News and Events
March 2023

Stories With Sacred Heart School

Cai speaks with students in front of a slide that says "Hello, writer, and welcome to 826DC!"

826DC recently joined second-grade students from Sacred Heart School, a bilingual school right here in Columbia Heights, for a field trip!

Our teacher partners can have these field trips either at the 826DC writing center or in their own classrooms. “Having the flexibility to both invite students into our space and make in-school visits means we get to connect with students and teachers in all parts of the city,” says Cai Rodrigues-Sherley, 826DC’s School Residency Coordinator. “It’s a treat every time we get to meet a new class of writers and collaborate with educators excited to bring the magic of storytelling into their classrooms!”

Before we got to the writing part, we got on the same page—as it were—about what we were going to do together.

The plan:

  1. Write the beginning and middle of a brand-new story, together as a class.
  2. Write a one-of-a-kind ending to that story on our own.

Getting Started

Cai kicked things off by speaking with the class about the core ingredients of a story: setting, characters, conflict, plot, dialogue, and details.

Once we all had a good understanding of each of those, it was time to make some editorial choices together. Where would our story happen, and who would be in it?

The authors convene.

Here’s what they came up with:

Where is our story going to take place?

  • Sunny and rainy haunted forest 
  • We can find dead plants, wolves, bears, foxes, and venus fly traps!

Who is our first character?

  • Name: “Alexander the Dragon Man”
  • He looks like a normal person… but he also has a tail
  • When he’s happy: person
  • When he’s angry: dragon
  • When he’s a dragon, he has orange wings and a blue body
  • He breathes (extra hot) blue fire
  • Scared of little mice! When he sees them, he screams like a grandpa

Who is our second character?

  • A nine-year-old human boy named Max
  • Max has big red hair
  • Strengths: eating pie (won a pie-eating contest), good driver (has a car racing trophy), super-strength, and he can blast fire out of his hands
  • Afraid of: the monsters that he thinks are in his closet, sharks, clowns, and spiders

Putting it together

Now that we had our starting ingredients, we could bring in conflict, plot, dialogue, and details with a first draft. In other words, we could write.

Cai explained how we would break the writing part down into the five parts of the Story Mountain, shown below. The students would draft the beginning, build-up, and big problem together, then come up with a resolution and ending on their own.

Story mountain
This is the Story Mountain!

We had a presentation slide for each of those parts. That’s where our volunteer typist recorded the story as the class came up with what should come next, building off of each others’ ideas and the lists they’d made about each character.

“What makes this process special is that by the end, hopefully every student sees a piece of their own creativity in the final story. We aren’t just exploring concepts like plot, character arc, and detail, but also teamwork and listening to others,” says Cai. 

Bit by bit, sentence by sentence, the young authors created the start of a completely original story!

The slides, showing how we broke the writing up into the beginning, the buildup, and the big problem
We wrote it all down here.

What They Wrote

Once upon a time, a nine-year-old boy named Max went to the haunted forest because he wanted to find something special. In the haunted forest, he met Alexander the Dragon Man. 

“Hi, Max,” Alexander the Dragon Man said.


Alexander could read minds and he knew everyone’s name. They also knew each other from school.

Alexander the Dragon Man was talking about how he heard that at the end of the haunted forest there was a magical place with a diamond that knew all of the answers to all of the world’s questions. He also heard that clowns were guarding the diamond and there were spikes on the ground.

“I’ll need to go through the forest,” Max said.

Alexander the Dragon Man said “I’ll fly us over the spikes, but I have to get mad to fly and make my blue flame.”

Max said, “Well, I have some of the best cookies in the whole entire world, and I won’t give you any.”

That made Alexander the Dragon Man very mad. He turned into a dragon. His wings popped up from his back and steam came out of his ears.

How great is that?!

This is just one of the many fabulous pieces that come out of 826DC’s field trips every single year.

If you’d like to support this joyful program, we’d love that! Visit this page if you’d like to volunteer with field trips like these. You can also make a donation of any size here.