May 24

Book Review: The Junkyard Wonders

Many of our students at Cloverleaf know what it’s like to be different than their peers.  Seeing difference as a positive attribute is not easy.  The reality is that we are all different. As adults, we know that being different is natural and good. Children need to know that their differences can be gifts. The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco explores this shift in mindset through rich language that evokes strong emotion and a message that guides children to view their realities and worlds in whole new lights.

Junkyard Wonders Cover

The main character, Tricia, is a young girl who is excited to start attending a new school.  No one at the new school knows she has dyslexia. No one at the new school knows that she is different. Tricia is devastated when she realizes that her new class in her new school is a special class that everyone calls “the junkyard.”  Her devastation slowly morphs into appreciation as she gets to know her new teacher, Mrs. Peterson, and her classmates.  Her classmates are all amazingly different.  One of her new peers is mute, one has a disease that causes his body to grow extraordinarily quickly, and one had Turrets syndrome. This group of students was known by the other students as the junkyard kids. Amongst her junkyard friends and through the loving tutelage of Mrs. Peterson, Tricia finds her inner genius.


This book is a great choice to read aloud to students.  Polacco’s writing provides students with the opportunity to determine the meaning of words based on context. Best of all, this story is auto-biographical; Palocco has dyslexia.  She provides an epilogue that gives readers an update of all of her friends we are introduced to in this lovely book. Patricia Palocco is the author of over 50 books. As an educator, I can only hope to have the impact on my students that Mrs. Peterson had on Polacco.


Other titles to check out from Patricia Polacco:



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May 18

A Photo Review of Science Class!


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May 10

Student Ownership – My Grad School Thesis



“Without ownership, the kids’ life in school is all a blank whiteboard.”


-Buhrow & Garcia, 2006, Ladybugs, Tornadoes, and Swirling Galaxies


As a recent graduate from Georgia State’s Collaborative Master’s Program, with a Master’s in Education, I would like to share a few snippets from my thesis.  For my Capstone, the final requirement for graduation, there were two components: 1) a nontraditional project (I chose making a scrapbook) on one topic of interest (I chose “How to Create A Favorable Learning Environment”) and 2) a written component/modified thesis (I chose Student Ownership).

“Student ownership means students taking more responsibility for their work, becoming more self-reliant instead of relying on teacher support which, in turn, helps to build self-confidence.  They feel a sense of pride and accomplishment for being in charge of their learning and persisting through challenges.  ’If children are not making errors, they are not putting themselves in learning situations’ (Johnston, 2004, p. 39).”

“Student ownership comes from teachers demonstrating respect of the students, by giving them more opportunities for self-growth and independence.” 


“As my students think through their actions they are developing a sense of agency.  Peter H. Johnston explains it well when he writes, ‘If nothing else, children should leave school with a sense that if they act, and act strategically, they can accomplish their goals. I call this feeling a sense of agency,’ (2004, p. 29).  Many teachers become successful at helping students build their sense of agency and feel ownership over their work and actions.”

“For me, student ownership represents responsibility, self-confidence, and independence.  Teachers need to provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their academic competencies, which in turn, supports student ownership.  When students are able to find their own way of solving a problem they are able to develop more ownership of their work, leading to feeling more responsibility, self-confidence and independence.  As Andrews and Trafton state, ‘I have come to think that time spent in thought is never wasted’ (2002, p. 90).  We, as teachers, need to support and encourage students’ curiosity and thoughts.  The more we step back and relinquish control over the classroom the more successful our students will be.”


This idea does not solely apply to the classroom – parents, family members, and family friends can also support personal ownership and autonomy for their child outside of school.  I encourage you to offer more opportunities for completing independent tasks (whether it’s tying their shoes, brushing and flossing their teeth, dressing themselves, etc.).  Your child will feel proud of those small, but significant, accomplishments and develop more and more independence.  We all want our children to be successful and one way to do that is to give them the time to do things on their own (even though I know it can be difficult if you are in a hurry and trying to get out the door in the mornings).  You’ll appreciate it in the long run!

-Ms. Jessie

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