“Can we have a piece of paper?”
Students often ask this question of teachers, and it can lead in a number of different directions. For Eve Wenger’s third-grade students at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Oklahoma City, the question ended up taking them further than she ever could have imagined.
Wenger’s students had just finished reading Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man book series, a popular series about a half-man, half-dog hero. The series had grown so popular that students even had to sign up for a lottery each time the school library received a new book. Like many of us after finishing a favorite series of books, two students couldn’t help but wonder what other kind of heroes may be out there.
“I feel like one of my main goals is to enable my students to feel confident in their identities as learners,” says Wenger, a member of ACE 25 and AmeriCorps.
So she gave them the freedom they needed to create their own world and see themselves as members of the writing community. With just a piece of paper, Wenger’s students began the HotDog Man series, inspired by Pilkey’s novels. The duo began dedicating nearly all their free time to the book, even going so far as to switch off pages to take home and work on after school.
As they finished the book, the two students were excited to share HotDog Man with their peers but were apprehensive about presenting to the class. Wenger saw so much potential in the students that when the next read-aloud time came, the students found two empty chairs at the front of the class. She invited the young authors to lead the class with their tale, which was met with an enthusiastic round of applause. The story follows HotDog Man and his friends as they work to defeat the evil DJ Marshmallo.
“This moment and this series of events really started the ball rolling for all of my students to fully feel like they can be a part of the authors and books that we read,” Wenger said.
Today, she continues to empower her students and promote a positive culture of reading and writing. HotDog Man is now the book series in hot demand that students are using their free reading time to explore. Wenger and her students are getting things done, and HotDog Man is a thriving three-book series with an avid following.
“This experience enabled me to access the abilities of my students because they believed in themselves,” she said.
And it all started with a piece of paper.
Eve Wenger serves as an AmeriCorps member at Sacred Heart School in Oklahoma City, OK.
Learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows at ace.nd.edu/teach.