From the Classroom to the World: A Writing Assignment That Became a Published Book

“Meaningful learning requires students to recognize how their learning relates to ideas they already possess and actively connect the new ideas to the familiar.”

Inter-American March 14, 2022

On March 2019, I sent a sample of a manuscript that my students were writing to Pacific Press. They said they were interested, and my students were very excited! The book was finished on December, 2020. It was sent to Pacific Press in January 2021, by March they had voted to publish the book, and in April, I signed the book contract! The final result was a teen devotional entitled 113 Reasons Why Life is Good!.

David Ausubel stated that meaningful learning requires students to recognize how their learning relates to ideas they already possess and actively connect the new ideas to the familiar. Writing this book gave my students this experience and also moved them towards Ellen G. White’s vision of education as well-rounded development and preparation for service. 

Getting (and Keeping) My Students Engaged

I wanted to show my students that they could do unforgettable things. At first, however, only a few students agreed to write a devotional for the book; the rest were skeptical. Many were apathetic, did not believe in the project, or quickly decided to quit. 

To encourage them, I told them the parable of the bags of gold from Matthew 25:14-30. I noted that everybody has gifts to offer, that we should use those gifts in God’s service, and that not using our gifts could make us lose them, as happened to one of the servants in the story. My favorite verse, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (1 Timothy 4:12) became theirs, too.

My students were sometimes discouraged by the many revisions of their manuscripts. The phrases “learning is not a spectator sport,” and “study to learn, not to pass the exam,” became our driving slogans. These reminders helped them to continue through the difficult times.

The Process

First, we defined the topic: suicide in young people. We chose this topic because of the high rates of suicide worldwide. For example, The Economist recently noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had named suicide as “the tenth-biggest cause of death in the United States—deadlier than traffic accidents and homicide.”

Next, I explained how to write a devotional. They wrote their first drafts and we solved some problems with structure and word order and analyzed the articles using information online. Then we evaluated each writing according to the Women’s Ministries Devotional Book Guidelines and checked for grammar mistakes, spelling, and other errors. Finally, we compiled and organized the final manuscript.

Conclusion 

Having students write a book for publication can be difficult, but it is achievable and worthwhile. Not only is it an excellent way to transcend the walls of the classroom, but students need meaningful activities that bring them closer to God and towards service to others, and publishing a book can lead them towards those goals. 


Read previous article 200 Reasons to Live

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Author

Javier Girarte Guillén loves to interact with teenagers, he has been an ESL teacher, (elementary, middle school, and high school) for more than twenty years. His other passions, besides family, are teaching, writing, and tell stories to his teens children Itza Victoria and Javier Antonio. He is married to Hilda Valencia. He also has published a devotional book for teachers (ACES) and some articles about education (JAE). He lives in Montemorelos, Mexico.

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