COVINGTON — Students at Callaghan Elementary School pulled off a unique feat by completing a schoolwide writing project.
The project was designed to allow students in all grade levels to practice writing in a fun and stress-free environment.
“Writing is an essential part of education. It is just as important as reading, listening, and speaking. It is a process that causes students to think through their topic, and gain an understanding of the best way to present the information to their audience. I wanted to provide students the opportunity to understand that writing can be fun. They were truly amazed at the end product, and they are very proud of their story,” said Callaghan Principal Lisa Hansford.
Written in a Halloween theme, the story compiled by students is titled The Mystery Potion. It centers on best friends Tom and Lucy, Felix the vampire cat, a mad scientist and his robot wizard, an owl and zombies.
First graders were given the task of starting the story. They were given four story starters to choose from. After choosing the story starter, they had to create and describe the setting. Early childhood education students joined the fun by working on a bat craft for scenery. Students enrolled in Callaghan’s Virginia Preschool Initiative created ghosts using outlines of their hands, while kindergarteners created leaves to display fall colors.
Second graders created the characters for the story. They drew the characters on bulletin board paper to make them appear life-sized. They were also asked to write five sentences that were woven into the story. As they completed their assignment, teachers stressed the importance of capitalization, punctuation, and other important elements of writing.
Using the story starting, the setting, and the characters provided by the lower grades, third graders wrote the introductory paragraph. The fourth graders used the introductory paragraph and added two paragraphs that were inserted into the body of the story.
The story was then concluded by fifth graders, who were assigned to write at least two conclusion paragraphs.
Throughout the entire writing process, the students learned to focus on their audience and develop details for the story. They also focused on story elements as they created the plot. This project helped students learn to better communicate by working together on revisions to the story to make it flow smoothly.
“As usual, our teachers met the task without hesitation and worked hard to guide students in creating a true masterpiece. Every student in the building, Early Childhood through fifth grade had a hand in this project. I am extremely proud of our students and staff at Callaghan Elementary School,” Hansford said.
The finished work is now on display in the school’s main lobby for parents and the public to see. The project shows the beauty of collaboration between teachers and their students, and students with each other.
“Mrs. Hansford and her staff have taken English/Writing at Callaghan Elementary to a different level with her implementation of this creative opportunity for students to showcase their writing ability,” said Sherman Callahan, director of elementary instruction for Alleghany Highlands Public Schools.
Writing is an important part of the AHPS instructional plan for 2023-2024.
“As we read The Mystery Potion, we are so impressed by the level of collaboration,” said Kim Halterman and Melinda Snead-Johnson, leaders of AHPS. “It is clear the entire school worked together to practice their writing and help writing be fun.”
The Mystery Potion
Lucy and Tom were both nine years old. Lucy had red hair, and Tom had brown hair. They had been best friends for as long as they could remember. Lucy and Tom spent most of their spare time together. Their favorite pastime was exploring the woods behind the apartment building, where they both lived.
One October evening, Lucy and Tom were playing on an old tire swing at the edge of the woods. Lucy had brought her cat, Felix, outside with her. Felix was a yellow cat and normally stayed inside. As Lucy attempted to swing with Felix in her arms, the cat scratched her and leapt out of her arms. He took off into the woods.
Tom and Lucy chased after Felix, through the woods. The sun was setting and the air was turning cooler. The woods were getting darker and darker. They had never ventured this far into the woods before. In the distance, they could see a dim light. They walked towards it.
As they got closer, they realized that they were back in their own neighborhood. Instead of their apartment building, though, there stood a mysterious old house. It was covered in spider webs and vines. The dim light they had seen from a distance was coming from some of the windows. They could see strange shadows lurking in the light. An eerie-looking cemetery was behind the house. Behind it, they could see the woods where Felix had escaped.
Suddenly, Felix appeared in front of them. The cat stopped to sniff something near the entrance of the spooky house. The door creaked open. At that moment, Lucy and Tom heard an owl hoot in a nearby tree. A shiver ran down their spines. The owl swooped down, spooking Felix. Felix ran through the door, into the house. Without thinking, the children ran after him. As soon as they entered the house, the door slammed shut.
The children jumped when they heard the door slam. They realized this wasn’t a normal house. Suddenly, they heard creaking steps and they turned their heads to see a mad scientist descending from the top of the stairs. Following behind the mad scientists was what looked like a wizard … but it was a robot, too! A robot wizard!
Lucy and Tom were in shock. What started as a normal day playing outside has turned into something right out of a scary movie. The mad scientist finally made his way to the bottom of the stairs. His loud voice boomed through the house. “Well, well, well, I was not expecting visitors today.”
Lucy and Tom were so scared they could hardly speak! Lucy squeaked out, “Uh-uh-uh… my cat … ran in here.” The mad scientist had a mischievous grin on his long face. “Ahhhhh, why yes, I have seen a cat. Here kitty, kitty, kitty…” the creepy looking mad scientist said.
All of a sudden, Felix jumped up on the scientist’s shoulder. Felix let out an ear piercing “Meowwwwww!” that made the kids jump. Lucy had never heard Felix make that noise before. The robot wizard pulled out a vile of purple potion and handed it to the scientist. Next thing Lucy and Tom knew, the mad scientist and the robot wizard were giving Felix the potion. Suddenly, Felix’s yellow fur turned black and his teeth turned into fangs! Felix was turned into a vampire cat!
The kids scream as they watch Felix transform. Felix flew into the air and disappeared into the dark of the night. In a flash, the kids took off after him but he was nowhere to be found. After hours of searching, they returned to the house and discovered that he was hiding in the attic of the old house. Felix was not pleased to see the kids and he hissed and bit Lucy before running back to the mad scientist and wizard robot. Lucy’s arm then began to turn purple and Tom knew he had to act quickly in order to save her. Tom finds the scientist and demands a potion to cure the spell. After ingesting the potion, Lucy returns to normal. Lucy and Tom run downstairs to ask what was in the magic potion that had cured her. The scientist refused to share the recipe but decided to strike up a deal with them.
Tom, Lucy and the scientist agreed that if the kids could find all the ingredients for his next potion, he would indeed teach them how to heal the cat. The kids immediately took off to the cemetery behind the house in search of a finger, a head, a magical black flower, the lung of a witch, and a rat. When the kids return with the stinky, rotting ingredients, they find the scientist waiting for them by the fire. They place the ingredients into a caldron and the scientist mixes them together with his magic wand. He then pulls Felix out and adds three drops of the cat’s vampire blood. This magic blood made the potion sizzle and pop. The scientist cheers and sprints up the stairs with the potion in hand.
At the top of the stairs, there was a dim light at the end of the hallway. Everyone races to follow the scientist into the room and to their amazement they see Granny robot wizard laying in her bed very, very sick. She slowly sips the potion and is healed before their eyes. “Hooray,” the mad scientist cheered! “My granny is all better,” said the robot wizard. They both thanked Tom and Lucy and presented them with the recipe for the spell to fix Felix.
The children traveled back home and were able to mix up the cat food, treats, and bellyache medicine to cure Felix the cat. Once he was cured, things returned to normal and the children agreed to not mention this to their parents and to not return to the woods. The kids were thankful they were able to work together to save the cat but also understood why the mad scientist had to turn Felix into a vampire to cure the robot wizard’s granny. Lucy and Tom really hope that they do not ever see the abandoned house, cemetery or the mad scientist ever again.
Callaghan Elementary School is part of the Alleghany Highlands Public School Division, which was created in July 2022. AHPS was created when Alleghany County Public Schools, Covington City Public Schools, and Jackson River Technical Center merged.
Callaghan is one of four AHPS elementary schools. The school division is jointly funded by Alleghany County and the City of Covington. AHPS serves approximately 2,700 students.
AHPS news and events are regularly updated on Facebook at AHPublicSchools and on Instagram at ahpublicschools. Information is also available on the division website www.ahps.k12.va.us.
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