Walking On Ice: A service learning co-authorship project creating a literacy-promoting partnership between a high school creative writing class and a second grade class
Valentino, Merilee Ann
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Making student learning authentic and relevant to their lives means adding doses of reality to the school curriculum. This is not to say that we should abandon theories and textbooks; rather, it is to suggest that schools need to create a bridge to the adult roles that high schools aim to prepare students for in their mission statements. A need exists to involve students in the community in which we expect them to live and contribute. Experiential education—learning by doing—is a means to create a link. At the same time, this strategy addresses the challenge of individualizing the educational experience. Service-learning, a form of experiential learning, appropriately harnesses the energy of students by creating opportunities to increase depth of understanding, to prepare students for civic responsibility, and to empower and liberate students as individual learners. I came into student teaching with three main objectives; to teach for understanding, to teach students to be critical thinkers, and to engage and empower students through the learning process. For my SIP, I was interested in looking at how service-learning could address those three objectives. My aim was to connect what the students were studying in class with the greater local community. This SIP investigates service-learning in relationship to secondary education through the lens of a coauthorship project. During my student teaching I developed a partnership between my creative writing students and second graders at a neighboring elementary school. The intention was to promote literacy through these big buddy-little buddy pairings. Over the course of five meetings, spanning a period of four weeks, the buddies collaborated skills to write, illustrate, and create their own, original children’s books. Throughout the project, students reflected upon the experience. These reflections serve as findings, from 2 which we can postulate conclusions regarding the efficacy of service-learning. This SIP examines the learning outcomes for both the younger and older students. Within the framework of mentoring relationships, the discussion focuses on the development of adult roles and academic and social skills. Student reflections reveal how students perceived the project and derived diverse learning outcomes. The findings reveal thematic parallels between this study and research conducted by service-learning researchers. The SIP aims to provide analysis of service-learning in a way that helps to strengthen the development of future programs. Ultimately, this SIP intends to bolster support for service-learning as an effective means of challenging students to become engaged in, and empowered by, the learning process. The SIP looks at student learning beyond the bounds of the classroom walls. In order to work with the second graders, my students and I walked on Michigan winter mornings to the elementary school. Literally and figuratively, the service-learning project was about “walking on ice.”
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