Last term, students in Story Factory workshops wrote about an accidental time traveller called Rudolph Fentz. Several primary students wrote poems about an object that has been special in their mind yet small enough to match in the matchbox. Some teenagers who’d dropped out of school scripted a courtroom drama inspired by way of a real-life incident: the theft of a lemon tree from the communal garden at a public housing estate in Villawood.
The learning students developed their pieces over a term, once weekly when our trained story tellers  writing;visited their school or they visited our creative writing centre in Redfern. They argued about plot and about how exactly characters spoke. They edited, got exasperated, quit and kept going. Like all writers do just.
At the ultimate end of it, we presented their work in their mind back, typed and bound beautifully. Some read their pieces out to the combined group, to loud applause and whoops. Others clutched their work with their chest and looked away.
Year 4 students from Willmot Public School focusing on story ideas at The complete story Factory.Credit:Louise Kennerley
We only use teenagers who don’t have as much opportunities as others. Most are from diverse backgrounds culturally, about one fifth are Indigenous, and a large proportion have observed socio-economic disadvantage. They live out the familiar statistics: many have literacy levels years behind where they must be.
So you can find good stuff happening when these teenagers are furiously writing obviously. They’re improving their literacy. They’re exploring their creativity. If they’re arguing about set up gardener is really a thief, because the teenagers writing the lemon tree script were, they’re developing confidence with a language that seemed mostly to exclude them previously.