Volunteer Spotlight: Deanne Wortman

Volunteer Spotlight

At what site(s) do you volunteer, and what activities do you do with these kids? I am volunteering with Gianna Canning at Mark Twain school in Iowa City.

 What initially drew you to the Iowa Youth Writing Project? Rachel Yoder contacted me. I have am an avid reader and have become interested in writing.  I had taken two writing workshops with Rachel in the past and subsequently one of my stories was published in Little Village.

Do you have a favorite story or anecdote about your volunteer experience? On the Wednesday before Halloween one of the kindergartners looked at me and told me I was old.  “How can you tell?” I asked. “Just the way you are and your hair is white.” “Would you like me to tell you how my hair got white?” …And so I told the kindergarteners about my summer camp experience with The Headless Horseman when I was about their age and how it has been white ever since!

I have heard that you use props and costumes (e.g. puppets, hats) for some of your lessons. What inspired you to do that? Is there a particular puppet/hat/boa that the kids like the most? Monica Leo and I created Eulenspiegel Puppet Theatre many years ago and I worked in the Iowa City Public Library’s children’s room for many years presenting several story programs each week. I became a storyteller and puppeteer sometimes partnering with a musician friend. We also participated the the Iowa State Arts Council’s “Artists In The Schools” program. For many years we performed and worked with children in schools all over Iowa.  During this time I collected, puppets, costumes and props which we used in our Picture Story Theatre performances. I am not performing much anymore but my house is full of interesting storytelling stuff. It is a pleasure to see the delight in the  Kindergartner’s faces when I bring  Mr. Cat or The Bad Flower or Mr. Frog or the Two Bad Crows to Twain on Wednesdays. I think the puppets are happy to get out of the house, too. Besides being a lot of fun, it is a way for kids to begin to learn how to tell a story and all that involves

How do you assemble a lesson plan? Is there a set process or is it more rooted in intuition? I have a general idea of which skill we want to practice but the choice of puppet, story, prop and activity is more spontaneous. I have a lot of resources right at home so finding the right prop seems to come naturally.

Kindergartners are really of pre-writers so I had to think of ways to involve them in the narrative in process other ways.  I try to make a program that involves building the intellectual tools needed in writing: active listening, understanding narrative structure, remembering a sequence of events, characterization, details…. color, sound, smells, actions, etc.  through physical and visual activities. I have used draw and tell stories, tell and cut stories, finger games, Kamishibai (a kind of portable mini story theater involving picture cards), songs, drawing etc.

What motivates you, when you volunteer? What keeps you coming back? 
I enjoy talking to young children. They are curious, enthusiastic, excited, loving and funny.  Everything is new to them. Working with them it is all new for me again and again and again! There is a pleasure in watching them grow in ability and understanding. Working with young children keeps us old folks from getting grumpy!

I also volunteer as a storyteller at Oaknoll Retirement Center where my audience is mostly older than I am (and they all have white hair!) It is a similar experience for both listener and teller no matter the age.

Thanks again, Deanne! Your work is greatly appreciated!

To sign-up online to volunteer with the IYWP, please visit iywp.volunteerhub.com.

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