Close's class wins national writing contest

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Karen Close's fourth-grade class at Elm Lawn Elementary has been named the winner of the Mrs. P Be-A-Famous Writer Contest.

Students found out they had won on Thursday morning. Superintendent Don Johnson, Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services George Mavroulis and Elm Lawn principal Robert Schell were also in the classroom when the announcement was made.

Check out this short video of the classroom's reaction about winning the award.

The winning story, The Magic Baseball Poster, was written by Daniel Kim with help from Owen Sheehan. The story was picked over four other finalists for the national award.

"I was shocked. I didn't think our story would stand up. It's a great honor,'' Kim said on Thursday.

"It's crazy to think so many stories were submitted throughout the entire United States and that we won,'' Sheehan said.

Kim said he decided on the topic after reading a book about Jackie Robinson. Sheehan said he is a big baseball fan so he was thrilled to help out.

One of the biggest challenges was tightening up the story. The rules allowed stories between 250 and 1,000 words to be submitted. At one point, Kim's story was 300 words too long so the boys cut out a part about meeting Robinson's wife.

Close's class actually wrote six stories and picked the baseball story by one vote over another story about time-traveling dogs.

The class received the following for winning:

  • Winner’s certificate
  • Gift certificate from Buyer Preferred for $100 to purchase books.
  • One-Year subscription to Tales2Go for Up to 10 users, which is a $180 value.
  • A year's subscription to myON reader, a personalized reading resource, which is a $7,250 value. Students will have unlimited access to more than 4,000 enhanced digital books available on desktops, laptops, netbooks and tablets.
  • Mrs. P Magic Universal Bookmarks

The story will have its world premiere on the Mrs. P website on March 4. Close's class will also its own bound and illustrated copy of the story along with a copy for the  school library.  Mrs. P will also Skype with Close's classroom on March 4 and read the story to students.

"I received many stories from classrooms all over the country, so you should be very proud of your classrooms accomplishment,'' said Mrs. P, who is played on TV by actress Kathy Kinney.

Learn more about the announcement online. Visit the District's Facebook page to see more photos from Thursday's event.

Close said the stories were written after the class' unit on narrative writing in writing workshop and the stories went through many revisions and edits, she said.

"It was a very tight race,'' Close said. "Daniel's story won by one vote.''

Kim's story is about two boys who are able to go back in time to meet Jackie Robinson the day before he breaks the color barrier in major league baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

What was Kim's reaction to being finalist for the award?

"Daniel is shy, humble and unassuming,'' Close said. "I think he's a bit self-conscious about all the attention.''

Close was thrilled that his story has been honored.

"I reacted with joy and pride,'' she said. "He is a very hard-working student who takes instruction well and doesn't back away from any challenge I put before him.  He makes corrections without complaint and isn't afraid to make major changes if need be. I saw his time travel story an offshoot of his daily work ethic.''

Close learned about the contest from library-media center specialist Deb Dagitz. The class then joined Mrs. P for a webcast announcing the contest. It is the first time Close has had a class enter the contest.

Two of the other finalists were from Crestwood Elementary in Iowa. The other finalists were from The Collegiate School in Richmond, Va., and Albemarle Road Elementary School in Charlotte, N.C. This year K-4 classrooms were invited to write about the theme of time travel.

The winner was selected by a panel of celebrity judges that included poet Robert L. Forbes, actress Marion Ross, and 5th grade teacher from N. Y. Jamie Palmer, and Mrs. P, which is an LLC  founded in 2008 by the Hollywood team of Clay Graham, Dana Plautz and Kinney.

Plus Polka Dots Publishing will turn the winning story into two copies of an actual book with color illustrations created by illustrator Robin Robinson for the winning school's classroom and school library. The other four finalists will receive gift cards for books from Powell’s and a choice of one of author Melissa Northway’s books for their classroom.

What does Kim think about writing now?

"I definitely like it more now,'' he said.