Article #54
SSR Sharing
Honoring Young Writers: Two Teachers' Perspectives
Cheryl M. Sigmon
At a recent seminar in Dallas, Texas, I had the honor of having lunch with several teachers. They were, of course, 4-Blocks fans before coming to the seminar and made lunch a lively affair with their stories of classroom successes. They were particularly excited to share their end-of-the-year celebration of young authors. I asked them if they would possibly agree to be guest authors of a column. And, so, here it is--their end of the year story. You'll want to plan towards this for next year! Enjoy what Linda and Vicki have to share in this interesting format that they chose…
Linda Zumwalt teaches second graders in Mansfield, Texas
Vicki Kinder teaches first graders in Memphis, Tennessee
The origin of the idea

At a workshop I attended last summer, the presenter mentioned holding an Author's Tea to celebrate children's writing. I had never heard of doing something like that, but this last Spring, after implementing 4-Blocks for most of the year, I decided an Author's Tea sounded like something I wanted my second graders to experience. I was so amazed and excited about the pieces they were writing and publishing, that celebrating seemed like a great thing to do.

My first grade students were so thrilled about writing that I would often hear them exclaim with glee, "Oh, I LOVE writing!" With such excitement building in the daily routine, I knew we had to really celebrate their progress. I had heard about an authors' tea on the 4-Blocks mailring. It sounded interesting, but I wanted to give it my own slant. Thus, the Authors' Celebration was born! We already had mini-celebrations all throughout the year as the children were writing. As each child published a book, we would sing and congratulate them. They would proudly display their books and then keep them in a special folder. As the year drew to a close, the children had accumulated several published books in their folders. It was time for the "unveiling."

Preparing for the big day

The children began their preparations for the tea by choosing the published piece they wished to share. Most had more than one from which to pick. They then practiced reading it once or twice to the class, and we decided on the order that each one would read. I typed up a program, listing the name of each author and the title of the story he/she would share. The children wrote invitations to parents, grandparents and others, and as a group, we planned our refreshments -- lime sherbet punch and cookies. We planned the tea to take place after our Music/P.E. pullout at 10:45, so refreshments were light so as not to completely spoil lunch!

We scheduled an Authors' Celebration for the last Thursday night of the school year. It was to be a come-and-go affair from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. We sent notes home each week for the prior three weeks, and the children wrote notes to their families to invite them. They invited their moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, siblings, and friends. There was no limit on whom or how many they could invite.

As the day grew closer, anticipation was in the air. The students talked about their writing and each tried to finish up one more book before the celebration. On the evening of the celebration, before students began arriving, I put a tablecloth on a table, set up a punch bowl (with Hawaiian Punch), and put cookies out on trays. I hung a large banner across the classroom with the words "Welcome to our Authors' Celebration" boldly displayed.

A day to celebrate

The children were really excited the day of the tea. Many came to school dressed in their Sunday best. We put tablecloths on the tables and set out the refreshments. Many parents, other family members, and a few teachers were able to attend. The children took turns reading in the share chair and all did an excellent job as parents proudly took pictures. One teacher, who pulled out a few of the children every day to give extra support with reading and writing, even cried because she was so impressed with the children's writing!

As each family group arrived, I welcomed them and then their first grader became the star of the event. Each family group chose a place in the room to gather around their author. They snuggled up on rugs, chairs, at desks, even on the floor, and proudly listened as their child-author began reading. As each author read all or some of the books in their folder, their families sat engrossed and celebrated the success of their child-author. Faces beamed, cameras flashed and video cameras hummed as children and families joined to celebrate. I took photos of each group and listened to their excitement! It was a wonderful evening. Some students arrived with one family member and others had seven or eight in tow! My principal came and joined family groups to honor the students. Almost all of my students and their families participated, and many told me they took their excitement home and extended their family time with games and more reading! This is definitely a tradition, which I will always keep.

Thoughts on a successful idea

The event was published, along with a photo, in our local newspaper. We were all so proud. I decided that day that an Author's Tea would be an annual event in my classroom. I may make some changes in the format, but no matter how it is arranged, it is a just a super way of celebrating children's writing.

The writing block had been the hardest for me to implement, as I don't like to write. But the memory of the authors' celebration will carry my excitement on to the next group of children.

**Thanks, Vicki and Linda, for a great article! We're celebrating you as authors, too!**

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