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Jack Gantos

Jack Gantos, author of the Rotten Ralph series of books, visited Saint David's last week as part of the Parents Association sponsored Author Series. Gantos shared his experiences and advice as a writer in sessions with the first and second graders and with the fifth and sixth graders. The younger boys greeted Gantos with a version of the theme song from The Addams Family, with lyrics changed to reflect the plots and characters of the Rotten Ralph books. Since the younger boys read the Rotten Ralph series and, in the spring write and publish their own story inspired by it, they were very excited to meet the author. 

With the younger boys, Gantos talked about the importance of keeping a journal and what makes a good picture book, divulging his past "mistakes" that led to a better understanding of how to create an exciting, memorable character and fun story. 

With the fifth and sixth graders, he discussed how they can use pictures and text from their life experiences to generate story ideas, and invited them to do so in their notebooks. Earlier in the day, Gantos met with Saint David's writing teachers to talk about the teaching of writing. 

The session was the third visit by an author to Saint David's this academic year. Previous speakers were Jacob Ward, Editor-in-Chief of Popular Science and Josh Chalmers, the author of Change the World Before Bedtime.
Video shows clips from sessions with both the lower and upper school boys.
 

Mr. Gantos was an inspiring and entertaining speaker. Everyone loved the outrageous stories he told as he shared how he takes the ideas from his journal and uses them to create books about real life experiences people can relate to. He offered first graders tips for writing their own versions of the Rotten Ralph books, and he urged fifth and sixth graders to write, write, write! 
One teacher commented after the session: "My boys said they learned that a good writer has to READ, draw pictures to think of ideas and to explain your ideas; you have to start your book with characters and setting, then the problem and solution; write about 1, 2, and sometimes 3 characters (no extra pigeons!), and that you have to write about what you know (he had a terrible cat, so he wrote about a terrible cat!)."

Another commented that, "The boys could not stop talking about it!" and another, "I love that he emphasized the daily commitment to writing and the need for multiple drafts. It’s important for the boys to understand that the process of revision is ongoing and that they need to look at their work through different lenses to get it just right."

Mr. Gantos' presentation provided an incredible learning experience for the teachers and the boys. 

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