Patton reading to class

A group of published authors is set to visit West Marion Elementary for a book signing event Thursday, March 7 at 5:30, but they won't exactly be visitors to the school. That’s because the authors are the school’s first graders in Mrs. Abby Peake’s and Mrs. Lois Jean Patton’s classes.

Both classes recently received professionally-bound copies of their class project books from Studentreasures Publishing, a company that offers publishing services for class writing projects. When students and their families visit the school Thursday, students will get to show off their work and sign copies of the book.

“They’ve been so proud of themselves,” Patton said. “And the families will get that moment when they see their kid shine.”

Both classes wrote books focusing on the idea of love -- both how the students experience it and how they show it to others. Each student started with the words “Love is” and then completed the sentence with an example before adding additional supporting sentences.

“We talked about how you don’t just have to give a hug to show love or buy a present,” Patton said.

“It was really nice seeing the things they thought of as they started thinking about how they could show love and kindness to other people in unexpected ways,” Peake said. “It was pretty special.”

Some students described how they interacted with siblings or their parents as how they experienced love, while at least one student took inspiration from the teacher’s interests:

“My class knows that I love the Jonas Brothers,” Patton said with a laugh. “And one of my little friends wrote, ‘Love is seeing a Jonas Brothers concert.’ I thought that was funny that they picked up on that from our classroom conversations.”

While the writing assignment centered on the idea of love, it also connected with first grade literacy standards.

According to the teachers, most students come to first grade able to write a guided sentence. By the end of the school year, the goal is for students to write a fully developed paragraph.

“We’re still working on their writing stamina, so our goal was three sentences, although some of them wrote more,” Patton said. “So it really aligned with our writing standards and, I think, our reading standards as well as they experienced being an author and an illustrator.”

Originally, the plan was to have the book completed by Valentine’s Day, but interruptions in the school calendar due to weather days backed up their original deadline.

“We were trying to get things done by that deadline, so we lost momentum with the snow days,” Peake said. “But it’s really not that difficult of a process.”

Students went through multiple drafts focusing on spelling and, for the final draft, good penmanship. Students wrote their paragraphs on sheets of paper sent from Studentreasures. Next, they moved on to creating an illustration that complemented their writing.

The classes looked at professional examples focusing on how illustrators used the entire page and then drew their own.

When all of the written pages and illustrations were complete, the entire batch was mailed off to Studentreasures who then sent a free bound copy to each teacher with a turnaround time of about a week. Parents were able to order copies as well.

From Patton’s class, student Kaden Miles said her pages focused on playing with her sister.

“My favorite part was when I wrote about me and my sister playing basketball together,” Miles said. “It’s because it makes me happy when she plays with me all the time.”

Classmate Dallon Horn said his favorite part of the project was working on the illustration.

“Writing is a little hard for me, but it’s okay. It’s just that I like drawing pictures,” Horn explained.

In the other class, Adalyn Peake said she also enjoyed the artwork portion.

“I really like drawing and coloring,” she said, adding: “I’m excited to finally share our book with other people.”

Classmate Lucas Wilkerson explained that he drew a picture of his room for his page because “I love helping my mom clean.”

Patton said that both the process and the product were important for the class project.

“We’ve gone through the writing process throughout the year, but for them to see how that goes from ‘Here’s a paper that’ll hang up in the hallway’ to ‘This is a real, physical book’, it’s had a different level as far as their pride in their work,” she said. “They took immediate ownership of it.”

Added Peake: “This is definitely an authentic learning experience.”

Before Thursday’s book signing, students will practice reading their pages aloud. On Thursday evening, students will read their pages and then sign copies of the book purchased by families.

“We wanted students to have that experience at the book signing,” Patton said. “And I think it’s good for parents to get more of a closer look at what goes on in school.”

“I think when the kids saw the final book -- actually their writing in the book -- they were pretty excited about that,” Peake said.