Kids’ Writing Workshop: The Erasmus Game

On Friday, Sept. 23 in our Kids’ Writing Workshop for children ages 8-12, we played something called “The Erasmus Game,” which I got to learn from PCC professor and YA author E. Katherine Kottaras. This exercise is based on Chapter 33 of the book Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style (Latin: De Utraque Verborum ac Rerum Copia) written by the Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus while he was working as a Latin and Greek professor at the University of Cambridge in 1512. In it, Erasmus demonstrated that there are anywhere around 200 different ways you can write the same sentence. The book was a best-seller and Shakespeare was known to have read it. In the class I took with E. Katherine Kottaras, she showed us how Shakespeare was very likely used this exercise in composing his famous sonnets.

First, I asked the kids to write a simple sentence. Then we took that sentence apart, word by word, and used the thesaurus to find lots of synonyms for each word. This gave the kids great practice using a thesaurus.

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We started out with the sentence “My name is Logan” but it turned out that for the game to work better, we needed a sentence with a more active verb. So one young man offered the sentence: “My dog puked at night.” That did the trick!

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Then we learned about different styles, or tropes. These are particularly what Erasmus was focusing on teaching the readers of his book. We learned about hyperbole, litotes, metaphor, irony and personification. We employed those different styles and came up with variations of the sentence “My dog puked at night.”

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Here are some videos of the kids reading the sentences they wrote individually:

This class got kind of challenging but was still fun–the kids learned a lot of literary terms. These are tools you can use to polish your writing and make every sentence more interesting and poetic.

I want to invite everyone to participate in our Young Reader’s League short story contest! Entries are due Oct. 31st. On October 21st at 4:30 pm, our Kids’ Writing Workshop will focus on brainstorming our entries or polishing our entries for the contest.

Check out the great prizes being offered and download an entry form today!

yrl writing contest

AnnMarie Kolakowski

I'm a youth services librarian working in the Children's Room at the Pasadena Central Library. I purchase juvenile nonfiction books for all sites, juvenile Spanish books for all sites, and juvenile DVDs for the Central Library. I do a lot of programs with school-age kids, including Lucha Libros, writing workshops, and STEAM/science programs. I also do 16 weeks of Infant/Toddler Storytimes each year. I love what I do, working with kids of all ages to inspire them to learn and use their curiosity and imaginations. Outside of my work at the library, I am also the author of a book on creative writing activities for kids.

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