RMS seventh graders write books

Seventh grader book creationJesus Gonzalez likes to play Minecraft, the blocky, virtual world where gamers can build castles, fight dragons, and create anything they can dream of. He never imagined that he would get stuck in his own Minecraft game.

That is exactly how Rifle Middle School student Laykin Godeski imagined a world for Jesus, as she created an adventure storybook just for him.

Laykin and her seventh-grade classmates created books for all of the second-grade students at Wamsley, Highland and Graham Mesa Elementary schools. Under the guidance of Rifle Middle School English Language Arts teachers Nancy Hauer and Amanda Stockton, seventh graders have been learning about narrative writing. They dissected children’s books looking for key elements like plot, setting, and theme. Then, interviewed second graders and become authors and illustrators themselves. Last week, the Rifle Middle School students took their creations back to their second-grade buddies and read their individualized books to them.

Jesus excitedly points to the pages where he gets sucked into his Minecraft game as his favorite part of the book.

“I really like playing Minecraft and It’s kind of real because I’ve really started playing a lot,” he grinned.

Stockton and Hauer have been shepherding this project for ten years. It has grown from writing books for students in one school to all three Rifle elementary schools, and the impact also continues to grow.

“This project goes beyond our English Language Arts standards,” said Stockton. “When you walk into a second-grade classroom with a bunch of our seventh graders, before your eyes, they turn into young adults interacting with their buddy, talking with them - it is amazing to watch.”

Hauer added that because of the longevity of the project, it has become somewhat of a tradition.

“I think it is special that when we ask kids what they remember about seventh grade and they tell us that it is this project. We get students coming to us from a Rifle elementary school who received a book as a second-grader, and they tell us, ‘I still have my book. My Mom kept that.” It’s really special,” she explained.

She added that it is a project that the students look forward to as well.

“We get great commitment from our kids because the books are seen by more than just the teacher. An audience views the books and that makes it so real. From a seventh grader’s point of view, having a second grader look at their work and see that they put a lot into it matters a lot to them. From a second grader’s perspective, it is fun to have the older kids come and spend time focused on them. The elementary teachers are excited, and the second graders feed off of that excitement. It’s just special to us.”

Laykin said the project is challenging and very worthwhile.

“We started a couple of months ago, and we had to interview our partner. I asked questions like ‘What's your favorite food?’ ‘What's your favorite color?’ ‘What's your favorite thing to do?’ and then I took all that information and made it into a book. It’s challenging to find children’s literature, and making sure you have perfect grammar,” she explained. “I’m happy that he likes it.”

“I think it’s fun,” added Jesus of having a book written just for him.

Giggling he added, “I think I’m already in Minecraft. I think she did a really good job with the book because she did a lot of good writing and good pictures.”

The seventh graders must develop the text of their story and work the revision process until it is just right. Hauer and Stockton then place the text in a storybook template and the authors go to work illustrating their books.

Stockton added that the project takes a team effort by all of her seventh grade-teaching partners.

“I love this project,” said Stockton. “It is a huge time commitment for our team, but the students learn so much more than their ELA standards about narrative writing and interviewing. It’s a powerful project because it reaches beyond our walls. We have developed relationships with the elementary schools, and it gives us more community involvement.”
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