Lockwood class wins national book contest

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Lockwood Elementary 003
Mrs. Pirtle and her 4th grade class Staff Photo/Deborah Stone
The students in Lourdes Pirtle’s fourth grade class at Lockwood Elementary are in a celebratory mood — and no, it’s not because the school year is ending soon.

They recently learned that their book, “Personal Narratives,” was selected as a winner in Studentreasures Publishing’s National Book Challenge.

More than one million students from across the country participated in the contest and only 25 projects were chosen for recognition.This is Pirtle’s first time entering the challenge.

Pirtle explains that her class studied mentor personal narratives and she used them to help teach and model personal narrative writing, which is a component of Northshore’s new reading and writing curriculum.

The unit took students through the entire writing process, which included prewriting, drafting, revising, editing and publishing.

She says, “During the prewriting step, each student made a list of three or four events in their lives they wanted to consider putting to the pen. Then they chose the one that stood out for them.”

“Personal Narratives” is a compilation of the students’ individual stories, each of which was also creatively and colorfully illustrated.

Several kids wrote about their pets – dogs, cats, hamsters and even a one-eyed horse!

Others wrote about memorable vacations with their families to destinations such as Italy, Turkey, Hawaii and Montana.

And some focused on a specific activity like surfing, cosmic bowling or competing at a 4H show.

Lockwood Elementary“My two new students, identical twin boys who arrived in America from China a few months ago, wrote their personal narratives in Chinese,” adds Pirtle. “Though I still need to get them translated, the illustrations they did indicate the subject matter. One of them is obviously about being on the playground at school and the other shows an airplane traveling in the sky, which is probably about his journey over here.”

Pirtle, who has been teaching for the past 14 years at Lockwood, comments that she was very surprised to learn that her class had won. She knew the work was done well, but she never expected it to stand out in a field of so many other submissions.

She notes that last year, just one class in Washington state was a finalist in the competition.

“I am so proud of the effort my students put forth to create a class book that is ‘exceptional’ in the eyes of the publisher,” comments Pirtle.

As for the students, she adds, “They were equally as proud and so very happy. It’s really inspiring for them to see their work in print.”

Student Maddie Oz wrote about her family’s trip to Turkey, where she visited relatives.

She says, “Winning was a big surprise because we didn’t even know we were in a competition. It’s a dream come true to be 25 out of a million!”

The 10-year old enjoys writing, but she openly admits that she likes drawing better. “That’s my favorite,” she adds.

Maddie notes, with a wise-beyond-years perspective, that the project connects her classmates together.

“We’re closer than we think,” she explains. “We might have different experiences, but we understand each other. We can relate to each other.”

Another student, Nicholas Chittum, did a story on his finger surgery because he thought the experience would make for interesting reading.

“I like to write,” he comments. “I like finding the right words to use to tell my story. And I like sharing it with others this way.”

The young boy admits that his favorite story in the book is not his own.

He mentions two others that deserve distinction, in his opinion.

“I really like David’s story about camping on Camano Island,” he says. “It has good detail and good dialogue. And it stays on topic the entire time. I also really like Vince’s story on hunting in Kenya. He gives you the steps if you go hunting and explains it well. He also drew a fun picture and there’s even dialogue in the drawing.”

As a reward for their winning entry, Studentreasures Publishing sent each of the students a personal copy of the bound, hardback book. It also presented the class with a $100 scholarship prize.

“We’re going to use the money for our end-of-the-year party,” remarks Pirtle. “It’s going to be a good one!”

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