Every member of Wendy Todd’s first grade class from Paul Banks Elementary School became mini movie stars in the latest installment of a mentorship program in conjunction with Homer Middle School.
Her kiddos made not one but two trips to the middle school on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2 to pair up with an older, wiser buddy to learn about paragraph structure. On the second day, the middle schoolers used their iPhones to film their young proteges presenting the contents of the books they created.
Todd has been taking her students to learn from older ones for several years, but it became a more formalized program last school year when she and several Homer Middle School teachers teamed up to make it a regular occurrence. The Paul Banks students make a handful of visits to the older kids throughout the year, with each visit focusing on some aspect of the curriculum both groups of students are learning.
This trip’s focus was on Language Arts. The seventh graders from Bonnie Jason’s Language Arts class used what they recently learned about writing and paragraph structure to help the first graders create fold-out books that sought to answer the question: Would you like to be a penguin? The first graders had to first decide whether, in fact, they would or would not like that job description. (Spoiler, most of them chose the penguin life). They then had to formulate three reasons supporting their decision and expand on each of them in turn.
Jason said that, for her students, being able to teach the first graders simplified versions of concepts they themselves are working on is a good indicator to her of how well they’ve absorbed them.
This two-part project took quite a bit more coordination between Todd and Jason than other, more simple projects, Todd said.
“It’s worth it because the middle schoolers and elementary schoolers, both … benefit so much from this,” Todd said. “In terms of their ability to mentor and think about it at that level, because we actually are both learning the same writing structure.”
Todd’s class was in the process of learning about penguins, so she and Jason decided to tie that into the project. They also opted for having them write an opinion piece since that was the school district’s focus that quarter.
She and Jason got together and brainstormed a way to make the writing interactive, and thus came the incorporation of art with the handmade fold-out books depicting the first graders’ opinions.
Todd said a cool thing for her to get to watch is that this particular group of students, which she also had last year as kindergarteners, has now completed seven or eight trips to the middle school. Each time, they get to experience some aspect of the curriculum with the help and guidance of a middle schooler, which she said all adds up to a lot of exposure to their future education.
“I think for them they get to see what the progression … is going to look like years from now,” Todd said of her students. “Which I think is really important and builds a sense of community, that we’re all learners in this community.”
Once the raw footage of the storytelling was turned in, Todd edited it herself to make cohesive videos of each first grader telling their story.