Catholic Schools Unite to Write

Photo: Jenna Konieczny and Cole Evans during their presentation to Grade 8 students.

A unique collaboration between two schools in Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board saw students from elementary and secondary grade levels combine to create learning and teaching moments.

Grade 7/8 teacher Raymonde Magli at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Sault Ste. Marie asked St. Mary’s College (SMC) Lead English teacher Lorie Czop about the possibility of a partnership. Each year Mrs. Magli teaches her class how to write a five-part literary essay and she wanted feedback from the secondary teachers on how her students were performing.

“As we were unfolding the essay and writing it together, as a class, I thought it would be interesting to see if we were on the same page as the high school when it came to writing essays and if I was properly preparing my students for Grade 9 English,” said Mrs. Magli.

“Our department was enthusiastic about this collaboration as we always love to network between the two panels – elementary and secondary to ensure a smooth transition into grade 9. We welcomed this opportunity to see what the Grade 8’s were capable of,” said Mrs. Czop.

The plan involved students in the two Grade 8 classes at Our Lady of Lourdes writing an essay about the novel The Giver that would then be sent to St. Mary’s College to be assessed by teachers in the English department. The most impactful part of the process involved engaging the Grade 12 Advanced Placement English students in providing constructive feedback on each essay to the grade 8 students. This peer teaching/learning opportunity was powerful for both the grade 8 students and the grade 12 students.

“For me the most interesting thing reading the essays was how well kids had been instructed on the essay writing format. Certainly their teacher has gone into pretty good detail already. A lot of things they’ve been taught are things that I didn’t even know until high school,” said Grade 12 student, Cole Evans.

“An essay is an opinion so working together as a class to formulate an essay like this is not an easy task and I think they did a really good job,” said Grade 12 student, Jenna Konieczny.

“Peer teaching is one strategy that students are receptive to. They look up to the senior students, so there is a level of respect there and learning is solidified as a result” said Czop.

This team approach was only used between SMC and Our Lady of Lourdes this year. There is a possibility that this plan could be expanded to other schools in the city.

“Any time you can network or partner between elementary and secondary it is beneficial to both panels because the end result is student growth. Our senior student leaders grow in their skills and abilities and have a part to play in the learning through critical thinking,” said Czop.

“Creating our thesis at the beginning was hard because as a group you had to pick three things to focus on. Our teacher helped us to do that. It was fun and it changed my perspective of reading the book,” Emma Bedard.

“I think our class learned a lot about having to write an essay before we have to do one on our own. It will help me a lot doing my own essay,” Carlie Seccariccia.

“It was a great experience and now the students are reading a novel of their choice and they’re going to write an independent essay. This gets the students actively reading as they have to do critical thinking to write the essay,” said Mrs. Magli.

While both essays were well written and structured, the class that wrote the essay titled, ‘The Journey of Self-Discovery’ was the winner over the class whose essay was titled ‘Unknown Pain’. For their effort, the winning group was awarded SMC water bottles.