“Literacy is everywhere” is the lesson that Silver Birches Grade 6 teacher Shannon Falconi hopes students learn. As part of a recent six-week learning cycle, Falconi’s students have been learning the building blocks of good storytelling by writing personal narratives.
After learning about the features of a short story: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution, students were tasked with writing a true event that happened to them that they could confidently share as a personal read-aloud with their class and other members of the Silver Birches community.
“Powerful stories make for engaging and exciting read-alouds; the students’ goal was to hook and engage the reader using descriptive details to help visualize what was being read based on a true story about a problem they faced and how they persevered,” Falconi said.
From a teacher’s perspective, this also helped Falconi build a rapport with students by understanding what their interests and hobbies were. It gives insight into how to engage students in their own learning, and selecting reading, writing, and speaking activities that interest them.
“I was so proud to see the growth within the six weeks. They really showed their progress in becoming great authors,” Falconi said. Among the titles were The Day I Hit a Stop Sign, Weight-Lifting Challenge Leading to a Toe Injury, My Bike Accident and The Day My Friends Played a Trick on Me.
The Grade 6 students were asked to share their stories at an “Open Mic for the Spartan Writing Wizards” event. This provided students with the opportunity to be proud of their writing and see themselves as growing authors.
“We discussed their strengths and next steps as authors together as a class. This helped students learn from each other, be inspired, and accept constructive feedback with growth at the heart of it all,” Falconi said. “I’m certain that in the months to come, they will continue to grow and develop their literacy skills.”
Falconi was impressed with all the narratives but one that stood out was entitled A Bad Day at the Pool about a student’s experience at a water park with their family. The student stayed in a hot tub too long, against their parents’ wishes, and began feeling unwell. The student then needed to cool down next to an air conditioner for several hours, all the while being comforted by the family cat. After relaxing and cuddling their cat, they felt so much better.
The student went on to say, “I truly believe that Austin my cat healed me and that he really is a magical cat. Sadly, he passed away…but I know that he will always be in my heart and soul, healing me spiritually.” Falconi said she thought that was an insightful perspective and a great way to conclude the narrative.
Falconi wants students to learn that literacy and public speaking are applicable to the real world. Students will use public speaking skills in presenting their ideas in groups or discussions, in job interviews and advocating for their own unique needs and rights within their learning environment and community.
“Having strong verbal communication skills will help the youth connect with others, improving their self-esteem and demonstrating their knowledge and expertise,” Falconi said. “Being literate will help these students achieve great success in their future; especially once they learn how it’s applicable to their lives and helpful in allowing them to be productive and contributing members of society.”
Near North District School Board’s (NNDSB) Multi-Year Strategic Plan (MYSP) is built around the focus on student achievement and well-being. To evaluate progress, staff are working in six-week cycles of planning, acting, observing and reflecting. This process will ensure that student achievement and well-being remain the focus of work at NNDSB.