Westbrook learns the ‘write’ way
Oct 06, 2017 11:11AM
● By Jet Burnham
Second-grader Quinn Sellers creates a headline for her story “Children Banned It’s One Mystery!” (Jet Burnham/City Journals)
Westbrook Elementary has a schoolwide focus this year to improve their writing skills.
“We felt as a school it was something we could all focus on and would integrate into other areas,” said Principal Crista Holt. “The curriculum for elementary teachers is so vast and so anything that we can do to try to integrate our subjects together, the better we are.”
Teachers have added activities to all subjects to give students experience in all types of writing—journaling, informative, descriptive, technical, narrative and creative writing.
In addition to the traditional language arts writing, Jessica Sellers, a fifth-grade teacher, has integrated writing assignments into science and social studies—even math.
“We write a ton outside of our literacy block,” she said.
Her fifth-graders even keep a math journal.
“A huge part of math is being able to explain what and why you’re doing it, not just doing it,” said Sellers. “It’s putting their processes into words. So they’re not just computing in math, they’re writing about math.”
Cristy Altheman, whose daughter Danika is in sixth grade, said last year’s math journal made it easier to help her daughter with homework.
“Any new concept they learned, they wrote in that math book,” she said. “We kept it because it has helped her in sixth grade as well.”
Holt said the focus on writing skills will bleed into other areas, particularly reading, since reading and writing go hand in hand.
Westbrook hosted Literacy Night on Sept. 8, to provide families with activities, games and crafts they could use at home to support their child’s reading and writing progress.
At one of the stations, students chose from a table full of words to create an attention-getting headline. They were given a notebook to write down their story and illustrate it. Students like second-grader Quinn Sellers were excited to take the notebook home to fill with her story ideas.
Another activity was a reading version of the game Jenga. Students carefully pulled a block from the tower and followed the instructions written on it, like- play air guitar, stand on one foot for 30 seconds, pretend to drive a car, march in place or do 10 push-ups.
Families were treated to pizza as well as free books. The R. Harold Burton Foundation donated 146 books of varying levels so each child in attendance, from preschool to high school, could take a book home.
Families were also able to take home the journals and storytelling games, which were provided by KUED. Westbrook has partnered with KUED for the annual Literacy Night for the last two years.
“We were able to grow it bigger through the partnership rather than the school trying to handle it all on their own,” said Sellers. This year nearly 200 people attended. There was plenty of support from PTA members, teachers and volunteers from the Latinos in Action clubs of Kearns and Taylorsville High Schools.
The kick-off Literacy night is just one of the ways the school focuses on literacy. Throughout the year, Literacy Coach Dawn Wasden oversees programs that encourage parents and children to read together.
R.E.A.D. (Read, Eat, Ask, Discuss) is a before-school book club that students sign up to participate in. Wasden chooses a book for students to read—independently for the upper grades and with a family member for the younger students. She hosts a special waffle breakfast, inviting the students to come before school and discuss the book.
Twice a year, students and parents are invited to read stories together at Books & Buddies, another literacy program Wasden promotes.
Holt hopes programs like these help increase parent involvement at Westbrook.
“I want to open the building any time I can to get parents in here and let them know this is their school,” she said. “My teachers are phenomenal. They do a great job of building that community with the kids and the parents.”