by David Miller
Loveland, Ohio – Students from Jennifer Miller’s 1st-grade class walked to Loveland Magazine’s offices on December 12 to learn about newspapers and write their own story. They had been studying about military Veterans.
“There was a lot of excitement leading up to our trip to LM. Lots of questions – what does it look like? What does your dad do there? Are we stopping to get ice cream?” said Miller. “Upon our return and through a follow-up activity for our scrapbook about our trip – I was able to reiterate that writers write in all different kinds of spaces and places and for different reasons. And that this trip to LM will help our reports on Veteran’s Day reach all kinds of readers in our community.”
Jennifer Miller grew up in Loveland and in 1993 graduated from Loveland High School. She is the daughter of Loveland Magazine Publisher, David Miller. She has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Miami University and a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Literacy. She has taught in the Loveland School District for 21-years.
Miller, a teacher in the Loveland Primary School said she believes writing is important for first-graders because they can learn to express themselves through their words and pictures. Every day, her students write and read what they write to each other. Often, they will collaborate on a story in small groups. Miller said, “They watch me be a writer every day. They become confident during writing as well. Writing is a social experience for us.”
During their visit to Loveland Magazine, the students learned about magazines, newspapers, news websites, and the purpose of writing news stories that people in their own community will want to read. They understand that teachers and parents will read what they write, but if their stories are published in newspapers people they don’t even know will learn what’s on their mind as well.
The students work on a specific piece of writing during “Writer’s Workshop” every day. Before they write though, they practice yoga to get their bodies ready for a morning of learning. Miller said that Yoga helps first-graders focus and make good decisions about their behaviors. “Yoga allows us to move in a purposeful way before we have to sit still. That makes for fewer unexpected behaviors in our classroom and room for more meaningful learning,” said Miller.
Amy Reiss is the English as a Second Language teacher for the District, servicing grades 1-4. This is her 6th year teaching in Loveland and her 12th year of teaching. She services students who are bilingual, or who need support from exposure to another language. She sees students inside and outside of the classroom and provides them additional support in English Language Development. There are over 14 languages represented in the District. Reiss and Miller have co-taught for 5 years and work together teaching the Expanding Expressions Tool Writing sequence for the whole class. The languages represented in Miller’s first-grade class this year are Spanish, Uzbek, Tajik, Kyrgyz, and English.
After yoga, Miller dives into the writing lesson. She said, “Some days there is a mini-lesson from me, some days there is time to share, and there is always time to write, or what we call a work session”. Amy Reiss (English as a Second Language teacher for grades 1-4) and I work together.” The students just finished pieces titled “My Thanksgiving” where they retold the facts from their Thanksgiving Holidays with their families. “They turned out wonderful. The children worked hard on including adjectives to describe pie and mashed potatoes. So much work went into this three-week writing project. We completed our pieces of writing with a fancy cover, class photo, and a ribbon. They knew their piece of writing was even more important when I took the time to pull it all together for them this way.”
The languages represented in Miller’s first-grade class this year are Spanish, Uzbek, Tajik, Kyrgyz, and English. There are 26 students in the class and approximately twenty-five percent are “English Learners”.
is one of the many tools Ms. Miller uses to teach her students to write.
Miller’s first-graders also work on writing in personal journals every day. This can be a challenge because they can sometimes see this as a job rather than a place they can express themselves. Miller says writing in the journals improves writing stamina. Miller said, “Each month the expectation increases to help them expand a topic that they have been writing about. They must stick to the prompt and really stretch their thinking during this time each day.” When they are done writing in their journal, they have to read it to a friend before turning it in. Reading what they wrote is an important skill for first graders, according to Miller. Their classmate then offers them some constructive criticism and usually, the student returns to their desk to improve their journal before turning it in. Miller said they also work on choosing a friend who will actually offer good advice and not just say, “It looks good.”
“So much learning!” said Miller. Each child has a goal for their journals hanging on their desk. The students write their goal. Some want to make their writing more interesting or work on their illustrations. And some who are learning English want to better use their new vocabulary. “Goal setting has become a very important part of writing in our classroom,” said Miller.
Publisher’s Note: I cannot thank the parents and Amy Reiss who accompanied the children – enough. Your help with the children’s field trip to our office is so very valuable, from ensuring they have a safe walk to and from their school, to each of you taking part in helping the small groups with their lesson.
In sincere appreciation,