Big ‘but’ jokes inspire writers

Students Blake Fulk, left, and Steve Congdon laugh while listening to author Kenn Nesbitt at an assembly on Monday at Fernan Elementary School.

Everyone laughed at Kenn Nesbitt’s big “but” Monday morning at an assembly at Fernan Elementary School.

The Spokane author came to the school to inspire students to write. He shared some of his works which include “Bigfoot is Missing,” “More Bears!,” and “The Ultimate Top Secret Guide to Taking Over the World.”

As he read some of his stories and poems, he used exaggerated movements and silly voices to really animate what he was saying. He read poems about trying to catch snowflakes on your tongue but accidentally catching bird poop instead, and about how to build the most evil robot.

Part way through one sentence, he came to a conjunction.

“...but, and this is a big ‘but’...,” he said, referring to the size of text in the book.

The students all started giggling.

“No, really, my ‘but’ is huge.”

The giggling turned into laughing.

“Are you laughing at my big ‘but’?”

The room erupted with laughter and shouts.

The presentation moved on from sharing some of his work to helping students produce their own work.

The hardest part of writing, Nesbitt said, was getting a pencil and paper and sitting down. Then you have to decide what to write about. A good place to start, according to Nesbitt, is your favorite thing.

Nesbitt called on students to come up with their favorite sports and favorite foods. The students put them together so they rhymed, thus creating a poem.

After the poem was finished, Nesbitt talked about the revision process. He told the students he always gets rejection letters, but that it’s a good thing.

So, he and the students of Fernan Elementary School set out to make their poem better by adding alliteration and a rhythm.

The final draft:

Soccer with spaghetti,

Ping pong with potatoes,

Basketball with berries,

Tennis with tomatoes.

Hockey with honey,

I’m in a playful mood,

Nothing is better than

Playing with your food.

“I thought our poem was spectacular,” said fifth-grader Makena Towner. “Sometimes autistic kids have opinions for no good reason, and poetry sometimes doesn’t have a reason for where it goes.”

Shelby Randklev, a reading specialist at Fernan, set up the assembly with grant money she got from the EXCEL Foundation, an organization that funds grants to teachers for innovative classroom projects in the Coeur d'Alene School District. The grant is called “Meet the Author, Be an Author.”

Nesbitt not only presented to the students, but also did writing workshops with the fourth- and fifth-graders. He gave them the beginning of a poem and let them finish it, using rhyming, alliteration and rhythm.

“So many kids have never met an author so I hope this will encourage kids to be a writer and a thinker and instead of writing from a prompt, writing from the heart,” Randklev said. “It was funny and got the kids laughing and thinking. It made writing seem less intimidating.”

Children's author Kenn Nesbitt reads "The Ultimate Top Secret Guide to Taking Over the World," to students at Fernan Elementary School on Monday.

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