Fourth-grader Cade Maxwell stood confidently before a room filled with his peers from First Odessa Christian Academy and their parents and began to read a poem from his self-authored book, “The Buddy Files.”

The poem, an ode to friendship, described in rhyme his interpretation of what friendship means and the kinds of activities his classmates do for fun.

His mother’s face beamed with pride as she looked on and then applauded along with everyone else.

“I was overwhelmed with pride,” Cade’s mother, Rachel Maxwell admitted later. “We just enrolled him at First Odessa Christian Academy 6 months ago.

“Before then he was struggling in public school. He was shy and lacked confidence. But today, there he was the first to volunteer to read a poem.”

For the past month Cade Maxwell and his 3rd and 4th-grade classmates have been studying and learning how to write different styles of poetry, explained 4th grade teacher Francis Skiles. Each student then compiled their poems and illustrations into individual books.

Odessa Christian Academy’s third grader Grace Tombrella, 9, recites a poem she wrote during Odessa Christian Academy’s first annual poetry book release for third and fourth graders at Odessa Marriott Hotel & Conference Center. (Jacob Ford|Odessa American)

The students celebrated their efforts by taking turns reading selections from their own books in a conference room Friday at the Marriott Hotel where parents and other family members joined them.

“We’re very proud of them,” Skiles said of the students. “They worked very hard.”

The overarching theme of the lesson was to write in poetry-form, about the adventures of 3rd and 4th grade, said Skiles and 3rd-grade teacher Niki Ramsey.

Besides learning how to write poetry and improve their writing skills, the students learned how to organize their books and select topics to write about that adhered to their lesson.

“It was about more than learning to write poetry,” Skiles said. “They were able to tackle a hands-on project, apply their skills and see the outcome of their efforts.

“That’s what we want – to create life-long learners.”

Odessa Christian Academy’s third and fourth graders illustrated their poetry books to correlate to their poems. (Jacob Ford|Odessa American)

Fourth-grader Tinsley Paul’s poems were playful and full of whimsy as she focused on her favorite school activities like “Donut Day” and “Banana Splits.”

“Wait, this one here is a real story that really happened,” said Paul, who insisted on reading several entries from her book. The poem was titled New Year Party.

“There once was a New Year Party,

And one girl was quite a smarty.

But one girl started to worry,

Because the fire alarm went off in a hurry.

In the end they giggled and weren’t sorry.”

“See, it wasn’t a real alarm, it was just a practice alarm during school,” Paul explained.

Ramsey, the 3rd-grade teacher, said the poetry project was so successful; she and Skiles are already planning to make it an annual event.

“Once the students realized that they could write about things that interest them they became really excited,” Ramsey said. “Reading what they wrote was like looking at a window into their hearts.”