Monday, September 24, 2012

Creative Writing with Seniors (2)

I continue to cut words and fragments of sentences out for the seniors to use with their creative writing. However, I added something new today.  I placed photos / pictures I had cut from various magazines on a tray for the participants to use. My intention was twofold. They could pick an image and use that image to prompt them to write something that was a response to it. The other option was that they could select an image, glue it to their paper but not write about it at all. It would serve as an added visual, decorative element. I must note a third option, which was that they did not have to select an image if they did not want to. One of the participants looked at all of the images I offered and said, "I don't like any of these." That was totally acceptable.

One of the means I used today to assist a couple of the participants to simply start constructing poems or prose pieces was to ask them to simply take five of the words/ sentence fragments from the trays and place them on their paper. Once they made their initial choices, they moved forward gluing them down in ways that they elected.

Let me state that a few of the images were chosen by me specifically because I thought that they might appeal to certain participants based on their personal histories. Also, some of the words and sentence fragments were included in the pile because of the same. Three of the participants are Tlingit. Acknowledging their native histories guided me to an extent in some of the material selection. I see that as an important part of my Montessori philosophy. Cultural and creative materials, as well as those in Practical Life, should, to some degree, represent where the seniors reside. They should resonate the history of place.

In some ways, the image limited the creative expression of the participants as their writing was harnessed to what the image was of rather than just flowing freely from them. Too, they wanted words that had to do specifically with the images and their interpretation of those images. I will have to think about how to pick images and words that do not result in my creative voice being too present in their work. I will be spending next Saturday working on this. I will let all of you know what I come up with.

Yet, two of the participants, both Tlingit, were immediately attracted to the images they chose. One of the seniors, a man, sorted through every tray of words / sentence fragments independently and then pieced them together into a prose piece that he titled after I read it aloud, "My Tee Pee." I watched him out of the corner of my eye, now and again, while I assisted others with trays and such.

When I first read his finished piece, I confess, it touched me deeply. My own step-father is a Seneca Indian. He was born on the territory and his voice returned to me as I listened to the prose piece of this male senior at The Bridge. (see the prose piece below identified as written by E1)

The second participant that was immediately attracted to her picture, a man with a bird on his arm, could not find the right cut-out words for the story that she wanted to tell. She had glued a handful in place, but she was getting a little flustered.

I asked if I could get her a pencil so she could write her own words and she said that would be useful. After she wrote a few sentences, she said she was tired and asked if I could write down what she wanted to say. I did. It was a prose piece about something in her childhood. The picture she chose reminded her of "a time long ago." (see the prose piece below identified as written by F1) It is the first memoir-like piece that any of the seniors have written during the creative writing workshops. It uses repetition and it has a feeling of both immediacy and intimacy.

After this fourth creative writing workshop was finished and I was packing up the supplies, one of my assistants approached me. He had helped out during the activity.  He said, "It is really great how you can hear each of their voices in their writing. They all chose words from the same trays, but their choices are so related to who they are as individuals." He was right, absolutely right.

These are the pieces written today:


We love -  gifts out of time - life is a miracle
Choosing hope - the whole truth
The best medicine is LOVE



Winter Stars
The Spirit of
It is hard to put into words the moment of truth


C1 (no picture chosen)

my friend
you must




A pretty face
Why is the moon big 
Make some magic
The sky is the limit.



A passage of seasons. A walk in the woods
We never forget the child's deep delight
Planet Earth. America America
Family is everything. Beauty in Motion
The place where you live. The spirit of the wolf. Back on the Prairie



Memory In The Place Where You Live


Makes me think of when I use to feed

ravens on my porch 
they sat on my arm
when I fed them.
In Angoon, on my porch.
They just came and
fed from my hand.
People would be amazed
when they saw me feed the
ravens sitting on my arm
on my porch
in Angoon. 



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