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United Arts Council

Students Paint Pictures with Words

Kelly Starling Lyons is a writer and a teaching artist, helping children see the value in their own stories and giving them the tools to share their stores with an audience.

Among her many activities, Starling Lyons leads writer residencies at Wake County schools as part of the United Arts Council’s Artists in Schools program."

This week, Starling Lyons is writer-in-residence in the third grade at Brooks Museum Magnet Elementary School in Raleigh.

Throughout the week, third graders at Brooks are drafting, revising and peer reviewing a story about an event or circumstance that challenged them in some way.

According to Brooks PTA President Anna Williams, "As a PTA, cultural arts spending is one of our largest budget item. We have added writer and artist residencies because we see the value in these experiences. This year each grade level will have a week-long residency."

(Eligible schools may apply for a maximum of four grants from United Arts to partially fund two performances; one workshop/residency; and one writer residency. Brooks PTA has taken it upon themselves to fully fund additional residencies.)

In one 60-minute class period mid-week, Starling Lyons reviewed some elements that students should strive to incorporate in their stories as they revise their work—such as dialogue, descriptive language and onomatopoeia. She gave students the opportunity to practice these techniques as a group with sample sentences before using them in their own writing. Students eagerly suggested ways to revise the sample text. 

Starling Lyons also gave students the opportunity to work independently on their stories while she answered their questions individually. Like most writers, the students valued the chance to talk one-on-one about their writing and the struggles they were having getting the words on the paper to match the ideas in their heads. Starling Lyons listened patiently and encouraged them with wisdom and respect.  

At the end of the week students will read their stories to their classmates. They will also share their work with their parents at student conferences, in which students lead a discussion about their classroom progress with their families.

And perhaps—one day, one of those students will write about the time a teacher spent a few precious moments asking for more details, helping him find the words to explain why he felt nervous in his story—giving him the power to shape the story of his life.

—Karla Heinen, communications coordinator


PO Box 26388
Raleigh, NC 27611

Phone: (919) 839-1498
[email protected]