Workshops for Children

According to one of those journal workbooks I kept when I was a 10 year old girl, when I grew up I planned to be an artist or a writer but never a nurse. A teacher wasn't part of the picture either. And yet teaching writing and art to children, something which I fell into almost accidentally, has been an immense and gorgeous part of my life. I didn't realize I would be so constantly amazed and astonished by the the casual profundity of children's writing, the directness and transparency of their images, the generosity of their insights.

When I read the students' poems to adult friends and students we are speechless. No one expects this wisdom form kids. When I first started teaching, I brought in lots of poems from adults to use as model. But now more and more, it's the examples from other kids and the imaginations and questions already in the room that provide our points of departure.

Yesterday a girl came up to me as I was leaving class and said, "You know that poem you read that you said, 'You didn't know who wrote it' -- I'm gonna write my name on it!."

To schedule a writing workshop, teacher inservice, lecture, or reading with Ruth Gendler contact

Sample course descriptions:

California Poets in the Schools Residencies
Poetry is language that travels and comes home. It whispers and shouts, dreams and sings. Practicing writing poetry enables us to become better readers enjoying the delight of words and images; writers, giving expression to what we think and feel; and scientists, observing the world of nature with wonder.

Poems come from what we see and hear, what we wish for and dream about, what we feel and think. Poems can rhyme or not rhyme. One student said, "they are short and they don't have to make sense." Poetry is connected to the rhythms of breath and foostep and heartbeat, brain wave and light wave and tides. Poetry multiplies the meanings by making connections and creating surprising linkages:

  • "Being a fourth grader is like taming 53 tigers while juggling anvils."
  • "Being a fourth grader is like being in a hurricane of equations and stories."
  • "Curiosity taught the kitten to walk, the river to run, the flowers to bloom."
  • "My heart is like a poem beating a rhythm."

  • The attention to language and image that poetry requires is good training for further writing... and for life. We alternate between focusing on essential writing strategies like questions, metaphor, repetition, personification and subjects like time, water, animals, dreams, the hand, the eye, the heart, sports, gifts and gratitude. These workshops strengthen the outer eye of observation and amplify the inner eye of imagination.

    Bones and Bridges: A Summer Creative Writing Workshop for Upper Elementary Students
    Writing makes a bridge between what we know and what we want to find out. We will write stories, descriptions and poems from the bones of our experience. As we experiment with dialogue and dreams, sound and repetition, our writing becomes more specific, lively, and surprising.

    Qualities of Creativity: A Presentation for High School Students
    In this colorful slide presentation artist, poet and author Ruth Gendler reads from her books; shows slides of her drawings, prints, and paintings, shares her knowledge of the creative process and journey. Gendler speaks about the coherence of the creative self, the cross -fertilization between art forms, and the courage to keep working in the face of doubts and difficulties. Presented in an inspiring and accessible style, this workshop is meant to be a catalyst for students' creativity and a starting point for further writing sessions. The workshop lasts one to one and a half hours, and is limited to 70 students.

    Feedback From Teachers

    "Ms. Gendler is as gifted an instructor as I have ever had the pleasure to meet. She has a marvelous rapport with my students. She establishes a trust that enables the students to 'get out of the box' and express themselves in new ways. They aren't afraid to go places they haven't gone before. Their enthusiasm for poetry becomes incredible. The freedom of poetry opens windows of opportunity for those who have never bloomed before. I am so appreciative of her ability to reach my class." - Christy Wilson, Fifth Grade teacher, Lafayette California

    "Ruth Gendler's merits as a writer are well known, but her gifts as an educator are extraordinary too. To walk into a room of junior high boys and girls and within minutes have them talking unreservedly about their feelings in terms of colors, shapes, and sounds as well as words, is a skill most teachers would love to have. Boys feel very comfortable in expressing personal feelings in great depth. The writing and illustrations resulting from their too short exposure to her are some of the most profound work all year. Maybe next year we can get her for a week. The kids would love it." - Doris Lund, English teacher, Pliocene Ridge, California