The Serendipity Journal Project

After getting home from work one day last week, I went into my son Tyson’s room to let him know that I was ready to take him to get his haircut. He had been requesting a haircut for a week or so and I expected him to run straight out the door to the car. But, he didn’t. And, what he said both surprised and excited me.

“Mom, can I finish reading this first?”

I refrained myself from jumping up and down when I heard this and I calmly said, “Sure, what are you reading?” as I peeked at his iPad.

“The Serendipity Journal. I love it.”

I almost melted into a puddle right then and there. Okay, not only was my son super excited to read but he was super excited to read something I wrote! Yippee!!!

Over Labor Day weekend, I was inspired to write something that I had been dreaming about for over fifteen years. When I was teaching seventh and eighth graders about William Glasser’s Choice Theory back in 2002, I dreamed of writing a realistic fiction book for them that would teach the concepts.

So, as my son Tyson and I were swimming in Lake Michigan over Labor Day weekend, I shared my dream with him. As we talked, the idea for The Serendipity Journal came to life.

I began writing the first few chapters and outlining the plan for the book. As I was doing that, I wondered how I might involve our students at Quincy Elementary in the process. I wanted to share my love for writing with them, as well as share what I was learning about the writing process. I also wanted to inspire them to dream big themselves. From that wondering came The Serendipity Journal blog, where I ask students at Quincy Elementary and students from all over the world to edit my book as I write it.

I post a chapter of The Serendipity Journal on my blog every week. In fact, I just spent several hours posting the fourth chapter and responding to the feedback that came in this week.

The feedback poured in from all over the globe–from Australia to Mexico to Japan to Canada and all over the US. Students have the opportunity to read for an authentic purpose, and they are the most thoughtful editors ever. They have caught my grammatical mistakes, they have asked great questions that led to adding details about characters to the story, and they are giving me ideas for future chapters. I respond to every single student and share with them how their feedback has influenced my writing.

Not only are students able to read the chapters of the book, they have greatly benefited from reading the feedback from other students. They are learning about the differences between schools in the US and schools in Australia. They are seeing that other students have the same questions and feedback as they do. They are SO excited to read the chapters and to write their feedback. They are a little research project in action–research shows that reading and writing for an authentic purpose increases student engagement, and we are seeing just that.

We are finding that the book is a little challenging for fourth graders, but some fourth grade teachers are using it as a read-aloud or reading it together. It has a Lexile level of 800L-900L, so it is very appropriate for fifth to eighth grade readers. Each post concludes with “Questions for my editors” to give students some guidance for their feedback. It also includes “Behind the scenes information” because there are many autobiographical parts to the story. Students have loved this section so much so that I think I will need to find a spot for it in the book.

I invite you to take a look at the first four chapters of The Serendipity Journal and to have your students join in on the project. It is character education in action as the lessons from The Path to Serendipity are woven into the story. It is an authentic reading and writing learning experience. And, it is absolutely delightful to read the excitement about the story that student editors share.

If I haven’t already convinced you to check The Serendipity Blog out, take a look at this video of students editing Chapter One in Kennewick, WA:

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