"Hello reader, I'm Lauren Raymond. I'm a sixth-grader at Jefferson Middle School. Writing is very important if you want to express your emotions because it's easier to do that when you write. You should use your journal and everything in your box and have fun. Just remember, life's not about finding yourself; it's about creating yourself."
Lauren wrote this message in a journal she created for a third grade student's writing box during a recent Jamestown Public Schools after school session. Middle school students in the Jefferson and Washington Advantage after school programs are contributing the journals with personal inscriptions to the elementary after school writing box activity, which is part of the "Kids Have All the Write Stuff" project.
"I wanted to write something to inspire the elementary school students," said Lauren. "I think it's important to help younger students because we have been in their place and can maybe help guide someone. I love reading and writing and would like to become an actor or a teacher. I hope my message helps a younger student love reading and writing too."
Jefferson Middle School sixth-grader Dante Roberts works on creating prompts such as, “What is your favorite food?” to include as a booklet for their elementary school mentee’s writing box during a recent after school program.
"Kids Have All the Write Stuff" is just one activity in the JPS After School Program, a collaboration amongst the YWCA, YMCA and Chautauqua Striders. The project is the brainchild of the Jamestown After School Curriculum Committee, which researched resources and wrote the Common Core supported lesson plans, which are being conducted by after school program group leaders at Bush, Fletcher, Love, Ring and Rogers during the last nine weeks of the program this year. Chautauqua Striders will also facilitate writing projects with students during after school homework help sessions.
The literacy project focuses mostly on third- and fourth-graders and their families. Students complete writing exercises including, "What Do Writers Write?" and "Writing From the Heart," where students learn the different reasons authors write, learn the writing process, then generate topics based on significant memories and life events, and choose what they would like to write about. Other exercises involve students adding story starters and journal-entry ideas to their writing box, creating bookmarks to encourage reading, and drafting their own fairy tales. Students will also acquire bonus writing projects such as beginning their own family story that all family members can collaborate to complete over the summer. The NYS Extended School Day grant and a Chautauqua Region Community Foundation Field of Interest Grant funded the project.
"The project encourages young writers to view and respect themselves as authors, emphasizes the importance, relevance and excitement of employing the writing process across many genres, while also meeting Common Core learning standards," said Julie Poppleton, 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant director. "Research indicates that by providing children with accessible materials, ownership and choice; these factors, combined with the involvement and support of parents and other caring adults, create the conditions that inspire children to write. And one of the goals of after school programming is to link to the regular school day. This project is another way we emphasize that connection."
The writing boxes include: composition books, pencils and pens, erasers, stationary, markers, paper clips, books, pencil cases, index cards, writing folders, red and blue editing pens, highlighters, and lined writing paper, to name just a few supplies.
At a recent Love Terrific Kids Club after school session, students created acrostic poems. Love school day and after school program teacher Beth Strong explained what an acrostic poem is -a word or phrase written vertically, then each letter of the word acts as the beginning letter for each line of the poem. Mrs. Strong used the word "vacation" as the example, having the students first create their own acrostic poems from the word and then picking their own words to create their own special acrostic poem.
"I didn't know what an acrostic poem was before I did this for my writing box," said Love Elementary School fourth-grader Jose Irizarry. "It was really fun to create my own poem. I really like to write because it is a way to express my feelings and also get better at writing."
Students also express their creativity by decorating their writing boxes with their names, illustrations and interests.
"I tell the students that these boxes are their own personal space," said Mrs. Strong. "It is their own personal place that they can keep all sorts of things including their journals or special mementos. One student asked if he could keep his favorite book in his writing box. I've told them to keep their boxes, not just over the summer, but to continue them. It is a great place for them to put their creative ideas that might spark an interest later. It is so exciting to see the kids get really interested in their writing boxes.
At the end of the session, each program will hold a family night so that families can see all the creative work the students did. The project also includes information to inspire parents and families on how they can encourage writing and reading in their children including tips for preventing summer learning loss, and promoting summer adventures that include reading and writing.