South Orangetown Central School District

Photo collage of English 12 literary keepsake displays

Last week, English 12 students created literary keepsake displays for memoirs they had chosen to read. To complete this hands-on, culminating project, seniors were tasked with identifying and finding items of significance to the author’s journey, then composing and photographing a vignette of the items with the book. The final step: Uploading images to Google Slides to create an interactive slideshow.

A passion for skiing drove Anna to choose Liv Arnesen’s “Skiing into the Bright Open: My Solo Journey to the South Pole.” “I always want to learn about other skiers and how I can improve myself,” she said. “But also, there have been moments where people have tried to pull me back when I’ve wanted to go in a different direction with my life. Her story reminded me that I don’t need to rely on others to achieve.”

By selecting “Departure Stories: Betty Crocker Made Matzoh Balls (and Other Lies)” by Elisa Bernick, Siena saw an opportunity for introspection. “I’m Jewish and it was about the author struggling with her faith during her childhood. I kind of related to it because there aren’t a lot of Jewish people in our community,” reflected Siena. “Toward the end, the author gets more comfortable with who she is. I’m not particularly religious but I would like to learn more about who I am. I’d recommend the book for people who are struggling with identity.

“Adding more student choice is a department goal. Seniors are getting ready to go out into the world, so we’re giving them opportunities to discover what they like to read so that they become lifelong readers,” reported English teacher Laura Sorrese-Lefkow, who co-teaches with Special Education teacher Diane McLoughlin and English as a New Language teacher Alex Tsironis. “I was astounded by the level of enthusiasm students brought to this project. They were very deliberate with the items they chose and the composition of their photos…and they learned a new skill! [Library Media Specialist] Patty Eyer not only developed this activity, she and Library Assistant Jane Bradbury gathered more than 100 items for students to choose from, in addition to those students brought in themselves from home.”

“Students need projects that are meaningful to them. They chose challenging books and topics,” Eyer noted. “I wanted this project to be rigorous and accessible for all students while teaching them about Google Slides features they had never explored.”

Tsironis echoed the importance of accessibility, adding, “Students who utilize different learning modalities jumped in and our English Language Learners were really engaged. Student choice truly made this project a tremendous success.”

The collection of keepsake resources began last year and will be preserved for future projects.