Panda Literacy Blog
By: Carina Jaimes, Brittany Cox, and Megan Wier
When we were first introduced to this project, we were nervous and excited. When it comes to the writing project, possibilities are always endless. As teachers, we often follow district plans, so creating something so freely was challenging at times. As our cohort began thinking of ideas, we initially settled on one we were excited about! Taking a spin-off of NPR’s StoryCorps, we planned to have our students interview an elder in the community. However, as the school year took off and teaching during a pandemic unraveled, we realized this was a much bigger project than we had realized! So it was back to the drawing board. As we began planning and discussing what our students truly needed, we realized it was community/connection and learning to embrace themselves and one another. Thus, after a Sunday afternoon of nonstop planning, “Embrace You” was created!
The first event was held on April 20th. The theme for this night was “Embracing your Name.” We met before to run through our presentation and delegated duties once more. Students joined us on zoom at 5 pm with smiles on their faces! The first activity students completed was to write about their names. Students shared their name means, how to pronounce their names, and what they love about their name. We, as a team, felt like this was the perfect way to start our event. Our names are usually the first thing someone learns about us and so often can be perceived as “difficult to say or pronounce.” We wanted our students to learn about the history of their names and what makes them so unique. We learned our student’s names mean things like a leader, joyful, or mighty. We also learned that some students were named after family members, fun memories, or random baby books! The students were so excited to learn more about themselves and dive into their peer’s lives. The next day, we heard a buzz around our school. Students who attended our event asked others if they could tell them about their names and share the amazing things they learned the previous night. Overall, night 1 was a huge success!
Our second event was on May 4th. The theme for this event is called “Embracing your Story.” The purpose of this night was to have parents and students learn more about each other and how unique each individual is. Students had the opportunity to learn about their parents’ story, and parents could have a different perspective on how their child views their own story. During this event, families wrote five words to describe themselves and an “I am Poem.” This poem consisted of what they are curious about, their emotions, favorite things, and their goals in life. As families shared, our group was able to hear various stories and how they became who they are today.
The final literacy event was on May 25th. The theme for our last event is called “Embracing your Family.” Families had the opportunity to write and share what makes their family special. This literacy night, in particular, was our favorite. Families were finding similarities and differences between each other’s families, which led to deeper conversation. Students were able to share how they felt their family was unique, but parents could also share about their family and how their family has grown.
As we look back on these three nights and our event as a whole, our buckets are so full! We left each night feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. We left feeling more empowered as writers and eager to see what our students published next. Our students have learned to embrace themselves and facilitate conversations in such an authentic way! We loved getting to know our students better as well as their families. This year has been worldwide, and we are thankful to have this opportunity to step back and be reminded of what’s truly important in education. We want to express our gratitude to our school, administration, Central Texas Writing Project, and Panda Express Cares for giving us this incredible opportunity.