Thursday, March 13, 2008

Service Learning: Finishing and Reflecting

IV. Published Authors

The joke-writing and illustrating continues for several weeks. We collect a couple of dozen that we all like - both originals and recycled ones - and I create a page template that has a border around it, the joke written in bold print, and a space at the bottom for the illustrator(s) to write their name.

We spend one week doing drafts. Before starting, we have a conversation about illustrating. We talk about the books that we like the most and what they look like. The point I'm hoping to make with them is that the illustrations should be colorful and take up the full page. "What are some of your favorite books?" I ask. We take some out of the classroom library to look at. "What do you see? What do the pages look like?" The answers are just what I was hoping for: lots of colors, pretty colors, big drawings, pictures that describe the words. We take out some sample jokes and think about what the illustrations could be. It's another spirited discussion.

As children work on their drafts, alone or with friends, I walk around and point out the things that I see them doing. "You're using a lot of colors here." "That grape really does look old and wrinkled." "The king in your picture has such an expressive face." It's exciting. I tell them that everyone should do at least one draft, but they can do more than one if they want to. When they are ready for a final draft, they'll tell me.

After a few weeks, the drawings are finished. I tell the class that I am going to take them to a copier to create our book and that next week I'll bring it back to share. The teacher and I have agreed that we will make two copies: one for the hospital and one for the class library.

When I get back to the office, I make a cover out of clip art and and write a short introduction:

Why We Wrote This Book

This spring, we began working on our Peacemaker Project, a chance for us to use what we learned about being good friends to make our community a better place. We talked about who helps our community and about who in our community might be sad.

Some of us have friends or family who have been in the hospital, and we know that sometimes when they are sick that they feel sad. We talked about how to make them feel better, and we agreed that one of the best ways is to laugh.

And that is why we wrote this book. We found some of our favorite jokes, and we wrote some of our own. Then, we illustrated them with lots of colors, just like the picture books we like the best.

We hope that you enjoy reading it and that you laugh and share your favorite jokes with some of your friends and family.

When it's finished, it's a big hit - and it looks even better than I thought it would. The book is going to be given to the
Center for Families at Children's Hospital, one of whose many programs is their mobile lending libraries. We invite the Peace Games Coordinator to the class so that we can hand the book over to her (and so that she can deliver it).We finish the year with a lot of satisfaction and gratitude - and lots of laughs.

That would have been enough but for an unexpected email that found me at the end of the summer. It was from the doctor who came to visit the class the previous spring:

I wanted to let you know that the Children's Hospital Library loved the Joke Book produced by those great 2nd (and now 3rd) graders. In fact, they would like to know if you could make more copies to supple some of their 'mobile' library carts at their expense? Please let me know how much it will cost to reproduce and I will forward the information. Please say hello to the class for me and talk to you soon.

We gave them one book, but then they bought two more - an instant classic and bestseller.

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