Iber Holmes Gove Middle School News

Parent Group Funds Author’s Appearance at Middle School
By Leslie O’Donnell   10-23-17

Getting seventh graders excited about reading and writing can be a challenge, but Iber Holmes Gove Middle School in Raymond has found a path to success.

Rebecca Sharrow and Jill Hoffman, seventh grade language arts teachers at the middle school, assign the realistic fiction novel “The Revealers” by Doug Wilhelm at the start of the year, and use it to introduce various writing skills. Sharrow said the novel has been a great medium for learning.

“This is the first piece of literature they are introduced to,” Sharrow explained. “They learn the literary elements, and do their first piece of writing based on the novel. The students are so excited by the novel that they are eager to write about it. They want to talk about that book immediately.”

She said she finds her students end up with a more positive attitude toward reading in general after “The Revealers.”

And this will be a special year for the Raymond seventh graders. After an absence of several years, Wilhelm, who lives in Vermont, will pay a visit to the middle school and meet with the seventh graders, thanks to the generosity of the Parent Core Group, which is funding his appearance.

“Wilhelm has come to the school in the past, but then we lost the ability to pay for that,” Sharrow said. “This year we asked the Parent Core Group if they could pay for it, and they agreed. The students are beyond excited!”

Sharrow said she learned about the novel from her mother, Deb Fogg, who was 2005 Teacher of the Year in New Hampshire. She introduced it to her students, and since then, the novel has been so successful with her students that Sharrow teaches it every year.

Every Raymond seventh grader reads the book, beginning at the start of the school year and concluding at the end of October or early November. “It’s about a seventh grade kid who doesn’t fit in at school,” Sharrow said. “He and two other kids do some things to change the school climate – they bring bullying to light and change the school culture, but it’s not a book about bullying, it’s a book about friendship.

“And the students absolutely love the story,” she added.

 “I use the novel to teach plot line, character development, inference, predicting, using evidence to support a claim, and several writing techniques,” Sharrow explained. “This novel is also used to teach the Harkness method of student-centered discussion in my class.”

Sharrow was trained in the Harkness method at Phillips Exeter Academy, and uses one of the Harkness tables Exeter donated to the Raymond School District. She described the Harkness process as student-centered learning.

“The students come to the Harkness table with questions they want to talk about,” she explained. “They mediate the discussion. I may create a writing assignment based on what they talk about at the table, but they build on each other’s ideas, and the teacher does not answer their questions – they find the answers.”

The middle school has been using the Harkness method for about four years, she said. It focuses on face-to-face communication, a skill Sharrow sees as dying out in the Smartphone age. “Harkness brings that back,” she said, noting the students watch each other’s body language and respond when it looks like someone wants to speak.

Wilhelm will visit Iber Holmes Gove on Thursday, Nov. 9. The eighth graders, who read “The Revealers” last year, will attend an assembly with him. Following the assembly, the author will meet with smaller groups of seventh graders in their individual language arts classes, and will discuss the writing process and the story itself.

Teaching “The Revealers” is one of the things Sharrow likes about Raymond. “This is my 15th year at the middle school, and it was my first job right out of college,” she said. “I have roots here, I love it here, and I love my team.”

Dana Zulager, a board member of the Parent Core Group, said the volunteer organization was pleased to be able to provide something to benefit the seventh grade curriculum. “We get strong support from the administration to fund things outside the budget,” she said.

The Parent Core Group’s annual fundraiser, Rafflemania, which takes place in the spring, brings in between $2,000 and $10,000 each year. Profits from the event go to fund things outside the budget at the middle school. In past years, the group has purchased a Gaga Pit, a playground area for dodgeball. The group has also purchased waders for the seventh grade, so students can wade into the Lamprey River and collect specimens as they study its ecology. Some specimens are kept alive in science classrooms over the winter and are released back to the river in spring, Zulager said.

The Parent Core Group, which is similar to a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), also funded a Wildlife Encounters-type classroom experience for fifth graders, as part of their fantasy animal project. “That was extremely meaningful for the kids,” Zulager said. Also funded was a Family Engagement Action Team (FEAT) theater group presentation of “Comic Relief,” directed by Bob Gagnon.

Zulager said Sherrow made her request to her principal for $1,000 to pay for the author visit, and he presented it to the Parent Core Group.

“He would not be coming if the Parent Core Group did not approve our request,” Sharrow said of Wilhelm. “We’re very thankful to them.”






















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