• Linda Ulleseit, author

  • NaNoWriMo!

Creative Expression

creativeI have always had the need to express myself creatively. I drew and colored and wrote stories, and later tried every art or craft I could. It was more than fun. My very soul demanded creative expression. I even remember making up stories in middle school and passing them off as truth–like how my mother wanted to buy me a horse but I refused because she wanted to deck it out in an absurdly fancy stable. I even  wore a friendship ring for awhile that purportedly came from a boyfriend living in Canada. Creative expression.

Writing stories began in third or fourth grade. The earliest story that I still have is about pigs. It’s done on that cheap lined newsprint they used to give elementary school students. Every letter is carefully written in a different color crayon. Not only the story (which is pretty bad) was creative that day! Today my drive to write is still strong, and my finished novels give me a parental thrill.

Leatherwork is another outlet for my creativity. I draw the designs, then carve and stamp them into the leather. The finished panels are sewn into purses, portfolios, or tote bags. I enjoy going to art fairs where people exclaim over the beauty of my work.

Gardening is another way to create. The color of flowers and texture of foliage decorate my yard. I week and clip and plant and feed all year. In the summer, I sit in my yard and watch butterflies and hummingbirds enjoy my garden.

Cooking, although not always successful, is another form of creativity I enjoy. I’m mostly a recipe follower, but I love trying new things. I cook dinner six nights a week even while I’m working, and I live for large family gatherings like winter holidays and summer barbecues.

Cleaning house, now, is not creative. I hate cleaning more than anything else, and I avoid it desperately. Someday I hope to earn enough money from my creative endeavors to pay a housekeeper!

As a teacher, I strive every day to motivate students. When I find students with no creative drive, it still stuns me. I understand not being artistic–I’m not musical at all, and I can’t draw well–but no desire to communicate creatively at all? It’s as foreign to me as a PhD trying to teach kindergarten. We all have energy inside us. My energy wants me to create something to express it. When I do, it makes me happy.

Most people can learn to be creative. In my classroom, I show this with writing. When they enter my classroom, students usually groan when asked to write anything. In my class we write a LOT. Students participate in NaNoWriMo, writing short novels, and they write arguments and essays. As with sports or music, practice improves performance. By the time they leave my classroom, students’ confidence and pleasure in their writing has increased dramatically. Does that mean I’ve turned them into creative people? Maybe not all. But for those that do continue writing, I know their lives will be much more creative!




Survival Comparison Essay

Every so often, I like to publish exemplary student work. This essay is from my sixth grade student, Aidan. If you want to read more student work, click the tab above that says All Yours.


Survival Comparison Essay

by Aidan

In Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen, Brian struggles to survive, but during this struggle he learns a few things that real people today try to teach. Today we talk about survival and a few things we learned are  how to make a fire, If you want to survive you actually have to do something, and in a crisis or after we should stop slow down and think about what happened. In Hatchet Brian shows a lot of what we learned when he was surviving out in the wild.

Out in the wild one thing you really need is a fire. It provides light, warmth, and a way to cook food or purify water. In an article called Survival by the number, It says that when making a fire you should always recall the 3 elements of the fire triangle. In Hatchet on page 85 Brian recalls the fire triangle from his studies in school. “He shook his head, tried to focus his thoughts. What did it take? You have to have fuel, he thought-and he had that. The bark was fuel. Oxygen-there had to be air.He needed to add air. He had to fan on it blow on it.” In the end Brian got his fire giving him warmth and protection from the mosquitoes.

When surviving, you need to want to survive and If you want to do that you have to work. In Survival by Numbers It says that the only person you can count on while surviving is yourself. You have to work if you want to survive and you can’t expect anybody to do it for you. To lift the weight off your back. In Hatchet, chapter 8 Brian cries when a porcupine attacks hima and afterward the mosquitos attack him. After crying for a long time Brian realizes something. Self pity did not work. After crying his leg still hurt and nothing had changed. From this he learned that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t help and that he had to work and do stuff to actually get work done.

When a crisis has happened what you have to do is stop and slow down. Think about it for a while. Panicking won’t help anybody. In an article called What Would Peter Do?,  It shows a man going out to hunt some elk.When he loses the elk tracks, and can’t find his way he starts to panic. Then he thought, What would peter do?. Peter was a guy that had told him about survival. The guy followed a few steps in this order. “Get off of your feet and sit down.  You can’t walk when you’re sitting on your butt – and that’s good! Have a drink of water.  It will calm you down!” “Stay there for at least thirty minutes!  It takes at least thirty minutes, for the adrenaline and cortisone that put into a flight or fight mode, to flush out of your system.  During this time you are just reacting – not thinking!   Once your fears have subsided and your head clears you’ll be able to make better decisions regarding your situation.” In Hatchet, During the crash landing Brian starts to panic. He quickly kept his mind on focusing and head for the lake. After the crash Brian finally starts to think. Instead of panicking he kept his thoughts small and positive getting through the day.

Brian had learned a lot of the things we learned from these articles and did a lot of the things from the article to keep him alive. After all this it left Brian changed in many internal and external ways. Teaching him the natural way to make fire, making him rely more on himself and using less self pity, and Think about the situation carefully are just a touch of what he learned and of what he did right and what he did wrong.

Novel Madness Winner 2017

ribbonAfter our final class vote, the winner of this year’s Novel Madness contest is:

PIE by Sarah Weeks!

Congratulations to the students who argued for Pie. That just sounds odd, doesn’t it? 🙂

If you are a fifth grade student at JFS, start thinking now about what novels you want to see in next year’s Novel Madness!

Novel Madness 2017–SEMIFINALS

ipad-as-book-turning-pages-animated-gifThe excitement is building in my classroom as we near the end of our favorite novel of all time competition. Today we heard speeches from the last four books and chose two for the final competition. Are these the two you would have chosen?

Our final two novels will compete on Tuesday, March 21. They are:

Holes by Louis Sachar and Pie by Sarah Weeks

I find it especially interesting that these two books have appeared multiple years in this competition. It is the fifth appearance for Holes and the third for Pie. I don’t remember if they have ever directly competed, however.

To follow this competition from the beginning, go here.

To see the winner, go here

Novel Madness 2017–Round Two

giphy (1)Half the books in our novel tournament were eliminated today in a hotly contested competition. Eight novels are left. Did your favorites make it through to the next round? Stay tuned as we narrow down our favorites. Round Two is on Wednesday, 3/15.


Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson vs. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Holes by Louis Sachar vs. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Eragon by Christopher Paolini vs. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies vs. Pie by Sarah Weeks

For Round One matchups, click here.

UPDATE: For the results of this round, click here.

Novel Madness 2017

giphyMarch means Madness! Coinciding with the college basketball tournament, my class has a novel tournament each year. They brainstorm their favorite all-time novels and narrow it down to sixteen titles. Then the fun begins! They pair off and write a persuasive argument to convince their classmates to vote for their novel. Each week, half the remaining novels are voted out until a winner is crowned. Come along on our adventure this year!


This year’s matchups:

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher vs. Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo vs. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling vs. Holes by Louis Sachar

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan vs. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland vs. Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Wonder by R.J. Palacio vs. The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green vs. Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan vs. Pie by Sarah Weeks


Previous Novel Madness competitions:

Novel Madness 2012

Novel Madness 2013

Novel Madness 2014

Novel Madness 2015

Novel Madness 2016 (actually done Fall 2015)



Daily Arguments

pencil2When teaching students to write persuasively (which Common Core now calls Argument), it’s important for them to realize that they encounter the art of persuasion every day. After all, persuasion is nothing more than influencing someone else. In ancient Greece, Aristotle wrote abut how to persuade others. Three hundred years later, in Rome, Cicero wrote several books about persuasion. Today, daily persuasion can take many forms. Studies show that we receive up to 3000 persuasive messages each day.

Persuasion in any form can be both negative and positive. Television commercials tout foods that are not healthy and target children with ads for toys they supposedly can’t live without. Drug dealers and gang members persuade others to follow their lifestyle. Salesmen push expensive cars on people who can’t easily afford them. On the flip side, persuasion can also be used to encourage recycling or stopping smoking. On TV, a recent series of commercials from Pass It On encourages positive values.

Advertising is an obvious form of persuasion that we encounter every day. The television, radio, Internet, newspaper, magazine, email, direct mail, and billboards all try to convince us we need something. So many choices! Human beings are natural joiners. We want to do what others are doing, to have what they have, so we are very receptive to being persuaded. Advertising agencies, marketing firms, and public relations companies are all full-time persuaders.

While we are being persuaded daily, we also do our own persuading. Parents persuade children to wear certain clothes, eat certain foods, or be nice to a visiting grandparent. Teachers persuade students to learn. Children persuade parents to buy them a new toy, to increase their allowance, or to get a pet. Applicants for a job try to persuade the company that they are the best candidate, and bosses persuade workers to do their jobs well. Friends persuade each other to see a certain movie, read a certain book, follow a certain band. Personally, I try to persuade my husband to take me out to dinner every Friday night.

With persuasion such an important part of our lives, it is important to learn to do it effectively! Can I persuade you to comment on this post? How have you encountered persuasion in YOUR life today?

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