BV students show off published work

Friday, February 28, 2014
David Bell / Carroll County News

Berryville seventh-graders Trinity Rains, left, and Kayla Alvarado, right, look on as Adrienne Aguilera, center, shares information about books from the page she contributed to "Encyclopedia of Inventions for Kids" with Larissa Allen's fourth grade gifted and talented students.

BERRYVILLE -- Some local students have become published authors thanks to district-wide involvement in the national College-Ready Writers Project.

"Berryville is the only district in Arkansas to participate," said Project Director Nikki Holland, of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

Last week, four seventh grade students from Candy Phillips' English classes made their way to the Berryville Intermediate School to share some of their writing work with Larissa Allen's fourth-graders.

The seventh-graders shared "Encyclopedia of Inventions for Kids," a non-fiction book with a page written by each student. Trinity Rains, Dustin Jasso, Adrienne Aguilera and Kayla Alvarado each read to the fourth-grade audience about the inventions they had researched for the book, which included Google, the light bulb, books and the flute, respectively.

The writing project allows students to get more involved with the process of research and exploring their own interests instead of strictly researching topics that their teachers assign.

"We are letting the students choose something that is already of interest to them," Holland said.

"Our teacher, Miss Phillips told us to choose our own topics," Aguilera said. "I chose books because I love books."

Similarly, Alvarado said she chose the flute because she plays it.

"They really got into the research," Phillips said of her students.

"Kids are going to perform better if they're researching something of interest to them," Holland added. "We're encouraging them to delve more deeply into the inquiry process, and kids are coming back [to school] the next day and are excited about something they've read."

The research process for these and other lessons associated with the College-Ready Writers Project include teaching students what sources are reliable and which ones aren't.

"You're not supposed to use Wikipedia," Aguilera told the class of fourth-graders.

"One of the big things Miss Phillips focused on was doing the research properly," Berryville Middle School Principal David Gilmore said, adding that teaching them to avoid plagiarism was also a key component.

Gilmore and the seventh-graders said the whole process took the students about a month, including a week of research, writing their papers, coming up with illustrations to go along with the writing and sending everything to the publishing company.

Other Berryville seventh-graders visited different classes at the Intermediate and Elementary schools last week to share more of their book as well. In total, about a dozen seventh-graders -- all volunteers -- went over to the younger grades to share their enthusiasm about writing.

"Candy's project gave kids the opportunity to work on something for a public audience -- to other kids," Holland said. "Even parents have been excited to see their kids' work in print. We're headed toward more projects that gain some audiences outside of the classroom."

The College-Ready Writers Project, which is grant-funded for two years, started in Berryville last summer, when English teachers in grades six through 12 attended training sessions in St. Louis. From there, the teachers worked together for a couple of days to prepare vertical lesson plans, meaning students across all grades are learning about similar topics, making the education process more cohesive.

"It's been a good way to trade off ideas," Phillips said. "We're all changing up our curriculum."

As project director, Holland visits with Berryville teachers once a week to help coordinate lesson plans and once a month -- along with other project staff members -- in the classroom to see how the writing exercises are working with students.

"Rural schools are not always connected to those professional networks," Holland said of the project's importance. "It's good for the teachers to feel supported."

Phillips said that for the next school year, teachers in other core subject areas will also start having professional development training through the College-Ready Writers Project to incorporate more project-based learning into their lesson plans.

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