Carla John­son

Fifth grade teach­ers shares clas­sic fairy tales with stu­dents

The Covington News - - Education - By Car­rie Huenke

Once upon a time, school chil­dren were fa­mil­iar with clas­sic fairy tales.

Yet ac­cord­ing to Carla John­son, a fifth grade teacher at West New­ton Ele­men­tary School, by the age of ten, most stu­dents to­day have never been ex­posed to time­less sto­ries such as Hansel and Gre­tel, Rumpel­stilt­skin, Puss In Boots, Tom Thumb, Goldilocks, Snow White and Cin­derella.

“A cou­ple years ago, I bought a hard­back copy of fairy tales and started read­ing the sto­ries aloud ev­ery day,” John­son ex­plained. “ I was shocked. You wouldn’t be­lieve the kids who had never heard any of it be­fore.”

For this rea­son, John­son in­cor­po­rates fairy tales into her cur­ricu­lum by mak­ing a point to read of­ten and to weave fairy tales into var­i­ous class projects through­out the year. She said she be­comes an­i­mated when she reads by al­ter­ing her ex­pres­sion and her tone of voice. Her stu­dents get a kick out of lis­ten­ing to the tales — many of which were orig­i­nally writ­ten with lan­guage vari­a­tions that can be hard for to­day’s chil­dren to un­der­stand.

“ I’m en­er­getic and fun and a lit­tle crazy,” John­son said. “ Even though a lot of the sto­ries are writ­ten in some type of older English, a lot of the stu­dents de­cide to go buy the book as soon as they lis­ten to me read aloud from it.”

Aside from ex­pos­ing her stu­dents to forms of clas­sic lit­er­a­ture, John­son en­joys teach­ing her stu­dents about the writ­ing process. Last year, John­son and fel­low fifth grade teacher Brid­gette Nor­ris in­tro­duced an in­struc­tional pro­gram to West New­ton Ele­men­tary teach­ers called Writ­ers Work­shop. John­son and Nor­ris pre­sented the ed­u­ca­tors with ways to as­sist stu­dents in var­i­ous grade lev­els in mas­ter­ing steps of writ­ing in­clud­ing prewrit­ing, draft­ing, edit­ing, proof read­ing and pub­lish­ing.

“ It’s be­com­ing a county- wide pro­gram,” John­son ex­plained. “ The the­ory be­hind it is that the more a stu­dent writes, the bet­ter he or she will read.”

As a re­sult of the pro­gram, stu­dents at West New­ton ( and in other schools in the county) are learn­ing the four dif­fer­ent types of writ­ing: re­sponse to lit­er­a­ture, nar­ra­tive writ­ing, per­sua­sive writ­ing and in­for­ma­tional writ­ing. Stu­dents learn one writ­ing genre ev­ery nine weeks and pro­duce a pub­lished piece be­fore mov­ing to the next writ­ing topic.

“ It is es­pe­cially im­por­tant in fifth grade be­cause it helps pre­pare the kids for the statewide writ­ing test that comes up in the spring,” John­son said.

John­son has been teach­ing ele­men­tary school in New­ton County for nine years. She be­gan her ca­reer at Mid­dle Ridge Ele­men­tary and even­tu­ally moved to West New­ton. She has en­joyed teach­ing a va­ri­ety of grade lev­els in­clud­ing sec­ond, third and fourth grades.

“ But I like fifth grade best,” she said. “ My per­son­al­ity fits bet­ter with the older kids,” said John­son, who as­pires to some­day be­come a col­lege pro­fes­sor.

John­son ac­quired her teach­ing de­gree non- tra­di­tion­ally. En­cour­aged by her mother, she at­tended Way­nes­burg Col­lege as an adult and re­ceived her teach­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tion af­ter she was mar­ried and had given birth to a daugh­ter. As the only per­son in her ex­tended fam­ily pos­sess­ing a bach­e­lor’s de­gree, she is also the first teacher in her en­tire fam­ily. John­son ob­tained her mas­ter’s de­gree from Troy State Uni­ver­sity in 2003.

“ I was work­ing full time, rais­ing a fam­ily, and I still made time to get my mas­ter’s de­gree,” she said. “ I was very proud of my­self for do­ing that.”

Birth­place: Fam­ily: Hob­bies: Fa­vorite Chil­dren’s Book:

The ed­i­to­rial staff of The Cov­ing­ton News would like to in­vite read­ers to sub­mit the names of cur­rent New­ton County ed­u­ca­tors they would most like to see pro­filed in this school year’s Ed­u­ca­tor Spot­light se­ries. Which fac­ulty mem­ber at your child’s school would you like to learn more about? If you’re a stu­dent, which teacher’s meth­ods and teach­ing style most merit an ar­ti­cle in The News? Sim­ply e-mail sug­ges­tions to news@cov­news.com, or call

(770) 787-6397 and ask to speak to Jen­nifer T. Long.

Car­rie Huenke/The Cov­ing­ton News

Fairy­tale class­room: Carla John­son, a fifth-grade teacher at West New­ton Ele­men­tary School, places em­pha­sis on lit­er­ary skills.

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