Student Voice: To Walk in the Dark

Today, I have a guest post from a student who wants to share her writing with the world.  This piece was created for the Young Georgia Author Competition.  While it didn’t win at the district level, it deserves an audience.  Jane is a 4th grader at our school and would love for you to read her writing and leave her some comments about her work.

I hope to have more guest posts from students in the coming year.

To Walk in the Dark

Scary things can happen in this world, maybe when you’re alive, maybe when you’re dead, or maybe when you’re between life or death. Cora Walkers was not an optimist nor a pessimist, she was a believer. A believer when there was doubt, or a believer when the worst was coming. In this town the amazing things could become bland with the blink of an eye. You need to master seeing the good things in the world, or else all that’s left is the bad.

We go to a bright sunny summer day in San Francisco, California where the richness of the sun makes you feel quite refreshed. Cora was walking into Alamo square where the Painted Ladies Victorian houses sat. She walked up to the front porch of the last one on the left which had a big potted plant in the front. Cora walked up the white steps and turned to face the door. She opened her black messenger bag and pulled out a key, in which had a key chain with a deep C emblazoned in the brown leather. Cora placed the key in the lock and turned it gently, She slowly opened the door to hear the familiar creak of the hinges that needed to be oiled.

When the door was fully open she pulled the key out of the rusty lock and waltzed into the main entrance of her house. The crystal chandelier welcomed Cora home as she strolled up the stairs. When she reached the second door to the right she opened the door and looked in at her bedroom. Her four poster bed was reflecting the light that was shining in from her bay window. Just as Cora was setting her bag down on her bed, she heard an ear splitting cry that made her jump.

She opened her bedroom door and walked into the hall swiftly trying to find the root of where the noise was coming from. Cora slowly turned to the left and opened the door opposite to her. She swung open the door to see her baby sister Samantha in her crib wailing. Samantha was only 1 month old, and since Cora was the second to oldest it took her sometime to remember there was someone else in the house. Cora heard a creak coming from the door as someone walked into the nursery. “Is the baby crying again?” Ella asked in a plain voice. She rested her back against the doorway of the nursery.

Ella was Cora’s younger sister and she didn’t like the thought of someone replacing her as the youngest in the family. “Ella, you’re 10. You should have gotten over the fact that there is someone else in the family now,” Cora said trying to sound reasonable. Cora could relate to how Ella felt even though Ella refused to think that. When Cora was 3 she also had to get over the fact that she wasn’t the baby in the family anymore. When Ella was just born and Cora’s older sister Rachel was acknowledging the fact that they now had a baby sister. Cora turned her back to the thought that she would be forgotten as the middle child . As Cora was placing down Samantha in her crib after she soothed she heard Ella groan and stomp out of the room. Cora rolled her eyes and walked out of the nursery. As Cora was on her way down to living room she suddenly heard her phone ringing. Cora came to halt and and pulled the phone from out of her pocket. Cora’s pink case shimmered as the sun hit the phone. She put the phone to her ear and before she could say “hi” a loud voice screamed 4 words into her ears making her ear drums ring. “SALE-AT-THE-MALL!” Cora jumped as she heard this.

It was 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday and Mindy was already screaming in her ears. “Okay, I’ll be right there,” Cora said. “No worries my mom is picking up all of our friends, so she can give you a ride too,” Mindy said plainly as if she didn’t just scream through Cora’s phone. “Okay that sounds–”Cora couldn’t even finish her sentence as Mindy interrupted her. “Awesome! Bye see soon,” Mindy said quickly. Cora didn’t even have time to say good-bye because Mindy hung up.

Cora turned and sprinted upstairs to get her bag when someone stopped her. “You can’t go to the mall,” Ella said in a sharp voice. “What do you mean? I can go to the mall if I want to go to mall,” Cora said looking Ella up and down. “First off, mom and dad aren’t home, and second all off, my friends are going to the mall but when I called mom she said I couldn’t go,” Ella said in a reasonable voice.

“Well that’s because you’re only 10, and I’m 13,” Cora responded. “And plus, I’m just going to ask Rachel.” Cora could tell that Ella was getting frustrated. Ella groaned and flipped her long blonde braid as she trudged down stairs. Cora looked back at Ella then remembered that Mindy was picking her up in a matter of time. She ran up to the main hall where all four of their bedrooms were. She ran up to the third door on the left and knocked. Cora waited for over a minute then she heard footsteps coming, and then the doorknob turned.

Cora was suddenly blinded by pinkness as Rachel opened the door to her bedroom. “What do you want?” Rachel asked in a bored voice. “I’m going to the mall so when mom and dad come home can you tell them?” Cora replied. “Fine but who’s picking you up?” Rachel asked, her eyes on Cora. “Mindy is. And she supposed to pick me up any second now so if you’ll excuse me,” Cora slowly turned then strolled away.

She turned to the left and started walking down the hall then she turned the doorknob to her bedroom. Cora pulled open the door and when it was fully open, she headed straight for her closet. Cora opened her closet door and pulled out a beige colored purse, slung it over her shoulder and strutted out of the room. As Cora made it down stairs her phone started to ring. Cora opened her purse and pulled out her phone once again. “Cora, me Lola, Emma, and Abby are waiting outside. Where are you?” Mindy said sounding annoyed. “Sorry Mindy, I’m on my out of the house right now. See you soon.”

Cora hung up the phone and ran to the door. She ran to the main entrance and pulled on her white high tops. She opened the door to feel the familiar air blow against her skin. She witnessed a metallic MDX waiting for her. As Cora ran to the car, the window rolled down. “Come on, get in Cora!” Emma screamed as she opened the door. Cora squeezed in and they made their way down the street.

Now we go to Ella. Right after Cora left, Ella ran outside. She made sure to wait until Cora was gone or else she would suspect something. Ella’s friend Hannah was picking her up to go to the mall, but Ella knew that wouldn’t be possible if Cora was in the house. Ella was a smart and reasonable girl, but she was tired of living in her sister’s shadow and now that she had a younger sister everything revolved around Rachel, Cora, and the baby. Hannah said that she would meet her at Alamo Square park which was simple for Ella. All she had to do was cross 2 crosswalks and then she would be at the park. As Ella pressed the button to the crosswalk she pulled out her phone. She dialed Hannah’s number and waited for her pick up. “Hey Ella, me and my mom are almost there,” Hannah said. “Awesome, I’m crossing the street right now,” Ella replied  as with a grin spread across her face. Ella was entering the second crosswalk. The sign had the white walking man on it so Ella took the chance to go. Without warning the light flashed, and changed to a red hand. Something seemed to be wrong with the lights up top that told the cars to go because that flickered and turned green. Ella had no time to notice this as a speeding black Chevrolet was coming her way. Ella on the other hand was just saying good-bye to Hannah. The person in the car must have not noticed Ella either as the car got closer. There was no time for Ella to hang up the phone because in the second that seemed like a moment, and the moment that seemed like a minute, Ella noticed. And before she knew it… everything went black.

The car pulled up in the driveway and Cora emerged. She didn’t buy anything, but being with her friends cheered her up. There was no time to say thank you as the MDX pulled out of the driveway and drove out of sight. Cora smiled and was heading for her house when she looked over and saw firetrucks, police cars, and at least 3 ambulances. Cora was getting curious so she started for the overwhelmed crowd that was surrounding the street. Cora elbowed her way through the crowd, then she got a glimpse of a girl being loaded into an ambulance. She was wearing the same white jean shorts and pink tank top as Ella was wearing that day. The girl had an air mask on her face and a messily wrapped bandage around both of her legs that Cora could tell, blood was already seeping through. Cora was getting closer until she felt something pull her back. She looked up and saw Rachel, with her mascara smeared under her eyes. To Cora it looked as though she was crying. “Rachel, what happened?” Cora asked cautiously as an expression of fear crossed her face. “It’s Ella, she’s been hit by a car,” Rachel said sounding as though she was about to cry again. Cora looked at her with disbelief. The color drained from her face. Cora wanted to know how this happened. Ella was a smart girl and now she might be gone and no last words would ever be said except denial and hatred expressions. The only memory Cora had of the last words she had said to Ella was when she rudely said that she was going to the mall . Cora felt as though the darkness that she never thought would come emerged from her soul erupted. For the first time in years you could say, that Cora was walking in the dark.       

 

The Winner of Our Global Book Talk Challenge

For several weeks, people around the world have been contributing to our 30-second book talk Flipgrid.  In March, we narrowed the videos to 16 and have been inviting a global audience to listen to the videos and vote on the brackets each week.

After many, many votes, we have a winner!  Congratulations to Evin for her book talk of It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton.  Adaline’s book talk of I Dissent by Debbie Levy was a very close 2nd place.  Both of these students will receive a special recognition on our morning broadcast as well as gift certificates to our local bookshop, Avid Bookshop.  Please help me in congratulating our winners, but more importantly, continue to share great books with one another!

2015 Barrow 5th Grade Battle of the Books

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Twenty two 5th graders have been busy since December reading a list of 10 books chosen to be a part of the 2015 Battle of the Books.  Students formed teams of 4-5 students.  Each student read at least 5 books and agreed to be an “expert” on at least 2 books.  Here are this year’s titles:

  • Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn
  • Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret
  • Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia
  • The Giant Slayer by Ian Lawrence
  • Shooting Kabul by N H Senzai
  • Wonder by R J Palacio
  • Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole
  • Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Students spent 2 days per week practicing during their lunch for about 30 minutes.  In Battle of the Books, a detail from one of the books is given in the form of a question.  For example, “In which book does a principal wink when a big surprise is coming up?”  On their team, students have 30 seconds to huddle and discuss.  The team captain gives the answer of the book title and author.  For example “Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea”.  If they get the question right, they get 5 points.  If they miss it, the next team has a chance to steal the question for 3 points.

Today, our 5th graders participated in 2 rounds of competition.  Their scores from each round were totaled and the two top teams competed in a final battle with 20 questions in the library.  The Reading Mustache Panthers and LJSG were our top 2 teams.

BOTB 2015 (8) BOTB 2015 (11)

As usual, the competition was fierce, but in the end the Reading Mustache Panters are the 2015 winners.

Each year, I think about how Battle of the Books fits within our library program.  It takes a lot of time, but each year I see students get involved in this competition that don’t get involved in other things the rest of the year.  I also see students who discover new favorite books and authors because they have to read from a list.  Even though some of the pieces of Battle of the Books don’t mesh with my own personal preferences, they do speak to what some students like.  For that reason, I think Battle of the Books is one piece of our library program that should stay.  I wouldn’t want our whole program to be based on reading lists and competition, but I’m so glad that a small part is.

Our winning team: Reading Mustache Panthers

Our winning team: Reading Mustache Panthers

Our runner-up: LJSG

Our runner-up: LJSG

Congratulations to this year’s winners.  Now, they will go on to the district competition and compete against the other 13 elementary schools in the district to defend our district title.

2014 Battle of the Books 3rd & 4th Grade

IMG_2860Today was our 3rd and 4th grade Battle of the Books.  Students in these grades read the same 10 books.  We build our battle of the books program in stages from 3rd through 5th grade.  Each year, we add a few layers to the competition.

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Natalie Hicks, spectrum teacher, leads our 3rd grade program.  In 3rd grade, students focus on reading the books for enjoyment and working together on a team.  We still hold a competition for them, but it is very low key.  All teams are in the final battle.  Each team gets 10 questions during the competition, but if they miss a question, the question does not get passed on to a new team.  The team with the most points at the end of this small competition is named the grade level winner.

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Heather Carlson, spectrum teacher, leads our 4th grade program.  In 4th grade, all teams compete with one another in the final battle.  However, if a team misses a question, the next team has a chance to answer the same question for a lower point value.  Teams can also challenge a question if they feel that their answer was actually correct.

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In 5th grade, we do the full battle of the books.  We have 2 rounds of competition with all of the teams.  The points from those 2 rounds are added together to decide who battles in the final battle.  The final battle has 20 questions and teams can steal questions from the other team as well as challenge questions.  The winning team from 5th grade moves on to the district competition.  There is no district competition for 3rd and 4th grade.

Many thanks to all of the classroom teachers, families, and students who make this annual program a success.  You can listen to today’s competition at the following 2 links:

 

Watch the 3rd grade battle

 

Watch the 4th grade battle

2014 Battle of the Books District Champions!

IMG_2765Today was our district battle of the books.  Our school level champions, the Rainbow Glitter Sweet Tooths, represented Barrow at this year’s district competition.

To get to this point, this team of 5 girls has spent time since December reading and rereading the 10 books for this year’s battle.  They competed against 5 other teams at the school level to become the school champions.  They spent hours upon hours practicing questions at school and at home to prepare for today.

At the district competition, the 14 elementary schools all brought their winning school team to compete against one another.  The girls participated in 2 rounds of 20 questions.  The points in those rounds were totaled and the top 2 scores moved on to the final battle.  Barrow batted against Timothy Road Elementary in the final.

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The 2 final teams had 20 new questions for the final battle.  It was an extremely close battle because both of these teams were strong.  The questions went back and forth with Barrow and Timothy both getting almost every question correct.  The points were so close, but Barrow came ahead with just a few points above Timothy.  Both of these teams should be extremely proud of their hard work.

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When we returned to school, the entire 5th grade lined the hallways and cheered on the team as they walked to the library for a pizza and cookie cake celebration.  We are all exhausted, but very proud.  The girls immediately checked out some new books in the library.  They have spent so much time with the 10 battle books that they are eager to move on to many new adventures in reading.

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Way to represent Barrow School Cate, Irene, Sophia, Italia, and Lauren, aka the Rainbow Glitter Sweet Tooths!  We are so very proud of you.

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Battle of the Books 2011 District Champions

Once again, Barrow Elementary 5th graders have won the Clarke County School District Battle of the Books.  The Fantastic Five has read books and practiced tirelessly since December.  As always, it was so much fun to have all 14 elementary schools in our district come together to celebrate reading with a fun competition.

When we returned to school, our superintendent, Dr. Lanoue, just happened to be hear and stopped by to speak to the team and praise them for their accomplishment.  Congratulations Jack, Katy, Gabby, Olivia, and Suvitha.  You earned it!

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Battle of the Books 2011

Congratulations to the Fantastic 5 for winning today’s school level 5th grade battle of the books competition.  It was a very close match and went into a tie-breaker round, so a huge congratulations is also in order for Dumbledore’s Army who came in 2nd.  The Fantastic 5 will compete against the other 13 elementary schools on April 14th.

 

 

 

 

1st Place Fantastic 5:  Jack, Suvitha, Katy, Gabby, and Olivia

2nd Place Dumbledore’s Army:  Suncana, Aneesa, Gabe, Zoe, and Mary Carroll