kept all of my magpie impersonations in a file in OneNote. Pinterest has heaps of ideas as do themed party directions. Your organizing idea can come from the most obscure places.
Create groups if you are able. By creating distinctive groups you are better able to allocate dorms, provide a focus and identity that can help build the rapport, sense of belonging and immersion. It also introduces a small degree of competition. I have three jars where I give house points for participation in the camp activities, the cleaning and catering roster and dorm decoration. I have never needed to take out house points!
Allocate a couple of evenings to making props etc. with your minions. My friends and I had three dinners where we’d eat, chat, build wands et al and it added to our enjoyment of the whole event. I built the booklets for each camp over the term preceding it and had them printed a week before the camp.
Go and check out the venue. Establish how you will use the facilities and consider what you will do in the case of inclement weather. I haven’t cancelled a camp because of rain even though one was quite waterlogged. The girls loved it and used it as part of the stimulus for their writing.
Make a checklist
|Write Permission Letters.
*Include a sheet for medical details
*Include dietary requirements and ensure that there are gluten free options available as well as avoiding any nut products
*Make a master document with parent’s contact details
*Make a sign in and sign out sheet
|Send Out Permission Letters|
|Keep a Log of Deposits||Make these due two weeks before you are due to pay it. Make sure that you include your own attendance as well as any helpers when you calculate the cost and spread it across the group. Include the costs of materials used in the creation of the props etc. unless these are in the department budget. Some venues give a free teacher for 15 students attending.|
|Follow-up Outstanding Money and collect the permission slips.|
|Write and print booklets. We don’t use computers on camp.
Decide on only a couple of warm up activities that lend themselves. The priority is to give students an extended amount of time to write and edit their work ready for sharing after dinner.
|Organize working bee with minions to create:
Build the camp’s itinerary
|I run my camps from 10 am Saturday morning to Sunday morning so that families have time together, homework gets done and the novelty doesn’t wane by being dragged out longer.|
|Create character profiles and ensure students submit so that they can go on the wall.|
|Confirm final numbers with the venue and meal times so that your itinerary and theirs matches!|
|Put all the materials into big plastic boxes to shift easily.|
|Arrange early access to the venue, don’t assume it will be open|
|Organise prizes and Certificates for the two runners up and winner, as well as for the student who best embodies the spirit of the camp. I also give a certificate and prize for the best delivery of a story/poem etc. Writers can have someone else read their work if they choose.
I have two sets so that the middle year’s students have one set of winners as well as seniors. It also helps to continue the tradition and rite of passage that has inadvertently evolved with this group.
|Organise thank you gifts for your minions|
|Add your own ideas:|
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