13 Aug

Year 6 staff and students welcomed back for a second year running, award-winning South Australian author Phil Cummings into their classrooms.

Phil Cummings

Phil’s visit extended over three consecutive days as part of a sequential writing workshop. Phil has written over seventy books for children in a career spanning 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.

Collecting Story Ideas

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 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.

Character Development

On the second 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 then set the task of asking questions about each other’s characters to elicit dialogue.

Detailing Environments

Day three was devoted to gathering ideas from the immediate surroundings of the Year 6/7 Centre. Phil invited the students to venture outside to write descriptive phrases about the school environment.

Here are some examples students wrote:
My school is …
the cream pole, as tall as the sky, towering over us like a giant from another land
tree branches hanging over the grass like the claws of a dragon
the wet grass as green as a glistening emerald

I loved having Phil in our class teaching us about being an author and showing new and useful writing skills.
– Flynn

I loved having Phil here, I learnt lots of new writing strategies. I am looking forward to visiting his exhibition at the State Library.
– Sam

Phil Cummings is super funny and nice. I learnt how to write descriptive phrases, use suspense in my writing and write down my ideas so I don’t forget them. He was very inspirational and I loved listening to his funny childhood stories and his strategies for writing stories. It was so much fun and a great experience.
– Nadia

Phil was a great influence, he was very helpful with our narrative writing. I learnt how to use descriptive phrases, use suspense in my writing and write down ideas. Phil was always helping us if we didn’t know what to do, I’m sure I speak for all of the class when I say that we loved his childhood stories, he was very inspiring. It was a great experience.
– Jay

Student Narrative Writing Task

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.

As a follow-up to Phil’s visit, an excursion has been organised for students to visit Phil’s exhibition, PHIL CUMMINGS – STORIES BEHIND THE BOOKS, at the State Library of South Australia. For further information about Phil Cummings and his work visit https://philcummings.com/

Thank you to Christopher Gann, Year 6 Teacher, for sharing this story.