Literature in the Classroom: Julie Danneberg
First Year Letters
Bring literature into your classroom with this wonderful book by Julie Danneberg. It is a collection of letters between Mrs. Hartwell, her students, and a few classroom visitors. One of the first few letters talks about a list that one of the students is compiling about "Important Things Teaches Should Know". Gather your class for a brainstorming session to create their own list. You might be surprised about what you learn!
The collection of letters lends itself to a lesson on writing a friendly letter. After reading the book to your class, ask them what they recognized about every letter in the book. The similarities of each letter's format can lead to a discussion of the format for a friendly letter. A sample friendly letter format can be downloaded from the media gallery. The students will see that each letter has:
- the date
- salutation (Dear.....)
- body of the letter
A few of the letters in the book also contain a P.S. Explain that P.S. means post script (or after writing) and is a chance to add a short note that you forgot to add to the body of the letter. When you assign the letters, you can choose several options. When assigning the letters, you can let the students choose who they want to write to, or you can choose from some of the following assignments:
- school employee, showing gratitude for the job they do
- family member
- student from neighboring class
- student that will be coming into their grade next year, giving support and advice
- student from the grade they will be joining next year, asking for advice
- character from a book (Mrs. Hartwell or a student from the book)
- classroom volunteer
Last Day Blues
In her book First Day Jitters, Julie Danneberg shows students how teachers are also a little nervous on the first day of school. In her book Last Day Blues, she chronicles the last day of school and the excitement and apprehension that comes along with it. In Last Day Blues, Mrs. Hartwell's students are worried that Mrs. Hartwell does not want school to end because she will be bored all summer without them, while they are off having fun. The conclusion of the book shows all of the school's faculty celebrating the end of school and looking forward to their summer vacation.
Brainstorm with your students about their favorite memories from the school year. You can invite a class from a grade lower than yours to come and visit your classroom near the end of the school year. Have each of your students choose one of their favorite activities from the past year, or they can work in small groups, and then prepare a small presentation for your visitors. If they have saved projects, they can use these as well. This can help the incoming students feel less anxious about what they will experience in their new grade, and your students get to share their accomplishments from the year.
Start a class discussion with students about what their ideal last day of school would be. Ask them to write a story that chronicles the perfect last day of school. Or, you could ask them to write about what they think you will do over your summer vacation. It is always interesting to see what students think their teachers do in their free time!