It finally arrived.
At the end of the school year, my 5th grade students put together an anthology of their favorite stories, poems and essays that they wrote throughout the year.
They revised. And revised. And revised, and got exasperated when I suggested they revise some more.
Then they competed in brutal rock, paper, scissors battles to determine who would use the limited number of computers in my classroom to type and publish their stories.
Each and every student painstakingly chose their favorite fonts and text size for their masterpiece. Seriously. They tried every possible combination of fonts and sizes ten times. TEN TIMES.
Then, finally, we printed off the manuscript (complete with illustrations!) and sent it off to a vanity publishing company to print copies for the classroom and for any students that wanted to pay the $20 fee.
What I love about it:
- The kids cared so much about their stories that they painstakingly explored every font and font size ten times to make sure it was presented in the perfect way to their readers. They cared!
- And their parents cared. I couldn’t believe how many of our parents shelled out the twenty bucks to buy this sucker. Keep in mind, 95% of my students receive free lunch and breakfast and it is often the only meals they get.
- I have definitive proof that my students didn’t tune out every word I said. They learned! Each story shows at least one great skill that the kids learned this year. It’s not consistent throughout every story, but everything we learned is in here somewhere. For example:
- One girl nailed exposition through dialogue. Her origin story is about why porcupines have spikes (Spoiler alert: A family of porcupines get tangled in cactus and leave the quills in). But the origin is revealed when Father Porcupine asks, “Are they everywhere?” and Mother says, “Yes! We can’t get them out.” and Father replies, “Well, we’ll just leave them in.”
- One boy demonstrated his mastery of figurative language in describing the setting, how his character moves and how his character feels. Metaphors and similes pervade his story like barnacles on a blue whale. Obvious, yes, but they are pertinent and add depth to his story.
- My favorite poem is about a big, green, three-eyed beast who tried to eat the narrator for its feast. It has imagery, rhyme, and the ending is just funny.
(No spoiler alerts here: you’ll have to read the book).
- My kids demonstrated their master understanding of conflict. And talk about tension! My students LOVED making their characters suffer. We had one story of a haunted ship where everyone except our protagonist was brutally murdered, another horror story where the protagonist sacrifices herself to ensure the future safety of all who live in the town. There is a story about a trampled wife and consequent descent into homelessness and a love story a la Romeo and Juliet where the tragic couple end up decapitated.
- Most importantly, I have a little bit of each of my students to keep with me through the years. A little bit of their souls are captured within the pages of this book. And anytime I start to miss them (after I’ve forgotten the traumatic experiences they put me through, of course), I can open it up and see the brilliance of their imaginations and the spark of life that they deigned to share with me this past year.