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?
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
Student Examples From Toni Bassett's Class