Being in fourth grade for most students includes celebrating a double-digit birthday for the first time, increased responsibility, and fractions in math class. For fourth-grade students at Hoosick Falls Elementary School this year, it also included becoming a published author.
On Thursday, March 8, the fourth-grade authors released their published collection of personal narratives, titled Memory Moments. Teachers held a book signing event where students could celebrate with friends and family members, read their personal narratives, and sign books for their fans.
The fourth graders embarked on this journey with the help of local author and grant-writer Dan Barrett. Barrett proposed the idea to school administration and the fourth-grade ELA teachers, Lindsey Nash and Katie Brownell, in the beginning of the school year.
“I originally tried to interest my grandchildren in writing something with me,” said Barrett, the author of six fiction novels. “When they weren’t interested, I went to the School District in Hoosick Falls and offered to do a book with the students there.”
“When Mr. Barrett came to us with his idea, of course we were thrilled, “said Brownell. “Part of our curriculum already involves the students writing personal narratives, so it was a natural fit.”
Said Barrett, “We talked about having the students work on parts of a fictional story, but that didn’t connect with them. Thinking about telling a personal story made more sense, so we went with developing a collection of their personal narratives.”
The fourth-grade students worked hard to pick their best personal stories.“Mrs. Brownell told us to think about something that happened to us that was important,” said Kennedy Boisvert. “I had lots of ideas.”
“It was hard to pick what to write about,” said Garrett Emerson. “Then there was a lot of writing and typing to get it done.”
Added Emma Waugh, “It was hard to get started, then you just do it.”
The teachers agreed it was a new experience for all involved: “It was real learning experience for the class and for us as teachers,” said Brownell.
“It’s not as easy as it looks at first,” agreed Nash.
Many of the students were excited, but also a little nervous at the prospect of being a part of a published book. “For me,” said Luke Nicholas, “it was scary at first. I didn’t want to mess it up knowing so many people could read it.”
“I had to translate my story so the readers could understand it,” added Jacob Jones.
“You don’t want to add too much, but just enough details.”
Summer Lemons agreed, “Yes, it was a little overwhelming at first trying to think about what to write and how to tell the story.”
“I really wanted to write the perfect story,” said Neal Turner.
Said Ethan McCaden, “I wanted to write about spending time with my family because it’s important to me.”
With Barrett’s guidance, the students and their teachers completed multiple steps to get their manuscript to the publisher.
“One of the best parts of this experience was that our students got to see that sometimes you have to work through different parts of a project to get to the final result,” said Brownell.
Said Nash, “It was educational for us as well as our students. We had to think like editors instead of teachers at one point, knowing that the words being printed on the paper would remain there forever. It was a fun and enlightening experience for us as well.”
“I look at it as a mathematical formula,” said Barrett. “When I write, I break it down into sections. Publishing my books, I’ve learned a lot about the steps you need to take to get to the final finished book. I wanted to pass on that knowledge.”
The students reacted positively to the multi-step process. “You can’t just spend five minutes and say it’s done,” added Boisvert.
“There were many steps,” said Carson Granger. “I’ve had to write personal narratives before in school, so at first it was easy for me. Then we were challenged to add more details and dialogue.”
“It really changed the way I write,” said Delilah Carey. “I had to really work to make my story seem realistic.”
The narratives run from stories about the loss of a friend, family member, or pet to sports accomplishments, enjoyable days with family and friends, and other personal triumphs. The students also were amazed at how everyone started with the same instructions but finished with very different narratives.
“The first thing I tell people about writing is that you need to write about something that you know,” said Barrett. “The kids did a great job telling their own stories.”
The students also spoke about the challenges of finding the right words to emotionally involve the reader.
“I want readers to work through the stuff I wrote,” said Ashley Ossias, “and experience it like I did.”
“I hope people can feel and experience my feelings,” agreed Waugh.
“Yes,” added Shelby Carlone. “I hope people can know and understand what my story [about her best friend moving away] feels like when they read it.”
When asked, students overwhelming named the best part of the whole experience as becoming a published author. “I’m so excited that many people will get to see what I wrote,” said Ava Salvesvold.
“I know,” agreed Jones. “Getting it done felt great!”
“I was so glad to be finished,” added Lemons.
Their teachers agreed that their students deserved to celebrate their accomplishment: “The children worked really hard through the whole process,” said Brownell, “and were very tired when it was all said and done.”
“It was a great lesson in seeing something through to the end,” stated Nash. “It was tiring, but the end result is invigorating in a way. I’m proud of them and I hope they’re all proud of themselves.”
It seems the students are indeed proud and satisfied with their work. The first words spoken by Boisvert, Carlone, and Waugh when asked about the book was an exclamation of, “We wrote a book!”
Said fellow student Chris St. Onge, “I think writing a book makes kids feel like they’re a big person and not just a small person in the world.”
“It’s really kind of awesome to know that so many people will read it,” stated Zoe James.
“We’re going to be famous!” shouted Greeley Ward.
Look out, J.K Rowling. There’s a group of fourth graders at HFCS who are ready to challenge the book world.