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A Yearful of Writing

Written by Alma Perez
June 18, 2021

This year with no doubt has been a year of learning and experimenting. My school year just finished last Friday and now I feel like I need to take the next 2 months to recover and await what the upcoming school has in store for me. I am a third grade bilingual teacher in California (most specifically in a town located in the Central Valley) and this was my first year teaching. Crazy right? Especially during a pandemic year.  I knew this year would have its challenges but I was up for it.

As the school year started, I felt anxious, excited, and nervous.  Over the course of the summer, I participated in the San Joaquin Valley Writing Project (SJVWP) which is a writing project based within the Central Valley for teachers. We spent a total of about 2 weeks learning about writing and various other things that could be helpful in my journey as a teacher. As a commitment to participating in SJVWP, we were also part of the National Writing Project, which is the writing project that oversees all other state writing projects like SJVWP and the Panda Cares Foundation (Panda Fellows) which was the foundation that would support us this year as well. We had monthly meetings for SJVWP and the National Writing Project/Panda Fellows. I really enjoyed being part of them as I was able to make connections with colleagues from all over the country.

With the National Writing Project, we got to listen to various speakers and continue our learning on writing. Again, we got the opportunity to talk to fellow teachers from across the country, collaborate,  and work together to design our biggest assignment, a family literacy night. The literacy night was an event we had to plan for our students at our school sites focused on reading and/or writing. Panda Express’s Panda Cares Foundation was our biggest sponsor this year by providing us money and other resources for our family literacy events.

As I planned my family literacy event, I wanted to focus on planning something fun for my students and their families. My school site has a large Latino population with some minorities and even though I had initial plans of a more Latino aimed family literacy event, I wanted to make sure that all my students could identify and be involved with our family literacy event’s readings and activities.  My family literacy event was virtual and only my school’s third graders and their families participated (about 40 students and parents). The activity inv

olved us reading the book The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco and then writing and creating something that represented their families.

As the The Keeping Quilt is a book that shows a family and their traditions (in Russia), I wanted my students to create their own quilt that likewise represented their family. First, we read the book and discussed, worked on drawing symbols and pictures that represented their families on a piece of paper (which was going to ultimately be their quilt), and shared their quilts out loud. Unfortunately, the family literacy night was scheduled for only one hour and the goal was to also have the students write and then share their quilt. As the kids finished their quilts with their families, we were running short on time and were unable to have the students write. Yet, what I did want to make sure that I did was have all the students share their quilt and share what and why they drew those symbols or

pictures. In a way, this part of the activity was what we were supposed to write and then share. All of the students along with their families, shared their quilt and it was great to hear everyone sharing their quilts.

All the quilts were great and the one I enjoyed the most was from one of my students who drew a mariachi hat (a typical Mexican music style), tacos, the Mexican flag, and other symbols that represented his Mexican culture. Likewise, all other students did an awesome job as drew barbecue grills, books, and other pictures that again represented their culture. Overall, all of the students did an awesome job sharing and participating.

In conclusion, I was glad to have been able to provide an experience like this to my students as this year had many challenges. Throughout the year, we had many sudden changes that I am sure my students just like myself had to adapt to. Thus, this family literacy night with no doubt brought my students, their families, and myself closer. They really seemed to enjoy the family  literacy night and with the support of the National Writing Project, Panda Cares Foundation, and the San Joaquin Valley Writing Project, as they all provide me and other teacher participants with the resources to purchase books, pencils, color pencils, and any sort of material,  this family literacy night wouldn’t have been possible. I was especially glad to have been able to reward all my students who participated and share with gift cards to various restaurants so they could enjoy it with their families.

Not to forget mentioning, that my school’s admin was very impressed with this family literacy night that my partner and I put together for out school’s third graders that it influenced  a bigger school wide family literacy event. About a month and a half later, my school organized a school wide family literacy night in celebration of Día de los niños/Día de los libros (Day of the Kids/ Day of the Books) celebrated on April 30th in many Latin American countries like Mexico to celebrate and honor the children. This family literacy night was also a success that aimed to continue bringing families, students, and the school closer and which we hope to make it a continuous yearly celebration. With no doubt, this has been an unforgettable year that I hope is that start of future family literacy night events. All I can say is that I am glad to have been a participant in the National Writing Project, San Joaquin Valley Writing Project, and the Panda Cares Foundations (Panda Fellows) which allowed me to experience new learning, make connections, and bringing me closer to my school and families thought the family literacy night.