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Lisa Christen

© 2001

Action Research

Publishing in the Elementary Schools: Creating A Real Audience for Elementary School Writers

A few years ago, the sister of a friend of mine was preparing to move to another state. At that time, she was a teacher in the Orono district. I went to her school and she generously shared things she wouldn't be using any longer as well as a lot of her great ideas. While I was there, she showed me the school's publishing center. I was in awe, and I made a mental note to myself to try to start a publishing center at my school some day. In the spring of the year 2000, I contacted the Schumann Elementary School and asked if I could come and see their publishing center again. I recruited a wonderful volunteer from our school and we made the forty-minute drive to and see how the publishing center was run. This past year, I piloted the publishing center in my classroom. In May, I approached the Parent Teacher Organization at my school, M.W. Savage Elementary. I presented a plan to start the "Whale Tale Publishing Center." My plan was accepted, on the condition I would help get the publishing center up and running. I agreed. My response immediately created a deepened interest in the area of publishing centers.

I know students love to have their stories published, they love to share their stories with others, and they love to read stories their friends have written. By starting the "Whale Tale Publishing Center," my goal is to have each student in the building publish a book through the publishing center this year. I would like to know what children feel some of the benefits of having their books published are and why publishing is important to them. I would also like to find out if it is possible to get 100% participation in the publishing center from all the students in our school.

Annotated Bibliography:
Simic, Marjorie. "Publishing Children's Writing." ERIC Digest US; Indiana, 1993-00-00.
The importance of having an audience to write for and having a supportive environment to encourage their reading and writing is discussed in this article. It also acknowledges the importance of an author chair or sharing the finished piece.

"How many of these bestsellers have you read?" Instructor Nov./Dec. 1981: 72.
The article discussed the importance of a school publishing center. The publishing center motivates kids to write across the curriculum.

Gold, Lillian. The Elementary School Publishing Center. Bloomington, Indiana, 1989.
This is a great source for gaining information on starting a publishing center.

Szelicki, Lisa. Schumann Elementary, Orono Public Schools, Orono MN.

My plan for 2001-2002
Objective: The goal in the first year of operation is to have each child in the school publish at least one book through Whale Tale Publishing Center. As a published author, each child will experience the reward of seeing their idea go from a thought to a finished book. The students will grow in self-esteem, be acknowledged for their hard work and take pride in their book as the tradition of story telling lives on.

Plan: I plan to have a videotape created that instructs volunteers how to bind the books. I will have this available to the volunteers so they can watch it when it is convenient for them.

In the fall, teachers will be trained on how the books are hand stitched and published in the publishing center.

It is intended that the publishing center will eventually be entirely run by volunteers. It will be important that volunteers be trained to make their experience positive.

Volunteer jobs fall under one of two categories: Schedulers or Binders. Schedulers are in charge of scheduling volunteer binders as well as scheduling binding appointments with the student authors. When a book is received in the Whale Tale Publishing Center, the schedulers will record the title of the book and set up an appointment for the binding of the book. The schedulers will fill out "Appointment Reminder slips" and put them in the teacherÕs mailbox in the lounge to let the student know the time of their appointment.

Binders have appointments with 3 or 4 authors in a shift. Each appointment is scheduled for 30 minutes. During that time, the binder will work with the author making the cover, sewing the pages together and gluing the book. The artwork for the front cover will also be attached with clear contact paper.

I will create a form to document the number of books that are published in the center to see if we reach the 100% goal.

Reflecting on my Action Research plan, I have revisited the importance of sharing after the piece is published. I know this is an area I would like to focus on next year. I would like to have students read their books on videotape next year, which will allow the authors featured on the local cable channel.

I still need to discover a way to recurit the number of volunteers needed. I need to find out what children like about publishing, and if having an audience makes a difference in their writing.


Creative Writing

Lady of the Lake

The sun kissed my shoulders as I bent over a box of old post cards at the Medina flea market. Hope drew me to the box. The hope of finding a picture that would trigger a memory of my past. My fingers moved to the index card that separated the Minnesota postcards from the rest of them. Flipping through the box, I knew that each postcard I touched was a treasure waiting to be discovered. Without expecting anything, yet hoping for everything, I started searching for memories.

About half way through the Minnesota section, I found my treasure. A group of post cards showed cabins nestled in among the birch and pine trees. I saw the small cottages that made up the "Lady of the Lake" resort. It sat on the East Side of Long Lake across from and just south of our cabin. Each cottage was named with a nautical theme: The Skipper, The Yacht, and The Crows Nest. The breeze whispered to me through the trees. The sunbeams released a scent from the pinecones. The waves gently climbed up on the sand.

I was transported back in time, listening to a story I was told many years ago. I heard my parents telling me how Grandpa used to take me fishing with him. I'd sit in the front of the fishing boat and he would call me his "Lady of the Lake." Until now my memory had been stored away like forgotten possessions sitting in the attic. . .untouched and collecting dust.

Now I remember there's a black and white photo in a box under my bed. Although it doesn't show color, I see the blues and the greens of the crystal clear water. I see the sun reflecting off the edge of the aluminum boat. I see the faded orange life jacket tied around my neck and secured around my waist. I smell the gas fumes that linger from the old white Johnson motor. I hear the plunk of the bobber hitting the water. I feel the sunfish squirming in my hand. I feel the spray of the water from the waves as we head for home. I see the twinkle in my grandpa's eyes as he smiles and calls me his "Lady of the Lake."

I found my memories in some black and white photos, and even though both the resort and grandpa have been gone for over 30 years; I am still his "Lady of the Lake."