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Hello again everyone! I decided to start off the week with a bonus Students Speak Up post featuring one of my favorite school projects of all time that my fourth grade teacher created.

Every student is passionate in a different area, and one of the best parts about elementary school is the way that there is some time to help kids discover those different passions that could turn into lifelong jobs or hobbies. My personal passion is definitely writing, and so I would love to take today’s post to share how that came to be.

My fourth grade teacher, Mr. Gustafson, developed a project called the “Gusbery Award,” a play-on-words of the Newbery Award (an award given to the most distinguished American novel of that year for children). This project went on for several months until the end of the year, and throughout this time we as students were given a short amount of time each day to work on writing a story about anything that we wanted. We could write as many stories as we wanted throughout the month, but the only required one was that we produce a short “personal narrative” since that was part of the curriculum requirements.

When we finished our stories they were printed out and stapled into our very own book with a cover, title, and our name on the front, and then placed into our own personal little cubby on the “Authors Shelf” next to our classmates’ cubbies. I still remember how utterly magical it felt to me to churn out those books and see my shelf get fuller and fuller, and to see my classmates “check out” my books when they were finished and read them eagerly—the thrilled feeling sticks with me to this day.

At the end of the year, we were each allowed to submit one of our stories for entry into the Gusbery Award competition. We then each read the stories up for nomination and voted for them, and the winner received the Gusbery Award with honorable mentions going out to the next several books in line.

Many kids I know absolutely hate writing and would never do it on their own time, but in this case our whole class was so involved in it and read each other’s stories and sequels and trilogies as if they were real books. From then on I have fallen in love with writing and I submit stories to magazines on my own time, but that is where it all started.

There are many ways to do this type of project digitally as well if the in-person aspect isn’t possible, and it could be equally as effective. Perhaps your students aren’t necessarily interested in creative writing, but there are some who love math instead; this same teacher of mine also created a Number Jumblers club that students gained entry into when they completed certain math assignments in varying levels of difficulty, and at the onset of this club suddenly everyone was interested in math. Whatever the topic is, there are certainly students who may have an underlying passion for it, and for this reason it can be invaluable to create an engaging activity that draws the whole class in.

I hope that you enjoyed hearing from my perspective today, and I can’t wait to see you tomorrow for another Coffee Break Chat!

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