At the Writer's Guild afterschool program in Gadsden, Alabama, students come together to read and write. This program is designed to allow students the opportunity to enjoy the works of various authors while creating their own stories and illustrations. Students become avid readers and learn about character education through the chosen texts. The leaders are instructed to choose literature that demonstrates how to make good choices or inspires students to work toward positive goals. The program's main objective is to provide students the opportunity to read, comprehend, and write their thoughts on paper on at least a weekly basis.
Writer's Guild meets for an hour each week. A leader reads a book to a small group of students. After the reading, the students discuss the themes or ideas of the texts with one another. Then the leader provides them with a writing prompt. The students respond by writing and illustrating a page in their handmade book, titled My Thoughts on Life.
The group leaders are encouraged to select books that engage the interests of the students. Often, older students assist in the selection process. Students participating in the activity enjoy expressing themselves through words and art. Students also are encouraged to continue writing outside of the group. When students bring in a piece of outside work they have created, they also place it in their handmade book. The books eventually are bound and placed on display in the afterschool library. They can be checked out for parents and students to enjoy.
The program intentionally builds capacity in participating students by selecting monthly thematic units that are reinforced through activities beyond Writer's Guild. For example, during the month of February, Writer's Guild celebrates the lives of African-American authors and participants discuss how the authors overcame their struggles in life. The music teacher emphasizes songs that were written by African-American musicians who changed the face of music. Other afterschool volunteers have used the Writer's Guild as a building block for their own activities. Students have created crafts to celebrate African-American heritage. During the life skills program, students have discussed their own struggles in life. Parents also are encouraged to read to the their children and celebrate their writings at home.
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