For the second consecutive year the Green Valley Vipers won Best Book Primary School NSW/ACT in the Write a Book in a Day competition. So what’s their secret?
Every day at Green Valley Public School, students are given opportunities to experiment with writing and to demonstrate their increasing mastery of the English language. They enter countless writing competitions, are able to attend special extension classes, and teachers passionate about the written language constantly offer encouragement.
That’s why, when it comes time to enter the annual Write a Book in a Day event, the team feels as if they’re well prepared. It’s another day of work at a school that highly values writing.
“It’s almost as if the participants have been training for it,” says Melinda Zielonka, an Assistant Principal and teacher at Green Valley Public School in Sydney’s west. “They have created books before, obviously with different parameters and different characters, etc., for fun.”
“We like to use these types of programs to engage our students, and it means they can use some of the skills that we have taught them during the writing extension groups. In those groups we work on things like writing good-quality sentences, developing a story from an image, and using interesting vocabulary.”
These groups even complete warm-up exercises. They don’t involve jogging or stretching, but are instead a warm-up for the students’ minds, all about short, fun writing exercises intended to get the students’ creativity flowing. They include taking poorly constructed sentences and turning them into high-quality sentences.
Amazingly, in 2019 the Green Valley Public School team, known as the ‘Green Valley Vipers’, won the Best Book Primary School NSW/ ACT for the second year running, as well as the National Primary division.
The team penned a masterpiece themed around the empowerment of young women. It was a story of a young girl who wanted to be a wrestler, and who overcame obstacles to follow her dream.
“The enormous educational value in the Write a Book in a Day process is in the communication and teamwork,” Melinda says. “We try to give the students opportunities in their normal classes to communicate ideas between each other and to experiment with teamwork. But a program like Write a Book in a Day takes it up an extra level. That’s because the teachers cannot intervene.”
“So the teachers simply supervise and make sure everyone is on track and it’s the students who have to do all of the communication. In working as a team and in realising they are in charge and are responsible for the outcome, the students develop valuable leadership skills.”
Those skills, Melinda says, will be useful if the students go on to university, and will also be valuable in their work lives.
“The ways that we communicate with each other, the ways we get along and make decisions etc., are very important in life,” she says. “The more tools like that that we are able to use in various situations, the better we’ll be at handling those situations.”
While the group had little personal connection with childhood cancer or with competition organisers, The Kids’ Cancer Project, the purpose of the competition was not lost on any of them. It helped to inspire the group during the long day, Melinda says.
Even more inspiring was when they were told they’d won the National Award - Best Book Primary School, particularly when they realised who they were up against.
After returning to school from the awards ceremony, which each student in the team attended, they were full of stories about the other schools that had taken part.
“We’re just an amazing public school, and we’re doing great things with our great kids. We believe that any student can achieve anything.”