These kids are real characters

Moton Elementary fifth-graders assume fictional personas to build a fanciful tale.

By Paulette Lash Ritchie, Times Correspondent
Published March 6, 2008

BROOKSVILLE - Twice a week, eight Moton Elementary School fifth-graders carry their lunches to the media center and talk about a story they are making up.

The imaginative students, guided by school data operator Judy Cyg, are known as the Story Club.

Hannah Hackney, 11, Giannette Long, 10, Nick Pais, 10, Matthew Peyton, 11, Amber Johnson, 10, David Jones, 10, Marquan Norman, 11, and Manuel Panzica, 11, have fantasy alter egos who appear in their story. Using a quiz she found online, Cyg partnered the writers with the characters based on their answers.

The working title is The Incredible and Unrevealed Triumph of the Band of the Mystical Wonders Oracle (or How We Saved the Temples). The students are building the story, but Cyg is writing the saga by hand in a hardcover journal.

When the children were paired with their characters, they discussed them and voted on which one should be the hero. Hannah, the oracle, won the honors and will receive the handwritten copy. The others will receive typed copies.

"The story," David said, "is about an oracle, a samurai and two priests, and a red magi, and a lean, mean fighting machine, and a bard. They go and fight lizards to save 100 temples."

There are two rules they must follow as they create. "All of us are equal, and we're all good guys," Cyg said.

Cyg has had a story club for five of her seven years at Moton. It's not a writing club, she said.

"It's not about students writing. It's about sharing ideas and learning to sit and problem-solve as a team," she said.

In order to join the club, each fifth-grader had to sign a contract, along with their teachers. The students agreed to form a creative team, share ideas and treat each other with respect. They agreed to complete a story and will decide whether to publish it and, if they do, they will divide proceeds evenly. They will attend sessions, complete their work and keep their grades up. And, they will have fun.

The book the club wrote last year is circulating among publishers, and Cyg has high hopes for this one, which she said is so good they might do a sequel. The students will have gone on to middle school, though, so it'll have to be done by e-mail. Cyg has had a book she wrote accepted for publication.

All eight students had similar reasons for joining the club, such as wanting to learn how books are written, a joy of writing and having fun. Marquan wanted to join for the excitement of possibly creating an honest-to-goodness book.

"It's because I thought it would be fun to make a real book," he said, "because I never actually made a real book."