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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Writing Workbooks  >  Middle School
Important Things, Classroom Book Project
By Lauri Packebush

With student examples from the classes of Lauri Packebush and Toni Bassett, Mears Middle School

Inspiration for the Exercise
"What object holds the most meaning for your life? What represents everything you hold precious? What will you keep for as long as you live, carefully boxed and moved from place to place as situations change: a lock of hair, a ring your mother once wore, a photograph? Perhaps it is something that doesn't last: a fresh flower, a handful of water, or comforting chocolate. I asked a number of people to let me photograph them holding their most precious object."

 

These are the words from the beginning of the book, Important Things, by Melissa Springer, published in 1997 by Crane Hill Publishers. On the following pages, you will read about some of the things that are important to the students in my third and fourth hour Language Arts classes. It is not often that children this age share their most intimate thoughts and feelings with others. It is, once again, my pleasure to present their words for you to enjoy.

What would you hold?

The Process
This exercise gives students the opportunity to form a short, but serious and reflective piece of writing. The goal of the exercise is to learn to focus a paragraph so the author's feelings come across implicitly to the reader.

Students should begin by asking themselves the following questions, taken from the introduction to Important Things:

  • What object holds the most meaning for your life?
  • What represents everything you hold precious?
  • What will you keep for as long as you live, carefully boxed and moved from place to place as situations in your life change?

I allow my students to choose whatever object they want to, with the requirement that it be small enough to hold in their hands. The students are to bring their object with them to class, where they will have time to reflect on its meaning to them as they write. It's important that the students have the object with them as they write. It's only with the object near them that the students will be able to write with the depth necessary to make this project meaningful.

I give my students a limit of 200-250 words on this assignment. It is important for students to edit their writing to reflect their feelings about their object.

Creating the Book
We created a class book, much like Springer's, where each student's paragraph and photo of their "important thing" received its own page in the book. This project was totally student lead -- from drafting and editing the text for the book, to photographing the "important things" with a digital camera. The students then chose the format for the book, how it would be bound, and what the cover would look like.

Student Examples From Lauri Packebush's Class

Alec’s Important Thing
Daniel’s Important Thing
Joe’s Important Thing
Katrina’s Important Thing
Samantha’s Important Thing
Student Examples From Toni Bassett's Class

Adam’s Important Thing
Alex B’s Important Thing
Alex M’s Important Thing
Andrea’s Important Thing
Anthony’s Important Thing
Chris’s Important Thing
Colton’s Important Thing
Erin’s Important Thing
Heather’s Important Thing
Jenna’s Important Thing
Jocelyn’s Important Thing
Josh’s Important Thing
Juliann’s Important Thing
Kael’s Important Thing
Kalysta’s Important Thing
Kara’s Important Thing
Katherine’s Important Thing

Lindsay’s Important Thing
Logan B’s Important Thing
Logan S’s Important Thing
Mackenzie’s Important Thing
M. Brooke’s Important Thing
Maria’s Important Thing
Matthew’s Important Thing
Meghan’s Important Thing
Nick’s Important Thing
Ralph’s Important Thing
Sally’s Important Thing
Sam’s Important Thing
Sarah’s Important Thing
Shane’s Important Thing
Tony’s Important Thing
Warren’s Important Thing
Zingre’s Important Thing


 
About the Author: Lauri Packebush is a teacher at Romig Middle School, Anchorage.
 

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