‘Books… were calling to me to learn more’

Second-grade teacher Angela Freeland works with students Jamaine McGee, left, and Elianna Vanderlaan on their report on gray wolves

Second-graders Aryana Payne and Deonte Gehring are “both pretty much interested in owls,” Aryana said. She saw one once, at the zoo. “It was on someone’s arm, and everybody had to be very quiet.”

For classmate Lily Yost, a fascination with manatees began “when I was in Chicago for a wedding, but it was, sadly, an ‘adult party,’ so I went to Shedd Aquarium instead,” she explained.

Second-grader Aryana Payne displays the outline for her nonfiction report on owls

“Manatees are so adorable,” Lily said. “I love how their tail is like a gi-normous shovel, basically.”

Aryana, Deonte and Lily were just three of some 150 Stoney Creek second-graders who recently got to use their fascination with certain animals to show off newly acquired nonfiction writing skills.

Second-graders in five classrooms worked in pairs to select an animal to research, and then created a computer slideshow to share with their classes.

Students had been introduced to the characteristics of nonfiction writing via penguin research they did together. The project built on their study of the parts of speech and proper sentence structure.

“With nonfiction writing, you get to really explore something that is real,” Lily explained. “My brain was thinking, ‘Hey, you know about manatees, but not a lot about them,’ so books on manatees were calling to me to learn more.”

Second-graders Aryana Payne, left, and Deonte Gehring show their owl faces

This is the second year Stoney Creek second-graders have done the project, said teacher Angie Freeland, but the first year their reports were created using the computer slideshow. It was just the second time the students had used the technology.

“I was very impressed with my students’ work, with how well they worked together and the things they taught themselves,” Freeland said. “I think the technology piece of the project kept them motivated, (and) students were excited to be able to go home and share it with their parents.”

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Read about more elementary writing fabulousness at Stoney Creek

Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them.

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