Cathy offers a wide range of writing workshops for students in elementary and junior high school, and strives to tailor all workshops to student needs and levels. Cathy offers both writing residencies and individual workshops to schools and is happy to explore many different forms of writing from narrative story to creative non-fiction to non-fiction. Some of her most popular workshops are described below. All workshops can be modified to any grade level. Teachers are encouraged to email her with specific requests.
Curriculum-Based Writing: Cathy greatly enjoys the challenge of weaving writing and curriculum to discover, extend or reinforce education concepts or larger inquiry-based questions. She works with teachers to plan and create authentic writing tasks that tie in to specific curriculum goals, and guides students through the process to create strong compositions that are both engaging for students and rich in writing process techniques. These “projects” may take many different forms and often include narrative or creative non-fiction writing – sales pitches, fairy tales, poetry, historical fiction, field guides, legends, contest entries, travel brochures, field guides, tweets, etc. The possibilities are endless! These workshops generally require more than a single session with students.
Strengthening Student Writing: This workshop focuses on the concept of strong writing, defined by its impact on the reader. Students are introduced to the S’s of Strong Writing, specific strategies that students can employ again and again, which are closely linked to both purpose and audience. Students participate in a variety of enjoyable activities designed to reinforce these strategies in short, manageable ways, and learn how to evaluate the strength of their writing by keeping the reader central to their purpose. With younger writers, Cathy often introduces S’s using fun, oral techniques.
Scene Writing: In this workshop, students are introduced to story writing through scene writing. Cathy guides students through various prewriting and planning strategies that enable them to create short, powerful scenes. Prewriting tools may include sensory webs, guided visualization, dramatization, questioning, popcorn, four-framing, etc as students discover the methods of idea generation that work best for their learning styles. Cathy focuses on using DATS to blend description, action, thoughts and speech and create great scenes that have the desired impact on the reader.
Story Planning: The workshop introduces students to a narrative story plan that utilizes problem and solution as its framework. This plan is Cathy’s own design and is the same one she uses when she writes short stories. This workshop looks specifically at using emotion to frame a story and engage the reader. It also introduces students to various techniques to write successful beginnings, middles and ends while guarding the shape of the story that engages the reader. With older children, Cathy focuses on guiding students to discover the criteria for solutions that truly satisfy the reader and looks at how to spin apparently “lame” and “ridiculous” ideas into satisfying solutions. With younger children, Cathy often writes class stories, where she, with the students’ input, creates the beginning and end, while each student writes a page in the middle to create a beautiful classroom book.
Character Creation: The focus of this workshop is engaging character creation. Cathy takes students through the same process she uses to create characters who tug at the reader. She touches on names, appearance, backstory, character flaws, dreams, family, friends, etc and ultimately moves into conflict, the heart of story. Characters range from realistic characters to animal characters to superheros.
Creative Currents: This workshop is all about inspiring creativity in thought and composition. Cathy asks students to examine the nature of both creative and critical thought and then encourages them to test their creativity parameters – flexibility, fluency and originality. Finally, she looks at the connection between creative and critical thought, as it pertains to life, problem solving and written composition.
Professional Development: Cathy is available for professional development seminars and is able to present to large or small groups. She often presents at teachers’ conventions and can utilize either a workshop or presentation mode. Cathy’s professional development inservices generally focus on methods to strengthen student writing, generate great stories or develop school-wide strategies and continuums to achieve writing goals.
Generating Authentic Writing Tasks: Drawing on her extensive development of creative writing projects and her exposure to balance inquiry-based learning, Cathy is available to help teachers facilitate and design their own writing programs based on broader questions or specific curriculum content. She works with grade teams to help teachers weave writing into their year-long plans in a meaningful and enjoyable manner.
Alberta teachers may also book workshops in October through the Young Alberta Book Society.