For some students, writing is a labor of love. For others, it is simply labor. Dallin Elementary School created Hourglass, a student-run literary journal funded by an Arlington Education Foundation Innovation Grant that encourages students to view writing as not just a necessary skill but also as a creative outlet that lets their imaginations run free. The Hourglass lets students explore beyond the core elements of writing. “I think that it’s a nice real world application of what students are learning about writing in school,” said fifth grade teacher Ms. Connor.
The first literary journal was created in 2012–2013, and this year’s is already underway. Hourglass gives students a glimpse into the world of publishing and all of the steps involved. The journal is produced almost entirely by 5th grade students, letting them explore and develop leadership, organization, and teamwork skills. Students solicit submissions by creating posters and writing announcements. They evaluate which pieces will be included in the journal. They design the cover and interior, and sell the final product. The bulk of the work is performed by students, guided by fifth grade teacher Ms. Jill Connor and parent advisor Jenny Brown.
The idea was presented to all fifth graders at Dallin in the fall of 2012, and those who were interested formed the editorial and production team. Meetings are held during lunch/recess to give all students the opportunity to participate. Fifteen students have joined the literary journal team, taking on the roles of editor-in-chief, layout and design lead, and publicity lead as well as filling committee roles on editorial, layout and design, and publicity.
Submissions come from the entire school. Short stories, poetry, personal narratives, and comics are accepted as well as artwork. To encourage the youngest at Dallin to write, fifth grade reading buddies help kindergartners by writing down the stories dictated to them.
Not every piece submitted is accepted. Each piece is evaluated on a grade-level basis, and is reviewed and chosen by students on the Hourglass editorial team. Fifth grader Anna said, “It’s fun to work on because you get to read other people’s writing.” In the 2012–2013 Hourglass, 52 pieces of writing and 10 illustrations representing all grades were published.
The AEF grant funded the publication of two journals, the first of which was published in May 2013 and the second of which will be published in May 2014. Students who have a piece accepted in the journal or who work on the journal, receive one free copy. Additional copies sell for $3 a piece, in hopes that the journal will become self-supporting in the future.
One of the goals of the program is to help students gain a sense of pride in their writing when they see their works in print. Fifth grader Conor, who published the poem “Recipe for Cuteness” and is now on the editorial committee said, “When I read my poem, I felt really good because it was like being in a magazine where everyone got to see it.”
Third grader Sadie had “Poems for All the Seasons” published in the journal. She said, “I already know I want to be a writer and it made me feel I accomplished the first step of my goal.” Dallin hopes that the Hourglass will become a beloved school tradition for years to come.