Top Three Student Posts of 2014

Sitting around the house, I have come across numerous year-end messages and reflective blogs from colleagues via Twitter. I told myself I was going to go against the norm and not post my top moments of the year (even though I laid in bed thinking about it last night).

However, an email has changed my way of thinking, slightly.

Thank you WordPress!

Your automated email sent me a message about my “stats” for my classroom blog and I thought what a better way than bragging on my student artifacts that got the most online traffic this year on our class blog. With all due respect, this is my first year with posting student work (September to Present), but it’s a good start for my digital writers.

Now to increase your anticipation!

Drum role please, literally (click on it, I know you want to).


No. 3


Tell Tale Heart: Mentally Ill or Calculated Killer

The defendant is being tried for premeditated murder, but his poor, demented soul could not process his actions due to his mental insanity. “Dismissing” this man wouldn’t help society, but attempting to rehabilitate him from his actions taken against a heaven-testing soul.

To start, my client admits to hearing all sounds from heaven, Earth, and even hell. The voices in this man’s head lead to madness. They may be the culprits, not this man; these voices have taken him hostage.

In his utter, un-thought out, mistake, he yelled, busted into the room, and dragged him to the floor. Any planned murdered would have precisely thought out his actions, not from pure will. Yet, this was all for an eye. What mentally stable man would harm with no reasonable motive. This man needs the help of society, not the punishment of crimes unjustifiably committed by someone whose mind is a harm to himself.

Teacher’s Directions: In groups, students need to decide whether the narrator is a mentally ill or a killer.  Next, write a legal brief that they will prepare for a “Mock” opening statement of a trial case in court. 


No. 2

A Child’s Journey to Ellis Island: A long time ago

Dear Elizabeth,

It has been so long. I am 12 years old now.  When I left Italy, I was so happy to get there.  I could bring a small suitcase.  I put some clothes and a toy in the suitcase.  My mom and dad helped me carry my stuff.  I was so excited to take this trip.  Life in Italy was hard and my family was trying to find a better life.  We walked to go on the boat.  The boat was big and old.  There were a lot of people getting on the boat with us.  It was very crowded and I had to be careful to stay with my family.

Once we were on the boat, we were allowed to go to the upper deck to see where we would be staying.  We got to go to the upper deck because my dad had more money than most people.  I was so glad because things were a lot better on the upper deck.     On the upper deck, the food was good.  People who were at the bottom of the boat got food out of the trash and ate it.  There were a lot more people on the bottom deck than the upper deck.  People could go to the upper deck for fresh air, but they couldn’t stay for very long.

When I was on the boat, I was so scared to meet new people. Now, I have a new best friend.  My best friend had to get checked , like her eyes and her heart.  People that was checked, they had to get more stuff done to them to find out what was wrong. If the doctor found something wrong with you, he would mark you with a piece of chalk.   It was so cold your hands would freeze.  When you on the boat, people was stinkin’.  People did not take a bath.  People was coughin’ and coughin’.  People like Mr. Smith and more people, too.  They got a big L written on their back with chalk to show that something might be wrong with their lungs.

After many days on the boat, we were excited to see the Statue of Liberty.  We knew when we saw her that we were close to being dropped off.  We had to get checked one more time before we could get off the boat.  The lines were really long and it was hard to wait.  My family just wanted to get out of there.

When you go to get off of the boat, you have to have money.  If you don’t have money or family, they might send you back.  I’m so glad that my dad had enough money for us.  I left Italy because I wanted to see new things instead of staying. Now I am having fun up here.  How about you?  Are you good?  How are the kids?  Tell them “hi” for me.  Make sure you write me back, ok?  I hope you can come and see me and Mom and Dad.  Tell Mom-Mom “hi” for me.




No. 1

The heartache of getting to Ellis Island

Dear Elizabeth,

The only thing I could think of is the sacrifice Momma had made for us. That poor woman had gathered up every penny she had and sent us away. Momma wanted to get us out of the country as soon as possible due to a new disease that was spreading quickly through Europe and entering Italy. Sadly Momma couldn’t come with us because we didn’t have enough money and she started feeling the symptoms of the disease. Leaving Catania was the hardest thing I could’ve done but it was worth it.

Momma paid some rich folk to get us half way across Italy to Rome, we rode by carriage. The trip to Rome was quite fun, all the sights we saw were mostly farms and crop land. The weather was fairly good and the fresh air felt nice. That night we all slept in the carriage, the next morning we left and made our way to Rome within three hours. We started walking, we waited a nice while before someone was nice enough to stop and let us tag along with them. The nice man named Roy rode us back to his farm and introduced us to his wife Anne, they treated us to dinner that Anne had made, and then let us sleep in their barn.

Dusk rolled along and they fed us a nice big breakfast, we told them why we were leaving. Sadly they had lost their only daughter to the disease that we’re trying to escape. They packed us up a lot of food and we set off once again, Roy hooked up the horses to the carriage and we took off. Soon after about three hours later we entered France, the sights were amazing we saw cute shops that lined the corners of the sidewalk. Roy told us that Bordeaux is coming up soon, soon enough we finally got there and we could see the ship from a distance. We arrived at the ship minutes later.

As we got on board I noticed a huge list of names, turns out that it’s a list of everyone on the ship. I even found my own name Charlotte Rose Smith age 11 following up soon Mathew found his name as well Mathew John Smith age 19. Due to our lack of money my brother and I had to sleep in the lowest part of the ship called the steerage. The steerage wasn’t all that great it was one huge room that we shared with hundreds of other people. No showers, so no one smelled decent everyone smelled bad and horrid. We had run out of food that Roy had given us so we were starving, two weeks with almost no food. We snuck to the kitchen almost every night to steal the scraps that they had thrown out. All in all I would say that ship ride wasn’t a great experience for me. After two weeks of horrible condition we finally arrived to the New York Harbor, we saw a very large woman in the middle of the water. Mathew told me that was the Statue of Liberty. I wished Momma was here to see her with me and Mathew. My happiness quickly subsided because only the upper class people got to go first.

Finally after a day of waiting we got to go off the horrid ship. As soon as we got to the island I noticed a lot of doctors watching people coming up the staircase. Taking certain interest in the people who walked funny or coughed a lot. As we finally got to the top we must go through a medical exam. I waited my turn, I saw a woman with a big round tummy and a man in a white coat poking her tummy bulge. Soon my turn came around and the man that was poking the woman came over to me, I felt my breath hitch I didn’t want this man to poke my tummy as well. Feeling relief as he didn’t poke my belly but he was trying to lift up my eye lid to check for trachoma, I was clear. Next the doctor put a glass thermometer underneath my arm to check for temperature, the glass was cold against my pale skin. After all that he told me I was clear and so was Mathew. Mathew and I were sleep deprived so we made a bed on floor on one of the hallways we used our nap sacks as pillows and the coat I packed as a blanket.

Early that morning we headed off to a huge room, I was told it was the register room. Crowded with so many people we all got tags that read; where were from, and what language we spoke. As we waited we finally got to go up and register as Americans. The next step was the legal inspection; they asked us about 30 questions. Where do you plan on staying? What is your occupation? Have you ever worked before? Have you ever committed a crime? Etc. thanking god that we only had one step left was to turn the lira we had into American dollars. As we turned in the money it turns out that we only had 50 dollars in American cash, the money was so green and smelled like fresh printed paper. I placed the dollar in my nap sack for safe keeping and to remember the moment I got my first American dollar. Mathew and I went to buy a rail ticket; the rail ticket cost 10 dollar each. After we got the tickets we waited for the ferry to come. After the ferry arrived we all boarded, 25 minutes later we made it to the dock in New York. I felt my eyes start to water and my breath hitch in my throat as we took our first steps on the free land. The land of success and freedom, I wish Momma was here and all of the family. I miss everyone, I love everyone, and I hope everyone stays safe. I love you all.


Charlotte Smith


About briancookeducator

Husband, Daddy, teacher, #Mountaineer, coach, and aspiring school leader | Thoughts are my own.
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