Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Author Melissa Forney visits with Sand Pine Elementary students, teachers

Author Melissa Forney visited Sand Pine Elementary in Wesley Chapel last week and talked to students and teachers.


Author Melissa Forney visited Sand Pine Elementary in Wesley Chapel last week and talked to students and teachers.

WESLEY CHAPEL — When Sand Pine Elementary teachers wanted to find ways to improve their writing instruction, they turned to Melissa Forney.

Based in Volusia County, Forney writes novels that schools can use as starting points for getting students interested in reading and writing. She also offers strategies teachers can use to make writing fun. She talked with the St. Petersburg Times about her advice while visiting Sand Pine last week.

I am interested in why you come to schools like Sand Pine and talk to students about writing.

I love the philosophies of John Dewey, that education should be hands-on. And we've gotten so far away from that with testing. And as a child I was a big reader and I found I just lost myself in books. And I wanted to re-create that experience for kids to have outdoor books that at least mentally took them outdoors. No technology. Everything about climbing trees and swimming in brooks and learning about the outdoor fun stuff. And now I love going to schools that are actually implementing things where kids are on their bellies shooting marbles, or having a slingshot contest, that kind of thing. I just think this makes education memorable for them.

Were you surprised to see how many children are into your books and the things that you are doing?

I am surprised and of course extremely gratified. When I went to graduate school to become an author for children, the philosophy was that you wrote for yourself. But I never adhered to that. I always think about the children who will read my books as I'm writing them. The book might be plotted ahead of time. But as I'm writing I might think, 'If I did this, the kids will love it.' Or, 'If I did this twist, kids would be sad but we would get through it.' So I do have them in mind when I write. So when I see that kids are excited about it, of course I'm thrilled.

How did you decide to come here [to Wesley Chapel]? Do you just tour Florida?

We train teachers in the area on writing, and we do assemblies for kids and we help prepare kids, oddly enough, for writing testing. But the reason I come to some schools like this — I'm just coming on my own time and I'm not getting paid for this — is because I want to support teachers who will teach it like this.

If you had one thing that teachers should take away from your lessons, to make kids better writers and enjoy writing more, what would it be?

Do something memorable. We have kids 180 days a year. How many of those days do you remember? Not many. So what kind of an impact do we have long-range? Do something memorable. I was with a school just a few days ago who had a Teddy Bodain whoop-de-do outdoors. They had men frying venison and quail. They had kids dancing to banjo and guitar music. Like they've done here. That makes education memorable. Kids will remember it, not just because I wrote it, but because we did something cool, we learned about another era that's based on Florida history.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at

Author Melissa Forney visits with Sand Pine Elementary students, teachers 03/29/09 [Last modified: Sunday, March 29, 2009 9:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa man driving ATV killed in Gibsonton crash on U.S. 41

    Public Safety

    GIBSONTON — A 24-year-old man driving an all-terrain vehicle died Monday afternoon in a crash on U.S. 41, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  2. Questions about Russia chase Trump during first Israel visit


    JERUSALEM — President Donald Trump solemnly placed a note in the ancient stones of Jerusalem's Western Wall on Monday, sending a signal of solidarity to an ally he's pushing to work harder toward peace with the Palestinians. But his historic gesture- and his enthusiastic embrace of Israel's leader - were shadowed …

    President Donald Trump shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after making joint statements, Monday in Jerusalem. [AP photo]
  3. Data breach exposes 469 Social Security numbers, thousands of concealed weapons holders


    Social Security numbers for up to 469 people and information about thousands of concealed weapons holders were exposed in a data breach at Florida the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The breach, which the agency believes happened about two weeks ago, occurred in an online payments system, spokesperson …

    Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam on Monday that nearly 500 people may have had their Social Security numbers obtained in a data breach in his office.
[Times file photo]

  4. Trigaux: Can Duke Energy Florida's new chief grow a business when customers use less power?


    Let's hope Harry Sideris has a bit of Harry Houdini in him.

    Duke Energy Florida president Harry Sideris laid out his prioriities for the power company ranging from improved customer service to the use of more large-scale solar farms to provide electricity. And he acknowledged a critical challenge: People are using less electricity these days. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  5. Editorial: Preserve wild Florida before it's too late


    The last dairy farm in Hillsborough County has milked its final cow, the pastures sold to developers who will build 1,000 new homes. The remnants of the last commercial citrus grove in Pinellas County, where the Sunshine State's famed industry began in the 19th century, were sold last year to make room for 136 homes. …

    As dairy farms and citrus groves disappear, much more needs to be done to avoid paving over Florida’s wild spaces.