Hall High School’s Epic Student Storytellers


Dear World:

This past week I was able to crash the party at Hall High School in West Hartford Connecticut for two days straight. If you are a parent reading this, and your child is suddenly writing until their fingers bleed and daydreaming on a whole new level, that’s probably my fault. Not only were THEY turned into 60-second storylines by ME, they also learned to see their world through their own mind’s eye with the simple use of twine. They also turned fiction into poetry and crafted outrageous characters from a single story idea. Below is that last class – Character Craft (plus photos from the other classes – huge thanks to Terri O’Donnell who took all the photos).

My goal, as always, is to make teenagers realize that they ALL have the raw talent to become twisted storytellers – they just need to fearlessly unleash their imaginations. And the kids at Hall High? Totally fearless, which was why they were so much fun to work with. Plus, they had a wicked good time writing their teachers into what were basically horror stories.

As per my promise to the kids at Hall, I am displaying their story playlist and stories. The songs they chose are also on SPOTIFY by clicking this link: CRAZY PLAYLIST BY TWISTED TEEN WRITERS. How the writing workshop worked was that I had written the beginning of a story, but it was open ended enough for the kids to be able to twist the story concept, plot lines, bad guys, good guys, motivations, character psychology, etc. into something totally different. And I dumped in many sneaky Easter Egg type “things” that could be used by the kids (I highlighted them in red in the story below). Once the kids had chosen their OWN twists, they picked an “anthem” for their story and character. These anthem songs became the playlist on Spotify.

 

Here is the story the Hall students had to work with  – they changed Jake’s name as they wished and THEY chose Mr. Devine for #2 . . . the poor history teacher.

My name is Jake and there are three things you should know about Hall High School:

#1 My English teacher, Mrs. Fransen, can’t drive. Like, at all. I mean, if parking between the lines was a life or death task, she would’ve been dead long ago. Unfortunately, she always parks next to me, which is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing part comes in a form of a tall iced Caramel Swirl from Dunkin Donuts, which she buys for me every morning (along with her own macho-atto, almond milk, iced whatever), because I volunteer to hike her 1-ton bags up to her classroom each morning. The curse part is the fact that I’ve already replaced my side view mirror TWICE this week, thanks to her grand parking skills, and this morning she nailed it again. I had to use my little sister’s duct tape – that pink crap with the golden crowns and I’m a Pretty Princess scrawled over every inch of it – to affix the mirror back into place on my Jeep. Basically, I had to sacrificed whatever scrap of dude dignity I had so a cop won’t pull me over for a busted mirror AGAIN. So, yeah, don’t park anywhere near Mrs. Fransen . . .

#2 Our history teacher, Mr. Devine, is cousins with Satan himself, I swear. I mean, he actually chuckles to himself while handing out homework that is more complicated than Ikea instructions IF they didn’t include the little cartoon drawings. And heaven help you if you ask a question, ‘cause Mr. Devine will sprout horns and a tail and scream that you weren’t listening in the first place. Sometimes, I think I should record his class on my iPhone and then play the audio backwards. Ten bucks says I’d find a creepy message hidden in his words – probably a recipe for meatloaf that is more Sweeney Todd’s daily special than the school cafeteria (which, I admit, has some really questionable meat).

#3 Gossip is evil, especially the gossip swirling around me right now, which is why I’ve been hiding out under the stage in the auditorium. And I don’t care what everybody says – I didn’t kill anyone. I don’t know how a finger ended up in Mrs. Piccioli’s purse, or how a toe was found in the girl’s bathroom. And the fact that the cops have been crawling all over the school since noon really doesn’t help the gossip, especially because they apparently found a bloody knife in my locker. So yeah, I’m staying here, under the stage with my iced Caramel Swirl, where it’s quiet and dark and no one will bother me . . . especially the dead guy, who I found stashed down here after last night’s show. I’m telling ya – stuff like this is EXACTLY why I hate theater class.

 

Below is what the students came up with after being given the story above.  Author names have been removed from the pages, with the exception of the quote at the top of the page. And just remember – this is FICTION – a chance for kids to let their minds roam without rules or restrictions, which is the ultimate freedom in writing (and why I removed their names).

Honestly, they all did a brilliant, BRILLIANT job, especially under the tight time crush of just ten minutes and being forced to work in teams.

Discussing how best to frame Mr. Devine.

These three had a brilliant concept regarding split personalities.

Deciding on twists and body counts . . .

Though we did not get to use the “Story Ball” (which was stashed in my backpack), we did use my Mind’s Eye twine. This crafting class is something I developed recently (in addition to the Story Ball). The teachers were dying to use it in their own classrooms after witnessing how it worked and how well the kids responded. Many, MANY kids wanted a turn at trying to do it. The girl in the checkered shirt (who is thinking) was “on deck.”

Story twist being explained to me – my mind is BLOWN.

Fans rule my world!!

Mind’s Eye Twine – deciding on how to mount a sword to a wall.

Fatal females plotting ruthlessly.

Watching the Mind’s Eye twine . . .

Another student (in purple) attempting the Mind’s Eye. This girl awed the class with her accuracy.

This time, Mrs. Fransen was being thrown under the bus.

Two of the ladies who made my visit possible – librarians Monica Ahern and Carolyn Shea. Photo taken by Terri O’Donnell. Somehow we are missing Cheryl Pervere, who started the whole thing when she stumbled on Undertow. HUGE thanks to them all!

Picking out furniture – a laundry basket, I believe.

Lunch with writers and fans. :)

 

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