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Using my book, The Little “Read” Hen, the 4th grade students of Caldwell Middle School experienced a fun and fast-paced creative writing workshop that highlighted the steps of story writing: brainstorming, researching, outlining, drafting, editing, and proofing. I worked with the 4th grade students for five days (all 6 classes in 45 minute blocks everyday) in January of 2013.

On Day 1, the students created a small 6-page book out of a single sheet of paper that outlined each step of the writing process. I shared the story of The Little “Read” Hen on the Smart Board. Each page of the 6-page book highlighted each step of the writing process.

On Day 2, they were grouped into teams of 3-5 students to brainstorm a story based on a story prompt game I gave them using two animal characters and a situation. During the brainstorming process, the students created an outline of their story and summarized their story’s conflict and resolution.

After school, I conducted my “Tangram Tales” professional development workshop for the teachers. It was so much fun. I taught them all about the ancient Chinese puzzle of the Tangram and instructed them on how to create a Tangram without a pattern. Each of the teachers cut out their own Tangrams. Using a handout I provided, they then created illustrations with the Tangrams. Finally, the workshop culminated with the teachers performing a Tangram story theater called “Tiger’s Tale, Anansi’s Stories.” It was well-received and I received compliments throughout the week from the teachers on the workshop.

On Days 3 and 4, the teams collaborated and created an original story using the above steps. Each person in the group contributed to the story by writing a paragraph gleaned from the ideas of their fellow teammates. Each team was also required to incorporate at least two vocabulary words from the “Word Wall” into their stories. Their stories had to have the following:

  • A beginning, middle and an end;
  • Interesting characters;
  • Dialogue;
  • A jazzy title; and
  • A conflict and a resolution.

I worked with all the teams, helping them edit their work and encouraging them to jazz up their stories with synonyms, similes, metaphors, and onomatopoeia.

On Day 5, all the stories were shared in class. One story from each class was published on my website. I adapted one of the stories, “Roachpunzel,” into a reader’s theater script, which was acted out by each class. Finally, each student was given a “Young Writer’s Award” (pencils with “Great Job,” “Super,” “Awesome,” and other superlatives on them).

The time frame worked very well for the structure of the residency. The residency allowed me to reinforce what the teachers were already teaching about writing: POV (point of view), figurative language, literary devices, punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary. I documented each day of my residency in my blog on my website ( Working with fourth grade students on creative writing was such a rewarding experience for me, the teachers, and the students. One student commented on one of my blog posts: “Mrs. Fanguy’s whole class misses you. We all hope you can come back. We are all better writers because of you. Thanks!” That is the best validation ever.


Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author, storyteller, and founder of Picture Book Month, who tours internationally presenting author visit/storytelling programs, educator/librarian training, and workshops. Her performances, dubbed “revved-up storytelling” are full of energetic audience participation. The author of twenty books, her children’s titles include The Cajun Cornbread Boy, Madame Poulet & Monsieur Roach, Mama’s Bayou, The Gigantic Sweet Potato, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The House That Witchy Built, Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate, Dinosaur Mardi Gras, Beware, Beware of the Big Bad Bear, and The Little “Read” Hen. Visit her website at Visit Picture Book Month at