Students’ Preparation

Residency Student Group Meetings

For six weeks between February and April, the Meg Medina Writers met with librarian Liz Porter and graduate assistant and library intern Melissa Ferens once per week for thirty minutes during their intervention block to prepare for their author visit. Although the students met at the same time, they were divided by class and worked with either Liz in the library or with Melissa in the Maker Lab. Liz and Melissa wanted to keep the groups small and intimate so they could be more responsive to student needs and promote closer bonds between classmates who would be working together during their workshops with Meg.

During weeks 1 and 2, the Meg Medina Writers created collages to tell a story about who they are. It was a fun starting activity that set the creative mood of the meetings and gave the students practice with different forms of story and expression. Students were excited when they found fun pictures in the magazines, and those who didn’t finish asked for more time to work on them later. At the beginning of week 3, they presented their collages to each other. One student was too shy to share theirs alone, but with their best friend sharing beside them, neither could stop smiling. The students took pictures of each other holding their collages and Liz shared these with Meg so that she could begin to get to know the students she would be working with.

During weeks 3 and 4, the Meg Medina Writers worked with Meg’s picture book Tía Isa Wants a Car. During week 3, they heard the story read aloud and discussed how the words and pictures tell about the characters and their personalities. This was to get them to think explicitly about the writing so as to begin to get to know Meg as a writer and develop a relationship with her through her characters. Liz and Melissa announced to them that Meg would be coming to Carrboro Elementary in April, and they were so excited!

In the story, two characters have a dream of buying their first family car and set goals to achieve that dream… so for week 4, the Meg Medina Writers thought about how they can achieve their own dreams. They decorated keys to their future: on the front they wrote a dream or goal they have, and on the back they listed steps to achieve it. Their goals could be big or small, short term or long term. They used a graphic organizer for planning their ideas, then transferred them to the keys. They decorated their keys with markers and stickers and were given a key ring so they could add to it if they’d like. They were excited to be able to take their keys home the same day. The Meg Medina Writers want to be singers, artists, robotic engineers, and doctors. They want to learn new languages, finish college, and make the world peaceful. They want to own mustangs, monster trucks, and mansions. The Steinfirst team asks educators to do everything they can to support these dreams and the dreams of all young people.

So far the students did not know that they would be working with Meg, so who better to surprise them with the news than Meg herself? Meg filmed a short video of herself at home with her dog and told the students about how excited she was to visit them in North Carolina and “write as much as possible” with them. The students saw the video at the beginning of meeting 4 and were thrilled! Liz and Melissa told them about what they would be doing with Meg and how the residency week would look during meetings 4 and 6, and the students had lots of questions! Carrboro Elementary’s positive behavior motto is “be respectful, responsible, and kind,” so the Meg Medina writers came up with ideas for how they would be respectful, responsible, and kind when working with Meg, such as “follow her directions,” “help others :D,” “not interrupting when she’s talking,” and “no side conversations.”

During weeks 5 and 6, Liz and Melissa read aloud Meg’s short story Sol Painting from the anthology Flying Lessons & Other Stories. While the students listened, they had the option to finish their collages, make another dream key, or sketch scenes from Sol Painting. They loved getting creative with the art supplies. Since the fifth meeting took place at the end of the day on the Friday before Spring Break, they ended with a quick five-minute dance party in the library. Students were eager to start working with Meg!

To follow along with the writers’ experience, follow #MegMedinaWriters on Twitter. 

Whole School Preparation

Because Meg Medina is an advocate for diverse literature, Latinx youth, and other causes through her writing and work, the announcement of her visit was connected with Women’s History Month, celebrated nationally in March. All of the third, fourth, and fifth grade classes had lessons in the library in which they learned about why we celebrate Women’s History Month and the impact of various women, framed around the idea that women create change. After a dialogic introduction in which students shared and discussed examples of barriers that women face and women who broke such barriers, they listened to a reading of a picture book to explore the context, work, and impact of a noteworthy woman in more depth. Third grade students heard The Storyteller’s Candle, which explores how Pura Belpré (1899-1982) made her library welcoming for people from Spanish-speaking cultures by providing books in Spanish and hosting bilingual storytimes and cultural events at her library. Fourth and fifth grade students heard Malala’s Magic Pencil and learned about how Malala Yousafzai (1997- ) uses her pen and her voice to stand up for girls’ rights to an education around the world. Students then identified problems they see in their school and in the world and wrote about what they want to change and what steps they can take to do so.

Many of the students’ writings were included on a bulletin board titled “Women change the world.. and so can you/Las mujeres cambian el mundo.. y tú también puedes hacerlo” featured prominently at the entrance of the school. There was also a section where those who view the board can add their own ideas about how they want to change the world. From the bulletin board, Meg would be able to get to know the students at the school and learn about what issues matter to them. A large section of the bulletin board announced Meg’s visit and introduced her work, presenting Meg as a change-maker within a legacy of noteworthy women throughout history.

To provide an extra engaging experience with Meg’s work and to help them get excited about her visit, Carrboro Elementary librarian Liz Porter and graduate assistant Melissa Ferens organized theatrical read-alouds of Mango, Abuela, and Me in the auditorium for each grade 1-5 during the first week of April. The theatrical read-alouds were divided into four scenes, and for each scene, different volunteers from the audience improvised silent acting of the characters in the story as they listened to it being read. Each actor wore a costume piece that identified which character they represented, and various props such as a suitcase, a picture of Abuelo, Edmund the hamster, and of course, a Mango puppet set the scene and made the experience immersive. The students were amazing actors and very enthusiastic about the assembly. They were excited to meet Meg the next week and shared ideas for how they will be respectful during her presentation.

When the students returned to their classrooms, they made small posters to decorate the halls to welcome Meg to Carrboro Elementary. First through third grade included welcoming messages, their favorite parts of Mango, Abuela, and Me, and illustrations. Fourth and fifth grade imagined what a book based on their life would be called and wrote those titles on their posters, since Mango, Abuela, and Me is based on Meg’s life. The K-3 classrooms received copies of Mango, Abuela, and Me or Mango, Abuela y Yo, and the fourth and fifth grade classrooms received copies of Flying Lessons & Other Stories.

Kindergarten heard the story during their regular library lessons during the same week as the theatrical read-alouds. The Mango puppet was used for these lessons but not revealed until Mango’s entry in the story, so the students were quite surprised! Mango added a special element to the lesson and the students enjoyed it. At the end of the lesson, they colored pictures of parrots with speech bubbles, and in the speech bubbles added welcoming messages for Meg or a word or phrase they thought would be important for someone who doesn’t speak their language (or one of their languages) to know. Their art was added to the “Women change the world/Las mujeres cambian el mundo” bulletin board and to the bulletin board outside the library.