Made-up funny adventure stories, descriptive dream narratives, step-by-step instructional how-to pieces, vivid memories of fun times with family, and poems that kindle emotions.
These are the kinds of literature shared publicly this week by young authors who attended the School of Education and Human Service's Summer Reading Center Writing Camp Celebration this week at the University of Michigan-Flint.
The two-week camp is entwined with a Masters in Literacy Education graduate course, called EDR 544: Integrated Language Arts, throughout the curriculum, allowing graduate students to team together and lead small groups of children in creative writing activities each day. Groups scattered around campus and also visited the Reading Center library in French Hall.
Graduate students in the program said that interacting one-on-one with K-8th graders during the camp was amazing for them. Such one-on-one time spent helping kids develop ideas and focus on their language skills is a rare opportunity for these graduate students who are also teachers.
"The summer camp is a very authentic environment," said graduate student Chelsea Chittick. "It's so much more than what you can learn from textbooks, and free of the constraints of standardized testing. You get to celebrate the love of learning both as a teacher and with the kids."
Early Childhood Development Center teacher Starletta Rett-Henry chose the summer camp course to complement her Early Childhood Education Master's Program. "I like the real-world experience of working with children at different age levels," she said.
UM-Flint alumna Mary Howell is an experienced Genesee County educator and enjoys teaching EDR 544. "The camp gives our master's candidates a chance to try out things here that they don't have the time to do in their classroom," Howell said.
The participating children range in ability from strong writers to those who struggle to find the exact words to express their ideas on paper in a way that works for them. The education graduate students offer prompts, suggestions for structure, thought-provoking discussions, and craft activities to spark creativity. Kids have ample time to reflect, write, scribble, erase, and draw as they journey through their own writing process.
During the Summer Camp Celebration, each student mustered the courage to read their work before an audience of friends and family members in French Hall. Their work was bound into an anthology for them to take home.
Len and Sharon Thomas, who have supported the Education Department's reading and writing programs each year, greeted students and family members at the event. "Sharon and I really believe that this university is pivotal in the downtown community," Mr. Thomas told those attending. "This writing camp is another important connection to the community."