Write, Write, Write! Go Lana!

How do you improve your writing? Write. Seems so simple. We hear authors, teachers, and parents share this sage advice. Like anything, practice makes permanent. In 6th grade Language Arts we blog. In other words, we write about experiences in school and in our community. A key part of this process is reflection.

In my 25 years in education, I have seen a transition. When students write on paper, it provides valuable information for me as a teacher. Not only can I peruse the content, the grammar, and mechanics, I can also see how hard a student presses on the pencil or how they use the space on the paper. Whether they ask it out loud or not, there is the inevitable question, “How many sentences do I have to write?”

When we blog, we are learning foundational skills, but we are also treading in new and open waters. What we write is now visible to the world. This is often referred to as an “authentic audience” in educational circles. When students write with digital tools, I cannot analyze the handwriting, but even with spell check, there are spelling errors in first drafts. Writing is one of the most complex skills for students as it combines language, memory, sequencing, attention, and motor skills. In addition, learning a new process with multiple steps for drafting and publishing online is a journey in itself.

I have only been blogging for a few years with my middle school students. I cannot express the thrill and the “YES” moment we experienced when I asked them to read their first post and then read a more recent blog post. Initially, instead of noticing the difference in length or the improvement in handwriting, which is what students usually observe when comparing drafts on paper, they noticed what we want them to see. Smiles widened, eyes sparkled, and pride burst from their chests when they realized that they had become better writers. They improved their craft. This was not about the final product. They noticed how they improved the PROCESS of writing. An added bonus is that they discovered that all of our talk about how to comment online really matters. In other words, specific, meaningful feedback feels very different than “Nice job!”

Last year in 6th grade, Lana wrote a piece titled, Blog Post Progression. She reflected on this experience of looking back at her learning process. She writes, “Recently, I scrolled through all of my blog posts, down to my first one. To be honest, it was rough. I actually started to laugh. I misplaced and omitted commas and made a small handful of other grammar and writing mistakes. I realized how much I have learned throughout the year and how much my writing skills have improved.”

Throughout the year in 6th grade Language Arts, we learn how we learn. We talk about strategies, resources, and what works best for each of us as individuals. Lana writes, “Throughout this process, I learned quite a bit about my peers and myself. I discovered that I actually prefer to write on paper. This is because when I write up a report on a piece of paper or in a notebook, I do not have the risk of the document accidentally getting deleted or getting lost in the midst of my computer or iPad while when I handwrite an assignment, it is my responsibility to protect and not lose it. Some of my peers, though, prefer technology and use cloud-based apps so they do not lose their work.”

Lana concludes, “Despite my favoritism of pen and paper, the blog experience has been a great one. It’s exciting to see my name on the homepage, but even better to see how much my work has improved since the beginning of the year. The blog has helped me become a better writer and I am so glad that Mrs. Donnelly introduced our class to it!”

Lana’s writing experience has come full circle. She indeed has an authentic audience, the world. Her reflection is now published in the March 2015 issue of JAAL, the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. The Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy is a peer-reviewed academic journal published eight times per year by Wiley-Blackwell. It is currently edited by Margaret Carmody Hagood and Emily Neil Skinner (College of Charleston). Click here for more information about JAAL  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/%28ISSN%291936-2706/homepage/ProductInformation.html

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To reference the links shared in Lana’s article please visit:


First post by Lana – Camp Cheerio

Last post by Lana – Sixth Grade

Keep writing and reflecting. Keep learning.


Hero Books by Lana K.

Photos by Mrs. Donnelly

This semester in Language Arts we created books about a hero that we have. There was a literary and an artistic concept to this project. For the literary part, we wrote about our hero. We had to write an introduction to the project, a paragraph about their childhood, three different paragraphs about three different characteristics your hero obtains, and a paragraph about how your hero has impacted your life. For the artistic aspect, we created a scene that is important to us with our hero by stamping patterns, cutting, and layering paper.

For my hero, I chose my dad. The hardest part of this project was probably going through the editing process of my writing. The easiest (and most fun, in my opinion) was creating my scene. In my scene, my dad and I were walking through New York City, enjoying the city scenery, for my 10th birthday. Overall, I really loved creating my hero books and I’m sure all of the heroes enjoyed them, too.

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Talk to Your Teen by Lana K.

In the book Cosmic, the main character, Liam, is reading his dad’s book called Talk to Your Teen. I have a few suggestions I would add…

  • Limited screen time
  • Be firm, but not strict
  • Allow dessert, but not a glut of sweets
  • Have homework done by 6:00, so don’t procrastinate

These are a few examples of some rules I would add to Talk to Your Teen.

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If I Were A Grownup For A Day by Lana K.

If I were a grownup for a day, I would do everything I can’t do as a kid. I would drive myself to the mall, in my Jeep, go to Forever Twenty-One, Palm Avenue (Lilly Pulitzer), and all of my favorite shops and buy clothes with my credit card. I would then go to my house in Beverly Hills to see my husband, Justin Bieber, and our three children. Their names would be Robert, Will, and Kate. I would then donate money to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Next, we would go out to eat at a very fancy restaurant and we would discuss Justin’s career. Finally, my family and I would go back to our mansion, and go to sleep in each of our king sized beds. That is how my day as a grownup would go like!

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Wisdom Tales Comic by: Lana K.


Screenshot of my comic

Since we finished reading and taking notes on all of the Wisdom Tales, Mrs. Donnelly assigned a project. The project we were assigned was to create a comic on Comic Life of a Wisdom Tale of our choice. I chose the Wisdom Tale: Whose Dream Is This? from China. The reason I chose to do Whose Dream Is This is because I really like the moral and the story is simple and short, yet still portrays the moral. The moral for this Wisdom Tale is: Think outside the box and/or look at things from different perspectives.

Comic Life is a great app. It gives you many different themes to chose from as your format and isn’t difficult to understand or use. Above is a screenshot that I took of the Wisdom Tale comic that I created.

I am Thankful for…….by Lana K.






There are many things that I am thankful for, for example, my Uggs (boots), my Northface (jacket), my phone, etc. Although, there is one thing that stands out of most of them. My education. There are some kids in the world that don’t even have pencils to write with or books to read. I go to Durham Academy. A place where, on a daily basis, I get to see my friends and expand my knowledge of various subjects. I get taught Language Arts, Spanish, Math, Sports, History, Science, and a Fine Art. But, the people I should thank are my parents, who drive me to school, and pay for it. By doing those things makes me know they really care. DA is such a great place to go to school because, for one, almost all of my closest friends attend DA, and two, they make learning fun (most of the time). This particular holiday season, you should think about what your thankful for and make sure to acknowledge it. Have a Happy Turkey Day!

Thanksgiving by Lana K.

Thanksgiving is coming up and I am looking forward to it! Usually, every year my immediate family hosts my distant family for Thanksgiving dinner, but this year we are going to the beach to be thankful. I am thankful for going to such an amazing school and having such a great family and friends. On Thanksgiving, people most likely eat turkey, although, being in a Greek family, we eat lamb on Thanksgiving (along with other traditional Thanksgiving foods). My favorite dessert by far is pecan pie, so as you could imagine, I really love Thanksgiving desserts. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration!






Flickr Storm

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The Corn Maze and Haunted Trail by Lana K.

Last weekend some friends and I went to a corn maze and haunted trail. We started off with the corn maze when we got there because the haunted trail had to start after dark. We received tickets when we got there. As we went through the maze, we had to find checkpoints to stamp our tickets with. There were eight checkpoints total in the whole maze, but by the time we got out we only stamped seven shapes in our card. Although, the other group of our friends stamped eight.

Once we got out of the maze, we ate pizza, played frisbee, and waited for the haunted evening ahead of us. After dark, we got in a line infringing of a pitch black tunnel. A few minutes after getting in line, we suddenly hear a chainsaw and see a very terrifying clown chasing after the people in line. The next creature to come out was a devil/werewolf. He wouldn’t have been that scary except for the fact that before I knew it, he was chasing me through the woods, around a den, until I was on my knees, with my hands over my eyes, screaming my head off. I was on the verge on tears until he accidentally kicked me, broke character, and said, “Oh my gosh, are you ok?” I got off my knees and didn’t respond.

Before we were all about to go into the tunnel, everybody there was going to enter, but after hearing the screams of the people in front of us, only four girls were on board, including me. After we got out of the tunnel, every one of the four girls, except for me had gotten too scared and exited the trail. It was only me, my friend’s mom, and her brother. The rest of the trail was pretty predictable because of my friends brother who every time a guy was going to pop out in front of us he knew and told us.

At the end of the night, I thought about our experience and laughed. I ended up having a great time.



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I Am Proud Of……. by Lana K.

I am proud of my soccer skills because I have the ability to play many different positions and be good at them. Also, I am proud of my soccer skills because I love to play at practices and games. I enjoy getting better each time I play. Another reason is because when I make mistakes I know that no one will remember it and that I can learn from them. I started playing soccer when I was seven years old and am glad that I did! I hope to play soccer throughout middle school and hopefully high school. Even if I do not keep playing soccer when I’m older it will always be a hobby of mine. I love soccer! 💚⚽💚⚽


The Zip-Line at Cheerio by Lana K.

The zip-line at Cheerio was rushing. When in the air I felt like I was flying, although the quarter mile hike up was not enjoyable. The first time, I hiked up, waited my turn, and got strapped in. Cluck, the man working at Cheerio Adventures, was eager to get us off of the hill and hanging, but at first I was hesitant. It was so fun even though I only went twice. As When I was resting after my second time, it was hilarious getting to watch my classmates do funny poses in the air and watching my friend Joy make cool flower necklaces. The zip-line at Cheerio was so much fun. It makes me want to go back next summer!

zip line

Photo by Mrs. Donnelly