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‘Wishtree’ inspires wishes of their own

Branches hold the dreams of fourth graders

Northview— One East Oakview fourth-grader wishes for An American Girl doll. Another, for a pet tarantula. A classmate hopes to become a better reader. Another, a better artist. And on a blue card that dangles from a string tied to a real tree branch that hangs in the back of teacher Audrey McKenzie’s classroom, one student wishes simply that everyone’s wishes would come true. 

When McKenzie’s class finished reading “Wishtree” by Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate as a read-aloud, their teacher hoped to make the book come alive by creating their own wishtree. The fiction/non-fiction hybrid book centers on a neighborhood oak tree from which residents hang wishes written on pieces of cloth.

The class also brainstormed a wall of quotes from the book that mean something to their lives: such as “It’s not bad to be different” and “Anybody can change.” The integration of reading comprehension with writing, and soft skills such as empathy and compassion hit several learning goals, McKenzie said.

“I really wasn’t expecting them to be as deep and personal as some of them are,” she said. “But I was so happy with how it all turned out. We had some big discussions about life lessons. This class, they are really in tune with other people’s feelings.”

Mason Davey, who wants to not argue so much with his mom, said a big lesson for him “is to stand tall and reach deep, to have a lot of confidence in yourself.”

Noir Duhon, who wishes for a better relationship between two close family members, said she was impressed by Applegate’s book.

“I can tell she’s really good at writing,” Noir said. “She wrote a lot of things a wise tree or person would know.”

The book ‘Wishtree’ came alive when East Oakview fourth-graders made their own
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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Kent ISD, Forest Hills and Northview. She 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. Read Morgan's full bio

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