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Roberts Road ES Students Meet “Helga”

Photo of students with Helga In order to help prepare fourth-grade students for the writing portion of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam in an engaging and meaningful way, Roberts Road Elementary (RRE) fourth-grade teachers Alayna Gibbons, Shauna Solt, and Kristyn Smith decided to invite a character called “Helga” to visit with students. The character was originally created by Gibbons to help students understand how to connect with their audience when writing expository essays that explain, create, and illustrate ideas.

“Our students struggle with connecting with their audience when composing expository essays,” Solt said. “The majority of them want to write about technology, but don’t understand the need for explanation.”

“Helga” is a retired kindergarten teacher who spends her time watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, loves taking naps, and does not use technology. Gibbons has previously used a photo to represent Helga and help students understand how to elaborate on topics for all audiences, even someone like Helga, to understand with great success.

After meeting with the teachers, RRE Principal Amy Carranza decided to call in a favor from Curriculum and Instruction Administrative Assistant Barbara Osburn to help bring “Helga” to life. Osburn jumped at the chance to help the school where she once worked.

“I just have a special place in my heart for Roberts Road,” Osburn said.

Armed with a walker, Osburn became “Helga” for a day. Teachers introduced her to students and she explained that she does not keep up with modern technology and entertainment. Students became particularly interested when they learned that, in the fairytale, Helga grades their essays and sometimes does not understand what they are writing about. As students questioned her about phones, cars, and games, they recognized how much detail needed to go into their writing.

“Our hope is that by having our students meet and converse with someone from an older generation they will see how in depth they need to go with their explanations and descriptions,” Solt said.