A few days ago I received two e-mails from one of my former fifth graders that I hadn’t seen since the final day of school in June 2007. He’s now in seventh grade and wanted to get back in-touch. Seeing as all of my students have my personal e-mail address, this was pretty easy for him to do.
A few portions of his e-mail touched my heart. Those sections follow below:
…I saw some of my old friends I’d known for a long time. As I finished the year book, I read your poem, about how it wasn’t going to ever be the same even if we do indeed email each other. But it’s okay. That’s the way life is…
…But before I am through with this letter, please let me say one thing. Write back, please. Well, okay Ms. Shubitz. Tell me how’s it going. I want to keep in touch with a lot of people who I encountered during my 8 year journey…
…So long, not good-bye.
In the first paragraph (above), the student is referring to the yearbook one of my former students got partially-funded through Josten’s thanks to a persuasive letter she wrote to the company as part of our persuasive letter writing unit in January 2007. Josten’s helped us publish a 32-page class yearbook that year so that all of my kids would have memories of the year that passed. It seemed cool at the time. I spent hours working with five girls in my class putting it together. The kids loved it and spent the last few days of school signing each other’s yearbooks.
However, after the school year was over I wondered if it was worth all of the time fooling around with the digital layouts? Would these yearbooks land up on some shelf in their closets? Afterall, it was just from fifth grade. But, the e-mail I received from my former student made me realize that, yes, that yearbook was important. In fact, it was one of the most important projects I worked on with my students since it provided them with an everlasting window into their fifth grade year: the field trips, the guest speakers, the class activities… everything!
Last year, I didn’t have partial funding to put a yearbook together, but I spent hours creating one on my own. It was not as elaborate as the one that was created the year before, but it was a labor of love. After spending hours printing and binding the kids yearbooks this past June, I wasn’t sure I’d do it again this year. However, receiving the e-mail that I did from my former fifth grader reignited by desire to engage in this kind of project once again.
So, even if school has started for you and you haven’t taken a single picture of your students, know that it’s not too late to start documenting your school year. All you need is a basic digital camera! You don’t even have to print-off the yearbook like I did… you can design it and publish it online, thereby allowing your students to view it online or purchase a copy for print on their own (thereby eliminiating the printing costs to you). Two sites I’m thinking of where you can do such a thing are Picaboo, Smilebox, and Lulu. However, I’m sure there are others. (If you know of others, then please leave a comment!)
I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).