Thursday, August 9, 2007

LRA Using Books to help bereaved children

I. Title: Using Books to Help Bereaved Children
II. Author: Carol F. Berns

III. Author's Purpose for Writing
TO examine how to help children grieve using books.

IV. What are the points made in the review of the literature? Do they support the need for the study?
Although children go through the same stages of grief, children experience grief in different ways than adult.
Bibliotherapy can be helpful throughout the grief process.
Children need to be given a safe method to deal with their new, potentially scary feelings.
It is very helpful to facilitate discussion after reading a book dealing with their issues.
Allow the children some time to question and fully participate in the discussion.
A group discussion allows the child to realize that they are not alone in their grief or stress.

V. Author's Inquiry Question/s- This is not an inquiry piece, but a discussion of best ways to help children through stress and/or grief.

VI. Author's Methodology
A. Who is being studied? NA
B. Over what length of time? NA
C. What data is being collected na
D. How is it being analyzed na
E. Any other interesting or pertinent data

VII. How the author collected information na

VIII. What the Author Discovered or Conclusions/Implications

It is important to allow children the freedom to feel and acknowledge the emotions that they are feeling in a safe place. It is important to match a book for bibliotherapy that parallels what the child is facing.

LRA- Doing the write thing

I. Title: Doing the Write ThingII. Author: Linda RiefIII. Author's Purpose for Writing The author reflects on the need for writing and poetry in the classroom for students living on the fray.IV. What are the points made in the review of the literature? Do they support the need for the study?
Students have something to say.
Reading allows us to see the world differently, but so can writing.

V. Author's Inquiry Question/s
How can we use writing to promote empathic understanding?VI. Author's MethodologyA. Who is being studied? Her studentsB. Over what length of time? Not specifiedC. What data is being collected: samples of writingD. How is it being analyzed? subjectivelyE. Any other interesting or pertinent dataVII. How the author collected information, samples of writingVIII. What the Author Discovered or Conclusions/Implications
It is crucial to help each student find their inner voice- what they want to say, what they value, etc. She believes that this is the only way that students can begin to see and experience what their classmates are experiencing and begin to know and understand each other.

lit review- peace within

I. Title: Peace from WithinII. Author: Olivia McNeely PassIII. Author's Purpose for Writing: She wants to explore ways we can teach peace in the classroom.IV. What are the points made in the review of the literature? Do they support the need for the study?
Teacher structures class around three central issues: physical healing, mental healing, and grief.
The author compares and illustrates the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depressing, and acceptance) inside the novel Beloved.

V. Author's Inquiry Question/s
How can we help students deal with emotions and advocate peace?

VI. Author's MethodologyA. Who is being studied? The author is doing a reflection of her work.B. Over what length of time? Not specified.C. What data is being collected. None mentioned.D. How is it being analyzed NAE. Any other interesting or pertinent dataVII. How the author collected information, through books she used in her curriculum.VIII. What the Author Discovered or Conclusions/Implications
Teachers should structure their classes to help studnets understand how to create their own peace:
Accept responsibility
Importance of love, laughter, and art.
Understanding the interconnectedness of the world.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Lit Review

Heather M. Haagen
Bluebonnet Writing Project
August 5, 2007


Andrea is not the typical ten year old girl. She was in my class last year, and I found her to be an ideal student. But, most importantly, Andrea is a survivor. During the course of last year, Andrea went through many trials. Her father was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. He was given a 10% chance of survival. As the year progressed, her father fought that cancer with all he had. I watched him shrivel away as the cancer, chemotherapy, and radiation took effect. When it was just me and her, she’d tell me some snippet about what her father was going through- another check up, another bout of chemo, etc. During this same time, Andrea’s grandmother and childhood friend succumbed to cancer within weeks of each other. She brought in the funeral bulletins. She would come in and talk to me about what she saw and felt. She’d write in her journal to me about her fears. I couldn’t tell her it would be okay. It wasn’t and it might not ever be. My heart ached for her. What could I do to help her?

Lit Review – Using bibliotherapy and writing to deal with grief
Heather M. Haagen

In North America, death and grief are not spoken about readily or easily. In many families, children observe three important, albeit flawed, life lessons: do not talk about death or acknowledge grief, be strong and put on a smile no matter what, and get over it and move on as fast as possible after someone dies… Although it is difficult to watch someone in pain, the truth is there will be pain with grief (Johnson, 2004).

So, how do we deal with grief for our students? Bibliotherapy and creative writing are two excellent options to allow the children opportunities to deal with their loss (Berns, 2004; Cook, Earles-Vollrath, and Ganz, 2006; Pass, 2000; Jones, 2006). The greatest benefit to bibliotherapy is that it allows the child to identify and explore another character’s thoughts and emotions in a similar situation (Herbert and Kent, 2000). Aiex (1993) explained nine reasons for the use of bibliotherapy:
To show an individual that he is not alone.
To show an individual that there is more than one way to solve a problem.
To provide a person the opportunity to share a problem.
To help a person identify a constructive plan for the problem.
To help develop a person’s self concept.
To relieve emotional or mental stress.
To engage the person in meta-cognitive thinking.
To introduce new activities or hobbies.
To increase a person’s understanding of the world around them.

In order for bibliotherapy to be successful, the book used in bibliotherapy must directly relate to the issue that the child is facing (Cook, Earles-Vollrath, and Ganz, 2006). “We know the peace within that comes from a text we have connected with on an emotional level- healing a hurt, explaining a wrong, making us feel loved, allowing us to be imperfect. Consequently, it is important that, as our school systems set up curricula around new standards, we teachers make sure that our students’ emotional and intellectual needs are considered” (Pass, 2000).

Writing, in conjunction with bibliotherapy, can be a very effective method for handling grief. A student teacher, Vaziliki Antzoulis, shares about her use of poetry with her Brooklyn students in the first few days after 9/11:
“… [I] selected poems with themes of relevance for the students. I designed a poetry unit to help students deal with the grieving process and allow them a way to talk about what they were feeling through the analysis and discussion of poetry. Students read each poem closely and we analyzed and discussed them. Each poem was followed by a writing assignment, where students experimented with one or two stanzas of poetry. In the end, each student chose one poem to revise and compiled a portfolio of drafts, reflections, and one revised poem. Throughout the unit I saw students embrace poetry and take risks in their own writing. Many wrote in their reflections how their feelings about poetry had changed and they realized it wasn’t only about figuring out a meaning but also about feeling poetry and thinking about different issues. (2003)”

The need for a curriculum that is both relevant and relatable for all students is compelling. “We cannot hide behind our books and poems, but instead we must utilize such materials to make sense of the world… Now more than ever we need to write to discover our feelings, to have our voices heard, and to deal with our pain (Antzoulis, 2003).”


When I picked this topic, I was processing through what Andrea had gone through over the course of our year together. But, when I sat down to write this paper, I was facing my own grief. Two weeks before school was to start, the school I had worked for three years had suddenly closed. I was out of a job, but even more, I was grieving for the loss of a family I loved dearly. Attached you will find two of my writings, as well as a young woman’s writing as we were both grappling with our losses.

Here are some samples of my writing the day I found out:

My heart is breaking. The school that I love so much is no longer. It’s the school of my childhood. It was the school of my future. It was where I wanted my children to attend. And, it’s gone. Yesterday I had a job and a plan, today I am grasping for straws. I don’t want to move on. I want to stay there with the people I love so much. My teaching partners are like family to me.

A few hours later…

I’m looking down at St. Alban’s and I see trees, buildings, and lots of concrete. And, oh my goodness, there’s a castle there, too! But, today, the place looks sad. There are people running in there looking anxious and concerned. There are people hugging each other. I see boxes moving out of the building. The people look defeated. I wonder what makes them so sad. What is going on? Why are their hearts breaking? What could be so wrong? The school looks different today.

Here’s a recent alumni’s thoughts’ after hearing the news:
Hey Mrs. Y,
You know me pretty well, and instead of freaking out, I think I need to write something...
~ N.
"When you try to master something, it will always either end in success or defeat. However... it is in the attempt that we learn the true value of what we have." -Oki. There is no other quote that can express the gravity of the school's closing. We have fought, survived, and in the end... yes, lost our school. However, it has been through all the good and difficult times that we have come to realize just how far we have come, and how precious our community has become to us. Through the years, we have forged a family amongst each other; students becoming more than classmates, rather like old friends and close as siblings... and teachers becoming more than educators, rather like parents and mentors…

Through personal experience, we have discovered the importance of writing through grief. We were both taught this as a child and it is now carrying us through this difficult time. Writing allowed us to grieve and say what we could not normally. It helped us to let go.


Aiex, N.K. (1993). Bibliotherapy (Report No. 82). Bloomington, IN: ERIC
Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication. (ERIC Document
Reproduction Service No. ED 357-333).

Antzoulis, Vasiliki. (2003). Writing to heal, understand, and cope. English
Journal. Vol. 93, No. 2 November 2003.

Cook, Katherine E., Earles-Vollrath, Theresa, and Ganz, Jennifer B.
Bibliotherapy. Intervention in School and Clinic, Vol 42, No.2, November
2006, 91-100.

Herbert, T.P., & Furner, J.M. (1997). Helping high ability students overcome
math anxiety through bibliotherapy. Journal of Secondary Gifted Education,
8 164-179.

Johnson, Kay. (2004). Grief in North America: a death-denying society.
International Journal of Palliative Nursing, Vol. 10, No.11.

Jones, Jami L. (2006). A Closer Look at Bibliotherapy. Young Adult Library
Services. Volume 5, Number 1, Fall 2006.

Pardeck, J. T. (1995). Bibliotherapy: An innovative approach for helping
children. Early Childhood Development and Care, 110, 83-88.

Pass, Olivia McNeely. (2000). Peace from within: Teaching Texts That Comfort
and Heal. The English Journal, Vol. 89, No. 5, A Curriculum of Peace (May,
2000), pp. 90-94.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

blessed be the name...

St. Alban’s has been my place of employment the last three years, but it’s also been my ministry. It’s the place where I attended school from pre-k through sixth grade. It holds a lot of memories for me, and it’s always been a place I’ve been proud to be a part of.
Yesterday, it closed. Just like that. No warning. I was hired in a rush and I now leave in a rush. We have to be out by Sunday. My heart is breaking for my friends, my family. St. Alban’s has always been a big family and we are experiencing a divorce that no-one wants. These teachers, my friends, my mamas and daddies and brothers and sisters, are precious to me. The older ones have watched me grow up and have been my teachers and mentors. (Among them being my mother and my godmother.) I’ve helped raise the children of a few others. And, the last group, my peers, I’ve been the big sister to- guiding them through the confusion of a new school and helping them to discover “The STA way”. They all are my confidants, my sounding board, my friends. I can’t imagine working with anyone else.
The parents and students are hurting, too. Some of them have never known another school. Some of them came here when nobody else will take them. One student, Matt, gave us many gray hairs. He was always a good boy at heart, but he certainly gave us a run for our money for a couple of years. He was brought into administration multiple times for skipping school and mouthing off to teachers. He came up to the school today in tears. He now has to find a new school for his senior year. When my mom left the office, she looked over and saw Matt sitting by himself with his head bent over a Bible. “Good choice Matt”, my mom said. He smiled back. He’s one more success story. We made a difference in his life. I have to remember that.
For some reason, God has chosen to close the door on our school. I may never know why, but I have to believe that God has a plan for me and the rest of the STA family.
Here’s my battle cry for the next few weeks:
You give and take awayYou give and take awayMy heart will choose to say Lord, Blessed be your nameEvery blessing you pour out,I turn back to praiseWhen the darkness closes in, LordStill I will say...Blessed be the name of the Lord

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Road Less Traveled... A woven poem

The Road Less Traveled by Robert Frost

I was a fresh faced junior in high school looking towards my future: College. It was an exciting but scary possibility. As I was looking at college, it seemed to me that, at least among my friends, there were only two choices for college: UT or A&M.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

I didn’t really care for either of those options. I wanted to get away from everyone I knew and start over. I wasn’t really running from anything, I just wanted to leave my comfort zone. I knew in my heart that neither option was for me.

Around that time, I found out about a small school in Louisiana. It had the program I was looking at and seemed like it had everything I wanted: good size- not too big or too small, lots of campus life, and a beautiful campus.

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

During my senior year, everyone asks you the dreaded question. “Where are you going to college?” When I answered Louisiana Tech, I was always met with a blank stare. “I’ve never heard of that one before” was the most common answer.

Also, I sensed a disbelief in their eyes as I told them I was going 300 miles away. My family is extremely important to me and I don’t think they thought I could cut it that far away from them.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

My first weekend there was gruesome. School started on the Friday before Labor Day. After classes, everyone, and I do mean everyone, went their own way for the three day weekend. I had just arrived two days before. What good would it do me to go home so soon? I had been told that you needed to stay away from home for a month to really get accustomed to college life. So, during that incredibly long weekend, I read, and organized. I cleaned and organized some more. I wandered the aisles of Wal-Mart buying things I knew I did not need. I came home, watched a movie, and reorganized the same drawer for the fourth time. It was a long weekend, and I had doubts about if I could really go through with this.

I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence…

But, days turned to weeks, and I quickly adjusted. I was in a new world with new friends, new realities, and new things to learn. But, I was still me. I grew up and adapted, but at my heart, I was still the same girl I was when I left. Those four years were the best years of my life. It challenged my heart, my mind, my every core belief, but I came out stronger and better for it. I met people that I will treasure all the days of my life and I have more treasured memories than I could have ever imagined.

Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.

Woven poem...

Her hair was the color of chocolate, her favorite food, and styled like her hero, Dorothy Hamil.
Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb…
Her eyes sparkled like sapphires as she sang to me
Mary had a little lamb…
She was comfortable- not too skinny, not too fat. She was just right as I snuggled by her side.
Her fleece was white as snow.
She would sit with me in our wood paneled living room while we were sitting on our scratchy brown and orange plaid sofa singing and reading together.
And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.