Learning to express themselves

Writers Club gives fourth-graders outlet for creativity

January 04, 2007|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN REPORTER

Several of the other fourth-graders squirmed in their seats as they listened to 10-year-old Claudia Walsh's tale of losing a fingernail. They chuckled as they pictured 9-year-old Olivia Agen-Davis' stint as a flower girl who ran out of petals after the first few rows on her way toward the altar at her aunt's wedding in Mississippi.

These were among the original writings that were read during a recent biweekly meeting of the Writers Club, a gathering of fourth-graders at Cedarmere Elementary in Reisterstown.

"I like that I have a chance to write and share my stories," said 9-year-old Kassandra Santos. "I also like hearing other people's ideas."

The Writers Club, in its second year, meets during the fourth-grade lunch period. Students toting lunch bags and trays voluntarily drift into Room 16 to read and listen to stories, poems and acrostics as they eat sandwiches and potato chips.

Teacher Rhoda Zeligman, who oversees the group, said she has watched the children develop a greater sense of confidence through their participation in the Writers Club.

"It's an opportunity for everybody to do something without criticism," said Zeligman, who has taught math and reading-language arts at Cedarmere since 1987.

"There are no rules," she said. "If your spelling or punctuation isn't good, no one knows because you're reading."

During a recent meeting, dozens of hands shot up when Zeligman opened the session by asking, "Who would like to read what they brought with them today?"

Claudia was among the first to share a personal narrative she had written. Her 30 lunchmates listened intently.

"It all began when I was spending the night at a friend's house," Claudia read from a piece of lined paper as she recalled the day her hand was accidentally slammed in a door.

Claudia described how the sight of blood pooling beneath her nail made her feel dizzy and nauseated. She told of how the nail fell off the next day and took a long time to grow back.

Afterward, the school's principal, Teresa Filbert, and several students said they could visualize Claudia's misfortune because of her detailed recollection. It wasn't a pretty picture, they agreed.

Nine-year-old Asean Kelley shared a story he had written about his mother's decision a year ago not to exchange presents for the holidays.

"At first I was mad," Asean said. "But then I started to understand that Christmas isn't about presents."

Kassandra, who wants to write children's books, said she was touched by Asean's story because "it sends a message to kids who have presents and don't appreciate them."

While participants in the Writers Club are not required to read aloud, the group has been an effective way to draw shy students out of their shells, Zeligman said.

"There are increasingly more needs with families so busy and going in so many directions," she said. "There's a hunger for someone to listen to them. They know this is a place where they can share, and someone will listen."

Olivia said she enjoys reading her stories and hearing what her lunchmates think.

"It's good because I'm letting out my emotions," she said.

Kassandra made the group laugh with her fictionalized account about her dog making a mess of the Christmas decorations. She said she was inspired to write the story after imagining her brother, who usually helps her decorate the family tree, as a dog.

She said if such a club doesn't exist for fifth-graders next year, she'll consider asking the school to create one. What she likes most about the Writers Club, she said, is being able to share thoughts and ideas.

"I can write about myself and get to know other people, too," she said.


Tanzania's poem

Poem by 9-year-old Tanzania Seeney

When Santa comes up in your house

And puts gifts under your tree

He comes in with all these gifts

And fat as he can be

Christmas is a great time

To bond with family and friends

Who knows, Mommy might buy you a hen

Gee, Santa gets cookies and milk

Probably every day of the week

Hey, at least he gets them for free

I wish I was him

He probably wishes he was me

Ho! Ho! Ho!

What do you say?

We have another Christmas Day

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