WMU News

Fifth-graders get some early college writing experience

April 13, 2005

KALAMAZOO--About 28 fifth-graders are going to college--for one day, at least--as guests of Western Michigan University pre-intern English education majors.

Youngsters from Patricia Bills' class at Washington Writers' Academy in Kalamazoo will be guests of WMU students in the methods course "Writing in the Elementary School," taught by Dr. Karen Vocke, assistant professor of English. Throughout the semester, the fifth-graders and their WMU mentors have been "pen pals," and the WMU students have visited their younger friends at the Washington Academy twice.

During their visit to WMU, which is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, April 15, the Kalamazoo Public School students will tour the campus, engage in reflective writing about what they've seen and share their writing with their WMU student mentors. The older and younger students also will have lunch together on campus.

"My students benefit from the meaningful relationships that their WMU pen pals provide through this intensive, focused writing experience," says Bills, a WMU graduate and 12-year veteran teacher. "And they learn to see writing as a way of cementing relationships with people."

Visiting a university campus--which many of them will be doing for the first time--also lends reality to the possibility of attending college themselves someday, says Bills.

Bills and Vocke have collaborated for two years on a variety of partnerships for their respective students. This semester's service-learning project for Vocke's students was supported by a grant from the WMU College of Arts and Sciences.

Media contact: Thom Myers, 269 387-8400, thom.myers@wmich.edu

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