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Ray and Phyllis Simon school hosts writing celebration

By Caroline Zilk

This article was published June 5, 2011 at 4:20 a.m.

— Literacy teacher Janie Brown becomes absolutely giddy about her sixth-grade students’ writing at Ray and Phyllis Simon Intermediate School in Conway.

The 11- and 12-year-olds spend the year writing personal narratives; expository descriptive and persuasive pieces; and poetry. Her theme of the year was

“Mission: Excellence.” On May 27, dressed in T-shirts depicting rocket

ships and faraway planets, her students took over the

school’s cafeteria to share their work in a big way.

“We started just using folders for our portfolios,”

Brown said. “But we’ve ventured out to the tri-fold

boards so that everyone can see their work.” The event was hosted by Simon’s literacy teachers and attended by parents and guardians, who were

thrilled to see their students’ work.

Rhianna McKnight’s mother, Wendy McKnight,

has seen her daughter writing poetry at home for


“She usually doesn’t show me what she writes,

though,” Wendy said. “I was very surprised and proud

of the work that she put forth in her writing.” Wendy also completed a home work as part of Simon’s PAWS (Parents as Writing Students) program.

Parents were asked to complete a form and create a poem about their student.

“It was a nice assignment,” Wendy said. “I liked finding all of the words to describe my child.”

More importantly, Wendy said Rhianna feels ready to move on to the seventh grade.

“I believe the assignments she had this year gave her a chance to write and think more. They did more than just ask a question expecting a short answer,” Wendy said.

Brown and the team of literacy teachers at Simon refer to their students as “authors,” because that’s their ultimate hope for them.

“That is what they are planning for,” Brown said. “We are hoping that as they continue their journey of education, maybe we will produce a coupe of authors - real authors.”

This year, Brown’s students published books of poetry and personal narratives. She said the assignment was an especially good learning experience forthe sixth-graders.

“It really caused them to pay more attention to their writing and want to do their best,” Brown said.

At the May 27 event, 50 students showed up before lunch to participate. Five students won special awards: most focused, best handwriting, most creative display, most improved and most creative. They also shared their work in front of a crowd and received evaluations from a parent, teacher or fellow student.

“When the students evaluate each other and ask each other different questions about their writing, it helps them because they compare their writing to their classmates and get new ideas,” Brown said.

Brown said some of her sixth grade students worry about moving up to seventh grade. To them, it means starting middle school in a new building with new classmates and teachers.

“They ask, ‘Are we really ready for this?’” Brown said. “I tell them, ‘Sure, you are! Do you need to see it?’”

At the literacy portfolio celebration, they did.

“It was awesome,” Brown said.

River Valley Ozark, Pages 129 on 06/05/2011

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