by Vannak Lach
Students collaborate by giving each other feedback on their story ideas
Photo Credit: Sarakk Rith
PEPY’s supplementary program organizes a writing workshop once a year during summer break in Chanleas Dai. This workshop offers a chance to junior high school and high school students who are passionate about writing to learn the foundations of writing and painting to describe a short educational story.
Furthermore, the workshop creates an opportunity for the students to get close to each other, exchange ideas and thoughts, and make new friends. Sixty students from different classes and schools participated in the writing workshop which took place in Chanleas Dai Junior High School's Creative Learning Space this year.
When I visited the class, each student was deeply paying attention to their work. Seeing me stand in front of her, a friendly 16-year-old Yang Sovanmealea turned her face up and said "Suor Sdey Bong" (that means "Hello, Older Brother"). Mealea has just passed grade 10 and she will start grade 11 as soon as the summer break ends.
With a happy and smiley face, Mealea told me that rather than just staying at home and doing housework, the workshop gave her a chance to build relationships with new students from different grades and allowed her to study more skills in life.
"I am so glad to learn how to do painting. I have learned how to write a short story and paint pictures to describe about the story too." She proudly added, "I have written two stories this summer; one I wrote alone, and another I wrote with a group." I couldn’t wait for reading the stories. I walked from one table to another. I saw the pleasure on every student’s face as they applied the colors to their drawing.
This is the second time to join this kind of workshop for 16-year-old Nhoeun Sakkra, who is so passionate about writing. “This workshop helps me to sharpen my skill in writing, which I like the most,” said Sakkra. He added that this year’s workshop also provided him a new skill he never learned before: painting.
Sakkra is just in grade 8. In the future, he wants to be a writer, as writing is his hobby now. Sakkra loves listening to songs and creatively writing his own lyrics with the same music. He shared with me, "I have written 16 lyrics so far since I joined the workshop last year."
The workshop helped Sakkra explore his passion about writing. He wrote a story called “Meow Meow Gets Lost”, which teaches readers to listen to their parents’ advice. When asked how he came up with this idea, he honestly said he used to not listen to his mother’s advice. Sakkra explained, “I love playing football and I always go to play football everyday. One day, my mother told me that my leg might get hurt if I go to play football again. I did not listen to her, and my leg finally got swollen.” Realizing his mistake, he came up with an idea to write this story to teach children to listen to their parents’ advice. Sakkra did not only learn lessons from the instructor but also learned from other students. He has exchanged many ideas with his new friends during the workshop. All the students formed a group and talked about ideas to write a story together. They discussed what kind of painting they could do to describe the story: what colors to be used, and what should be included in the painting (tree, bird, or animal?). Also, the students were from different grades, so the younger students could learn from the older students’ experiences in learning.
I talked to the whole class during the break. Some students said they enjoyed the painting, writing, and discussion. Others enjoyed sitting under the tree absorbing fresh air and the view of rice fields and trees to put in their story.
Ream Nuon, with his smiley face, was the facilitator and teacher. He said that the workshop was very successful when comparing to the previous one last year. It was more than his expectation. He said he did not sleep much while facilitating the workshop; it’s not because he was sick or sad, but because he felt so excited to see the students being passionate and creative in the workshop. He was too happy to sleep and always wished the night to be shorter so that he could come back to see the students again.
During the workshop, the students worked in groups and wrote 12 short educational stories along with pictures. Ream Nuon wants to find a way to publish these stories to motivate the students who are working so hard during the workshop. PEPY will post one of these 12 stories on our journal every month, so that you can read these creative stories yourself. Take a look at the first story in this series about Paung Paung, the snail who wished he could fly!