A wonderful story is being written at Joseph Gibbons Public School.
Since November, the Georgetown school has been engaging students in writing initiatives to support the provincial curriculum. Encouraging the use of descriptive words in the Kindergarten-Grade 5 school is one part of the process students have taken to passionately, says teacher Kristi Williams.
To determine areas staff could focus on to help students be as successful as possible, the school reviewed provincial Education Quality and Accountability Office data, which assesses reading, writing and math. Writing was an area worth exploring, she says.
“We wanted to imbue an enthusiasm in the kids for a rich vocabulary and how to express themselves with their audience,” she says, adding students learn six styles of writing including persuasive and narrative.
To help with that, the school started an initiative in which Kindergarten-Grade 5 students meet monthly during scheduled literacy time. The groups work independently on the same topic but with different tasks based on grade level. For example, students read Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax – it chronicles the plight of the environment – and worked on different assignments. Grade 5 students wrote about the effect the loss of trees would have on the environment. Afterward, groups reassemble and discuss their work with a teacher.
“Getting students to work independently is important,” says Williams. “It’s been productive for teachers to have additional writing material from the students.”
Williams says she has seen an improvement in students’ writing. Their choice of words and fluency has improved, she says, reminding them to ask themselves the question when they’re writing, “How do you get someone to feel what you want them to feel?”
“They are loving the process,” she says, noting students using words like ‘scrumptious’ when describing the taste of cookies. “We’ve found the overall impression of the writing has improved a lot.”
Grade 5 student Phoenix has enjoyed the writing exercises, after all, he has plans to write adventure books for a living.
“I like to work together,” he says, referring to the group work done with the monthly writing initiative. “I like stories. When I grow up, I want to be an author.”
Hannah, in Grade 5, says the writing activities give her more experience to write her thoughts on paper.
“It’s easy to work with other people because you can share ideas,” she says. “I find it easier to express your opinion when you write.”
One of the promising outcomes of these writing groups has been social development, Williams says. Grade 5 students moderate groups and learn leadership in the process, she explains. As well, the writing exercise has brought students even closer together and that can be seen during nutrition break, in which the younger students are playing with the older students in activities like soccer, she explains.
“They get to know the older students and when they see them out in the playground, they have a connection with them,” says Williams.
Calling All Writers is another writing initiative in which students are given a writing topic in the school’s monthly newsletter. Students are asked to write about it, with the possibility of the submission being published in the next newsletter. In October, for example, the topic was fire safety and students were asked to write about a fire safety plan or what they considered safety hazards in their house as it relates to safely escaping a fire.
“Students get lots of praise for participating,” William says, adding an encouraging part of this activity is students can write with their parents or other family members. “We hope this encourages families to try it at home.”