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....."?

Nov. 18, 1999

I choose a farm.
ther or some cows
and ther or some Barns
and ther are some Farmers.
and ther are some horse
pig and hay and owls
and screcrow And carts

Trevor Adams

It was hard to read Trevor's ideas about a farm without thinking about horses, because I often write horse stories, and because my daughter's horse just had a foal two weeks ago. What if a cow in Trevor's story has a calf. What if the horse has a foal at the same time and the cow takes care of the calf and the foal? What if the calf and the foal are best friends? What if Trevor has to go into the loft of the barn to get hay for the horses and he finds an owl, or what if he finds some old farm carts, and an old scarecrow? Will it come to life? Will Trevor find an adventure on the farm? I am excited about what could happen in Trevor's story!

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

Trevor wrote more "What if?" questions:

What if?

What if TEVOR OPENed THE Barn AND saw a red cow?
What if Trevor saw a fat hores?
What if the barn was hiding something mysterious? What if a big fat hen or a Funny farmer said go in the house a farmer that had train feet and a pig a had banana feet. or a pig with 45 legs?


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

Trevor's first draft:

A Treasure in the Barn
by Trevor

One day I decided to visit my cousin Matthew. He lives in Lurel on a great big farm. I like to play with Mattew because he has a big barn and I like to explore inside it. We decided to play hide and go seek. I wanted to hide in the barn so I did. I saw pigs, cows, and horses. They stood still and looked at me. and I found a treasure and I found a note and I SAW GOLD AND DIAMONDS AND I said, "Matthew, take a look! I found a note and gold diamonds." Matthew said, "WOW! But who wrote the note?" The note says did you

Mrs. Syzmanski made suggestions:


I can tell you will write a funny story! Something mysterious is in the barn. Is it the animals that are funny and so different? Can you think up more funny animals to add to the story? I think there would be a problem to open the story if the pig with 45 legs, the pig with bananna feet, and other "strange" animals were wondering if the farmer will like them. They could imagine all sorts of reasons he would not like them. Then at the end of the story the farmer could walk in with train feet! That would be so funny. Your readers would find out that being different is not a bad thing and that we are all different in our own way, and special because of it. I can't wait to read what you write!

Trevor's revised version:

A Treasure in the Barn
by Trevor

One day I decided to visit my cousin, Matthew. He lives in Laurel on a great big farm. I like to play with Matthew because he has a big barn and I like to explore inside it. We decided to play hide and go seek. I wanted to hide in the barn so I did. I saw pigs, cows, and horses in the barn. They stood still and looked at me when I came into the barn. I saw a cow with big brown eyes and next to him in the hay was a note. When I picked up the note and read it I was excited because the note told me there was a treasure somewhere in the barn. The place where it was hiding rhymes with the word soft. I thought and thought. Then I looked up into the loft! It rhymes with soft!

I climbed up the ladder and when I got to the top I looked everywhere but couldn't see anything except something strange in the corner. It looked like an old bag of feed. I walked over to the corner and I opened the old, dirty, smelly bag. Inside the bag was a brown, wooden box. There were letters on the box. T R E V O R was written on the box! That was my name. I opened the box and I saw gold and diamonds. There was a note inside the box that said, "Here is a gift for Trevor and his cousin Matthew. I am an old man now and I want to give this gold and these diamonds to you." The note was signed "Pop-Pop".

I was excited when I saw the note. I ran to find Matthew and I shouted, "Matthew, where are you?"

Matthew said from somewhere outside the barn, "I'm hiding. You have to find me."

I said, "The game is over! I have to show you something!"

Matthew came out from behind the barn and I showed him the dirty, smelly old bag.

Matthew said, "Ewwwww... why do you want to show me this old bag?"

I told him that there was something in it that he would like a whole lot. When I showed him the gold and diamonds inside he couldn't believe it. We took the bag home and showed it to Matthew's mom. We decided to give our moms the diamonds so that they could have pretty jewelry. The gold we wanted to save for our dads because dads need money to keep the house and feed the family.

Our moms were happy with the gold and diamonds and they hugged us and kissed us and said that we would go to college some day.

Mrs. Szymanski's comments:

Hi Trevor,

What an exciting story! By the end of the first paragraph you revealed a mystery. You started your story in the middle of action just like all good writers do. It made me proud to read such a wonderful story!

The mystery was solved when the box was found and opened, but you made it even better by adding love. Making the treasure from Pop-Pop was the first hint at love and caring in your story. But then, you passed it on when you gave away the treasures to those you love. And you give us a clue that that love will be passed back again with the gift of college.

What a heart-warming story, Trevor. I loved it! As I was reading through it I kept thinking about how much your writing muscle has grown! You should be very proud of your work!

Your Friend,
Lois Szymanski


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Patti Weeg

March 9, 2000