The Wolf That Would Forgive was created in 2006 by 8th grade students from the Four Rivers Charter Public School in Greenfield, Massachusetts. It is a children’s book, created for an audience of intermediate elementary readers, which centers on social/emotional issues of character that are compelling to both elementary and middle school students. It combines an academic (reading/writing) focus on the genre of fables with a character/community focus on personal values and habits of behavior.
Students began the project with a study of a writing genre – personal narrative. Each student created a personal narrative of a life experience that taught them something personally significant – a true short story with pivotal moment and a resolution. They refined this narrative through many drafts, with critique and revision. This was followed by a literary study of the genre of fables, and students then joined these two studies by creating an original fable based on their personal narrative.
Students chose an animal protagonist – a common device in fables – and wrote their fable in language that would be understandable and compelling to younger readers. To build the background to do this well, they did field research at a number of local elementary schools. Each student also created a scratchboard illustration: scratchboard is a medium that resembles a woodcut but is easier to create. To achieve quality writing and illustrations for the book, students worked through multiple drafts of their fable and artwork, and received critique from peers and experts. They used a published children’s book as a model for the scratchboard illustrations, and arranged to get the book’s artist to be a guest expert, giving lessons and critique.
In addition to focusing on academic and artistic skills, the project compelled students to reflect on important social-emotional issues in their own lives; to consider and discuss issues of character; and it provided an authentic forum for classroom discussion of positive and negative habits of character in their current and future lives.
This project was featured in an exhibit at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2010 featuring exemplary student work, Books for Kids, by Kids.
How This Project Can Be Useful
- Combines highly engaging topic for middle school students (themselves and their personal/social issues) with academic study and skills
- Creates an authentic reason for class discussion of personal character and self-improvement within a slightly abstract, safe context – writing fables for younger students
- Combines skills in reading, writing and illustration for an authentic reason
- Striking visual artwork, highlighting the power of scratchboard as medium
- Beautiful visual layout, borders, fonts, scale and size; overall production quality excellent; elegant, yet inexpensive to produce – all black and white
- Strong example of the power of multiple drafts, critique and experts
- Strong example of children’s books as project format in middle school
Common Core State Standards
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