Reading a book is only a start to a deeper, active learning experience. Being asked to write, after studying a model text, focuses readers on language use, sequencing ideas, and metaphor, paving the way for analytical reading and writing in secondary school. Classroom teachers brought more Locker books and poetry into their rooms, and students became authors themselves.
The writing tasks varied by age and classroom. Our youngest students made observations in Parker woods during autumn and, with their 4-5 buddies recording their lines, told the natural history story of how trees lose their leaves. The preK 4 were also inspired by leaves, and used one of Locker’s poems also, as their inspiration. They made prints and rubbings that illustrated acrostic poems composed with their 4-5 buddies. In the 2-3, students wrote haiku and free verse, inspired by Sky Tree, as well as Water Dance, another Locker book. Middle school students also examined Locker’s books as “mentor texts,” before writing their own children’s stories, to be shared with their K-3 buddies.
The layers of learning deepened with this writing work because every student had an authentic audience to “publish” their finished work for. Student work was bound into books, and clean copies of poetry were illustrated. Middle schoolers printed their writing, read the books to their buddies, and together, they then drew an illustration for each story. Having an authentic audience, beyond just the teacher, deepens the learning experience because, from the start of the writing, students have to bear in mind who their audience is. Whether a student is three or thirteen, they must choose their words and images with care. Audiences honor finished work and inspire clarity in the writer.