High school students write first study guide

Tue, 04/24/2007 - 3:31pm
By: The Citizen

Over a year and several revisions later, some Fayette students can finally lay claim to being the first to write a publication of SparkNotes, study guides used by high school and college students for popular books, plays and poems.

Last August Tom Lewis’ 10th grade gifted English classes at Whitewater High began the daunting task of writing a study guide for the novel “Obasan” by Joy Kogawa. The study guide originally started out as a mock classroom assignment but turned into an actual project when SparkNotes, owned by Barnes and Noble Bookstore, learned about it and invited the students to write a guide that they would publish on their website.

“I wrote a letter to Barnes and Noble in Fayetteville to see if I could get a letter inviting the students to complete the project. At that point it began,” says Lewis.

On April 11, 2006, two editors from New York City came to view the rough draft and give editorial direction on how to complete the finished project. The editors said they were amazed at the students’ command of language skills. They had come prepared to start with a lesson on grammar and punctuation but that plan was quickly tossed aside.

“We were so impressed. We have professional writers where we have to send things back. The students’ work needed revisions to fit to the SparkNotes style but there were good chucks of material that were great,” said Editorial Director Laurie Barnett.

Initially all 80 students in Lewis’ four classes contributed to the notes with eight of them eventually taking on the roles as editors of the project. On the SparkNotes website, credits for the study guide read “…with the help of the students of Whitewater High School, Fayetteville, Georgia.” The credit can be found on the “how to cite SparkNotes” page for Obasan. www.sparknotes.com/

For now, the study guide is available only the SparkNotes website as a download, but if there is enough demand for the notes, the company will publish it in print format.

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