2019 TJ Writes: Monthly English Bulletin

So proud of the contributors to this year's TJ Writes monthly bulletin program!
From Left: Alina, Erika, Ashley, Eryxson, Hannah, Handsome, Jessie, Andy, Marsha, Chris, Kamilla, & Erissca.
As a teacher, what do you do when you find that the students at your school: (1) read at levels several years below their current age, (2) don’t read in English, & (3) don’t have English language reading materials easily available.

After some consideration, I decided on a monthly English bulletin with contributions from the student population. These contributions come in the form of essays of any topic of any length. The bulletin will be printed & posted in each classroom.


Besides addressing the problems described in the first paragraph, I wanted students to (1) have both short & long model essays easily available to the students, (2) see their peers write in English & think that it's possible for them too, (3) celebrate students' writing in English, (4) flood the school with English, & (5) provide an avenue for the critical & creative use of English. [I was so happy when Jessie Abbygil submitted the only critical essay of the year expressing her frustrations with our exam-based education system.]

Having had students run away from me when I tried to rope them in for English programs, I pitched this idea first to the better writers at the school based on recommendations from my colleagues. Out of these 15 students, only one, Erika Vallensia Andrew, submitted an essay. Many of the rest expressed frustration at not being able to wrap their minds around the project. (Even after several years of schooling, see how academically deprived they were?) Therefore, the first edition in June 2019 was my description of the project & the essay from Erika (who eventually contributed the highest number of submissions). After that, it was still a struggle to get submissions from the students.

Process of the "TJ Writes" program:

1. Student submits essay & personal bio.
2. Teacher proofreads & corrects.
3. Student types into word doc.
4. Teacher proofreads again & pastes into the template.
5. At the end of the month, print a copy for each class.
6. Get the same students every month to post it in every class. [The teacher has to monitor during the first 2 months as students tend to put very little thought into how they do this. Optimize it for the best reading experience.]
7. At the end of the year, print certificates for contributors. [Be sure to include special titles for the kind of behavior you desired. I had "most critical contributor", "most creative contributor", & "top contributor"]

A lot of personal attention is required at the beginning for something to be done with high standards.

How did it go?

As you can see from the editions I've shared below, the number of submissions increased significantly after the initial few months. Once students saw a few editions, they finally understood what it was all about. Also, students loved having the bulletin in their classrooms. Even lower proficiency students came up to me & said that they enjoyed reading the essays. The best proof that the bulletins were valued was how it remained on the bulletin board after a few months have passed & other notices had faded or flown away.

Next year?

I'd love to see some poetry from the students. Also, I'd like to form a student committee from those who have contributed this year to run writing clinics to groom other students & encourage them to contribute to the monthly bulletin. I can't wait for the day reading & writing in English becomes the norm at my school & I prove that students at sports schools can write just as well as students from regular schools. Also, when I have enough submissions, I will compile the best long & short essays into a book. I want the entire nation to read the beautiful works of my students & witness what happens when athletes can write.

What do you think? How can I improve this? How have you done yours?

2019 editions of TJ Writes:

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