Thursday, December 17, 2009

the littlest angel

There are many moving Christmas stories. One of my favorites as a child was the story of "The Littlest Angel" written by Charles Tazewell over 60 years ago and still in print because of its simple but beautiful message - love comes from the heart.

Here is a shortened summary of the story from a blog called Hubpages.

The Littlest Angel is a story of the youngest angel in heaven--a little boy who doesn't know how to act angelic. In fact, he acts just like the little boy he was on earth. But in ... [a perfectly] ordered heaven, the littlest angel struggles to find his place. His heart yearns for earth, where his boyish treasures lie. The littlest angel is messy, clumsy, always late, and he sings terribly off key. The other perfect angels in heaven don't quite know what to do with him.

"However, owing to the regrettable fact that he always forgot to move his wings, the Littlest Angel always fell head over halo!" -The Littlest Angel

Finally the littlest angel is sent to be "disciplined" by the Understanding Angel. The Littlest Angel sits on the lap of the Understanding Angel, and unburdens his troubled little heart, revealing just how homesick he is for earth. The Understanding Angel agrees to retrieve the boy's box of earthly treasures, which contains things that only a little boy could love.

When the birth of a Christ child is announced, all the angels excitedly gather to announce their gifts to the newborn king. The littlest angel only has his box of treasures, kept under his bed. It is all he ever had, and is the perfect gift of innocence. In a moment reminiscent of the story of the widow's mite from the New Testament, the Littlest Angel decides to give his box of treasures to the Christ child.

As he approaches the Christ Child, the littlest angel is stricken with fear that his gift is not good enough. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh are the gifts brought by the three wise men. How can the gift of a poor little angel compare with these expensive gifts? Soon, however, the hand of God rests on his shoulder and God declares that this simple gift is the greatest gift of all.

What gifts were contained in the littlest angel's box? Why was the gift of the littlest angel treasured above those of the three wise men? As with the story of Rudoph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Charles Tazewell creates a suprise ending. Try to imagine how the story might end. What treasures would you place in your box? Is it better to give gifts or to receive them?

We all have something to be grateful for this season. I am grateful for my family first of all, but also for the wonderful opportunity of teaching all of you. Have a wonderful Holiday.

For the answer to the above questions, read's description of the book.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

my grandmother

My grandmother was born in a small French village, Graffigny-Chemin. The village is located east of Paris in the ancient province of Lorraine. Today the province is renamed Haut-Marne. The village is close to the larger French town of Verdun and west of Germany and south of Belgium.

My grandmother's maiden name was Marguerite Chevallier Meine. Her mother was Laura Chevallier. Her father was William Meine. William was a German businessman from Freiburg, Germany. Laura Chevallier was born and raised in Graffigny where she married my great grandfather and raised my grandmother and her sister. My great grandfather William died before World War I.

My great grandmother Laura is the lady in the picture to the left of her house. The photograph came from my cousin George Campbell.

There are many stories of my grandmother, but the one I love the best is how she met my grandfather James Madison Pearson. He was a young lieutenant who along with over a million other American soldiers arrived in France in 1917 to fight Germany during the First World War. The story goes that he was wounded in France and sent to a hospital in Graffigny where he met my grandmother. She nursed him back to health and as so often happens, they fell in love, married and came back to the United States.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Get started, discover your ancestry, and create your first family tree.

Visit, How to create a family tree.

1. Start with yourself. It may seem silly since you already know who you are, but you should always start your family history search by documenting your own life. Gather information about your birth, education, sports activities and interests, etc. A few photos and souvenirs will highlight what is important to you. Your children will really appreciate you some day!

2. Next, do the same for your parents and grandparents. Scour your house for photographs, records, letters and journals, family Bibles, and even baby books. Sit down and talk to your parents and grandparents and ask questions. Everyone has a story waiting to be told. Be mindful that sometimes stories are painful or sad. A parent or grandparent may be reluctant to discuss part or all of the family history. In this case it may be best to ask about a particular photograph or record that deals with a sensitive issue. Or, simply ask a different family member. Have patience.

Good luck.

Friday, November 13, 2009

family histories

It is a failing that we all possess, that we wait until it is too late - too late, we belatedly say, to ask our parents, grandparents and other family members about our family histories.

Your task - write and publish your family history.

First, write your family history. The internet is a great resource to learn about family histories. Kimberly Powell from has written an excellent article on how to write a family history. In her article, Kimberly notes that a family history can take different forms including: a descriptive narrative, an album, or even a cookbook. You may have other ideas such as a family heirloom - a quilt, war medal, or anything else that is significant to your family. Whatever you choose, be creative and weave a story around the item that you choose.

Kimberly suggests, "Thinking of your ancestors as characters in your family history story, what problems and obstacles did your ancestors face?" Organize your story of your family around a significant event in history. The selection of historical events is broad, but it includes immigration, up from slavery, education, farm life, and war.

Do your research and ask questions of family members. Don't be surprised if family members don't want to talk. Most people are shy when it comes to talking about the past. A good way of getting around this natural shyness is to prepare ahead of time. Do some research. Know a little about the subject that you are talking about and interest your family member in what you are discussing. Be patient.

Second, publish your family history. If you have a computer and an email, you can publish your family history. You can sign up for a free blog with Google's blogger or any other free blog publisher. Once you have signed up for an account, you can begin publishing your family history. Again, has great tips on how to publish your family history.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

tips for an interesting composition

Techniques to make your writing come alive for your readers:
  • Give vivid and specific details about a character's personality, interests, characteristics, and so on.
  • Include some direct quotes.
  • Place the most interesting points at the beginning or end of a sentence, where they stand out.
Here is a short story from Myths and Legends of California , by Katharine Berry Judson. Read the story for enjoyment. Then, read the story to see what details Katherine Berry gives about the origins of the Apache people. What points does she make in this short story?

Why the Apaches are Fierce

Pima (Arizona)

Elder Brother, Coyote, and Earth Doctor, after the flood vanished, began to create people and animals. Coyote made all the animals, Elder Brother made the people, and Earth Doctor made queer creatures which had only one leg, or immense ears, or many fingers, and some having flames of fire in their knees.

Elder Brother divided his figures of people into four groups. One of the Apaches came to life first. He shivered and said, "Oh, it's very cold," and began to sway back and forth. Then Elder Brother said, "I didn't think you would be the first to awake," and he took all the Apaches up in his hand and threw them over the mountains. That made them angry, and that is why they have always been so fierce.

Myths and Legends of California, by Katharine Berry Judson can be read online. The story can also be accessed through Rick Walton's Online Library. Rick Walton has many stories that can read online. He also provides links to other resources for further online reading.


Read your first draft for organization and flow. It is best if you and a classmate check each others' work. Check your final draft for spelling, punctuation, and grammar, especially your use of verbs. Examine your draft for logical flow. Is the sequence of time logical and correct? Then examine the descriptive elements of your composition. Can the reader form an image of the character? Is the image colorful and interesting?


What other authors can you think of who possess powerful skills at descriptive writing? In the field of science fiction, Stephen King immediately comes to mind. Another example from an earlier age is Mark Twain. Good descriptive writing is personal and immediate. Read for example The Diary of Anne Frank. Other examples of personal writing are found in the works of Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Richard Wright.

Can you give other examples of descriptive authors and their works? Can you broaden the list of authors by nationality, gender, age, and subject? What gives their work meaning and impact? How do these authors and their stories relate to your life? What stories do you have to tell?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Every paper needs a topic. Every paragraph needs a topic sentence. But, what is a topic? Often, it is a name or two, or ideas placed together: middle school education, racism, sports and high schools, health care, swine flu prevention, women's rights in Moslem societies, in America, and so on.

A topic is a place to start. If it is too broad, you are off and on your way to writing a book. If it is too narrow, you have painted yourself into a corner. Somewhere in the middle is a good place to start. A place where you as a writer can develop a discussion of the ideas that you want to convey.

If you are passionate about a subject, often a topic will come to you in a flash. But, more often than not, a little reflection helps to create an interesting topic sentence. Ask yourself and others some questions: what current issues matter to you, what affects you the most, what do you not understand, how does this subject impact others?

Teachers often frown on the use of google, but it is a great way of looking at a subject through the someone else's eyes. Google the words that frame your topic. See what others are saying about the subject. You'll be suprised at the diversity of facts and opinions on the topic that you have selected.

Since topics can be broad, you will need to organize your thoughts into paragraphs that discuss central ideas on the topic subject you have chosen. Each paragraph will need a topic sentence that narrow the subject matter and starts the development of your ideas and thoughts. Paragraphs often begin with a topic sentence, but rules are made to be broken.

The best paragraph and sentence ever written is said to be Charles Dickens opening paragraph in A Tale of Two Cities:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
English novelist (1812 - 1870)

Read the book online.

What makes this an effective sentence and paragraph? What is the broad subject that Dickens is talking about? How does he narrow the subject? What central ideas does he discuss that further the discussion?

Select your own examples of topics and the paragraphs that shape those topics. Discuss what makes for an effective topic and how sentences and paragraphs develop the topic and the writer's ideas.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


A major problem in writing is the organization of ideas. Ideas should progress logically through the writing. Typically, the progression is chronological, that is, from first to last, but this is not a hard and fast rule. In writing, one can reverse time or create flashbacks. Moreover, the organization of ideas can be tackled by way of importance, from least to most important. The important point is that the ideas which form your sentences should have a logical sequence. Students are probably familiar with this technique in television and movies. Ask them for their own examples of organization and examples of where this organization has been used or where it would be useful.

Here is a great way to teach organization - write a series of related sentences and then cut the sentences into individual strips. Use multiple copies of the sentences and form groups of students. Groups help facilitate discussion and fun. Then, have each group organize the sentences into a composition and compare.

See where this has been done. See the examples on hands on and modeling.

A second method is to brainstorm. Start with a topic sentence, not too broad and not too narrow. The idea is to allow students to create sentences which support the topic. Students should be permitted to range far and wide so as to stimulate creativity. It is best to use a blackboard for this activity. Once the ideas supporting the topic have been written down have the students organize them into a composition.

If you can remember taking the SAT's or if you have studied a foreign language, you may remember coming across examples where you are asked to organize ideas chronologically or by relevance. The learning tool is the same as the above examples. These activities allow students to work together in a competitive environment. It is stress free and fun.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


The first question always asked is: "What homework will my child have?"

All students are expected to read at least 30 minutes each night. They may read a book, magazine, newspaper or even a comic book, ... just read. The benefits to your child from reading each and every night will pay off in the future with big dividends. Better readers make better writers. And better readers and writers have better opportunities in life!

Vocabulary and grammar exercises will also be assigned to reinforce lesson concepts.

Welcome to Roberson

Welcome to 6th Grade Language Arts

Welcome to Roberson Middle School and Sixth Grade Language Arts.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Debbie Suttles and I have taught school for 28 years. I am excited to be your child's teacher this year. Together, the students and I will take an adventure in reading and writing to learn about the many different people and places in the world.

There is no greater joy than to take a friend along ... so, Welcome Aboard!