The Dancing Pencils Literacy Development Project

Purpose:  This project was established by Felicity Keats with the vision of building literacy in sub-Saharan Africa.  There is an enormous need for literacy and a lack of material in indigenous languages to read about. The literacy project  is comprised of writing clubs

The Dancing Pencils Writing Clubs: Clubs are being established around the country. They  are comprised of about 20 people and are  facilitated  by a mentor. Mentors run between one and three writing clubs  in their area.  They are trained by Felicity  in teaching  methods that facilitate creative writing.  Stories are written, shared and  the best ones selected for publishing. These writing clubs allow the children to develop  their craft, to share their life experiences, and  express their feelings in a nurturing environment.

Right Brained Writing 

The  brain’s activity: Our brains have two halves and these two parts function in  different ways. The left brain side is  rational, perfectionistic and logical. The right side is imaginative, intuitive, creative and lateral.   Creative writing entails accessing the right side of the brain.

 

How: To  encourage the right brain, attention is given to freeing the imagination.  The inner critic, with its need to “get things right”, is cast aside. Permission is given to making mistakes. No  judging and criticising of content, handwriting, spelling and punctuation are allowed. This freeze the individual  from the blockages of “ought to’s”   and   surprising  material is expressed. Children are encouraged to  illustrate their stories.

Benefits: Children learn how to use their whole brains, and realise the importance of not judging themselves.  Many children are the more right brained types that have difficulty doing  regular left brained, rote learning  school activity.  This method  affirms and nurtures the potential of the natural artist – it enhances the development of song writers, play writers, poets, artists and authors.  It  builds self-esteem  and confidence.

Umsinsi Press

History:  Umsinsi Press was founded  by Felicity Keats in 1995.  At the time she was teaching  private creative writing courses and established Umsinsi  in order  to give her students a platform from which to be “heard”.

Function:  Umsinsi Press is the vehicle for printing the works of  students  and  the selected products of the dancing  pencils’ literacy project.  Stories are sent  to  Umsinsi, typed and on CD and in handwritten form, where they are type set, including illustrations. A  short  resume about the author and their photo appears on the back cover.  Books are “launched” regularly. Officials, teachers, friends  and parents all come to  recognise and affirm the authors.

Finance: Mentor training is charged for but there are no club fees. Print runs of books are sponsored by  Education Departments, Corporate sponsors and Umsinsi Press itself.  The entire operation of the company is dependent  on this sponsorship.

Royalties: Once a year,  depending on the number of books sold, authors  receive “royalties” (Monies paid to them).  This is tremendously exciting  and motivating to get the youngsters  writing!   E.g. With a print run of 3000 copies of her book,  an 8 year old,  received  in the region of R5000 at year-end.

About Felicity Keats-Morrison:

Felicity  has a B. Com, and UED.  She has always had a love of the  creative process and has for the past 40 years  been intermittently producing journal articles, books, writing stories and painting pictures. She was the  editor of South Africa’s Bee Journal  for many years and is the author of  10 children’s books and 9 writing guides.

In 1992  she began facilitating creative writing to small groups  of interested people. This extended to classes of young scholars in, mostly, model C schools. These schools sponsored their own books. Finally, Felicity extended herself out into less privileged schools,  facilitating as many as 200 students at  a time.  Finding it impossible to reach all the children, no matter how rural, she realised she needed to teach others to do what she does and hence she now  teaches  teachers and librarians.

Right brain writing is being establishing in a number of districts in provinces around South Africa as the immense benefits of a rapid flow of thoughts increase the learners’ interest in both writing, reading, listening and communicating, and in critical thinking. In fact literacy levels have risen from 50% to 82.7%  in the Shine Centre in Cape town, using this method.

Felicity trains not only high level education specialists in right brain writing, but has developed a course for master trainers who have all the skills that she has. This will lead to a rapid increase in literacy in our country.

 

 

 

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