Johnathan Rand motivates the third grade class to write a scary story

The minds and imagination of children are fascinating, and that’s exactly what Michigan author Johnathan Rand thought after reading Mrs. Jajo’s third grade class chapter book.

Mrs. Addie Jajo is a third-grade teacher at Reese Elementary. Jajo was looking for ways to incorporate more reading into the students’ curriculum. Since Rand bases the majority of his books from the series “Michigan Chillers” in a Michigan location, Jajo came up with an idea.

“I actually had Johnathan Rand stop by his store over the summer to grab a few books for my classroom,” Jajo said. “We got to chat about different ideas and things to do. I had been trying to find ways to incorporate reading more into different aspects of our curriculum, so I thought maybe tying his books in to having to learn about Michigan for third grade social studies standards would be a good way to bridge the two.”

After being in the classroom with her students over the course of the year, Jajo found out that her students were avid readers of Rand’s books. Students enjoyed and were excited when they saw their teachers’ books in the classroom, so much so that Jajo found a way to include his books in their next assignment.

“For our assignment for third grade, it’s to write a personal narrative,” Jajo said. “I kind of had the idea that maybe we could turn it into writing a scary story for our narrative. Johnathan Rand had mentioned making a trip here to visit, so it just all kind of came together. What better way to get them to want them to write a book? And they actually go to meet the author and give them their personal narrative, so they had a reason to write.”

The students instantly loved the idea, and it gave them extra motivation to write the story.

“It’s an aspect of being an author that I never really expected,” Rand said after hearing about the book. “When I first started (writing books), I just thought this would be pretty cool. I might be able to make a little extra money, and then things started taking off and all of a sudden, I’m doing it for a living.

“I have adults coming in my store that are in their late 20s and early 30s and they’ve got their child or couple children, but they’ll say to me, ‘You came to my elementary school when I was in the third grade and this is my son and he’s reading your books and I still have them and we brought him so he could get his own,’ It is the absolute coolest thing in the world. There is no paycheck in the world that can replace that. It is so much fun.”

The book titled “Raging Robots of Reese” has three main characters set in each Reese at Rove Club. The three students have to build a robot, competing against other schools in the district, and need one more piece to make a shield for the robot. When discussing in the park, the students came upon a radioactive piece of metal. They put the unknown piece on the robot only to find out the robot can come to life, and it radioactivates the rest of the robots. With the robots on a mission to attack Reese, the students must come together to save their town.

All of the 25 students in Jajo’s third grade class helped to put the story together through small group work to start with the writing process. In the beginning, the students were tasked with coming up with characters, setting, and plot, creating mini stories for each one before they came together.

“They came up with all the ideas and then the main writing piece we did a guided writing,” Jajo said. “I would ask for ideas on what would happen next and then showed them how they could make it a fluid story or paragraph.”

The students took about six weeks on the book, making it a mini-chapter book similar to Rand’s style of writing.

Once the story was completed, Rand came to visit the third grade students. Students showed their emotions and love for Rand so much that they even cried happy tears.

“It was awesome,” Jajo said. “Once my students first found out that he was coming, I had some students literally fall out of their chairs and some students were crying. They were so excited. We had talked about maybe we’ll just mail him a copy, so he can have one. When they found out they got to meet him, they were even motivated to make sure their editing was good and their book cover. We laminated it so it’ll last long, and they all got to sign the dedication page to him because it was dedicated to him, they were very excited about it.”

“It’s sometimes hard to find the time in regular curriculum to be able to be very creative and get them really motivated and engaged in something,” Jajo said. “For this to all kind of come together as one perfect thing, that I got to hit all of the curriculum standards, plus they were excited about it and creating their own stories, they’re literally little authors and can’t wait to write their next story.”

When Rand visited the school, he was just as excited as the third-grade class.

“It was a lot of fun,” Rand said. “I’m really thrilled that they’re enjoying my books, as any author would be. I’ve been doing this long enough, my first book in the Michigan Chillers came out in 2000, to me, I get excited when I see kids excited about reading and writing. Whether it’s my books, or the Goosebumps books or Harry Potter or whatever is doing something that inspires kids to think creatively, put their pen and thoughts down on paper.”

After reading the book written by the class, Rand expressed his thoughts via Facebook about how great the story was.

“I did and it was great, it really was,” Rand said. “What I think impressed me the most is that they really picked up on several things I try to do to keep the kids’ interest flowing. I try to end my chapters with some sort of foreshadowing or a cliff hanger, and they really picked up on that.”

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