“All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

I am me because my mother was my mother.  I was inspired by her in many ways throughout her life.  I still am.  My mom modeled creative thinking and the implementation of original ideas.  She was a writer of stories, poems, comedic sketches, and song parodies.  She was a blue ribbon baker and cook.  Her freezer was always packed with cookies, meatloaf, sauces, and other delightful concoctions.  She was always changing, adjusting, and improving her recipes.  At the State Fair she did indeed win blue ribbons for her english muffins, scones, and Spam recipe!

She was an accomplished seamstress.  She sewed Barbie Doll clothes for me when I was young and my prom dress when I was older.  She sewed her own clothes for years.  I have three brothers and a sister, and every year she made homemade costumes for all of us.














Mom was a reader.  I remember being so excited after a trip to the library!  We would all sit in the living room, each with our own stack of books.  Then we would share our favorites with each other.  As we grew older, she had the opportunity to read on a wide variety of topics.  It was always interesting to have a conversation with her.  Many of the books she read dealt with the American Civil War.  When she found out that her great grandfather fought in the war, she began research in earnest.  She has actually visited the field on which he was shot in the knee.  Because of her stories and research, I became interested as well.  It’s one of the reasons I enjoy teaching about the Civil War.

My grandparents were the only grandparents I knew with a music room in their house!  Having grown up with music, my mother was always humming, singing, or listening to it.   She played clarinet, guitar, and accordion.  She and my two older brothers formed a trio when I was young.  On her own, she has been in countless bands and singing groups over the years.  About ten years ago she was directing shows in the community where she lived.  The shows always had a lot of music and comedy that she was responsible for writing.  About five years ago she started a singing group of 3-5 women.  They sang some well known songs, but then also some of the parodies she has written.  Audiences loved her brand of entertainment and she loved being the entertainer.

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I had four days to accept the idea that cancer was going to end her life.  That was tough.  It has now been one week since she passed away.  I am very sad, but not at all forgetful that she planted many seeds.  I love coming up with original ideas for costumes or even hallway decorations.  I love to read.  I’ve spent happy hours sewing clothes for my children – and especially loved the bouncy dresses for my daughter.  I played clarinet during high school and have been in several choirs.  A few years ago, I even sang one of her parodies in a fund raising talent show.  Like I said, ” I am me because my mother was my mother.”

Sentence Analysis – Using Logic and Knowledge

I was very fortunate back in 2004!  A student nominated me and I later received the Excellent Educator Award!  As part of the Award, I was invited to attend a workshop by Michael Clay Thompson.  He changed the way I teach grammar.  Instead of staying with each part of speech until mastery, he recommended that I teach everything about sentences within the first month of school.  And by “everything” I mean the eight parts of speech, the five parts of a sentence, phrases, types of sentences, and sentence structure.  Then I can spend the rest of the school year having the students analyze sentences and apply their knowledge.

My students and I have loved this format.  Each new sentence is like a puzzle and we use logic and knowledge to solve it.  This week we were ready and began the four level analysis that will now become part of our weekly routine.  In the first video, the students identify parts of speech.

In the next video the students go on to identify parts of the sentence (subject, predicate, subject complement), phrases (at this point they know only prepositional phrases), type of sentence (declarative), and finally sentence structure  (compound I, cc I).

With this kind of analysis happening all year long, the students will really get a much better sense of how sentences are built.  It will also give us some common ideas to talk about when discussing their writing.  Love it!

Sharon Draper – Live Interview

Today we were lucky enough to listen in on a live interview with Sharon Draper.  She is the author who wrote Out of My Mind, the book we have been reading as part of the Global Read Aloud.  As it turns out, over 70,000 students all over the world have been listening to the book in their classrooms!   

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Mrs. Draper  said that she wrote this book because it needed to be written!  It is for anybody who feels or has felt as if they didn’t fit in.  That means that students as young as 3rd grade all the way through adult will find something to relate to in this book.   Some have noticed that characters in the book are not identified with any particular race of people.  Mrs. Draper says that is because she wanted Melody to be universal.  She wanted her situation, her emotions, her courage, and her resilience to be the focus.  As I stated a few sentences ago, it is a story for anybody who has felt as if they didn’t fit in. 

When asked why she ended the story the same way she began it, Mrs. Draper explained that it was her way of showing that things had come full circle.  While it was very effective in this book, Mrs. Draper said that her editor won’t let her use it again.  Readers love variety in storytelling! 


Out of My Mind took Mrs. Draper two years to write.  In that time she revised it somewhere between 40 and 50 times!  When it was published, she was very pleased to see the cover.  You see, the author never chooses the cover of the book.  The publisher does that.  Mrs. Draper liked the cover a lot because to her the fish in a bowl represents anyone who has felt trapped in their life and has wanted to leap to freedom.  But once you do that, you can’t go back.  Life changes for you at that point. 

One of the last questions asked of her was, “Why did you decide to have Melody be a 5th grader?”  She replied, ” Because 5th grade is cool!”  We couldn’t agree more!

Global Read Aloud – Time for Reflecting

Well, we finished reading Out of My Mind today.  We have been reading about 50 pages each week as part of the Global Read Aloud program.  Wow!  It seemed that in each chapter we had things to talk about.  Sometimes we were in awe of Melody’s spirit and optimism.  At other times we were outraged at the way people treated her and the unfair challenges she faced on a daily basis.  This week we will begin reflecting on Melody’s story and Sharon Draper’s writing.  One thing we want to do is find out more about Cerebral Palsy.  Here is a video that I think explains it quite well.

Very soon we will be talking with a mom whose daughter seems very much like Melody.  After our initial questions have been answered, we’d love to meet her daughter in person.

Happy Halloween!

What a grand day! And what fun we’ve had preparing for this party!  First we’ll take you on a tour.  See for yourself what our hallway and room looked like this week.

Next imagine all of these fun students having a well organized party.  One third of them planned the menu, brought the food, and cleaned up their area.  One third of them planned the games, brought all necessary props, ran the games, and cleaned up at the end.  The last third of the students decorated the room.  They brought their favorite decorations from home and placed them thoughtfully around the room.  I had some of the panels of bricks for our door exterior from last year, but needed some new ones as well.  So student volunteers used paint and sponge to create new spooky brick walls.  Everyone wrote their own silly epitaph and painted their own tombstone using a sponge for that stone look.

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