Mrs. Sandles' Blog

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Critical Incident Paper

It was a chilly Tuesday morning and I had just concluded the whole group lesson of the 2-½ hour reading block. As usual, I explained to the students what tasks they were going to be working on in each station and asked the team leaders to reread what was written in alternating colors on the chart paper for clarification. While the team leader in the first station began rapidly reading from the chart, I glanced over at RT and noticed that he was not paying attention but was attempting to distract other students in his group instead. “RT,” I said, “what is the task that you will be completing in station one?” “I don’t know,” RT said with an enormous smirk on his face.

Like any other day, I knew that I would have to debrief and redirect RT after addressing the entire class so I did. I walked over to RT’s desk and began talking with him. “Ok RT, you are going to read pages 22-24 in your Ponds magazine, find three facts that interested you and write them down on paper,” I explained. I then directed RT to the correct pages in the magazine and handed him the paper he was going to be using. Subsequently, I asked him if he had any additional questions giving him the opportunity to respond. He replied, “Naw I get it, and strolled back to his seat rather slowly.”

After returning to his seat I noticed that he was working which put me at ease. I called a group to the teaching station and began working with them when I heard the students at station one laughing rather rowdily. “Ding,” “I can hear station one’s voices getting louder, I do not mind if you are talking about the task, but keep it down so that the students I am working with can focus as well,” I told them. Shortly after my warning, the laughing lowered and I continued to work with the students who were at the teaching station.

All of a sudden a crashing sound came from the area near the computer. It was where station one was located. This time it was something hitting the floor. Immediately, I stood up to discover what had happened. I addressed the team leader for clarification, “It was RT, Mrs. Sandles; He threw his book on the floor because I told him that he was playing too much,” DS explained. “He wanted to talk about something that had nothing to do with what we were trying to work on,” she continued. I called RT to the teaching station and asked the rest of the class to continue with what they were working on. “RT, can you explain to me why you threw the book,” inquired. In a loud and irritated voice RT stated, “I hate that stupid girl and this stupid school. Everything we do is boring.” “Everybody is drawing pictures on their papers and I can’t draw,” he insisted.

Listening to RT open up about his feeling concerning school and himself was similar to hearing the first words uttered by a young child; It was unforgettable. Instantly, various questions began to race through my mind. How can I motivate and improve the overall school experience for this child and others in my class?

Throughout the remainder of the year I strived to use several strategies when working with RT. My main goal was to learn more about this student in attempt encourage his interests and build his confidence in himself and towards school. Unfortunately, RT continued to get into trouble resulting in a month at the alternative school towards the end of the school year. It remains an ongoing mystery to me how to reach this child and others who have emotional and social needs. I would like to explore ways to motivate minorities who have social and emotional needs.

Literature Review

How do you motivate students who possess negative feelings towards school? What strategies can be used to help these students build confidence and the social skills necessary to play an active role in the classroom community? These are questions that many teachers may be faced with and often have difficulty answering. Journaling has served as a vehicle to assist adults and children in expressing themselves and communicating in a positive way with others. Perhaps using journals to respond to literature can serve as a tool for motivating students to express their feelings, thoughts and ideas.

There is a crystal clear connection between the development of reading and writing. When children engage in literature, they learn about forms of writing and ways of expressing themselves. (Spiegel, 1998) Like reading, writing should be a significant part of daily instruction, however, talk, meaning verbally or in writing, is what is pushed out of the curriculum first when time gets short. (Bloem, 2004)

Without a doubt, classrooms are filled with diverse students. Each student comes from different backgrounds, expresses themselves and learns in various ways. Educators have discovered that students whose needs are not supported in the classroom develop negative attitudes towards school and learning. Jordan (1997) reported that students often dislike what they do not understand. (Dressel, 751) In the same way, when children are provided minimal opportunities to write during the school week, their tendency to avoid thee task increases. (Graves, 1991)

The significance of students responding to literature is embedded in Rosenblatt’s (1938/1976) reader-repose theory, which describes what happens when students express their responses in writing (Atwell, 1987; Calkins, 1986; Cullinan, 1987; Hancock, 1993; Hanson, 1987; Rief, 1992). (as cited by Werderich, 747) According to Rosenblatt (1938/1976) most readers read literature aesthetically-for human experience reflected in it. (Dressel, 750) Along with Rosenblatt (1976), Cox and Many (1992) have discovered that readers who make personal connections to literature also obtain a higher level of understanding compared to students who read to simply recall, paraphrase or analyze. (Dressel, 2005)

Researchers of response journals have emphasized the significant roles adults play in motivating students to take risks and express themselves in writing. Teachers who are responsive to their student’s needs and understand the student’s zone of proximal development Vygotsky (1962) can challenge a child in effective ways. After facilitating a journal writing exchange between her preservice teachers and a fifth grade class, Bloem (2004) found that adults play several significant roles in the writing process. In addition, she discovered that children are more likely to take risks and express themselves when receiving positive feedback in a safe environment. Moreover, Wollman-Bonilla and Werchadlo (1999) found that teacher modeling, instruction and feedback, and peer sharing make a significant difference in children’s thinking and writing about texts, encouraging Reader-centered and inferential, interpretive Text-centered responses. Spiegel (1998) reports that when readers come together to talk a bout what they have read, they take part in an interactive community where half formed ideas are explored. “Atwell (1998) called for teachers to “come out from behind their big desks” (p.4) and join their students as these individuals develop their own sense of themselves as writers.” (As cited by Street, 638)


The participants in this study will be third grade students. Each student will maintain a response journal. The students will use the journals to write responses to various stories read aloud in class. The teacher as well as the student’s peers will write in the student journals in response to what they have written.

Data will be collected by reviewing a teacher research log that will used to write about what I observe as students write in their journals and respond to the journals of their peers. Student interviews will be used as well anecdotal student records.

Bloem, P. L. (2004). Correspondence journals: Talk that matters. Reading Teacher, 58(1), 54-62.

Dressel, J. H. (2005). Personal response and social responsibility: Responses of middle school students to multicultural literature. Reading Teacher, 58(8), 750-764.

Gau, E., Hermanson, J., Logar, M., & Smerek, C. Improving Student Attitudes and Writing Abilities through Increased Writing Time and Opportunities. Access ERIC: FullTextU.S.; Illinois; 2003-05-00.

Spiegel, D. L. (1998). Silver bullets, babies, and bath water: Literature response groups in a balanced literacy program. Reading Teacher, 52(2), 114.

Werderich, D. E. (2002). Individualized responses: Using journal letters as a vehicle for differentiated reading instruction. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45(8), 746.

Wollman-Bonilla, J. E., & Werchadlo, B. (1999). Teacher and peer roles in scaffolding first graders' responses to literature. Reading Teacher, 52(6), 598.

I am having such a wonderful time participating in the Blue Bonnet Writing Project.  I have discovered so many new things about writing and about myself as a writer.  I am anxious to implement all of the things I learned and model for other teachers.  One of the most significant things I have learned is how to implement technology in the classroom. 

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This is a picture of me and my husband Chris. Chris and I met in college and have been best friends ever since. He is truly my life partner and I am fortunate to have him in my life.

Lesson Plan

Grade Level: 3rd grade

Estimated Time of Lesson: 45 minutes


Prior to this lesson students have had a chance to use journaling as a means of communicating ideas, thoughts and feelings related to literature. In this lesson students will be encouraged to make personal connections to the characters in A Bad Case of Stripes. The book is about a little girl who is teased by her classmates for liking lima beans. After discussing the characters’ feelings in the story, students will write in reflection journals about a situation similar to the characters.

The Learners will

(1C) Participate in rhymes, songs, conversations, and discussions
(2A) Connect experiences and ideas with those of others through speaking and listening
(3C) Ask and answer relevant questions and make contribution in small or large group discussion
(4C) Retell a spoken message by summarizing or clarifying
(9A) Use prior knowledge to anticipate meaning and make sense of text
(9F) Make and explain inferences from tests such as determining important ideas, causes and effects, making predictions, and drawing conclusions
(10 A) Respond to stories and poems in ways that reflect understanding I discussion (speculating questioning), in writing, and through movement, music, art and drama
(11H) Analyze characters including their traits, feelings, relationships, and changes
(11J) Recognize the story problem(s) or plot
(14A) Write to record ideas and reflections

From Theory to Practice:

Bloem, P.L. (2004). Correspondence Journals: Talk that matters. International Reading Association. 54-62.

ü Journals offer personalized learning (Werderich, 2002) and provide a forum for talk beyond the classroom setting (Smagorinsky, 2002).
ü Writing exchanges are a powerful tool for reflection and risk taking.

Spiegal, D.L. (1998). Silver bullets, babies, and bath water: Literature response groups in a balanced literacy program. The Reading Teacher, 52, 114-124.

ü As children read, they learn about forms of writing, ways of expressing ideas, new words, different syntactic structures, and knowledge about the world.
ü When readers come together to discuss what they have read, they take part in what is called an interpretive community, where half formed ideas are explored and readers gain new lenses through which to view what they have read.
ü Social interaction invites readers to extend their thinking and prolong their involvement with text (Scott, 1994).

Instructional Resources:

ü A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
ü Other books that may be used for this lesson are:
o Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber
o First Grade King by Karen L. Williams and Lena Shiffman
o Oliver Button is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola
o Smoky Night by Eve Bunting

ü Literature-Based Reading Activates by Ruth Helen Yopp and Hallie Kay Yopp pages 77-80

ü Lima Beans
ü Student Reflection Journals
ü Post-It Notes
ü Chart Paper and Chart Markers

ü Draw a brainstorm web on the chart paper.
ü Prepare a list of small groups (about three students per group).
ü Draw a Feelings Chart on chart paper.

Events Characters
The next day was a disaster. Everyone at school laughed at Camilla.
Camilla Camilla’s Parents Camilla’s Classmates
Camilla’s principal calls Camilla’s parents and tell them she cannot come back to school.

Camilla was cured after she ate the lima beans.


1. Ask students to tell you what their favorite foods are and write their responses on web.
2. Display the book to the students and explain to them that the main character in the story’s favorite food is lima beams.
3. Allow students to explore the lima beans.
a. Has anyone every eaten a lima bean before, if so did you like them?
b. Who would like to try them in the future?
c. Allow students to make predications about the story. Write their predictions on the chart paper.

4. Give each student a small stick of Post-It Notes and explain to them that they will be using during the reading.
5. Display the feelings chart in front of the class identifying some key events in the story.
6. Read the book aloud and pause after each event is read. Instruct the right side of the room to write an emotion that Camilla felt during that event.
7. The middle of the room will respond to how Camilla’s parents felt and the left side will repond to how her classmates might have felt.
8. The class should be instructed to write only one word per event.
9. After reading the story, the teacher will read the emotions that were collected from the chart.
10. Each student will them choose one emotion from the chart and take it back to their seats.
11. They will then write in their journals about a situation where they experienced that emotion or a similar situation to the main chartater of the book.
12. Students will share their journal responses with their partners.


5. Ask volunteers to respond to the questions:
What do you think is the lesson from A Bad Case of Stripes?
Can you describe how what you favorite part of the story was?
Why do you think children make fun of each other?
What are some things that you could do if you see someone being bullied?


ü Review the students’ journal entries keeping in mind that the responses are personal and responses will vary throughout the classroom. Write back to the student in the journal to ask for clarification, give encouragement, or share a similar experience with them.


Have students create “All about Me” books using the computer to share with the class. Place the books in the classroom library.
Read other books about accepting others for who they are.
Create a class Anti Bully Pledge. Post the list in the classroom.
Create a web graphic organizer writing descriptive words about the main character.
All students to create t-charts charts to compare themselves to the main character.
Encourage students to research and write about the different specialist mentioned in the book.
Allow students to role play what to do if someone is being bullied.

This lesson was adapted from Lisa Cranston,