Sometimes it takes a little competition to get students motivated

WMCS student inspired to learn

From Heather Johnson West Memphis Christian School

As the top two teams of WMCS freshmen prepared to take their projects to the Dec. 2 MAIS District Reading Fair, eighth grader Anna Grace Russell wandered by. “I want to go too!” she demanded. Expecting to shut her down immediately, her English teacher came back with, “You would have to do a project in order to go.”   “Okay!” Anna responded. Backpedaling quickly, the teacher tried to explain that she would have to complete an entire project all on her own over Thanksgiving Break. As part of their class requirements, the freshman English students had spent weeks reading, studying, researching, and working with their partners to get their storyboards, visual aids, and costumes ready. The project required the students to analyze characters, conflicts, and themes, research authors and settings, and design a plot map and a three-dimensional visual aid. Wallace Crain and Parker Benson had artfully designed a great storyboard to present the popular juvenile fiction novel, “Divergent” by Veronica Roth. Julie Cash and Gavin Foster had the second-best project in the WMCS ninth grade with a creative presentation of “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton. Even when she saw the extent of the rubric and all the work involved, Anna Grace would not be deterred. She said she had just finished reading a novel, “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers, and she was sure she could get a quality project done in time. It seemed unlikely that a student would spend her time doing a project that was not required for a class, but the counselor agreed to register her for the fair on the chance that she would be committed enough to complete the work. Anna did not disappoint. Motivated by competition and an opportunity to shine, she worked many hours to put together a striking and well-written storyboard presentation. However, what probably made the difference for Anna Grace at the District Fair was her “visual aid.” Anna Grace spent a few hours going back through the novel and imagining what it would be like to be the main character, Angel. Then, as if she were that character, she wrote pages and pages in a small leather journal that could have belonged to a girl in the 1850s California Gold Rush. Anna reported that the judges were surprised to find that she had “actually written” in the journal, and that they read and enjoyed several pages of the content. Overall, the WMCS projects did well in the district competition at Desoto School, and all five students embraced the opportunity to participate by wearing costumes, interviewing well, and smiling kindly when yet another group of kids came by to admire their work. Russell’s display placed second in the eighth grade individual competition. She also performed well, earning second place for “Best Portrayal of Character” for her presentation of Miriam, a static, supporting character in the novel.


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