NEW BRITAIN – During a time when everything is done through a keyboard and a screen, New Britain schools are going old school with pencil and paper through a newly launched writing campaign, “Let’s start the new year off Write!”
The idea sparked in December, when after months of virtual learning and with schools being in the hybrid model, teachers and staff realized that based on the parameters of remote/hybrid learning, students are using whiteboards and markers and Chromebooks very often during instruction. As a result, there was a lot less actual writing, especially for the younger students who are just starting to learn how to write.
“Teachers were noticing that when the younger students were asked to write something, they were not developing the stamina to do it that they would have developed during a normal school year,” said Amy Anderson, district coordinator of PK-5 curriculum and TEAM district facilitator. “So we wanted to engage the students and their families to do more actual physical writing and learn about the importance in doing that.”
In addition to reinforcing the muscle memory connected to writing and the development of fine motor skills, the process of taking pencil to paper has numerous benefits. This includes boosting one’s brain development, remembering better, limiting online distractions and sparking creativity, according to Anderson.
“This may seem old fashioned, but there is a lot of brain research behind developing those skills by using pencil and paper,” she said. “Even if it’s just doodling, it helps with creativity and concentration.”
This does not only affect the younger students, but older students as well. Hence the campaign, which will encourage students to work on as many different writing activities as possible in the next couple of weeks through a choice board of prompts from their school. Each student will also receive a writing journal and a mechanical pencil to do their writing.
Cheryl Liedke, an instructional coach for the district, said during a regular school year, younger students would spend time working on their writing in class, including activities like writing grocery lists, coming up with appointments, or pretending to work in an office space.
“Without those fun, real life experiences, we just felt like they are missing out on both writing and drawing,” she said.
Through that realization, the schools wanted to do something about it and came up with the campaign. They developed two sets of choice board options for students to choose prompts from, topics ranging from writing down the steps to make hot chocolate, describing favorite meals, creating poems, or discussing current events.
“The idea is to have them work for a number of weeks, return with their choice boards shaded in to show the activities that that’ve done and have raffle prizes for their work,” Liedke said. “We’re excited to see how they do and what they have been working on.”
The campaign was a collaboration between district-wide members and both Anderson and Liedke were surprised and grateful at the snowball effect.
“Everyone wanted to help, whether it’s ordering the journals or coming up with ideas, it was a very big project that got done very quickly and we’re excited to see what comes out from it,” Liedke said.