April 24, 2013 - By Meg Peters
Jamie Lovely and her first-graders (click for larger version)
Review Staff Writer
Jamie Lovely hid them under her desk for four days.
Parents had nearly three months to complete them.
"When I give them homework, I cringe because I'm like, oh they're gonna hate me," she said.
But it's such a surprise to her first grade class that Lovely can't stop the annual, top-secret operation.
As part of her language arts unit, students designed their very first book under the premises it must be 'all about' something they are an expert of.
Little did the students know, their parents or loved ones secretly designed another book 'all about' their first grader, and surprised them with it at a class party last Friday.
"Tyler Saves the Day, look at that." she said about a parent's book. "His dad ends up being an FBI agent."
Each parent or guardian gets a blank, white book, which they morph into an 'abc' book, scrapbook, or storyline, with hand-drawn pictures or photographs dedicated to each first grader.
While the parents create their masterpiece by candlelight, students draft versions of their book over the course of the unit, picking their favorite version at the end.
Lovely types up each story, and binds them, creating a book that the students illustrate.
Instead of a research project like previous years, Lovely tried something new with the 'all about' unit this year.
"The boys were so excited about the 'all abouts' because boys technically don't like writing, so when they could write about what they thought they were really good at. I got so much out of them," she said.
From video games to sports to komodo dragons, to kittens and bunnies and gymnastics, the first graders dove into the new assignment as hard as their parents did.
At 2 p.m. last Friday, the students left the classroom for the media center, now a room showcasing each book in bright displays.
The center was decorated in green and white donated flowers from Amazing Petals. There were also tissue flowers made by Lovely and her mother, Cindy Marshall, a retired second-grade teacher also from Blanche Sims, it was an enchanted, book-sharing extravaganza.
Teachers from the building and school board member Steven Drakos were the students' special guests. After a slide show showing off each student and their book, Lovely told her students that she assigned their parents some homework too.
And as another surprise, she added, each student's special person was about to make their grand appearance with their homework.
The kids could not believe it. Each book-bearing family member found their little author, found a nook or cranny to camp out in, and found out about each other's books. Even grandparents from Battle Creek joined the occasion.
Parents donated cakes and deserts, including professional baker Trish Schimings who brought her specialty-baked goods. Lemonade was passed, and the media center turned into a child-parent learning experience.
"Every year I think, oh I'm not going to do it this year, and then I change my mind," Lovely said. After each party she gives the parents a survey, asking if this took up too much time, or if it was too big a responsibility.
Not only does she get outstanding reviews from the parents, but also final products, which she reads cover to cover. After the students and parents read each other's books. Lovely talks to the family about their findings.
The only worry is for late homework.
"I cross my fingers every year that nobody forgets, and that everybody does their homework, and they always pull through."
Because it is homework everyone wants to do.
"Sometimes I'm hunting them down the day before, 'Where is your book you're freaking me out.' But they all turn them in."
Mrs. Lovely says she is not a crier.
"It's so funny, because I shock the whole staff that comes to the party," she admits. "They're like, you're not a crier, and you were totally crying up in front of those people, because it just touches your heart, you know when you see it, it's so pretty in there."