New York City is certainly no stranger to red carpet events, but needless to say, when PS 54, the Magnet School for Environmental Studies in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, hosted their own black-tie affair, it was a night to remember!
It wasn’t long after the Second Grade launched into the Writing About Reading opinion unit, that students were buzzing about their favorite books, characters, and authors. The children spent the first few weeks writing letters to anyone and everyone about the books they were reading, spending reading workshop marking parts to later write about. They searched for evidence to support their opinions and recorded these details to make their letters more compelling. In the final bend, students were urged to write nominations for these books, determining special awards they each deserved. Ms. Brown, a second-grade teacher, played a short clip of The Oscars to build excitement for this new work. The next thing she knew, students worked feverishly nominating their favorite series characters, illustrators, mystery boos—the list goes on! The writers across the second grade were churning out nomination after nomination, while the students begged to watch the Oscars clip again and again. It was then that Ms. Brown decided they would host their own Academy Awards ceremony.
Students came up with major categories such as, “Silliest Character”, “Bossiest Character”, and “The Best Friends Award” among others. Then, they wrote nominations—stating their opinions and supporting them with reasons and examples from the text. Judging panels debated for days leading up the vote, before deciding on the winner. Students were eager to read the every book to weigh the nominees carefully. Once ballot boxes had been filled, the boys and girls known for being great secret-keepers tallied the votes.
When Oscar night finally arrived, ushers escorted invited guests to their seats in the auditorium. You could hear students whispering their predictions, “I think Tamika will win meanest character.” “I think it’ll be Kevin from Pinky and Rex.” Writers read their nominations aloud, envelopes were opened, and awards were presented!
Ms. Kahn, the principal, was so impressed by the students. She was thrilled by how articulate and well developed their pieces were and how strong they each had become as opinion writers. “It is about books!” Ms. Kahn explained. “It is about reading books, writing about books, debating books, talking about books, and celebrating books. If I can get these kids to love books, then I can go home.”
Ms. Kahn purchased books for all the writers and each child left the “after party” with a new book! “They’re excited to read all the books nominated, the same way I want to watch all the movies nominated for The Oscars.”
In a time when a school’s focus can quickly shift to test prep, teacher evaluations, or assessment, P.S. 54 kept their focus on loving books!