Powerview students participate in literacy project

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The Lac du Bonnet Clipper, Manitoba – March 10, 2016

By Arlene Davidson

The students of Jessica Simpson’s Grade 2 class at École Powerview are collaborating with award winning Canadian author Stephanie McLellan in a literacy experiment called The Christmas Wind Radio Show Story Project.

McLellan has recently completed her latest [picture book] for children titled The Christmas Wind, and decided to invite students from 13 schools from every province and territory [to] listen to the story and provide illustrations to accompany the text. The students of École Powerview are representing Manitoba in this unique project.

“This has been a fun experience for us as we have been able to have some great conversations about the story and how we each see it,” said Simpson.

“The Christmas Wind Radio Show Story Project has been underway since the middle of January this year and is a classroom experiment that has students listening to a story in a format akin to an old, serialized radio show,” explained McLellan.

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

During the eight-week program, an audio portion of the story is uploaded weekly to a password protected class web page, and students are asked to illustrate what they imagine.

The story centres around a little girl who is walking with her sick mother and infant brother on a cold, windy and snowless Christmas Eve. As the ferocious wind pushes them around, they are forced to stop and hide in the barn of a grouchy old man.

The ultimate showdown between feisty girl and grumpy old man has ignited the imaginations of over 1,600 students from K to Grade 6 in every province and territory across Canada, McLellan said.

“The book they’re drawing pictures of is not yet on the shelves. The actual illustrations are not even complete yet so the students have a clean, uninfluenced slate to start from,” said McLellan. “This unique literacy project is bringing them back in time to when things were un-Googleable, and wonder and wait weren’t foreign words.”

On her website, McLellan has created some unique ways for the 1,600 students to communicate with each other, including making pen pals and trading cards that provide information and pictures of their respective schools.

“It has been interesting to get feedback from Stephanie as to what other schools have been drawing as well. There have been some odd similarities between drawings from different schools around the country,” said Simpson. “Since there are 12 other schools involved, we have been having many discussions about what their current weather might be, how far away they are from us, what their town may look like.”

McLellan said that Simpson’s Grade 2 class has created some unique and fascinating illustrations.

“Each of these students has a distinct style and approach. There are some who meticulously carry through the look of the characters they’ve created to represent the people they’ve met in the audio of the story. Others focus on the action more than the specific characters, isolating a single incident in the narrative with simple, clean lines, while others fill the canvas with fascinating detail that forces you to stop and study every corner of the page,” said McLellan.

The author found it interesting that while there is some regional diversity in how students interpret the words, there’s a compelling emotional unity to the drawings.

“In our lightning fast world, even those as young as four are waiting not so patiently for the next installment of the story and are filling in all sorts of gaps with their yearning for the story’s outcome,” said McLellan.

McLellan said she noticed something specific to the illustrations from the Powerview class in the way they highlighted and personified the wind.

“It is certainly my intent with the words of the story that the wind is the invisible force behind most of the action, and no group of students has picked up on this better than this group who, in multiple cases, depict the wind as big, angry and very present,” said McLellan.

Student illustrations are scanned and made into short movies so they can be shared with fellow participants from coast to coast.

“Before the book hits the shelves this fall, these students will get sneak peeks of the actual illustrations being created by illustrator, Brooke Kerrigan, and each participating school will get a free signed copy of the book once it’s released this fall,” said McLellan.

See more about The Christmas Wind Story Project HERE

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