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Christmas Wind Update from Acadia Valley, AB

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Warren Peers students only Alberta school to take part in special national literacy project

<<SEE MORE about The Christmas Wind Story Project HERE>>

PRAIRIE POST – Friday, March 4, 2016

BY ROSE SANCHEZ — rsanchez@prairiepost.com

<<Read the article online here>>

Students in grades 1 to 3 at Warren Peers School in Acadia Valley are taking part in a unique national project as the only Alberta school.

Lora Fletcher-Wilson, Division 1 teacher at Warren Peers, says she was in the right place at the right time to be able to sign up her students to take part in The Christmas Wind project with Canadian children’s author Stephanie McLellan.

“I was searching some different websites and I came across this one talking about this project,” explains Fletcher-Wilson.

Over the course of eight weeks, a section of the book The Christmas Wind is uploaded to a website.

The students listen to the story, and then are asked to illustrate what they have heard. Those drawings are emailed back to McLellan, who then creates short “movies” of the illustrations, including some added sound effects. The class gets to see this result as they patiently wait for the next audio clip to be uploaded.

One school from each province and territory in Canada was selected to take part in the project, and each school will receive trading cards, representing their province. These can then be kept by each student taking part, but also sent out to other schools involved in the project, so at its end, each student taking part will have a full set of trading cards, representing each province and territory in Canada.

“The kids have been loving it,” says Fletcher-Wilson about the project, prior to the February family week break. “This week’s (audio clip) was a real cliffhanger, so the students are eager to find out what happened.”

She says visualization is a big component of the learning-to-read process and likes that listening to the audio clips is a throwback to an older time, when people used to listen to the radio as entertainment.

“(The students) have to make these pictures in their heads and it’s a step back to experience what that was like.”

Students aren’t just gaining valuable literacy skills, they are also working on art and social studies as well as they learn about other places in Canada.

“We’re lucky to be able to be experiencing this,” adds Fletcher-Wilson. “(The students are) all enjoying it. It’s another great way to experience language and learning.”

McLellan, who is the author of four picture books, including The Chicken Cat and Leon’s Song, initially came up with the idea of The Christmas Wind Project a year ago. The book was scheduled to publish last fall, and she wanted a way to generate some excitement about its release.

Students were asking her about the book and “the story to come” and the process of getting a book published.

“Knowing I wouldn’t physically be in the same space as these students again any time soon, the project evolved as a way to share the book’s journey to publication with them from a distance,” says McLellan. “I hadn’t seen any of the book’s illustrations yet … so I thought it might be fun for the students to imagine what those pictures might look like themselves. Once it all started, however, the project took on a life of its own … it became more than the book itself.”

McLellan had anticipated the project would involve maybe six classrooms, but that quickly ballooned to 52 classes.

“In the end there were about one thousand students from across the country who participated in the project pilot last spring.”

When the launch of The Christmas Wind was postponed to June of this year, McLellan decided to re-run the project, but make it truly national with one classroom from each province and territory in Canada.

The illustrations McLellan has seen through the project this time around, have not disappointed her.

“The grades 1 to 3 students at Warren Peers have done a really wonderful job of their illustrations,” she adds. “There are many things I love about their illustrations. I believe children are far smarter than many adults give them credit for, and I make it a point in the books I write to never talk down to them. I try to use rich language to tell my stories, because, of course, I want to paint a picture in their heads, and if there’s a word they don’t understand that just means they get a double benefit from the story … I see huge insight in the students’ drawings. You can ‘see’ what they’re ‘feeling’ by what and how they draw.”

McLellan is glad The Christmas Wind Program represents a previously untapped way of learning and thinking for the students.

“A cool aspect of this project is that we’re using technology to bring kids back to a time when technology didn’t do so much thinking for them,” she adds. “I believe The Christmas Wind project these students are engaged in taps an important part of their brains in a way that is not necessarily typical in today’s world.”

Each school that has taken part in the program, will receive an autographed copy of The Christmas Wind when it is released this summer. More information about author Stephanie McLellan is available on her website at: http://stephaniemclellan.com/.

See more about The Christmas Wind Story Project HERE

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