In the final days before the holiday break, fourth grade teacher Claudia Jackson led her class in a dynamic activity that not only motivated students to write but also helped them recognize the unique qualities of their classmates. After reading Virginia Fleming’s Be Good To Eddie Lee to her students at Wilbur Wright Elementary, Claudia facilitated a classroom discussion about how people treat others and how people’s lights all shine differently. Using that as her springboard, she announced that each student was going to give another student the gift of words by writing a piece describing how a classmate’s light shines. After a discussion of what those special qualities might include (e.g. helpful, quiet, good at reading or kickball, funny, loyal, joyful, etc.), she modeled writing a “Gift of Words” for the principal.
During this process Claudia and her students talked about the traits of word choice and voice. They really wanted to be intentional and sincere in what they were writing. This model also gave Claudia the opportunity to discuss the possibility of drawing a student’s name whom they might not particularly know or like very much. She utilized the picture book to discuss how the characters treated Eddie Lee in the story and what lessons they can learn.
Claudia then had each student secretly draw the name of another. They scattered around the room and began writing. They each wrote a single draft within the writer’s workshop time. To keep the activity moving quickly, Claudia and her teacher’s assistant typed the pieces that evening. When the students came to class the next day they each had their first draft typed up, error free. The kids glued their pieces onto a construction paper Christmas light bulb. And one by one students read them to the class, surprising everyone including the person being written about. Then, all the light bulbs went on the hallway bulletin board. Download samples of what the students created.