Ringwood Residents Get to Meet 7th Grade Authors at Ryerson Middle School
By Dr. Nicholas Bernice - Superintendent, Ringwood Public Schools
“Get Chattin’”, Ms. Kathleen Carew proclaimed to a cafeteria full of Ryerson Middle School 7th Graders and over forty members of the Ringwood Community. Ms. Carew had brainstormed different ways to get the community involved with Ryerson’s students. These thoughts led Ms. Carew, and her colleagues, to design a unique afternoon where students were able to meet and talk with senior citizens about an informational writing assignment. To accomplish this, Ms. Carew and English Language Arts Teachers, Ms. Salamone, and Ms. Emmett, arranged a “Meet the Authors” party in the Ryerson Cafeteria.
Writing to communicate a process or information is often a challenging task. Equally as challenging is then talking about this same instructional writing. Students were tasked with writing about something they thought a senior citizen might want, or like to know more about. The students wrote on a topic of choice, knowing that senior citizens were their audience, and were coached through their drafts by their teachers. The seniors had been given a copy of the books two weeks prior to the event. In February, Ringwood’s 7th Grade students became both authors and presenters of their own non-fiction work.
Once their books were ready-to-go, Ringwood’s senior citizens and other adults were asked to read them at home and then “Meet the Authors” in the Ryerson Cafeteria. Students were able to converse with people who had already read their books and then answer their questions. Seniors were also able to render positive feedback to the students, adding value to what could be a routine assignment. Before getting started, Ms. Carew thanked the Ringwood Education Association, which purchased snacks and coffee for the occasion.
Ryerson Author Luke Schroeder wrote on how to use YouTube. Ringwood resident Ms. Janet Carlsen read the student work and commented, “This is something I really can think about. I didn’t know how people got on YouTube. I also never knew you can put something of your own on.”
“How to set up and use our cellphone”, was Liam Bottcher’s topic of choice. After reading Liam’s work, Ms. Kathleen Wier realized, “How convenient cellphones actually are. I used to go to MapQuest and print the directions out. But this cellphone map is much better, it even points out which corner to go to in Manhattan.”
Neo Li, also authored a book about how to use an iPhone. Ms. Bonnie Gurda, told Neo that he wrote it so well that, “It covered everything I could possibly ask.” Ms. Gurda also had the opportunity to read about surfing from Ryerson Author Bella Fiorelli. Ms. Gurda joked, “It makes me want to try.”
Ms. Jean Marie Collins read a story about how to play basketball. She told the students in her group, “I really love the quote about passing the ball and working as a team, and not making anyone feel bad about being left out.”
Ms. Beverly Matthews already knew something about soccer before reading the student work on the topic. She worked and traveled with the Deaf Olympics. Ms. Matthews was able to share her story and pictures about the team’s travels to Taipei, Taiwan, and Sofia, Bulgaria both where the US Team won Soccer Gold Medals. Ms. Matthews told her group of Ryerson students, “I love how you emphasized the importance of team work and how all eleven players on the field have to work together to succeed. You are absolutely right when you wrote that, it is about working together to have fun.”
Ms. Ann-Eliese Jordan got an education on how to play hockey. Ms. Jordan commented how she would find hockey “to be terrifying, with the puck flying at me all the time.” She read the “How to” book by Ryerson author Hudson Grant. Ms. Jordan mentioned, “Now I can watch hockey with my husband and know what all the lines are for.”
Baseball was the topic of choice for Olivia McCormick’s work. Ms. Virginia Shaw commented how she has been a Yankee fan her entire life. However, now thanks to Olivia, Ms. Shaw knows that the Met’s colors of blue and orange came from the, “blue for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the orange from the New York (baseball) Giants.”
Board of Education Member Mary Kunert participated in the event. Ms. Kunert commented, “These are exceptional young people.” Ms. Kunert read Ryerson Author Ben Carey’s book, “All Hooked Up, Fishing 101.” Ms. Kunert commented, “this primer was so descriptive that I completely understood everything and the illustrations were excellent.”
Mr. Dan Parker is the Director at the Ringwood Public Library. He and the children’s librarian Ms. Christine Garrison, fully participated in the afternoon activity. Mr. Parker noted, “This is a great way to build community by fostering intergenerational discussion.” Grateful for the invitation he concluded, “Invite me again.” Ms. Garrison commented, “It was an absolute joy talking to the 7th graders about their books.” She added further, “They were so open to discussing ideas, likes, and dislikes about writing styles and editing. I loved “Meeting the Authors!”
Ryerson Author Olga Bogatova commented on the afternoon, “It was not only a bonding experience with a senior, but with my classmates.” Fellow author Cameron Chapman remarked, “I really enjoyed the conversations I had with my senior. They asked questions that made me think a lot about my future.” Author Luke Schroeder agrees with his classmates and realized his conversation was interesting as his assigned senior, “has traveled the world and has lots of very cool life experiences.” He further notes that from the experience he realized that he can always, “improve on talking more and contributing his thoughts.”
If Ryerson students all talk more and contribute their thoughts in meaningful writing and robust dialogue, then perhaps that is exactly how they should be spending an afternoon. The time together presented some surprises for both populations of participants. The students enjoyed how patient and positive the seniors were, even when the students were teaching them how to use their cellphones. Many of the seniors remarked that the students were pleasant, not on their phones, and held really engaging conversations.
The resident attendees were asked if they would be interested in doing this again, to which one respondent wrote, “YES!” From this resounding success, it seems like they will get an opportunity to chat again.