Historical Fiction

“History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”

Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

We have done some recent work on the area of writing with voice. After researching and collecting evidence about the unhappy struggles of the early settlers of Jamestown, Virginia, we decided to rewrite a few significant historic events from a unique (and in some cases, fictionalized) perspective so as to get some practice in writing with voice. The following are some examples of how these historical events may have actually played out. 😉

The First Thanksgiving

by NYcheer

I was minding my own business when all of a sudden, “we are here.” It all happened at Plymouth rock, and some ship called Mayflower. I almost gobbled myself! So, these people that got off the ship were wearing fancy hats with buckles. Well, they were walking, so I followed. They were rich and snobby and couldn’t do anything with their hands, like hunting. All of a sudden, a boy comes up to me and yells “boo turkey.” We played for awhile, and I said “I’m tired.” Before he could scream, I covered his mouth with my feathers. “I’m gonna tell everyone I found a talking turkey!” said the boy. “No, you can’t. This is a secret, got it?” I said. “Understood,” he said sadly.

So, the next day, my friend explained to me that they were walking and found Indians! So me, the smart turkey, told him that he should ask the Indians for help on stuff like hunting. They ended up getting along. The Indians taught them how to grow corn and use wild plants as medicine.

Since they were getting along so well, someone had the idea to have a feast, and they wanted turkey! The boy told me to run, so I did. There was good news and bad news. The bad news was they ate my friend Charlie. Why him, they should of took me!!! The good news was that they had such a good time, they made it a tradition. The fancy people would help the Indians find food, and they would give thanks for the help they had.

Well, I better run. It’s close to Thanksgiving, and they need turkey. “There’s one!” Ahhhh!

 

Sir Francis Drake’s Vest

by ClashMaster8

This story that I wrote is about the amazing English hero Sir Francis Drake. Blah blah blah. He was wonderful, but what everyone should know is that he was a pathetic wimp scared by his own shadow. It was I, Francis the Vest, who showed him the ways of a brave man, but he still treated me like dirt!

On our voyage around the world, whenever an enemy ship came our way, I went commando mode and we took it with all of its loot. And what did dirty Drake do? He repeated my orders and got all the glory.

After we got back, there was a beautiful parade with a nasty puddle that dirty Drake put me onto for the stupid queen. Then Francis got knighted, thanks to me, and insisted that I call him Sir. That was the last straw. So, I told him to never wear me again. He said, “fine,” and went on a second voyage alone, and I never saw dirty Drake again.

 

The Bombing of Pearl Harbor

by Lumi_the_Cat

It was a warm sunny day in Hawaii. Just another normal day for me, Hannah the cat. I strode into the entrance of one military building, where my owner was staying, and made my way into the mess hall. I jumped onto a table, where I was closest, to get a good view of the mess hall. I looked around slowly trying to look for Zachary, my owner. “Hmmm…where could he be?” I mumbled to myself. I jumped down and went to a farther table and found Zachary sitting there. “Hey, Hannah! Ready for breakfast?” He asked me. I nodded quickly, and he put fresh fish on the side of his plate, and I started eating. Suddenly, I stopped and my ear perked up. Zachary looked at me and asked, “What’s wrong? Aren’t you going to eat?” He stroked my back. “Planes,” I said. Zachary looked confused. “Planes. They’re minutes away. Something bad is gonna happen!” I said, my fur bristling.” Oh, don’t worry about it! It’s probably your hearing again. After all, you are getting old,” he reassured me. “Excuse me? Did you just call me old?” I said with a mean tone. “Err…that’s not what–um…never mind,” he said.

Suddenly, a boom of sirens went off, and someone off the intercom said, “BOMBING ON PEARL HARBOR! THIS IS NOT A DRILL! I REPEAT, THIS IS NOT A DRILL!” Everyone started panicking, and all I could hear was the screams of scared people and loud crashes and booms. Everyone was running out of the building, and some people were telling them not to. Even Zachary ran out in panic. “ZACHARY!” I screamed, as I chased after him. I caught up to him, and he was staring straight up at a Japanese plane, and a bomb was coming down for us. Zachary was too slow to react, and I darted for a palm tree about 12 feet away, but I couldn’t make it. The explosion from the bomb threw me right at the palm tree. That one hit broke my left hind leg, but as the smoke cleared I saw Zachary lying on the ground. I limped my way over to him and saw that he was gone, but I also saw that another bomb was raining down but on another military base farther from here. By the time it was about 9:30, the bombing had stopped, and the base and harbor was destroyed and more than 2,000 died and 1,000 were hurt, but that was December 7, 1941, or to put it in a simpler way, that was years ago. Now I live with Zachary’s family. Everything is repaired, but that bombing led us into World War II…

 

Jack the Bat

by crazy leprechaun

I was created by Jackie’s dad in the year of 1925 on Jackie Robinson’s birthday. I was the birthday present in the year of 1925. Plus, I was his only present he got. I never knew that Jackie was such into baseball, because once he picked me up he wouldn’t let me go. He did everything with me. He would sleep with me, play with me, and yet go to the bathroom with me, and that’s when I had enough.

“Stop!” I screamed. The poor fella screamed his heart out. He kicked the door and broke the window just to escape. “It’s okay, Jackie. It’s just me, your bat.” He calmed down a little bit but still was shocked. “Wait a second. You talk?” “Of course, I talk. how do you think I’m talking right now?” “I thought I was dreaming.” “You thought you were dreaming in a bathroom?” We started talking for a few seconds, and then he made a deal with me to never tell anyone about me and never again bring me to the bathroom. A couple of years passed, and Jackie was going to leave college. Jackie and I were both happy, because we joined a national baseball team called the Brooklyn Dodgers. We both thought we would have a good time, because we were moving someplace new. I guess the good time Jack and I hoped for ended out horrible. People were being so mean to him only because he was a different color than they were, but I helped Jackie from quitting and to be strong. When he was up to bat, I told him when to swing. But it didn’t go as planned. Jackie swinged and missed. “Strike,” the umpire yelled. “Focus, Jackie, and listen to me.” “Okay.” The pitcher threw the ball. “Swing, Jackie, swing.” “Strike!” “I told you to swing, Jackie.” “I know.” The pitcher threw the ball. “Swing, Jackie!” Crack! The ball flew out of the stadium. Therefore, Jackie listened to me since. Even though we got struck out a few times didn’t mean we were going to quit. Jackie became the first black person to ever play baseball, plus with me on his side he hit more homeruns than anyone that year. Jackie became the most valuable player for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Pirate game was the most important game, because if he hit a homerun it will be a new record. “Ok, Jackie, get ready.” “Ok, it’s all you.” The pitcher threw the ball. “Swing, Jackie.” Crack! It was a record, but when he looked down to say thanks, I was in half.

Jackie started to cry and ran back into the dugout and drove home. He stayed inside for years, then came out. But then Jackie died of old age on October 24, 1972, but it was the most happiest day of my life because I get to see my buddy again and this time we can’t be separated.

A Recap

“What’s past is prologue.”

― William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Hello, again. It’s been awhile. I started this blog with the best of intentions, but I also had the propulsion of summer-energy to set my lofty goals. It’s easy to say you’re going to post weekly on a blog when you’re not also balancing that with 9-hour work days, lesson planning, and grading. Then the school schedule slowly dragged me in its strong tide, and I was swept away into its current for awhile. I want to come back now. I also want to be reasonable. Will I be posting about our classroom doings every week? Probably not. But I would like to invite you to witness the highlights as often as they occur. Hopefully, that will be manageable for all of us.

So, let’s do a recap:

Speakers

In our efforts to help students look forward into their futures and set long-terms goals, we are inviting local community leaders to speak to the students about their careers and how they make decisions. We’ve already heard from some great leaders and are looking forward to others in the coming months.

These included…

  • Leander ISD Superintendent, Bret Champion, who spoke to us about how he uses The 7 Habits to make decisions in his job. He specifically addressed the hot-button issue of “ice days” and how to weigh the pros & cons of cancelling school due to weather. We also saw his years as a teacher come into practice with his engaging style and presentation!
  • John Sandobal (@sandobalj) from our district’s technology department. He tested out some new technology during his presentation, told students about all the job opportunities becoming available in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), and encouraged students to start learning code through websites like Hour of Code.
  • Mayor of Leander, Chris Fielder, who gave students a brief overview of the structure, goals, and tasks of city government.
  • A local small business owner of the franchise Bahama Bucks, who gave an interactive presentation about the steps and considerations involved in starting a business and how to plan wisely.

 

History

We are in the middle of our 2nd DBQ (Document Based Question). These are small projects based on analyzing a question centered around a particular period in history. Students gather evidence from various primary and secondary sources to make and defend their answer to the question in the format of an essay. The first DBQ was about the first successful English settlement in the New World. The question was “Early Jamestown: Why Did So Many of the Settlers Die?” Since most kids are fascinated with the more gory and tragic events of history, I think they got a kick out of reading over these documents. Our current DBQ is “If you were a soldier at Valley Forge, would you have quit?” I’m interested to see which side of the fence they land on.

Reading

We are continuing our class read-aloud of Bud, Not Buddy. It is a favorite among all of the students, and I enjoy the loud collective groans I hear every time I have to close the book and transition to something else. They’d probably be happy if I sat and read it to them for hours. It just goes to show that you’re never too old to enjoy a good read-aloud.

My favorite lessons in reading were from the Junior Great Books series. We’ve read through 2 short stories, as a class, The No-Guitar Blues by Gary Soto and A Bad Road for Cats by Cynthia Rylant. These stories are great examples of higher-level literature. We encourage students to dig deeper into the text, ask questions, and look for meaning and important themes. We read or listen to the stories 3 or more times to look for evidence and clues that we might have missed in previous readings. After our last reading, we focus on a discussion question and sit in a circle to engage one another on the inquiry. I have been blown away by these discussions. Seriously, they make me warm and fuzzy inside. I am so impressed by the deep thoughts and thoughtful responses these students are sharing with one another. They are examining different sides of a question, listening to their peers, agreeing and disagreeing without discord and with great respect, and demonstrating high emotional intelligence through their understanding of the characters. I wish I could record and share these discussions with you so that you could be as proud of these kids as I am.

We are halfway through the year, and it went by so quickly. However, we still have lots of time to explore and learn and experiment together. Thank you for joining us in the journey.

Personal Narratives

“I am not saying that everyone is Shakespeare, but I am saying everyone has a genuine voice that can express his or her life with honest dignity and detail” (Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones).

As I read through the stack of narratives turned in yesterday, I was struck by the differences. Here we have stories from the lives of children, who at face value are all very similar. They are all around 10 years old. They all live in the same city. They know the same TV shows and movies, play the same games, know the same songs. Yet, their stories are so unique. In so many of them, you can already see the individual stories unfolding. It looks like we are accomplishing our main purposes for Writer’s Workshop: To find our voice and tell our stories.

Below is a sampling of those stories. Some were volunteered by students. Some weren’t but were just too good not to share. Hopefully, their authors will take this as a compliment and forgive me. Thank you for stopping by. Please leave your compliments and comments, and I will be sure to share them with the authors. Also, to protect student privacy, they all chose nicknames as identifications. So, please ask your child their nickname to find out which piece belongs to him or her.

 

Hippopotamus

by gaghead

The vipers were 7-0. [The] hippos 6-1. The vipers and us had a lot of bad blood, because they had injured one of our best players They were also our divisional rivals.This [game] also decided who went to the playoffs.Earlier that day, the coach had messed around with our depth chart. So, I was anxious to see what position I was playing. When I got to football camp, all of my team was staring at me, sitting around the depth chart like a campfire on a cold night.

McCoy bumped into me, finally breaking the silence. “Are you sure you can handle this?” “Handle what?” I questioned. ”Dude, you’re a slot receiver,” he answered. “YES!” I jumped up. “Nohoho!” he blurted out. “Jace is going to kill you!” he said. Jace was one of the strongest and scariest players on my team. The blood going to my heart stopped dead in its tracks. “Oh God, Jace is back up,” I said. Oh no, I thought, but after a few seconds, he did not show up. So, the game began. I was set up to return the kick. When I caught the kick, I got dropped at the thirty. Couch Grifian took me out for almost all the game, because he thought I was injured. He put me in with 30 seconds left, but I played like there was 1. I caught 3 deep catches and 2 tds. It was 36-29.  I walked on to the side line and turned around. We had the ball and had recovered an onside kick. So, I hopped onto the field and just went deep. They threw the ball to me.The ball was way over my head, so I jumped up and hoped for a catch. I heard a pop noise and looked [down]. There was a long brown football in my hands. So, I ran for the end-zone.The safety dove and missed. So, I walked into the end-zone. We had won 37 -36.

 

Piano Master

By: Purple Field Mouse

I have played for two years. Played what? Piano.

During late July, this year, my piano teacher asked me if I would like to participate in a (pre)-recital/ entertainment performance for a retirement home . My parents said I should do it. I picked two songs to play: “Fandango” and “I Just Can’t Wait to be King.” When we got there, it smelled weird (but that doesn’t matter). There were eleven performers. I was the seventh one. Most people played the piano, but some sang and one girl played the violin. When I started I was not nervous. This happens every time I play for someone or a crowd. But, it just so happens that when I do  play, my hands get sweaty.  They stuck to the keys a little bit.

Once everyone was finished, my mom and I headed toward the door. We kept stopping, because several people were complimenting me and saying that I played the best. Every time somebody did this, I would feel shiverish . But in my head, I knew that people should hear music to feel calm and happy. I feel like I have shared something that I love with other people.

That’s what music is to me.

 

Ocean Nightmare

by crazy leprechaun

 “Do I need to?” I asked in fear. One of my most biggest fears of all is swimming in the ocean. No, not like swimming in the short end. It’s another step ahead, going past the sandbar.

I was shaking like a blender, when Brian said “My boat is past the sandbar. “Ahh! Something is biting my foot!”I screamed in fear. My cousin looked at me like I was brainless. “It’s a fish” my cousin said in a dumb voice. Once I got to the sandbar and saw the ocean, I thought I was going to faint. I looked out to see how far the boat was, but all I saw was blue, until Brian picked me up and put me on the boat.Tears of joy ran down my eyes.

Once everyone was on board, I asked “How far are we going?” Brian looked at me and said in a pirate voice, “We are going to a clear spot in the ocean so we can fish.” Now we are going to a clear spot in the ocean so we can fish, just great, I thought sarcastically. It was very bumpy on the way there. I guess I got good luck or something, because on the way we saw dolphins that were jumping, while stingrays were racing us and manatees were swimming free. Once we got there, it was like looking into a clear pool without water. We could see all the way to the bottom. “Here we are. Clear lagoon,” Brian said, again in a pirate voice. I was happy about what I saw. There were huge fish and more manatees.

When I was there I learned a lesson. You shouldn’t have a fear of something bad happening when there are so many good things happening.

 

#Kermee And Mr. Krabbs’ First Moment With Me!

Author: squishycandycorn9901

“Oooh, Sarah, Sarah, come see, come see,” yelled my best friend Barbara-Hope from the other side of the store. She was standing next to some type of tub across from a bunch of colorful cages. I looked at the giant sign above the giant tub and read: Hermit Crabs for $6.99 each. I walked to the tub with the items I had picked out for purchase in my hand. I had $30.00 to spend in Corpus Christi / Port Aransas on a vacation with my best friend Barbara-Hope and her parents (with no sister). I looked inside the tub and saw dozens of shells, and one of them was moving. I looked around and saw a lady watching the hermit crabs like a hawk. I tapped her shoulder to ask her how much the kit would be, if I got it, but I was interrupted by Barbara-Hope. “Hey lady, can I buy a crab?” Barbara said a little bit too loudly. “Um, (sniff) sure?” said the hawk lady. “Um, excuse me,” I said, “How much money would it be to buy a whole kit?” “Um, I would say for one hermit crab, it would be $20.00,” the hawk lady said. “What about two?” I exclaimed. “Approximately, hmm, $35.00,” the hawk lady said. Then Barbara jumped into our conversation and said, “My daddy can pay the extra $5.00.” I said, “Okay, I guess I’ll buy two then.” I started browsing for two hermit crabs. I spotted a blue crab with a black and white whale on it (the one that I had spotted moving earlier). I said I wanted that one. Next I saw a colorful, sparkly crab with shells all over it. I told the lady those two were the crabs I wanted. We browsed for cages, food, and shells next. I saw a lime green hermit crab cage that could hold two crabs, and it said it came with everything you need to take care of hermit crabs except for a sponge (for water), and their exchange shells. So I got the cage, the crabs, the sponge, and their exchange shells. The lady gave me a laminated sheet of paper with directions on it. Barbara-Hope and I stood in the line with our crabs with Mr. Richard (Barbara’s dad) behind us. I gave the cashier my money, and Mr. Richard gave all the extra money to him. Then we went outside to organize everything and try to brainstorm for our crabs’ names. Barbara named her crabs Teddy C. and Becky G. I decided to call my hermit crabs Mr. Krabbs and #Kermee. Then we got in the truck and drove to the beach with our crabs.

 

About My Furry  Friends

by Super Awesome Girl

Let me tell you a few things about my favorite furry friends! I got my dogs between 2010 and 2011. My dogs are just the cutest furry friends. When you throw the ball for Coco, she sprints to go fetch the tennis ball. Sprite, on the other hand, just kinda sits there and does nothing. Sometimes he chases after the ball, but sometimes not so much. Coco always plays with you. She will come back  towards you with the ball in her mouth, but she won’t give it to you. She will run away from you, if you try take the ball away from her. She is very playful, and she gets hyper when you walk through the door. She will jump on you too. When you walk through the door, she will jump on you for no reason. Sprite and Coco are both very cute and funny, and they both love to nap. Sprite is very lazy, and all he likes to do is lay on my bed and sleep. So what I  have to do is say “do you want to go for a walk?” He gets very excited.  He starts running around the house and jumps all over you, it’s crazy. He loves to go for walks, he just loves it. He wants to go everywhere. When we come home, he is very very tired. He drinks some water, then lays down.

 

The Amazing Island ….What!!!

by: M.E.

Have you ever been to the beautiful island of Cozumel?

First,  I rushed off the plane with my family. We heard people yelling “WELCOME TO COZUMEL! HOLA”! It was so crowded behind us, we probably would have regret it if we had not rushed off the plane.

My mom, dad, brother, and sister, and I went through the security check and to the taxi. When we got to the hotel, we sat down at a couch. 10 minutes later, they gave us some juice and carried our bags to the rooms.

The first thing we did was finally take a nap .Then we went to eat. My sister got something that she did not know what it was. My dad read the label. It was octopus and squid. She said, “This thing taste good.” I thought she was crazy, until I tried it. We got to the room and slept.  The next morning, I ran to my mom “MAMA MAMA MAMA, CAN WE GO SWIMMING TODAY?” “We will see,” she replied. “But I really want to go swimming,” I complained. I dragged myself in the bathroom to get dressed.  Then we all went to eat breakfast. I was not hungry, so I did not eat at all. Later that day, we went swimming at the beach. The ocean looked like it wanted the people to swim. That was the time I went to Cozumel.

 

Scared of the Dark and My Brother

by “something wolf”

I’d been playing for what felt like 30 minutes. I checked the time, and it had been 2 hours of video games. I noticed the fact that I was very tired and hungry. I ignored the fact of food and headed to my room. My house is pretty big, so walking across the house in pure dark is quite scary. I always hear a strange rattle of bells. As I walked, I saw a light and thought, “Burglar!” Then I heard the rattle of bells. Then thought, “GHOST BURGLAR!” I looked around the corner of my hallway and saw my brother and dog. The light was my brother turning on the light and the bells were my dog’s collar. I made sure he couldn’t see me. If [he] did see me, my head would be on a stick. I waited till he went back to his room, so I could make a run for it. As he went to his room my body ached, because of the darkness. So I made a sprint and dive for my room. I made it in and jumped for my bed, scared that he might’ve heard me. I tried to fall asleep, scared and afraid.

 

Arkansas Horses

By Predaraptor

As my car pulled up on the gravel path, my stomach churned with fear and excitement! Will I fall? Will it run off? These thoughts circled around in my head, as I approached the stables for horseback riding in Arkansas.

A slim man showed us to the horses we were going to ride. He gave me and my brother a boost into the saddle. When we were all in the saddle, the instructor, a tall woman, gave a short lecture on how to control your horse. For this I listened with utter care, because this was the first time I had ever rode a horse! When we rode out, I hesitated at the road crossing. Reluctantly, I crossed. After a couple of minutes of riding, we came across a creek bed. “Lean back to help your horse,” called the instructor, from up ahead. It was pretty much smooth riding from there on. When we passed Lake Ouatichta, my mom commented on how clear the lake was. She was right. It was as clear as glass. As we headed back into the forest, I almost got my head taken off by a branch. “Remember how to control your horse,” my dad called, from up ahead. When the trail headed back to the road, I sighed in disappointment. I was enjoying horseback riding.

As we arrived back at the stables, the instructor helped us off. I thanked the tall woman, and she took a picture with me and my horse. I thought of the pretty countryside I just witnessed and realized I was going to miss Arkansas.

 

A Moving Adventure

by Chiken Nuggets

August 29: I walked in the classroom, not knowing anybody.

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Youngston, Ohio: I got off the bus at 3:10. I was getting hungry. I got inside my house. I went to the fridge and got a yogurt. I started on my homework, because it was due tomorrow. We got homework everyday. It was almost dinnertime. I asked my mom what was for dinner, and she said tacos. I liked tacos, and I was starved. During dinner, my parents said we would be moving to Texas. My parents couldn’t put up with snow and -23F.

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The drive here was only 2 days. On the first day, we got to Tennessee, but there was a beauty pageant or something, and it was 9pm. People booked their hotels for the next 10 miles and still no hotel.

—————

Later: Finally, not the nicest hotel, but okay. We were in Arkansas.

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In the morning: We started off. Later at 6pm, we made it to Texas, and we were in a nicer hotel.

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3 months later: We moved in. I walked in the classroom, not knowing anyone. It was time for gym. I was in a group with all boys.

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It was lunchtime: I sat down and was sitting by Scott. He was hilarious. I started to talk to him.

————–

At recess: I couldn’t find Scott. A kid asked to play tag. Of course, I was the one “it.” They thought just because I was short, I wasn’t fast, but when I tagged everyone, they just left. I think they were surprised. We went inside. Later, the school day was over. My mom was waiting for me, and then we walked home. I felt good and just layed in bed.

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3 weeks later: We now are getting homework. They give us all of our homework on Monday and turn it in on Friday. We get lots of it.

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At lunch: I sat with kids from the other class. At recess, we played cops and robbers. Someone else was “it!” I continued to play cops and robbers for the next week. I learned all of the other kids’ names that I sit by at lunch. Over the weekend, I usually unpack my stuff. After school, on Monday, I go to a Lego club. The kids there are naughty.

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Oct. 1: I am currently in language arts and social studies class writing this story.

 

Disco

by the keeper

Vroom! Vroom! Vroom! I just got back from picking up my lizard from a friend’s house! When we got Disco and his cage inside, I set him on the counter and ran to my room to clear off my desk. I plucked Disco from his cage and put him in the empty bathtub so he could play around and run along the side. He was soooooooo cool! Disco walked slow normally, but when he was scared he could run 6 feet in 1 milli-second! Since he couldn’t climb on the slippery tub, I put my fingers under his feet, and he climbed higher and higher, until I could not reach any higher. Then I plucked him from the wall, where the window sill was. That night I dropped 6 crickets in his cage. Right when they hit the bottom of the cage, he snatched up the crickets. When he came out of his tree stump and was about to strike, he would stick his tail up in the air and shake it like a rattle snake really fast. And he would strike at his prey, and when he struck, it was like lightning! (It hurts, don’t ask how I know 🙂 )! Now he has a month parasite, and he only has one more dose of his parasitic medicine, and we’re giving him the last dose of medicine today. “Disco! Time to give you your medicine.”

 

My Broken Arm

by Puppylover303

After a long day at daycare, my dad picked me up at the front office. (It was very crowded). Then we picked up my brother Jeremy at his school. After we picked Jeremy up, we went home. (PS: Me and Jeremy always fight over who plays on the X-Box, so my dad [usually] picked who went first, but I guess let us pick that time). It was like a tornado just hit the downstairs living room, because me and Jeremy were screaming very loudly, and I was throwing papers everywhere. Let me explain why. First, my dad carried our little, wooden, brown table to the major, long TV where the X-Box and all the X-Box games are. But the problem is that the green and black X-Box is above the TV. So, after my dad carried the table in front of the TV, then me and Jeremy climbed at the same time. That was a bad idea. (I will tell you why).

After we both got up, we started pushing and shoving. The table creaked and groaned under our weight, as we jumped up and down. Then I was so furious, I started to lose my balance, like I lost my balance [temper?] with Jeremy at the moment. Then I fell off the table as fast as a cheetah and landed on my arm. My mom could hear my screaming from a mile away. My mom ran as fast as lightning to me. She was yelling to everybody in the house, “I need my car keys, my wallet! Someone open the car while I carry [her} to the car.” On our way to the ER, I passed out. Nobody noticed until we got there. I was as a scared as a bunny, because my arm hurt, first of all, but I also thought that it would hurt when the doctor put my cast on. I was as tired as a old cat. I was happy, because I got to pick any color cast that I wanted. “Pretty color pink,” I said to my mom. This is what I thought. To my brother, it probably felt that he was grounded for eternity. I was actually happy, because my arm felt better, after I was all done. My arm felt as sore as a bee sting, on my way to the car. After that incident, I learned from my mistake.

 

The Dog with a History

The dog with a history I cried for a month

 

by GlamourousVolleyball Chick (sunglass emogi)

I once had a dog named Ace. He was a boxer with black, white, and brown hair. We loved to play together. We played hide-and-go-seek. He was good at seeking [and] hiding. [He] was something else. We also play[ed] cops and robbers. One night I spent the night with my grandma. In the morning, my mom came, and right away I knew something was wrong. She had this disappointed look. My mom said, “Ace got out last night by digging a hole under a fence and ran to the Texaco and passed [away]. I cried for like a month. He died so young. He was 3 years old, and I was 5 years old. I will never forget my best friend, Ace.

 

 

My favorite part of the day

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

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Each day, while my students are working independently on Writer’s Workshop, I consult a small yellow legal pad that sits on the surface of the horseshoe-shaped table by the window of my classroom. The lined-yellow paper houses a list of names, written in a variety of handwritings, which grows longer by the day. I call out the name of the next student on the list, inviting them to sit with me at my table. “Don’t forget your personal narrative, your goal-sheet, and your checklist…oh, and also your chair.” (We are very short on chairs this year. We have to carry our own around everywhere we go). The student sits across from me and pushes his or her narrative toward my side of the table. First, I read aloud the goals that the student chose. My goal is to do more show than tell in my writing. My goal is to use more spicy verbs. My goal is to include character reactions. My goal is to organize my personal narrative into paragraphs. The goals come from a process of looking over a checklist of characteristics that we want our writing to have. But we know that we can’t tackle them all at once. We are reaching our goals “one page at a time” or “bird by bird.”

I always knew conferencing with students about their writing was important, but I struggled so much with making it happen when I taught 2nd grade. There was always someone who needed me, and before I knew it, writing time would be over. The few times I was able to concentrate on reading through one student’s rough draft, I would feel overwhelmed by all the errors I saw that demanded the attention of my red pen. It would leave in its wake a bloody trail of strange symbols that likely looked like gibberish to many 2nd graders and probably overwhelmed them to boot. The independence level of the students in 5th grade makes the conferencing time much easier, and I feel like I’m doing a better job at laying a foundation for students to speak the language and understand what we’re looking for when we go about making our writing better.

After I read through a student’s goals, I read through his or her piece out loud. I try to limit the amount of editing I do, unless the goal was specifically in regards to capitalization, punctuation, usage, or spelling. I talk with them about their word choices, descriptions, and the order of their stories. I ask them what message they want the reader to take-away from reading the story. I read through the piece a couple of times and take notes in the margins to help them remember our conversation. I encourage them to include their feelings, their thoughts, those details that they speak about freely but didn’t know were important enough to write down.

I’ve come to cherish these conversations as one of the best parts of my day. One of the things I’ve missed about 2nd graders is that they are themselves almost all of the time, and talking with them is almost always funny or heartwarming or wonderfully honest. But something happens between 2nd and 5th grade, a self-consciousness creeps in, and it seems like my students are holding back parts of themselves. This is normal, I think, but I sometimes miss the vulnerability. But then I get to see it again in bits and pieces during these writing conferences. From the story of one student, who faced his fear of swimming in the ocean and realized all the wonder it contained…to the student who wrote about when she got her very own phone, which she called “a little block of joy”… to the student who knew that he had overcome a great personal struggle when he jumped off the diving board and gave himself credit, even when the coach didn’t… to the student who shared all the tender moments of his Christmas memories, both happy and sad, I feel like I am getting those honest glimpses at their personalities that I miss. Through these stories, I am watching these children grow up into themselves right before my eyes. It is truly an honor and unique privilege.

 

Making Goals

IMG_1037“Don’t write a book, write a page.” -Peter Bregman (Harvard Business School professor) (from The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor)

“What do you think this quotation means?” I asked my students. We’re going to do a 5-minute quick-write, and I’d like you to focus your first thoughts on this quotation. After that, you can move onto writing about whatever comes to the surface of your brain. Remember, the only rule for a quick-write is that your pencil doesn’t stop writing. You may begin.” They moved their pencils furiously. After a few minutes, I saw a boy stop to shake out his hand. We made eye contact, and he quickly resumed his writing. They know the drill. If your hand hurts during the quick-write, you can write “My hand hurts. My hand hurts,” but the writing doesn’t stop. It sounds strict, but I’ve found that most of the students really enjoy it. They like seeing what they can produce in a short period of time. Some even work better under that slight bit of pressure. Plus, I don’t grade them or require them to share. We’re just exercising our writing. When the time ran out, I let those who wanted to share their thoughts. I was pretty impressed by their ideas.

 

“I think it means don’t overdue something when you don’t need to. It will make you happier, and you do it little by little.”

“Maybe don’t focus on having the most. Just stay where you are.”

“I think it means you don’t have to write a lot to write what needs to be said.”

“I think it means don’t make things that are not important your first priority.”

“That means take your time and focus on one thing at a time. Then go to the next page.”

“I think it means to focus on one thing at a time and the present of time and not the future of things. Also not to plan your life but to plan one segment after another.”

“It means you don’t have to have everything right here, right now. You can take your time.”

 

Most of the students went on to write about pizza or chicken nuggets, but I thought those first thoughts were pretty impressive. I went on to explain that the quotation came from a book I just finished reading called The Happiness Advantage, in which Harvard psychologist, Shawn Achor, shows that happiness is usually a predecessor to success. And one way he suggests we can increase our happiness and link it to our success is by setting and meeting small manageable goals. I told the kids about the lady in the book who wanted to run a marathon. That was her goal, but she wasn’t even a runner. The author tried to dissuade her from her goal and encouraged her to start with something smaller and more manageable that would eventually lead her to the big goal, but she wouldn’t listen. And ultimately she gave up. This is what often happens to us when we make goals. We think we have to “go big or go home.” And when we can’t do it, we lose our confidence and give up on ourselves.

Our campus improvement plan this year involves having all students making goals, planning steps to achieve their goals, and tracking their progress. Not only do we know that students taking ownership of their learning is an important element of success, but making goals is a lifelong skill that will serve students in many areas of their lives.

Yet, as an adult, I know that writing goals is often difficult. And not achieving a goal leaves me with feelings of failure and disappointment (though, I know these moments are also opportunities for developing grit. See previous post). How do we help students articulate manageable goals? They need lots of modeling and direction. They need to know where they are and where they need to get to. They need teacher direction and guidance, and they need to know they will be supported along the way. Setting and meeting goals is a great way to build confidence, especially when students have internalized their past failures. Maybe they believe they’re just not good at writing and have essentially given up. My hope is that by making manageable goals, students will develop the belief that they can do anything, just by taking it one page at a time.

Yum Yums

Yum yums are a delicious, healthy, & easy snack.

Yum yums are a delicious, healthy, & easy snack.

I’m going to divert a little from classroom learning and news to share a recent observation. In 5th grade, we try to give the kids a little more independence and freedom. One way I do that is by telling them that they can eat their snacks anytime they want during the day. As long as they don’t make a mess, I don’t make a fuss. But lately I’ve started to notice that the kids seem to be eating all day. I don’t really think it’s excessive. They’re all hitting a pretty significant growth spurt. It’s probably natural that they’d be hungry all the time. I just feel sorry for the parents having to supply all the snacks! So, I thought I’d share a simple little recipe for one of my favorite snacks. I don’t have a perpetually hungry 5th grader living in my home, but I do have a husband with a stomach that sometimes seems like a bottomless pit. So, I know a little something about it.

First, a little background about this recipe. I got it from my mother-in-law. She’s a professional hoof trimmer. Her daily work is wrestling horses and trimming their feet. And you should see her guns! Yes, I’m talking about her arms. They’re quite impressive. I knew with a demanding job like that, she must expend a lot of energy. When she shared this recipe with me she emphasized that it was 1) super easy 2) healthy with lots of protein 3) easy to pop in her mouth so she can have her hands free to work on the horses & 4) super delicious! I’ve made a batch every week or so ever since, and they are a hit everywhere I share them.

This recipe is easy enough for your 5th grader to make it him/herself. There’s no baking or cooking involved, not even a microwave. The version I use does involve peanut butter, so you’ll want to make some substitutions, if you have nut allergies in your home.

ingredientsYum yums

(makes 15-20 yum yums)

Ingredients:

-1 cup finely shredded coconut divided in half (I like to use the toasted kind)

-1 cup peanut butter

-1 cup cut-up figs or raisins

-½ cup honey

-½ tsp. salt

-2 Tbs. flax seeds

 

Directions:honey

Roll the ball into the shredded coconut to create an outer layer.

Roll the ball into the shredded coconut to create an outer layer.

  1. Mix all ingredients together except for ½ cup coconut.
  2. Scoop out 1 Tbs at a time and roll into a ball in the other ½ cup coconut. Do this for the entire mixture.
  3. Refrigerate until you’re ready to enjoy. Two is a good serving. Yum Yum!

Writer’s Workshop

“Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.”

Willa Cather

 

Writer's Workshop is the time we practice our writing with the purpose of improving communication, telling our stories, and finding our voice.

Writer’s Workshop is the time we practice our writing with the purpose of improving communication, telling our stories, and finding our voice.

My recovery process to fall back in love with writing took almost 20 years. Actually, to be perfectly honest, I’m probably more at the like-on-my-way-to-love stage of the journey. My relationship with writing took a downhill turn around 6th grade. I was pretty sure my teachers were planning inventive ways to torment us with various book reports and research papers. On top of that, I was a perfectionist. So, I was rarely happy with anything I wrote. Or, on the other hand, I would turn in something that I thought was destined to be honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature and instead receive it back with a failing grade on it…or even worse…a B!

Now, I hold those who identify themselves as writers in the highest regard. After all, they invented some of my favorite people. As a teacher of writing, I hope to steer my students in the direction of using writing as a form of self-expression and away from viewing it as a creative instrument of torture.

So, for the past couple of weeks, I began introducing Writer’s Workshop. Here are some highlights so far.

 

I want students to view writing as a tool for expressing themselves.

I want students to view writing as a tool for expressing themselves.

Establishing our Purpose

I began by asking the students “Why do you think we have Writer’s Workshop?” I cringed a little when the main responses were along the lines of “To get better at handwriting” or “To get better at spelling.” (I also don’t totally blame them, as I was guilty myself of lecturing the children about proper penmanship this very week). These children already viewed writing as a mechanical process, devoid of true reason or soul. I wrote this idea down as “To improve.” Then I added a few more of my own, expounding on each, in turn.  “To communicate. To practice. To tell our stories. To find our voice.” I told the children that Writer’s Workshop would sometimes be a time for us to practice different kinds of writing (essays, procedural, persuasive, expository), but it would also be a very personal time for them to explore their own creativity and find ways to express themselves through their writing. I told them that each of them has their own unique perspective and story to tell and writing can be their tool for doing so.

Establishing our Process

Writer’s Workshop is a mix of teacher-guided modeling & practicing and self-guided work. We begin with a mini-lesson. The topics of these lessons vary, from grammar &  mechanics to gathering ideas & organizing them. The intention of the lesson is to introduce or review a skill that the students can directly apply to the writing they will do on their own that day or that week.

We went over the 5-step writing process. 1.pre-writing 2. drafting 3. revising. 4. editing 5. publishing. We will practice these together, but since much of Writer’s Workshop is at each individual’s pace, they will likely be at different steps at different times.

Exercising

One exercise we started with is called a quickwrite. For this exercise, the only rule is that the pen or pencil must be moving and writing for the full time that the timer is going. We started with 5 minutes. Students could write about anything they wanted. If there were no thoughts flowing, they were instructed to write about that. I have nothing to say. I don’t know what you write. My hand hurts. etc. I expected some tears or whines. Instead, I heard things like “That was the first time I ever had fun writing!” “Can I work on my quickwrite some more?” The only groans I heard were when the timer went off. They wanted to keep going.

Sharing

Eventually, we will practice the skills involved in revising or editing a peer’s work, but for now we are focusing on making writing a very positive experience. I introduced two different ways to share our writing with a partner. The first way is based on Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood and practices the art of active listening. Partner A reads his or her writing to Partner B. Partner B just listens. Then B mirrors back to A what he/she heard. I explained to the students that this exercise is not about quizzing Partner B on how much he/she can remember. It’s about showing A that we’re listening and validating what A shared with us. I call this type of sharing mirroring, and I’ve also explained to the students that it is a great practice to use in conversation or discussion, as well.

The other way we practice sharing is called “A compliment and a comment.” Some teachers call it “A star and a wish.” This is where Partner B listens to Partner A read his/her writing. Then B gives A a specific compliment and a specific comment. We talked about the importance of being specific. We want to be encouraging and positive, even if we’re telling our peers how he/she can improve. I felt validated in this practice when I heard a friend talking about her experience working for Apple recently. She said that one of the principles Apple employees hold high is giving specific and intentional feedback, and they always make sure that the intention is positive. I can already see how practicing this skill now is preparing students for their futures and showing them how to have positive work relationships.

I’ve very excited about the start we’ve made with Writer’s Workshop, and there’s so much more I want to do with it. As we get more practice under our belts, I’ll start to share some of the results with you. I already told the students that one option they will have for the publishing stage is posting their writing to this blog. I hope when that happens you will join me in celebrating their accomplishments and giving them specific encouragements to spur them onward in their writing journeys.

Got Grit?

 

Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”-Angela Lee Duckworth

There is a word going around in education circles these days: grit. Research by Angela Lee Duckworth shows that it’s one of the most important factors in determining success in many contexts, including students’ education. So, what is grit? In her TED Talk, Duckworth describes grit as “passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day-in, day-out. Not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years. And working really hard to make that future a reality.” According to her research, grit is even more important than IQ for success. So, if grit is so important, how do we teach kids to have it? One suggestion Duckworth makes is based on the idea of growth mindset. Many people have the idea that what you’re born with is what you get. They might think some people are just not good at math or sports or whatever. While there’s truth in the idea of natural talent and people having strengths in certain areas, the belief that learning and improvement is not possible just leads to giving up. As students are exposed to the idea that our brains change and grow as we learn and have new experiences, they begin to believe that failure is not permanent. They develop grit. They recognize that difficult does not equal impossible, and they are more willing to try. And the more they try and work hard, the more success they will have.

 

So, how do I want to model this in my classroom?

 1) Talk about growth mindset.

 2) Talk about mistakes and how we can learn from them. Mistakes are not failures. They are opportunities for learning and future success.

 3) Don’t freak out about my mistakes. If I’m too hard on myself, the kids will notice and see that I’m not practicing what I preach.

 4) Build time and space in the classroom for experimenting and redoing and learning things at different paces. This can be really hard when there’s so much information to cover and so little time, but I really want to try to recognize learner differences and provide opportunities for developing grit.

 

Helping students to develop grit will help prepare them for their futures. They will carry that with them into all facets of their lives: education, emotions, jobs, relationships, families, changing the world. I hope at the very least I can plant the seed in each student that they are capable of facing challenges and rising above. What about you? Got grit?

 

The First Week of School

First of all, I think we can all agree that I deserve major points for posting after the first week of school, when I could be getting some extra sleep or enjoying some of the luxuries I haven’t indulged in much this week, like sitting or silence. 😉 In all seriousness, though, the week went really well, and I’m enjoying my transition into 5th grade.

Teaching 5th grade is pretty different from 2nd grade. Here are some differences I’ve noticed:

  • With 5th graders, I sometimes I have to repeat my directions. With 2nd graders, I ALWAYS had to repeat my directions multiple times. Sometimes I repeated myself so many times that I felt like words started to lose their meaning.
  • The first week with 2nd graders, we practiced reading to ourselves and timed how long we could do it as a class. We were usually lucky if we could last 2 or 3 minutes before someone started talking or wandering around the room. When I had my 5th graders practice reading to themselves, they actually read! And it was silent…for about 15 minutes! (It was kind of unbelievable. I wanted to revel in it and just gaze in wonder at them, but then I remembered I had a million things to do).
  • 2nd graders will often grab my hand in the hallway, tell me I’m pretty, and hug me unexpectedly in the middle of a sentence. 5th graders don’t do this as frequently, but I’ve still received a few hugs.
  • I had to clean up after my 2nd graders. I have to clean up after my 5th graders. Some things don’t change. Oh well. I’m sure parents can relate.

 

So, all in all, I’m enjoying the changes I’m experiencing in 5th grade and am looking forward to getting to go deeper with my students in our Language Arts and Social Studies lessons.

Here’s a little recap of what we did this week:

Students created posters showing how they "sharpen the saw" in the 4 main areas of mind, body, heart, & soul.

Students created posters showing how they “sharpen the saw” in the 4 main areas of mind, body, heart, & soul.

1. 7 Habits rotations

5th grade students were taught all of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits by rotating through the 5th grade teacher’s classrooms. This also gave them a chance to get to know all the teachers and for me to try to learn 150 kids’ names in 2 days (please don’t quiz me).

2. Team-building/Synergizing

We built some time into each day for all the 5th graders to get together for some team-building games and learning about the value of synergizing (“Together we are better!”). The students really seemed to enjoy it and participated in various team challenges. Plus, it gave them a chance to socialize and interact with friends from other classes, which they REALLY enjoyed.

The students all connected in a circle, holding hands, and had to get the hula hoop all the way around the circle without disconnecting.

The students all connected in a circle, holding hands, and had to get the hula hoop all the way around the circle without disconnecting.

3. Creating a Social Contract

Every year, I’ve created a social contract with my class, going over the way we will treat each other. This was the first year I used something called the “Win-Win Philosophy” to create it, and I thought it went really well. Basically, as a class, we went through common behaviors that can cause a disruption in the average classroom. We covered attention-seeking, anger, boredom, being energetic, being uninformed, avoiding failure, and control-seeking. We discussed how none of those behaviors are innately bad and that it’s okay to want or need to express those things sometimes; however, there are disruptive and responsible ways to express them. I was really impressed with the thoughtfulness and depth of the conversation that we were able to have, and in the end the students came up with a social contract statement. “Our class agrees that we will work hard to use the 7 Habits of Happy Kids, so that we will learn to be responsible and respectful people, knowing that it is okay to sometimes make mistakes.” It was totally their idea to use the 7 Habits language in their statement. I think they can already see how the 7 habits will help them in their daily lives.

We learned motions for the 7 Habits. This is the one for synergize.

We learned motions for the 7 Habits. This is the one for synergize.

Next week, we will be having a normal schedule and digging into the 5th grade curriculum. I’ve already started a read-aloud, which I will be using to model reading behaviors. And we’ll be setting up our Writer’s Folders to help keep our writing organized. I went to an Educational Technology meet-up last weekend, where we viewed student films from the White House Film Festival. It really inspired me to find creative ways to encourage students to 1) believe they each have a story to tell & 2) find creative ways to tell their stories. I hope that our Writer’s Workshop time will be a good stepping stone for that. If you have the time, I encourage you to check out the awesome short-films students entered into the festival. The participants ranged in age from elementary to high-school, and the films really showcase the amazing things that students are able to do with technology.

A Classroom Tour

In high school, when it was time for me to apply to colleges, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. I pictured myself exploring the dark corridors, admiring the ancient portraits that appeared to follow me along my path to my room or to the Great Hall, where I would eat my meals with other students and professors. It sounded so magical! Okay, fine, maybe that’s because I pictured myself going to Hogwarts. But it was purely for the aesthetic qualities of pursuing higher learning in a place filled with history and wonder. When I accepted this was an impossible dream, I settled for my “backup” school and am perfectly happy with the education I received there, even though none of my classes were in a castle tower.

When I started dreaming of how I wanted my new classroom to look, I still had this ancient image in my head. 5th graders seemed so much older than the 2nd graders I had taught for the past 7 years. Maybe they would appreciate this, as well. How could I accomplish this in a school that’s only 8 year old, though? It’s not like we’re in the running for being named a historical landmark. After enlisting the thoughts of friends, I came up with a few simple ways to transform my room into something that isn’t exactly like Hogwarts but at least feels like a warm, homey, and inviting place to be. I hope you enjoy the tour.

(Disclaimer: These pictures were taken on my phone, and while photography is something I hope to get better at, with practice, I am not yet where I’d like to be. So, please forgive the glares and reflections you’ll see in many of the shots).

First, I feel like you’ll be more impressed, if we do some before and after pictures. These give you an idea of the space (and amount of junk) I started with.

Before shot, from the angle of the window.

Before shot, from the angle of the window.

Before shot, from the angle of the doorway.

Before shot, from the angle of the doorway.

After shot, from the angle of the doorway.

After shot, from the angle of the doorway.

As for the details, I printed and framed some old looking pictures to hang above my bulletin boards along with some fabulous old brass plates (each was less than $5 at my local thrift store establishments). I also used scrapbook paper in warm colors and with tapestry-like designs for covering the bulletin boards (these last longer and have less fading than butcher paper). As for the pictures I chose to put in the frames, I found some that looked medieval to go with the castle look. The picture of the lady in the white robes in the gold frame is an homage to “the Fat Lady” who guards the Gryffindor tower.

I hung framed prints above the bulletin boards to make it more homey.

I hung framed prints above the bulletin boards to make it more homey.

I covered the bulletin boards with some scrapbook paper in warm colors and tapestry designs.

I covered the bulletin boards with some scrapbook paper in warm colors and tapestry designs.

brass plates and boar print

brass plates and boar print

pictures above my bulletin board

pictures above my bulletin board

I was beyond excited to find this framed poem, entitled “Desiderata” by Max Ehrrmann, at the local Goodwill, because it reminds me of my 6th grade math teacher. You see, she was a little old school, and she had some unusual methods for classroom management. When our class got a little rowdy or loud, she would calmly tell us to put away our math materials and get out a new sheet of paper and pencil. When we heard those directions, we knew we were in for it. Then she would start reading aloud this poem…very s-l-o-w-l-y, and we were supposed to write it down word for word from her dictation. It starts “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence” and goes on like that for 20-something more lines. I remember the groans of all my classmates when she would start reading those words. I probably won’t be utilizing it for discipline in my classroom, but having it on my wall will give me a reason to chuckle.

"Desiderata" (poem by Max Ehrrman)

“Desiderata” (poem by Max Ehrrman)

Two more special areas I want to highlight are my lockers and my Writer’s Nook. I added some visual height and interest to the room by putting some covered trifolds on top of the lockers. I saved these trifolds for the last 6 years from school science fairs and covered them with scrapbook paper and fabric. Eventually, I want to put directions for centers on them. I also established a corner of the room for a Writer’s Nook. One of my summer projects was establishing a cozy place in my home for writing and creating, and I thought my students might appreciate having a space for that, as well. I’m picturing that the picture holder and the chalkboard could be places where students will write inspiring quotes or ideas to encourage one another.

trifolds covered in fabrics and scrapbook paper

trifolds covered in fabrics and scrapbook paper

Writer's Nook

Writer’s Nook

So, that’s a little tour of my classroom. It will always be a work-in-progress, so there are still tons of improvements I can and will make. Overall, I’m pretty satisfied with it, though, and I hope it will be a happy place for my students and I to spend our days.