On Tuesday night I made the hour-long drive from Corvallis to Newport to cover an important event: Newport Intermediate School’s Family Literacy Night. In the past couple of months I’ve written about Project SEAL and the Family Literacy Nights schools are supposed to host as part of the project. I was thoroughly impressed with what I saw at Newport Intermediate School.


The principal (who also goes through Project SEAL training) brought in Roland Smith. Roland was an enthusiastic speaker, talking to both adults and kids and sharing his life experiences that led him to be an author. One of the best parts of his presentation was when he said he’d take 4 minutes to teach us how to write a book. His first step was to write about something that interests you. He travels a lot but when he gets home he still has research to do, so he asked, “where do you go to do more research?” The library of course! His next big step was to create a storyboard, attempting to map out as much of the book as possible. Then you have to write a rough draft. The final step he shared with us is relevant to all of us who write, including us graduate students. This was Roland’s secret of writing (shhh!): writing is revision. No matter how many times you make edits, the editors find something and your final product looks different from your first product. It’s not something to be scared of, it’s the process of writing.


After Roland’s talk, the parents and students were released to purchase books – many of them did – and to go to sessions taking place throughout the school, including poetry reading, student writer share-outs, and guest readers. I was casually observing each room and standing in the hall watching the flow of traffic when all of a sudden I noticed something… groups of students were walking around with iPad minis. Before I knew it, one 4th grader and her mom were standing in front of me and the girl asked, “Can I ask you a few questions?” When I responded “yes” she said, “you will be recorded, if that’s ok”. What a researcher! I gave consent and the student looked at the sheet in front of her (which had four questions that she came up with herself – I asked later on) and asked, “what do you know about the Japanese tsunami?” She asked me three other questions on the topic, specifically about marine debris and the dock that came on shore in Newport.


At the end of my interview, I saw one of the teachers whose student interviewed me and praised her on getting her students so involved and for using the iPads! I later found out that this is only a portion of the student project for Project SEAL.

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