MAY 5, 1997
Jeanne Nevistic and her son Daniel look at work done by Mary Vasatka's (at right) 1st Grade class during East Ridge Writing Celebration.
Photo by Deborah Stone/Northwest News.
First grader Megan Markarian reads from Where is the Leprechaun? to Bryan ("with a Y!") Thiemann, Jordan Mautin, Samantha Clark, Samantha Brittain, and parent-volunteer Kathy Halleran, at Cottage Lake Elementary's Write-On celebration last Wednesday.
Photo by Andrew Walgamott/Northwest News.
by Deborah Stone & Andrew Walgamott
Last week, students at East Ridge and Cottage Lake Elementary schools wrote and then read their own stories to their classmates during a two-day writing celebration. Parents were able to visit the schools Tuesday night and see their youngsters' work on display.
According to Principal Sylvia Lesser, the intent of the Celebration was to provide an experience to enjoy others' writing. "It is so important for children to feel the pride that comes from having an appreciative audience for their writing. Writing needs an audience," Lesser said.
Each class had a designated area to display its work and show the progress students have made in their writing skills. It was also an opportunity for parents to see the use of the Six-Trait Writing Model, adopted by East Ridge two years ago. Based on six major characteristics of writing--Ideas, Organization, Voice, Word Choice, Sentence Fluency, and Conventions--teachers introduce one or two traits beginning in kindergarten and then build upon them at different grade levels, allowing students to become comfortable with their usage. At the intermediate level, a rubric is utilized to evaluate the writing for the specific traits.
Teachers received training in this model through the State Learning Improvement Block Grant and they continue to collaborate on refining it for their classes. They decide which traits to focus on for each grade level and how to hold students accountable for them in their writing. Parents have also received training and are involved in assisting teachers. For kindergartners, the use of voice and idea were apparent in the pictures the children had drawn.
"We teach voice by first talking about it in regards to illustrations. We encourage children to use lots of details and add sparkle to their pictures to transfer their feelings," said Kindergarten teacher Sandi Strain.
Third graders had a wonderful collection of different types of poetry, and at the second grade level, writing focused on the theme of Africa and ancestors. The whole school took on a project of making books to send to Namibia, a country in Africa where second grade teacher Ann Mitchell had taught while in the Peace Corps.
Colleen Bodemuller, parent of a second grader, said, "This is such a positive experience for everyone and it's wonderful to give children the opportunity to shine. Kids' efforts are given the moment."
"Voice in writing is a way of showing your personality," said Janie Putt, principal at Cottage Lake Elementary. In her gym were stories and poems written by the more than 500 students at the school. Fourth graders in Mrs. Wells's class worked on ideas, voice, and narrative skills to creatively journalize a trip west on the Oregon Trail. Sixth graders in Mr. Butz's class made poems and using a Hypercard program, transferred their poetry to a computer.
"Writing is a wonderful thing for sixth graders. They're all over the page with their feelings," said Putt, responding to one young lady's many poems that had been loaded onto the computer.
Terrie Wagner, a fifth grade teacher, said that she was able to learn more about a student from their writing than from other curriculum. "You get so much more out of it. When they're writing, you find so much out about them. Writing is just fantastic. And most of them enjoy it," said Wagner.
Second graders in Mrs. Everist's class wrote letters to President Clinton. "Have you ever been president in a different country?" asked Kyle Hang.
Kindergartners retold "Jack and the Beanstalk" as part of the program.