When I was a younger teacher, I got this great summer job as a writer in the Story Department for three seasons on a popular children's television series called, The Incredible Story Studio. The idea was simple: take stories written by middle schoolers and adapt them into ten-minute movies. You can still see some of the episodes on the Encore+ YouTube Channel, including the one linked below.
But honestly, the best part of the work for me, as a creative arts teacher, was getting to run around the school district to lead the Writing Workshops in local classrooms on behalf of the show. There were literally thousands of stories to choose from, many of which poured in from eighth and ninth grade writing workshops from across the country and around the world. We had to read all of the stories submitted to select just the promising few that could be adapted for the series and the intended audience of younger kids on YTV.
Leading these writing workshops and reading thousands of student stories was a formative experience for me as an educator, and it's informed how I approach the design of learning for students' creativity to this day, especially the idea of making learning visible with stories that kids create in all subjects for the page, stage and screen. And it reinforced just how important it is in mentoring young storytellers for the teacher to do the project, too, and experience the challenges, pitfalls and triumphs of workshopping a piece of writing from imagination to exhibition.
Of course, nowadays, we have such incredible access to imagining, creating and exhibiting our own students' work in online portfolios and our own youtube channels. Back in the day, we had to film the stories on 16mm film with a big crew. Now, all you need is your mobile device and an internet connection to reach a global audience!
The Creative Process we employed in those writing workshops is shared with you in the Rocky View Studio Workshop, which contains inspiration, lessons, examples and resources that you can practice yourself and with your students at your own pace, all open and free! Plus you can see numerous examples of teacher and student storytelling for the Page, Stage & Screen on the Animation, Bookshelf, RockyDocs and RockyTalks pages.
In the most important ways, the creative process that we engaged in for the tv show hasn't changed much at all for our classrooms today. As teachers, we still design the conditions in our for students to feel safe, mindful and well, and to offer them the opportunity to develop their own voices and creative confidence through cycles of journalling, drafting, feedback, revision and editing with purpose for audience. Then we share work that we are proud of with our audience and the world. Making students' storytelling visible is the best way I know to foster their originality, express their individual voices and build their creative confidence.
Okay, so here's the episode that contains the first teleplay I ever wrote, which was based on a short story written by ninth-grader, Amber Smith, who narrates the film:
"A Pinch of Fame, a Dash of Ego & a Whole Lot of Imagination" Incredible Story Studio, Season 2, Ep. 9A
Story by Amber Smith | Teleplay by Rick Gaudio | Directed by Alan Goluboff