Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ahh, Summer!

Hey there, dear FIFTH graders!

It's summer! I celebrated the beginning of summer break by spending the day planting flowers. I find great delight in sitting on my patio on balmy June mornings. Somehow, the grim news in my daily paper doesn't seem as discouraging, and my coffee tastes especially lovely, when I am surrounded by vibrant pinks, greens, purples, oranges and yellows. Of course, Elsa loves to join me - that is, after she has thoroughly sniffed out the corners of the yard and chased the bunnies back under the shed. She has work to do, after all. No summer break for her!

Today, as I sit here at the computer looking out at the drizzling rain, my husband and daughter are riding their bicycles from Hinckley (where Tobie's is - famous for their carmel rolls) to the Twin Cities. Yesterday, they rode all the way from Duluth to Hinckley. By the time they finish this afternoon, they will have ridden over 150 miles. Usually my other daughter and I also pedal in this annual event. It is a fund-raising ride to raise money to fight the disease called multiple sclerosis. It's a difficult name to say, so most people just call it MS. MS affects a person's nervous system, making it hard for his or her brain to send signals to the muscles. It gets worse over many years. Currently, there is no cure, but the bike ride is one way people try to help fight this disease. The money they raise from friends and neighbors, pays for scientific research to help find a cure. Thinking about MS makes me grateful for good health.

That's what's on my mind today. What about you? How did you celebrate the beginning of summer break? Have you ever participated in a fundraiser to fight a disease or to support some other cause?

I look forward to hearing from you! I certainly hope you all have an enjoyable summer!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Books! Books! Books! We love 'em!

Dear student readers,

You have read so many great books this year. I have certainly enjoyed hearing about them. For this week’s blog, make a list of 3-5 books that you would recommend to other readers. These should be books that you have read in the last two years.

Make sure to include the genre (i.e. fantasy, adventure, mystery, biography, science fiction, historical fiction, nonfiction) capitalize the title correctly and list the author. If possible, tell us the number of pages.

Please put one star next to the titles that you’d recommend for third graders, two stars next to the ones that you suggest for fourth graders, and three stars for ones that you’d reserve for kids who really, really read a lot!

Finally, write two or three sentences per book telling us why we should rush out and read your picks. (This part is important! Don’t skimp on it.)

Here’s my example:
**Frindle by Andrew Clements - 105 pages - realistic fiction - I love the characters in this story. From mischievous Nick to his down-to-business teacher Mrs. Granger, this book is about people I both understand and really care about. And, of course, it is a story about words. What English teacher could possibly resist that?!

Have fun with this kids. Give it some thought. I guarantee you that your classmates will use your lists for summer reading ideas!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Week 32 Two options

Hey, fourth graders!
Senator Michel really appreciated your ideas about lengthening the school year. Read his response to you below.

Dear Students:
Thank you all so much for your thoughtful response to my legislative proposal. You had many good ideas and I would like to incorporate your thoughts and amend my proposal. How would each of you vote on the following proposal:

Add 5 - 10 days to the school year and require that those additional days may only come between Labor day in September and Memorial Day in May. In other words, this proposal will NOT shorten our traditional summer vacation.

The additional days would mean fewer 3 and four day weekends during the year. Now what do you think?

State Senator Geoff Michel

This week you have two options for your blog assignment: 1) either respond to Senator Michel’s question (including your reasons for agreeing or disagreeing) OR, 2)since we are currently studying our great state, write a short story about an important Minnesota place or event you have experienced. (Examples: canoeing in the Boundary Waters? walking across the headwaters of the Mississippi at Itasca? watching gigantic cargo ships slide under the canal liftbridge in Duluth? riding the old trolley at Lake Harriet? admiring the centuries old petroglyphs in Southwestern Minnesota? touring the shoe factory in Red Wing during its 100th birthday celebration?)

IMPORTANT - Please write your comment in a word processing program first. Reread what you write to make sure it makes sense. Correct spelling and other errors. Then, and ONLY then, submit your comment to the blog. (Part of writing is presentation. Take the time to do it well.) 75 words or more.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Week 31 Time sure flies!

While it sometimes seems hard to believe, fourth grade will soon be a memory. In no time at all (at least it will seem that way to your parents) you’ll be a young adult living life on your own!

Fast forward about fifteen years. Imagine yourself at the age of twenty-five. Life is good. Where do you live? Are you working? Doing what? Are you going to school? Studying what? Are you married or single? Do you have any children? What do you do in your free time? Any special memories from fourth grade at Normandale?

Write a letter to your old fourth grade English teacher, Mme Powell, to catch her up on what you are doing. Please be specific. Write using complete sentences and correct letter format.

If you prefer, you may hand write your letter and turn it in to Mme Powell at school by Monday, May 19.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Week 30 Choice Week!

Some of you have been eagerly waiting for another "choice week" to continue the stories you began weeks ago. Well, here is your chance. Whether you choose to write a completely new story or finish an older one, is up to you. Either way, be sure to write your story in a way that includes your five senses, paints a picture for the reader, and focuses on the important events. (Don’t tell us about getting up, eating breakfast, and riding to the park in the car, if the story is really about the winning goal you scored in the soccer game!) At least 100 words, please. Don't be intimidated. You can do it!

Challenge: Try including dialogue in your story. Look carefully at my example to see how to use punctuation correctly when your characters are speaking.

I’ve Always Wondered What Happened to the Fur We Pull From Her Brush…

“Mom, come look at this,” Britta called.

My eyes dropped to the ground where my daughter squatted. Cupped in her hand was a delicate whirlwind of sticks and grass. A bird’s nest. Its mission hopefully completed, it had most likely been blown out of the tree during last night’s thunderstorm. This particular nest was more wispy than most I’d seen. I stooped to get a closer look. Silky strands of red, grey and white wound in swirls amidst the twigs and dried grasses.

“Interesting,” I began, “these colors remind me of something…” I glanced up and noted Britta’s widening eyes.

“Elsa!” we exclaimed in unison.

Hearing her name, our favorite fur donor streaked across the grass, squeezing her wriggling mass between us and toppling us both onto our backsides. As we laughed, she swished her fringed tail in one face while licking the other, then pivoted to make sure neither of us missed out on her generosity.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Week 29 Senator Michel asks for your ideas!

Have any of you ever visited the Minnesota State Capitol in Saint Paul? If you do, you might see Lexie’s father, State Senator Geoff Michel who represents Edina and West Bloomington. This week we have asked him to blog with us about an issue at the state capitol that affects schools and kids:

Hello Normandale! I hope you can help me. An issue that will be getting a lot of attention at the Capitol over the next few years is whether we should require more days in school - a longer school year - for Minnesota children. Currently, schools in Minnesota average 170 days per school year. The average in other states across the country is 180 days a year in class (that is two weeks more). Other countries, like China, have school years that are more than 200 days long! If you were a Minnesota State Senator how would you vote?

I appreciate your thoughts about this important topic. I will take them into consideration as I make my own choice. Your opinion counts!

Here are some pros and cons to consider before you cast your vote and state your reasons for your vote:

PROS (in favor of more days in school): If we want Minnesota kids to be the smartest in the world we need more time in the classroom. We are falling behind other states and countries and could learn more with more time in the classroom. Minnesota teachers are great and we could accomplish more and learn more if we spend more time with them. We could add more days without shortening summer vacation if we had fewer days off in the middle of the year.

CONS (against more days in school): The school year is already long enough.Vacations and time off from school is important for kids and families too.Minnesota schools are more productive than other states and countries and we do not need as much time in the classroom. More days in school would cost more money - we have a deficit right now because the economy is in recession and should spend our money on other priorities.

How would you vote and why?

Write a topic sentence stating your opinion. Then write a "tabletop" sentence explaining one reason for your vote. Add two specific examples or details ("legs") to support your reason.

As always, be sure to 1) write and save your comment in a word processing program first, 2) revise your work to be specific and clear, 3) correct any errors in spelling, punctuation, and capitalization, 4) cut and paste your writing into the comment box on the blog, 5) add your first name and code before publishing your comment.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Special assignment - Novels

(Note: If you are looking for the “true story” blog assignment, which is due Monday, April 28, read the NEXT entry - Week 27.)


This assignment is a substitution for those students who did not have their questions for our book discussions today (Friday, April 18):

Please write a paragraph (at least 5 sentences) explaining why you would or would not recommend this book to someone else.

This assignment is due on Monday, April 21. If you complete it by then, it will take the place of your missing discussion questions.

I'll look forward to reading your opinions!

Note: I am the only one who will be reading this assignment. Your comment will not be published.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Week 27 "There I was..."

Hey, kids! We're back to blogging. This week you get to write a story - a true story about something you have experienced. Choose a topic. It should be interesting, but keep it small enough to write about it well. No novels needed! Now pick a point in time right before the main thing happens and start there. Use strong verbs, vivid details, and sensory words to bring your reader right into the action with you. "There I was..."

Here's my example:

There I sat, cross-legged on the hard wooden gym floor on a Friday afternoon. The older students were seated in the bleachers, but the seventh-graders were on the floor as usual for assemblies. Today’s event was actually a “pep-fest”. We were there to cheer on the boys basketball team. They had won their conference and were going to compete for regional champs that same evening.

For me and my friends, the more exciting part of the festivities was the raffle drawing. The ninth grade class was going on a spring trip. They had sold raffle tickets as a fundraiser. For weeks, the grand prize had been gleaming at us all from the locked showcase in the entryway of the school. It was a beautiful, brand-new stereo system. I mean, it had EVERYTHING - turntable, AM/FM receiver, speakers, and a cabinet to hold it. But, best of all, it had the latest in stereo technology…an eight-track player.

None of my friends had even held an eight-track cartridge, but we all wanted to. An eight-track never needed to be turned over. It would just keep playing as long as you liked. And it didn’t get scratched like records. Some people were even lucky enough to have one in their car! Not my family. My dad had recently lost his job. We were likely to be sticking with the old cars we had for some time. Tomorrow was my birthday, and I was pretty sure my gifts would all fall into the category of “things I need” such as pajamas and socks.

I would have liked to have claimed at least one hundred of the raffle tickets that filled the gigantic clear plastic bag that the PTO chairwoman was dragging to the podium. Since that wasn’t possible, I had helped sell tickets for the fundraiser. Each pack of twenty I sold had earned me one of my own. I had also managed to convince myself it was okay to buy just one with a quarter from my piggy bank. So, all together, four tiny tickets in that bag had my name on them - "Kristen Johnson."

Wait. What? I looked at my friends sitting beside me. They were screaming and pointing. “Get up there! You won!”

Dazed, I managed to get to my feet and stumble over lanky seventh grade legs to get to the front. Time seemed to be passing in slow motion. I couldn’t think. What had just happened? Was it possible? Was I the winner of the grand prize?

Ten minutes later I was on the phone in the office calling home. “Mom,” I said. “I’m going to need a ride home from school today.” I paused. “I don’t think they’ll let me take my new stereo home on the bus!”

My twelfth birthday still ranks among the best ever.

- Be sure to save your writing in a word processing program.
- Read it over to yourself aloud, to make sure it makes sense. Check for good descriptive details.
- Make any editing changes needed (correct spelling, capitalization and end punctuation).
- Then copy and paste it into the comment section.
- Don't forget to include your first name and code, so that you get credit for your effort!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Week 24 Yeow!

Imagine you have gotten a tiny splinter while climbing over your neighbor’s fence. Write a very exaggerated story to explain to how you became “injured”. Remember to use strong verbs, as well as hyperbole.

As always,
  • Write your story in a word program first.
  • Reread aloud to make sure it makes sense.
  • Revise it to include descriptive words that paint a picture for the reader.
  • Check it over for spelling, punctuation and capitalization errors.
  • Then copy it and paste it in the comments section.
  • Be sure to include your first name and code to receive credit for your work.

Watch this space for a sample story coming soon...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Week 23 Comparing and contrasting

Recently, we have been comparing and contrasting stories like Cendrillon and Cinderella. Good readers are always on the lookout for similarities and differences. Good writers try to include details that will "show" those similarities and differences.

This week, compare and contrast two similar, yet different, places (such as your room and your sister's). Write three sentences that show (not tell) the important similarities between them. Then write three more sentences that explain (more showing) ways they are different. Use good descriptive adjectives and details that make a picture in our minds. Help us "see" the similarities and differences.

Below is a sample (Note: This example uses shoes instead of places. Don't write about shoes! :-)

Tennis shoes and dressy sandals are found in my closet. They both wrap themselves around my feet and protect my tender soles. I can coordinate them with various other items in my wardrobe - a green hoody and peach scarf with my tennies and a sparkly dress and earrings with my sandals. Occasionally, either set might wander away on some younger feet. (My daughters like to borrow my shoes!)

I think the similarites end there, however. There are many more ways my footcoverings are different.

Tennis shoes become old friends who know all my favorite haunts. They love to run, jump and play. They don't mind a muddy puddle now and then. In fact, a bit of dust and a few smudges merely add to their charm. On the other hand, dress sandals are like prim and proper acquaintances who carry me to fancy dinners or the opera. Their high heels lift me above my everyday self. They step gingerly over grimy patches of slush and are careful to always stay on the sidewalk. They truly distain blemishes on their polished exterior.

Yes, tennis shoes and dress sandals are part of the same family tree. But I think they must be very distant cousins!


  • Be sure to save your writing in a word processing program.
  • Read it over to yourself aloud, to make sure it makes sense. Check for good descriptive details.
  • Make any editing changes needed (correct spelling, capitalization and end punctuation).
  • Then copy and paste it into the comment section.
  • Don't forget to include your first name and code, so that you get credit for your effort!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Week 23 Not yet...

Dear students,
Tonight is Edina Unplugged. Enjoy a fun relaxing evening with your family! They are more important than homework. Look here tomorrow for the Week 23 blog assignment.

Mme Powell :-)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Week 22 Fantasy!

Fantastic! That’s how the stories we have been enjoying could be described. The Stranger, Cendrillon/Cinderella, and Heat Wave! are filled with marvelous events we can only wish were real.

This week, write your own fantastic story. Keep it somewhat simple. Focus on one small event rather than writing an entire series like the Lord of the Rings! You will be able to tell a better story if you keep it small enough to tell it well with the details that will make it interesting. As we noted in Heat Wave!, use specific strong verbs such as rippled, twisted, squirmed, and snagged.

I can’t wait to see what your imaginative minds will create!

Due Monday, March 10.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Week 21 A letter to Mme Powell

Dear students,
Last week we passed the 100 day mark in our school year. It is a good time to “take stock” of the past and look ahead to the future.

(Note: This week’s assignment will not be submitted on the blog. Instead, you can turn it in on paper or send it to me via email at

Write a letter to me, Mme Powell. In the first paragraph, share your thoughts about your accomplishments so far this year in English. How do you feel you have grown as a reader and writer? What, in particular, are you especially proud of accomplishing? Is there something you have really enjoyed (or really not enjoyed!) this year in English class?

Then write a second paragraph stating one way you would like to improve. Do you feel that you need to spend more time reading aloud to practice your reading fluency? Do you need to branch out in the types of books you read or choose more challenging titles? Would you like to expand your writing skills by working hard at choosing specific words or becoming more daring when revising? Perhaps you need to make a commitment to always capitalize beginning words, names and the word “I”. Or maybe, you know that you really need to put more effort into focusing in class and doing your best work. Choose one good goal for you. State what it is that you want to achieve. Then write a sentence or two that explains specifically what you will do to accomplish that goal. If there is a way I can help you achieve your goal, please include that as well!

Be sure to use the format of a friendly letter as we have practiced in class (heading, greeting, indented paragraphs, closing and signature). Also, be sure to read your letter aloud to yourself and make any corrections necessary before turning it in.

Your letter is due on Monday, March 3. Go fourth graders!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Week 20 Choice Week!

This week you may write about any subject that interests you. Take us on an adventure to a far away place, real or imaginary, by using strong verbs and vivid adjectives. Or, describe a scene or a person in lively language to bring us up close to the setting or character. It’s up to you!

Use at least 75 words to write your story, poem, letter or description.

  • As always, do your work in a word processing program first.

  • Revise and edit your work before copying and pasting it into the comment area of the blog.

  • Don’t forget to include your first name and code.

You may post your writing on your own blog this week if you prefer. Note: This assignment is due Monday, February 25, at 8:00 AM.

Challenge: Remember Mary Casanova's tips? One of them was, "Use your 5 senses." This week, try to include details that appeal to at least three of your senses! Help us to hear your brother hopping up the stairs. Let us smell the sweet flavor of morning cinnamon rolls at grandma's. Show us the pink and purple streaks of clouds crisscrossing the blues of the sky just after sunset. See my entry below for other examples.

Happy writing!
Mme Powell

In my entry for this week, I wrote about a topic that doesn't seem very exciting, yet I found lots of interesting things to write about anyway. I could write about it with strong details because it is something I "know". As you read it, look for details that appeal to your senses. Do you feel like you are taking a walk with my dog and me?

Brrr. I slipped my hand into my mitten as quickly as I could after closing the car door. Elsa was already a speeding mass of legs and fur racing to the edge of the woods. There wasn’t much question which of us would win the contest. She just couldn’t wait to catch up on all the new smells since yesterday.

My boots squeaked on the snow as I followed her at my more leisurely pace. I didn’t want to move too slowly this morning though. It was COLD. My woolen-sock covered feet stayed toasty in my snow boots, but my legs were not so lucky. The frosty wind pierced through my sweatpants and the cold crept up under the cuffs. I needed to keep moving. I pulled my hood up over my hatted head to block the frigid air from my cheeks. Almost instantly my breath created icy crystals on the furry trim, but the small relief from the wind was welcome.

I squinted ahead to see how far Elsa had gone. She looked back at me with perked ears and a “come-on-what’s-takin’- ya” expression. Her head cocked to one side and her black nose bore a white patch of snow on its tip. Pretty cute, that rascal.

Laughing, I lifted my heavy boots high and joined the race.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Week 19 terrific friend!

This week features a "Want Ad" for a big brother for Mme Miller's son, Ben. Be sure to note the great details she includes in her humorous advertisement!

Wanted: An Older Brother for Ben

An exciting part time opportunity in Edina, Minnesota! Adventure and giggles await the right candidate. Do you plot and scheme about the perfect move for your chess queen? Are you a Wii aficionado with a zest for Star Wars the Complete Saga? Could you merrily munch and sloppily slurp Davanni’s cheese bread, leftover non-nut Halloween candy, and gallons of chocolate milk for weeks on end? Does figuring out 2648 piece Lego creations make you grin? Then, consider applying for this very special, much appreciated, challenging position!!!

You must be very energetic—a typical day for this enthusiastic almost-seven-year-old could include a sweaty soccer game, a competitive game of Blokus, a trip with his mom to Hub Hobby to get some weights for a Pinewood Derby car, an hour in the kitchen creating homemade popovers with chocolate chips, 20 minutes of practicing “Soaring” on the piano, 15 minutes of chores (including emptying grimy garbage and picking up stained sweat pants) an hour devouring the newest Merlin Magic novel, a hour or two throwing a football or arguing about whose turn it is to use the swing with some nice neighbors and as much snuggling, huggling and ruggling with his mom as he will allow!

Although it would not be required, it would be helpful if you shared Ben’s passion for patterns with numbers and all things to do with math. Don’t know your times tables yet? Not to worry, Ben can teach you! Sudoku makes you squirm? Ben’s your boy to get you going!

You would not have to be entirely responsible for this little wild warrior (although his mother would appreciate a few hours to herself!) , just be there to play, to support and to laugh with this very lovable, very clever first grader.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, February 14, let’s celebrate friendship! Please write a want ad for what you consider a great friend. Include specific requirements that reflect your own interests and passions. Adore skating at Cornelia Park? Can’t get enough of Harry Potter? Make them “requirements” in your “job” description. Have fun! (Please write at least 75 words.)

Challenge: Use proper nouns when possible (i.e. Limited Too instead of "store", Hannah Montana’s hit instead of “music.”)

• As always, write and save your story in a word processing program first.
• Be sure to check it over for capitalization, punctuation and spelling.
• Don’t forget to include your first name and code (eg. Ben S1) so that you will receive credit for your work!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Week 18 Poetry Week!

Instead of a blog assignment this week, choose a poem that you like that is eight or more lines long (to count as a line it must have at least four words). Memorize it, including the title and author. Practice reciting it expressively. Be prepared to share your poem with your class during the week of February 4-8. Please pick a poem that you don’t already know!

If you would like to post your poem, please feel free to do so. Don’t forget to include the author and title.

Note: This might be a good week to catch up on any missing blog assignments!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Week 17 I Have a Dream...

Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. So, who was this man we honor each year with a special day?

Years ago, when your parents were small, our country was experiencing some important events. Slavery had been outlawed many years before, but life was still very difficult for many African Americans. Their rights were not being protected and many of the laws at the time even made things worse. In the 1950s and 60s, after centuries of unfair treatment, many people began protesting, saying it was time for change. The Civil Rights Movement, as it is called, was led by a minister from Alabama, named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. King believed in the power of peaceful protest. Inspired by his message, people gathered for marches in various places around the country. They walked long distances, singing and carrying signs declaring the need for fair treatment and opportunities for all people regardless of the color of their skin. Many people opposed them. Sometimes the government did too. And sometimes the opposition was violent. Dr. King was shot and killed in 1968. But the movement continued, and change did come.

In 1963, Dr. King delivered a speech during the March on Washington. It is now famously known as his "I have a dream" speech. Watch the video clip below. Pay careful attention to what Dr. King tells us his dream is...

Think about your world today. What problems concern you? I don't mean whether your parents make you go to bed earlier than you'd like, or whether your family can afford to go to Disney World every year. I mean, what concerns you about our country (or even the world)? The environment? Homelessness? Crime? Hunger? Terrorism?

More importantly, what dream do you have for how it can be better?

Write a paragraph about one concern and your hope for the future. Start with a topic sentence explaining the problem. Then write 3 or more sentences explaining how you dream of it being better. (Don't worry, you don't have to have the solution figured out. Just explain how you'd like it to be different than it is now.) Finish with a concluding sentence that sums up your dream for the future. Feel free to listen to Dr. King again for inspiration.

As always...

  • do your writing in MSWord or another word processing program first

  • revise it to include strong verbs and descriptive details

  • proofread your work and make corrections in spelling, capitalization and punctuation

  • copy and paste your writing into the comments section of the blog or into your own blog

  • add your first name and code before publishing
Challenge: Follow the link below to a website where you can read or listen to the entire "I Have A Dream" speech.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Week 16 Inventions!

Last week we read about John Stetson, who invented the famous Stetson hat that became known as "The Boss of the Plains." John's unique hat was useful to many people who had discovered that other hats just didn't meet the demands of the work and the climate in the West.

Watch this video about Mother Necessity (who is said to be responsible for all inventions!).

Now, imagine an invention that would solve a problem you have experienced or seen other people experience. What do you wish someone would invent?

Write an advertisement for this imaginary product. Be sure to explain what your product does, how it works, and why people do not want to be without it!

For example, if you were writing an advertisement for The Boss of the Plains, it might sound something like this:

Are you tired of blistering sunburns on your neck and nose? Or perhaps you have seen one too many headcoverings turn from brand-spanking-new to "old hat" in just one week of work on the prairie. Maybe you long for a hat that can stand up to all the wind, rain, sun and sweat that a hard working Westerner can provide. If so, then we've got the right hat for you. Our hat is so superior to others, folks call it "The Boss."

Though it costs a bit more than other caps, once you own it, it will become your most valued possession. Its wide brim will protect both your face and neck from the sweltering sun. No longer will rain funnel down your back while you're movin' those dogies in a downpour. Instead, you'll be wearing your very own hands-free umbrella to keep you dry.

Need a spare bucket to water your horse or gather sun-kissed summer berries? The Boss can help you carry your load for work or pleasure. Need a pillow for your head as you snooze alongside your herd under the starry heavens? Again, The Boss is at your service. And, perhaps most importantly, in the light of day you'll look as handsome as a golden-maned mustang in your Boss of the Plains hat. No self-respecting cowboy or girl should be without one!

As always...

  • do your writing in MSWord or another word processing program first
  • revise it to include strong verbs and descriptive details to help us imagine your invention
  • proofread your work and make corrections in spelling, capitalization and punctuation
  • copy and paste your writing into the comments section of the blog or into your own blog
  • add your first name and code before publishing
Challenge: Create an illustration to go along with your advertisement! Bring it to school on Tuesday to share with your class.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Week 15 Winter Break

My heart fluttered as I swung there, high above the treetops. The chair lift had stopped again. Rats. I hated that. I avoided looking down. Out was better.

The late rays of sun licked the snowy mountaintops with an orangey glow. This would be my last run of the day. Good thing, since my gloves were a bit damp and my fingers were becoming numb. The lengthening shadows brought a chill to the Rockies. Not long ago I had been skiing with my jacket wide open and my hair blowing freely – no hat. Now I inched my zipper higher toward my chin with my free hand. The other one was looped around the center post of the chair, clutching both of my ski poles. The snow below me took on a bluish tone in the dimming light.

I was going to do it this time. It was my last chance. The last run of the day on my last day in New Mexico. Tomorrow I would be on a plane back to the flatter lands of Minnesota. I had seen many skiers tumble, some hard, but others seemed to take “The Face” in stride, carving controlled Ss across the steep slope. I wanted to do it too. No bombing, just a comfortable curving line back and forth with a tiny tinge of racing heart as my skis would point downward again momentarily at each turn. If I could just avoid picking up too much speed during those moments, I could ski The Face without bodily harm. Right. Easier said than done.

Just three nights before, we had watched as a tight line of skiers waving bright orange torches snaked their way down that very run. Fireworks burst in the air from the summit above them. The line crawled along as slowly as a group of beginners on the bunny hill. That is, until one set of torches broke away from the zigzag and somersaulted to the side. The unfortunate tumbler wasn’t seriously hurt, but if the experts had trouble, who was I to think I could manage it even in the fleeting daylight.

My brain kept debating itself, as I took in a last breathtaking view from the top of the mountain. I skied several familiar runs on my way back down, so preoccupied with my thoughts I was barely aware of them. Finally, I stood at the top of The Face, overlooking the roof of the chalet. It appeared to be just a few feet forward and yet miles down, that’s how steep it was. I watched a few skiers, more confident than I, go by. Even they paused to take a deep breath before descending. I needed about twenty.

At last I inched forward. I could hear my pulse pounding in my ears. My skis slid along with a light shushing sound gaining momentum. I concentrated hard on my form, realizing I would have to either turn soon or ski off the edge. I took another deep breath and held it as I shifted my weight and allowed the tips of my skis to angle downward. Then as quickly as I could, I pressed the backs of them down and to the side. The sharp edges dug into the icy snow with a whoosh, but miraculously the tips were now pointed back across the slope moving only a tiny bit faster than I liked. I swished toward the far side of the hill and gritted my teeth in anticipation of another steep turn. A young skier suddenly zipped by, startling me. I fought to keep my balance. Thankfully, though shaken, I recovered in time to make the turn.

As I continued to work my way down, I started to grin. I was doing it. Maybe not like the pros, but not out of control either. “Not bad for a middle-aged, rusty skier like me,” I thought.
A few long minutes later, I reached the bottom. My daughter was there to congratulate me with a big hug. “Mom,” she said. “I am so proud of you! You conquered your first Rocky Mountain black diamond!”

Now it’s your turn. Write a story about a memorable experience you had over break. It might be a cookie baking event, a concert, a special time with your grandpa…whatever you did that felt important or worth remembering. Try to write about the way things sounded, felt, looked, smelled and tasted to help us experience it along with you. Use strong verbs. (At least 75 words.)

Challenge: After you write your story, reread what you have written. Look for sentences that start the same way. See if you can come up with ways to vary the beginnings. For example, if you have several sentences that start with “I” or “Then I”, try moving parts of the sentence around like this: “I didn’t really want to take a walk with Grandpa, but I didn’t want to listen to my aunts anymore either.” could be changed to “My aunts chattered nonstop, making a walk with Grandpa seem more appealing than usual.”

- As always, write and save your story in a word processing program first.
- Be sure to check it over for capitalization, punctuation and spelling.
- Don’t forget to include your first name and code (eg. Peter Sw#29).