Nearly 70 students participated in a Young Writers Conference at Rutland Elementary Saturday.
The event, organized by PTO parent Suzanne Bingham, gave invited students in third, fourth, and fifth grade classes at Rutland the opportunity to meet Nashville-based songwriter Rick Altizer as well as attend classes focused on writing concepts ranging from the use of onomatopoeia and hyperbole to the use of language in songwriting and designing a comic strip.
“We have the state writing assessment coming up next week, so the kids were all given a piece of writing to do, and it was judged according to the state rubric. That’s how they were chosen to come today,” explains Rutland Elementary principal Yvonne Kittrell. “These are some of our elite writers in the school, and we just want to have sessions to encourage them to become more interested in writing as a career.”
The brain child of PTO parent Bingham for more than a year, the event was comprised of keynote speaker Altizer and twelve themed writing sessions, from which students got to pick three sessions to attend. Of the educators on hand conducting sessions Saturday, six are current students at Vanderbilt University, three are family members with experience in cartooning, and one, Elizabeth Gibbons, is currently an English teacher at Hillsboro High School in Nashville.
“I just saw a need for doing something with writing,” says Bingham. “[I] started thinking about the breakout sessions that they could have.” Bingham, a former teacher, collaborated with educator Elizabeth Gibbons. “[Liz] and I just talked and brainstormed what different sessions would be and what they would look like. So, from that came all this.”
During a break for brunch, the cafeteria was teeming with students sharing what they had learned during their first two sessions. Fourth grader Millie Gnewikow had just experienced Altizer’s songwriting class. “It was so much fun”, she stated. “[Mr. Altizer] is really, really good. He worked with us, and we would start spitting things out… We all made it rhyme, and he came up with a really good melody.”
“I really liked when we did the comics,” expressed fellow fourth grader, Porter Smithson. “Mr. and Ms. Stone were really funny.”
Fifth grader Barrett Streeter shared about the alliteration session. “I loved writing [with] the alliteration. We had to write a poem, and we got to combine all these different alliterations into one, and it made a really jumpy, fun [poem].”
All students in attendance helped to bring the Young Writers Conference’s mission to fruition: to create a literary environment that leads students to become better writers, while experiencing the joy of writing and the empowering activity of communicating and expressing themselves more fully.