Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 20:06:25 -0800
From: lois szymanski
Subject: Re: Online mentoring... The Brainstorming Game

Hello Robert, Jessica, Stacey, Trevor, Andrew and Kelsey,

I had fun reading your story ideas. Brainstorming for ideas is a great way to come up with a story, and you have each listed some exciting story-starting ideas. Now you can take the step a lot of real authors take next, and play the "What-if?" game. When you play the "What-if?" game you look at the ideas you've listed and ask, "What if....."?

A day at school

We have to do our morning work.
read a book
and do spelling and we go outside
and we go to gym and library.

Jessica Moore

Jessica made me remember school when I was a little girl, and I wondered: What if Jessica came to school one day and instead of her class, she found a classroom full of people who lived years ago, when I went to school? Or, what if Jessica started to read her book and the story she was reading was exactly what happened to her at home just this week? Wouldn't that be strange? Or, what if her friend came to school wearing the exact same dress, she got the exact same score on her spelling test, and picked out the exact same book to read? Would her friend walk with her to gym and to the library? What would they talk about? What if someone, or something, maybe a puppy followed them? Would the puppy be nice, or mean, and what would they do? When you start to ask yourself questions you can find more stories inside your idea list. I wonder what Jessica will pick to write about?

The "what if?" questions I asked are just to get you started. I bet you can each think of even better "what if?" questions on your own. Your questions will help you turn your list of ideas into exciting stories. Inside each idea there are so many stories to tell. I can't wait to see what you will write about!

Your friend,
Lois Szymanski

Jessica replied with more "What if?" questions:

What if...

the desk got up and walked?
What if the chair danced?
What if the chalk walked across the blackboard?
What if there was a chicken in the classroom?

Jessica M

Mrs. Szymanski replied:

Hello Class,

I hope you had a happy holiday and vacation! You came up with some great what-if questions to start your story with. Now it is time to pick one or more of the what-if questions to write about. Put yourself inside the mind and thoughts of the main character. What would he or she do or think? As you build your story, remember this:

1. Every good story starts with a hook, that is usually a problem or a mystery that draws the reader in.

2. The middle of the story helps the reader get to know the main character better as the plot (or what is happening in the story) unfolds.

3. The end of the story solves the problem or the mystery. It makes the reader feel satisfied. The end is also called the conclusion.

I hope you have fun building your story. I can't wait to see what you will write!

Best Wishes,
Lois Szymanski


Wow, what a wacky story you will have when you are done! A dancing chair, a walking desk, and chalk that skips across the blackboard? I want to go to this classroom! But as funny as it is, this is a good problem to open your story with. What does your main character think of this wacky classroom? How will she get the magic to stop and the room to behave? This is going to be a fun and funny story and I already want to read it!

Jessica's first draft:

by Jessica M

The chilgin were not in ther desk the parents were siting in the desk. And my mom was siting in my desk and she did her homework. Miss Elliott checked the homework but my mom did not do all of her homework. And Miss Elliott asked her why she did not do all of her homework. But she did not answer her and she had to go to the office WHY THEY WHACH MOVE!!

Mrs. Szymanski replied:

Hi Jessica,

This is a cute story idea. I think it would be easier for the reader to follow along if you told your story like a "Once upon a time" story. For example, you could start with, "One day When I arrived at school I noticed something strange. No children were at their desks. Instead,..." Just write the story down as if you were telling it to a friend and it will be easier to understand. I wonder what will happen in the story? How will you fix this wacky problem? You have me very interested in what will happen next!

Lois Szymanski

Jessica's revision:

A Strange Day At School
by Jessica M

One day when I got on the bus to go to school I saw parents in the seats where my friends were supposed to be. I said to myself, "This is whacky!" When we arrived at school and went inside I saw my friends in the office. Jason was sitting in the principal's office at his desk.

I left the office and went to my classroom. I said to Miss Elliott, my teacher, "What is going on?" Miss Elliott told me that the kids had taken over the school for 3 days. When I looked at the desks in my classroom someone was sittin in my seat. It was my mom! Mom didn't see me because she was doing her morning work. She was writing in her journal. I went over to her and I said, "Why are you in school?"

Mom said, "The kids are taking over the school and all the parents are in school today. The kids are working in the office and in the cafeteria and they are teachers, too."

"Uh oh," I said. "I am supposed to be the teacher today. Miss Elliott, what should I do with the class?"

Miss Elliott told me to give the class some math problems. I held up our multiplication times tables and the parents in my class had to write the answers in their math notebook. I got out my red marker and checked their books. I walked back and forth in the rows of desks. My mom only missed one problem. She got one wrong out of ten so she got 90%. I put a star on her book.

The dismissal bell rang and it was time to go home. I gave the parents more times tables for homework. I gave them 10 problems and they were happy because that wasn't so bad.

The parents said, "Thank you, Jessica, for a good day at school. We like to be in your class."

Mrs. Syzmanski's comments:


Your story is a funny one! I laughed when I read it. I can imagine coming to school and finding everything mixed up. It would sure be wacky to find parents at the desks and students working in the school! I thought it was especially neat that your mom sat at your desk and kept a journal just like you. I also thought it was a great addition when you graded your mom's paper and give her a star for her good work!

Your story started out with a problem. Then you used your imagination to turn it into a very humorous story. You used your experience as a student to become a kind and generous teacher. I liked that message in your tale.

I was excited and happy when I saw what a terrific story you had written. In fact, I am still smiling about it! Congratulations, Jessica! I am pinning all the stories to my bulletin board at work!

Your Friend,
Lois Szymanski


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March 22, 2000