Writing Tents Prep for STAAR

Meadows fourth-graders participate in writing camp
By: Todd Martin
With the state’s writing test a week away, Meadows Elementary School fourth-graders went to camp – Roadrunner Writing Camp.
Teacher Gene-A Salvati transformed her classroom into a campground, with an electric powered “flame” in the center and work stations designed to take students through the writing process.
After reading a social studies section, fourth-graders circulated through editing and revising, brainstorming ideas, organizing their narrative, piecing together a draft and then, working out a final copy.
That last part occurred in the peace and quiet of a zipped-up tent. Salvati set up three individual tents for her students to use for writing.
The idea, the creative teacher, said, was to give her students a fun, memorable experience in a most unusual year while prepping them for their first experience with the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness – the STAAR test.
Normally, third-graders are the youngest to take the state-mandated test, but the usual slate of assessments didn’t happen last spring during the school closure.
“This is the first STAAR test for them and some of them are nervous,” Salvati said Monday, the opening day of camp.
The teacher has conducted writing camp in other school districts and said she thought it was the perfect year to try it at Meadows with tents, songs, T-shirts, stars projected on the ceiling and of course, lots of writing.
“It’s been a crazy year. We’ve asked a lot of our kids and I didn’t want them to feel unprepared,” she said.

“It’s been fun,” said fourth-grader Keeley Capps on Wednesday. “My favorite is the tent because it’s like we’re actually camping.”
“Normally, we’re sitting at our desks. This is more fun.” She said she used the quiet of the tent to work on her final draft during the practice sessions.
“Camp is nice. It’s fun, relaxing,” said Jiavanna McKenzie. “We’re learning new things.”
The fourth-grader explained that she was learning to write at a steady, controlled pace. “I’m confident. I feel good about it.”
Students will be wearing their custom Camp Roadrunner T-shirts on test day Tuesday.
“I wanted them to have something fun and crazy to remember from fourth grade. They can say that was the time we did camp and went in tents.”
“The stars, then tents, all the space – it’s relaxing and fun,” said Capps of the creative learning environment. “I’m sad it’s going to end.”
“She went out of her way to do this,” McKenzie said of their teacher and “camp counselor.”
“That’s pretty cool,” the fourth-grader said. “The whole meaning is to get on track with the STAAR test.”