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West Patent Fourth Graders Celebrate Their Work with a Publishing Party

student holds up her book and cocoa mug Hot cocoa, pajamas and books. Does it get any better than that? 

For West Patent Elementary School fourth graders it got a lot better with the addition of a virtual Publishing Party. Students gathered around Chromebooks from home in their most comfortable clothes recently and shared the realistic fiction books they had created.

“We have always published a realistic fiction piece but we have never had a Publishing Party,” said fourth grade teacher Alison Muller. “We realize that, in this COVID environment, there aren’t as many communal events and moments to look forward to. We have made it our goal to plan an event to look forward to each month.”

Muller and Kathleen Keenan, also a West Patent fourth grade teacher, followed the Teacher’s College writing unit with students, before conferencing with them individually and having them print their stories and paste them into blank white books. Students then illustrated their stories and created About the Author and dedication pages. Some even created a book jacket complete with a summary of their story.

In order to add another layer of fun to the experience of sharing their stories with one another, the teachers decided to make it a pajama party and provided mugs with hot chocolate mix, marshmallows, and a candy cane for stirring. The mugs said, “I’m an Author. How About You?”

“We decided to hold the party on a fully remote half day so all students were at home and could attend with their families,” said Keenan. “We invited parents, fourth grade support staff, our principal, our Elementary Coordinator and a few others to attend. It was a great way to gather our whole fourth grade community together — remote, hybrid and school staff — in a meaningful way.”

Each teacher met with her class separately via Google Meet. Students shared their About the Author and dedication pages with the class. Muller’s class then split into breakout groups to read their full stories to three to four classmates and their families. Keenan’s class stayed on the Meet as a whole class and shared their favorite part and an illustration from their book. The next day, they shared their full books in Google breakouts with classmates. 

“The students and parents had a blast,” Muller said. “Many students asked if we could publish another piece and do this all over again.”

West Patent parent Bridget McNamee was thrilled with the experience.

“You could tell how proud each student was of their work,” McNamee said.

Aside from learning about realistic fiction, the experience taught students a valuable life lesson as well.

“We think students learned that hard work pays off,” said Keenan. “They were so proud of themselves. It was such a fun experience and we are already planning the next fun activity!”