Connecticut Writing Project teacher and her class win national book-writing award from Scholastic Book Fairs
Kathy Brody, a Cooperative Educational Services teacher who trained and teaches through the Connecticut Writing Project at Fairfield University, has realized a dream: Her class of fourth graders will soon be published authors.
Brody's class at Six to Six Interdistrict Magnet School located in Bridgeport, Conn., won the top non-fiction prize in the 17th annual Scholastic Book Fairs' National Kids Are Authors Competition. "Animalogies: A Collection of Animal Analogies," the book the students wrote and illustrated last fall with Brody's guidance, will be published by Scholastic and sold at Scholastic Book Fairs nationwide beginning this fall. Scholastic awarded the fiction prize to "Picture Perfect?" a book created by second graders in Westwood, Calif.
"At the school book fair, they sold a few of the winners from previous years and I saw them and told the class, 'We could do this. We could write a book,'" said Brody, who has taught preschool through sixth grade classes in her 26-year career. "It was such an exciting project to begin with. Never did we dream we would win."
But "Animalogies," a playful look at how "furry is to dog as slimy is to jellyfish" and more, bested thousands of entries judged in March and April by a panel of well-respected authors, illustrators and teachers, said Kim Oeding, general manager of Scholastic Book Fairs' tri-state region. The panel included: author/illustrator David Catrow ("Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon"); and authors David Shannon ("No, David!"); Jack Gantos ("What Would Joey Do?"); Megan McDonald ("Judy Moody"); and Kate DiCamillo (Newberry Honor Book "Because of Winn Dixie").
The honor comes at a time when scientific research shows writing is getting less attention in today's schools. In a report released in April, the National Commission on Writing in America's Schools and Colleges found that most fourth-graders spend less than three hours a week writing. That's about 15 percent of the time most spend watching television.
The commission and others have called for schools to place more emphasis on writing skills in all areas of the curriculum.
"Writing never gets the attention it should," said Leslie Alexander, principal at Six to Six. "We're working very hard on writing projects here to change that."
Brody credits the Connecticut Writing Project (CWP) with making her a better writer and, in turn, a better writing teacher. She completed one of CWP's summer institute for teachers in 2002, working to hone her own skills, and will be teaching a workshop on teaching writing in second through fifth grades this summer. In addition, CWP Director Faye Gage is conducting ongoing professional development sessions at Six to Six.
"In order to be a good teacher of writing, you need to be a writer yourself," Brody said. "I've attended writers' workshops before, for many years. But what I did last summer really fine-tuned what I had picked up in bits and pieces elsewhere."
CWP is part of the National Writing Project, a professional-development effort singled out in a recent New York Times article as an encouraging sign of the state of writing programs in schools. Nearly 30 years old, the project is available in 175 sites nationwide, where teachers can choose from several specific, five-week workshops. The CWP at Fairfield University also offers a young writers' workshop for students interested in building their skills and publishing their work over the summer.
CWP Director Faye Gage said the program is successful because it allows teachers to concentrate on their own writing, something they rarely have a chance to do during the school year. During CWP institutes, teachers learn about new research and can discuss what works and doesn't work in their own classrooms.
"Kathy is one of the best writing teachers I have ever worked with," Gage said of Brody. "She believes in her students' ability to express their own ideas, using their own voices, in a form that is appropriate to their purpose."
For more information on CWP, call 203-254-4000, ext. 3124.
Posted on May 23, 2003
Vol. 35, No. 309