It was story time in Brown Elementary School second-grade classrooms. Byron Center High School freshmen arrived with books they authored, containing action-packed, kid-friendly plots, characters ranging from animals to space cadets and decorated with colorful, creative pictures.
The younger students tuned in as their older peers read, reacting with giggles and questions.
“I liked it because I actually got to hear other people’s stories and I like hearing stories,” said second-grader Finley Terpstra, after listening to Makayla Korreck’s book, “Sisterly Bonds,” which she wrote with classmate Kylee Meyers.
Ninth-grade English teacher Trevor Muir’s students read and studied children’s books as part of a unit on storytelling. He challenged them to use what they learned to create their own stories using narrative techniques, creativity and graphic design programs like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. They printed and bound their books, donating finished products to Brown and Nickels Intermediate School classrooms.
“It was interesting to learn the process of writing a children’s book and applying it to our own writing,” said freshman Austin VanderMarkt, who wrote “The Pup Who Couldn’t Howl” with classmate Cody Miller.
‘Creating Something for Somebody Else’
Writing books to give away made the project more meaningful, said Muir, who involves his students in project-based learning with the goal of tying projects to real-world situations. Project-based learning involves community connections. Students collaborate on projects that require teamwork and communication using technology as animportant tool.
“The whole point of project-based learning is to find authentic audiences, to motivate (students) to really create well-crafted work,” Muir said. “So bringing them here and having an audience that can give them an authentic reaction makes them want to make it the best it can possibly be. Almost all my students are motivated by creating something for somebody else.”
Kiran Kaur wrote “Randy the Mountain Giant” with classmates Ethan Pip and Eli Mockerman. She said she liked the process of writing for children.
“You need creativity and it’s really fun because you can write anything,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be an essay or too formal.”
Second-graders were impressed with the idea they can write books too. “I think it would be fun writing a story you can make up and put emojis in it,” said Josie Pell.
At Nickels Intermediate, fifth-graders were quick to point out any typos or mistakes. Next year, Muir plans to send rough drafts to them for peer editing.
“This is way more fun for me than just lecturing about narratives,” Muir said.