With a fiddle and his ability to tell stories, John Thomas Fowler piqued the fourth- and fifth-graders' interest.
Mr. Fowler, of Boiling Springs, S.C., visited Clearwater Elementary School on Dec. 11-15 as the artist-in-residence to assist the pupils with their storytelling skills. His stories incorporate traditional Appalachia folklore and music.
"My goal is for them to write a story," Mr. Fowler said.
At the beginning of the week, Mr. Fowler started the class with a teaser story about a farmer and his daughter. The daughter is getting married but the farmer can't afford to buy her a wedding dress. Mr. Fowler never finished the story, but instead left the ending and other details up to the pupils.
"Usually they all have a similar ending and it matches mine," Mr. Fowler said. "But I don't tell them the title until the end of the week."
The story is called The Magic Bottle.
In another session, the story he told was about a man who died and wouldn't stay in his grave.
After storytime, Mr. Fowler turns the children loose to work on their story assignments.
"There's a fire in them to write," said Sandra Hicks, a fifth-grade homeroom teacher. "He's used the banjo and does a lot of acting."
The pupils seemed to respond to Mr. Fowler's inspirational presentations.
"I like the way he tells stories and his facial expressions," said Mary Jo Berry, 10.
Rico Turner, 11, said he never liked to write, but Mr. Fowler brought the stories to life and inspired him to think of stories in a different way.
"This doesn't feel like work, it feels like recess," he said.
Mr. Fowler travels to schools about 10 to 12 times a year.
"I started about 20 years ago as a story teller and I got on an artist-in-residence roster," Mr. Fowler said. "It isn't like any other business. You have to look forward to it everyday."
Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or firstname.lastname@example.org.