10 Aug

Year 6 staff and students welcomed award-winning South Australian author Phil Cummings into their classrooms as part of a 3-day writing workshop incursion.

Phil Cummings has written over seventy books for children in a career that has spanned thirty years. He has been an ambassador to the Premier’s Reading Challenge in South Australia since the program began in 2004. He is also an ambassador for The Little Big Book Club Raising Literacy Australia and was an ambassador for the National Year of Reading in 2012. His work has been published in Australia, New Zealand, United States, Japan, China, South Korea, Canada, United Kingdom and throughout Europe.

Phil began by sharing with the students how he collects ideas for stories. He displayed various artefacts that contained a treasure-trove of documented story ideas, including a tattered looking scrapbook that once belonged to his daughter and an aeroplane sick bag.

The students were amazed to learn that the story idea written on the aeroplane sick bay was eventually used as the basis for one of his books. Phil emphasised with the students the importance of jotting down an idea for a story in whatever means available and to store up ideas for future reference.

Day two was devoted to gathering ideas from the immediate surroundings of the 6/7 Centre. Phil invited the students to venture outside to write descriptive phrases about the school environment. Here are some examples that the students wrote:

My school is …

  • watching vines snaking sneakily across the buildings like lizards.
  • surrounded with the distant roar of planes.
  • listening to children bounding up staircases like giants jumping from mountain to mountain.

On the final day, Phil showed the students how to structure their ideas into paragraphs. Phil used the example of a story set at a beach to model how to develop a character through a series of events. Students were the set the task of asking questions about each other’s characters to elicit dialogue.

Below are some comments that students made about Phil’s visit:

“The time I had with Phil was so much fun and I learnt so much. Phil’s books where so good; hopefully he comes back again.” Angus

“Phil inspired me to be more interested in writing. After hearing his song I want to make one like that for the Go MAD project. I learnt to use single words and descriptive phrases.”  Alyssa

“I really enjoyed Phil coming over to teach us how to make good books with descriptive phrases. He really inspired me by teaching us what we should add into our stories of what’s happened in his life. He’s told us funny stories that always keep us listening for more and he’s a really great inspirer and is really kid friendly.” Anthony

“My time with Phil Cummings was great and he taught me a lot about writing stories and I improved from his instruction.” Deng

“Phil Cummings was really inspiring and taught me about how to make a story interesting and his stories were very heartfelt.” Abbie

Equipped with the advice and expertise from Phil’s visit, Year 6 students have now embarked on a narrative writing task which will culminate in the publication of their short stories. The opportunity to workshop with Phil Cummings provided the students with an experience that was both inspiring and memorable.

The Author in Residence program is part of the Year 6/7 Centre English curriculum. Please feel free to contact Year 6 teacher Chris Gann for more information.