Washington Middle School Sixth-Graders Become Published Authors

Washington Middle School sixth grader, Kaylin Russell, works on designing her book in iBook Author during ELA class.

“I’m so excited to publish my book on iBooks so my family members can see it,” said Washington Middle School sixth grader, Gabriella Zampogna. “My grandmother lives in Virginia so I don’t get to see her all the time, but she will be able to read my book on the computer!”

Gabriella created her own book in ELA class, co-taught by Shane Knapp and Rachel Stowe, an integrated classroom with special education and general education students.

Students are involved in a deep study of mythology, its purposes and elements. They read Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief, a novel about a sixth-grade boy on a hero’s journey. Students read with a focus on the archetypal journey and the many mythical allusions and also read a complex informational text that explains the archetypal storyline of the hero’s journey, which has been repeated in literature throughout the centuries. Students explain, with text-based evidence, how Percy is an archetypal hero. Students also read several complex Greek myths. They work in small groups to build expertise on one of those myths and shift their focus to narrative writing skills.

Student’s final performance task asks them to apply their knowledge about the hero’s journey and the elements of mythology to create their own hero’s journey stories. Mr. Knapp and Ms. Stowe decided to add the technology element this year. Students did pre-writing exercises that included brainstorming characters, settings and narrative structure. They typed their story on the computer and, with the help of JPS Instructional Technology Coach Jason Kathman, added their writing to iBook Author, a free app. iBooks Author allows students to create iBooks with galleries, video, interactive diagrams, 3D objects and mathematical expressions bringing content to life in ways the printed page never could. iBooks Author publishes in the iBooks Store for reading.

“We were looking to engage students in a creative, fun way tying in with the lessons in the classroom,” said the teachers. “Using technology like iBooks allows each student a little more flexibility in their project, not only for the story itself, but how the finished book will look. Students still have to be cognizant of character, setting, structure and the narrative story elements that are important to learn in ELA. We also expect them to apply the hero journey to their own story. Creating their own story and ultimately their own book, helped develop a higher level of application as they had to ‘do’ what they learned in a different way. Using the technology is also very motivational. Students knew that others on the iBook Store would be reading their books so they took their writing much more seriously.”

“It was so much fun to do this book because you could use your imagination and do what you wanted with your story,” said Washington sixth grader Alyson Canfield. “And when you created your book you could use pictures or video and put it right into the book. I think it’s going to be so much fun to publish my book and see how many people read it in the iBooks Store.”