Exploding the Moment

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Exploding the Moment: Innovative Literacy Programs at Wells Road School By Kim Becker

While Granby Public Schools has made writing a key area of improvement District-wide, Wells Road Intermediate School has taken the directive to a new level. The fifth and sixth grade writing teachers, Cindy Garrey and Caroline Martin, in conjunction with Literacy Specialist Jen Kirk, created a slate of no- to low-cost programs to explore writing and literature.

In February, the teachers hosted a Write Nite for 19 parents and students. To set the mood, the group wrote a quick piece about playing outside. After sharing their writing, many people were struck by how similar parents’ and kids’ favorite memories were. Next, everyone chose from over 50 topics and wrote for 15 minutes to soft music. Then, random small groups of 5th and 6th graders were selected. Everyone had an opportunity to read their piece in this supportive atmosphere. Positive feedback has inspired the teachers to host another Write Nite before the end of the year.

In March, a generous grant from the Granby Education Foundation made possible a visit from Barry Lane, educator and advocate. He offered an evening teacher training on opinion writing and then spent the next day with fifth grade students teaching them about drawing readers into one’s writing. He showed students several techniques through videos, song, and more traditional methods. The students learned to “explode the moment” and “dive into the Specific Ocean” in order to better understand the “power of story” in opinion writing. While some kids read their introductions, others played the “doubting chorus”, asking why and how questions. A rousing rendition of ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry capped off an energetic and participatory class.

Later this month, a Parent-Child Book Club featuring Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo is being offered. Ten people have registered so far. Jen Kirk is developing the discussion questions to jump-start conversation.

The school hopes to offer both the Write Nite and Book Club events again. These no-cost programs provide an opportunity for parents and students to come together to experience something outside of their normal routine and strengthen their interest in literacy.