The Beauty in the Writing Struggle

One of the best classes I am currently taking at Gordon College is Arts in the City. Here is one of my reflection papers in response to the reading: The Invisible Embrace: BEAUTY by John O’Donohue. I hope you can find some inspiration in this piece as you think of ways to help struggling writers. Please feel free to share your thoughts!

I stink at writing. Everything in me screams when I am asked to write a long, extensive research paper. Although I willingly put myself in these situations in the hope that the struggle will fade, I repeatedly feel defeated, frustrated, and utterly down on myself for not completing the assignment as I wish. While reading, The Invisible Embrace: BEAUTY by John O’Donohue, the quote “when we lose site of beauty our struggles become tired and functional” really struck a cord since I often lose site of the world and myself when I write. My focus strictly becomes the struggle and my inability to express as I wish. For me, the beauty in writing doesn’t exist simply because I feel I am not good at it.

Since I was a little girl, I have always tried to combat this by searching for the magic answer that would get me out of this writing funk (or at least the negative feelings I attach to writing). Although I know I can never truly solve all my problems with writing, I was impressed when O’Donohue mentioned how we can overcome the lost of beauty with courage. Defining courage as “tapping in to the heart of fear and taking that frightened energy and turning it towards initiative, creativity, action, and hope,” I started reflecting in how I can use this to change my attitude toward writing. With this definition, I start to slowly see my struggle as beautiful and unleashing since I am conscious of the place my heart is leaning towards. When we move from the place of fear and into the mindset of Beauty, one can invite any difficultly and find a way to call it beautiful, although it may be challenging. Both readings suggests that Beauty is possible, even in the midst of an intense struggle.

Another great point the text made was seeing beauty as something that “calls us out of ourselves”, and “appeals to feelings deep within us”. If we define beauty in this way, I can again call writing beautiful since it appeals to the deepest feelings in me. Although these feelings are not positive, the writing process opens the insecurities of my heart and brain. If I approach these insecurities with grace and love, I can find this process potentially healing and even holy, if I long for the simple and complex answers to my struggle and my identity.


From Art to Advocacy: The Accessible Icon Project

Here is the paper I submitted to the University of Pittsburgh’s The Disability Experience: State of the Arts in Research, Scholarship and the Arts. I will be presenting on the Accessible Icon Project at this conference on October 31st-Nov 1st.


Given the ability for image to influence perception, it is necessary to critically analyze how symbols shape the way one thinks about individuals in society. Through societal norms, people have grown accustomed to accept images without using the same analytical process to pick apart images in the way they do text. Therefore, one needs to be very intentional about examining what symbols are teaching society and what ideas are being reflected through symbols people see every day.

When applied to the typical blue and white handicapped symbol, one can see that this current symbol leads to thoughts of passivity and inability. The stagnant, robotic and lifeless structure of the current symbol reinforces the misconceptions that ability advocates are steering away from, yet no one has changed the symbol since 1968. One critical step for changing the stigma about people with disabilities is to alter public perceptions by changing the International Symbol of Access.


The Accessible Icon Project is an international movement that has changed the handicapped sign into an image that is active and engaged. In 2009, Sara Hendren and Brian Glenney started a street art campaign in Boston to highlight the shortcomings of the current International Symbol of Access. After this was noticed by a writer in the Boston Globe, a new design was created in response to the feedback they received, and the team took on the new task of permanently changing the accessibility symbol. Since 2010, the project has grown from a grassroots campaign to a larger social design effort, now housed and run by Triangle. The icon has evolved from its first creation and now abides by ISO DOT 50 standards, a universally accepted icon set that determines the look of figures commonly seen on bathroom signage, and complies with ADA regulations.

Instead of having a symbol that looks lifeless and robotic, the Accessible Icon chooses to focus its design around movement. For example, the head is positioned forward to indicate the person as a decision maker of her/his mobility. The arm is pointing backward to suggest the dynamic mobility of a chair user, and the wheels are seen as being in motion to indicate the forward thinking of people with disabilities. The person in the wheelchair does not seem passive or robotic, but alive and determined. Compared to the stagnant figure constrained to the restraints of a wheelchair, the new symbol reinforces themes of life, energy, and determination.

People wishing to change their signs can easily do so with the help of the Accessible Icon team. Stencils and stickers are available online as well as connections to sign companies who produce metal signage with the new symbol. Direction toward buying proper paint and instructions for spray painting can be given by email or mail. Once an institution gains permission and agrees to switch the new sign, institutions generally plan an event around the painting. Members from the community join in discussion and painting, and lots of pictures are taken. At times, news services may opt to cover the story and ask community members questions about the project. The community should be prepared to answer why the Accessible Icon is important and why it makes a difference to people in the community.


Currently, the project is fortunate to have a number of partners who not only use the Icon in their buildings, but are also creating a stronger relationship with people with disabilities. For example, Partners like Clarks USA, Building Restoration Services, and BRS Cares are not only strong philanthropic supporters of Triangle but have chosen to increase their hiring of people with disabilities. Currently, multiple cities, businesses, hospitals, schools, and colleges in places such as Massachusetts, Washington, Arizona, North Carolina, Ohio, France, India, and the UK are engaged in a slow phasing in of the symbol. The symbol is being used when old signs need to be replaced or fixed and when institutions want to switch their parking signs for public support. The project is expanding across the United States and around the world.


The new symbol is part of a general attempt to bring about a public re-conception of what it means to have a disability. At the center of its design, the Accessible Icon was created to highlight movement. The artists intended the new symbol to raise awareness about cultural perceptions of disability and social inclusion in the US. Since people with disabilities are active and engaged in the community, the Accessible Icon Project believed it was necessary to represent people as such in pictorial form. Describing the new image with words such as: active, abled, engaged, ready-for-action, determined and motivated, the new symbol helps provoke discussion on how we view disabilities and people with disabilities in society. The symbol does not per se “represent” people with disabilities since not everyone is in a wheelchair, but instead represents that all people with disabilities can be active and engaged in the world.

Ultimately, the Accessible Icon Project wants the new symbol to spark conversation as well as illustrate the active and engaged role people with disabilities play in society. The new symbol should support disabilities advocates and help push for a more inclusive world. Changing the symbol is part of changing the universally accepted mindset about people with disabilities. Now people all over the world use the symbol to signal their wishes for more inclusive institutions, economies, and workplaces everywhere.

What’s the “Matter”?

1. Essential Understanding:

Students will identify the three states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) and differentiate the properties of each. Solid: is matter that holds its own shape until a force changes it (ice, blocks, wood, plastic bags). Liquid: is matter that takes the shape of its container, but has no shape of its own (water, milk, juice). Gas: is matter that has no shape and spread out into space (water vapor, air, carbon dioxide).

2. MA Framework Standard(s): 

-Gr 3-5 Physical Science Standard 1: Differentiate between properties of objects (e.g. size, shape, weight) and properties of materials (e.g. color, texture, and hardness).-Gr 3-5 Physical Science Standard 2: Compare and contrast solids, liquids, and gases based on the basic properties of each of these states of matter.

Student Learning Objective(s): 

Students will be able to differentiate the three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas by categorizing items in the room on the board. Students will be able to identify the properties found in 3 states of matter (liquid, solid, gas) by creating a top-down chart.

3. Interdisciplinary content area(s):  Science, Writing, Reading 

4. Materials necessary for today’s lesson: 

For Students For Teacher
Pencils, Paper, Science Binders Tea Pot, Bag of Ice, Water, Markers, Chart Paper, Print Outs of Pictures (Milk, Rock, and Steam), Cups

5. Academic Vocabulary: 

Matter: Anything that has mass and takes up spaceMass: The amount of matter in something

State: Is a form of matter. It is another property of matter

Property: Something about an object that can be observed or measured

Volume: The amount of space something takes up

Solid: Is matter that holds its own shape until a force changes it (ice, blocks, wood, plastic bags etc)

Liquid: Is matter that takes the shape of its container, but has no shape of its own (water, milk, juice etc)

Gas: Is matter that has no shape and spread out into space (water vapor, air, carbon dioxide)


6. Motivational and Review Procedures (the “hook”):

Class meets on a rug in a circle Intro/Review of Matter (6-7 minutes): “Hello boys and girls! Today we are going to be scientists and pay special attention to the things all around us. Before we begin, can anyone remind me what we have been learning about in Science? (Matter-everything that has mass and takes up space) Yes, great! Can you point to objects in this room that are made of matter? (Great!) Can you give me examples of things that are not matter? (Sound, heat from a fire, emotions, thoughts). What can you tell me about matter? (All objects take up space. All objects take up mass. Matter is anything that takes up space and has mass). Show pictures of print outs to class. First Picture: Milk: Is this Matter? (yes) Second Picture: Wood: Is this Matter? (yes)Third Picture: Steam: Is this Matter? (yes)

Review of Properties of Matter (6-7 minutes): Great Job! Show Picture 1 again.  “Class I want you to study this picture. Yesterday, Mrs. Peterson taught you about different properties of matter. Scientist learn about matter by making observations. A property describes how an object looks, feels, or acts. People describe objects in many ways using size, shape, colors, and textures. What are the following familiar objects? How can you describe them if you didn’t know what they were? Matter can be categorized in three special ways. Today we are going to learn about the 3 states of matter. To begin, we are going to watch a Brain Pop Video on States of Matter:

Classroom discussion of the video. A quick summary and review.

7. Procedures to Accomplish Objectives:

Explicit Instruction: 15-20 minutes Teacher will write on the board/chart paper and hold classroom discussion. Properties describe matter. A block of wood, milk, and air all have properties. All the material on earth is in three states-solid, liquid, and gas. The “state” of the matter refers to the group of matter with the same properties. In other words, you group the objects together according to their properties. State is another property of manner.

A state is a form of matter. Solid, liquid, and gas are the three states of matter. State is a property that tells about an object’s shape and volume. Volume is the amount of space something takes up. Lets look at Picture 1: What can you tell me about this picture? (picture of a solid). Picture 2: What can you tell me about this picture? (picture of a liquid). Picture 3: What can you tell me about this picture? (picture of gas).

Create a top-down chart:

Solid: Has a set shape and a set volume. Example: Ice

Liquid: Has a set volume but takes the shape of its container. Example: Water

Gas: Has no set shape or volume; a gas spreads out to fill space: Example: Steam


The wood block is solid. A solid has a certain size and shape. The wood block does not change size or shape. Other examples of solids are the computer, the desk, and the floor.

You can change the shape of solids. You change the shape of sheets of lumber by sawing it in half or burning it.

From wood to smoke

How might you change the shape of a piece of gum?


Milk is a liquid. Milk is liquid matter. It has a size or volume. Volume means it takes up space. But milk doesn’t have a definite shape. It takes the shape of its container.

Liquids can flow, be poured, and spilled. Did you ever spill juice? Did you notice how the liquid goes everywhere and you have to hurry and wipe it up? The liquid is taking the shape of the floor and the floor is expansive limitless boundary (until it hits the wall). You can’t spill a wooden block. You can drop it and it still has the same shape.

What about jello and peanut butter?

You can spread peanut butter on bread, but peanut butter does not flow. It is not a liquid at room temperature. You have to heat peanut butter up to make it a liquid. When you or your mom makes jello, it is first a liquid. You have to put it in the refrigerator so that it becomes a solid. These are yummy forms of matter with properties of a liquid and a solid.


Run in place very fast for a minute. Do you notice how hard you are breathing? What you are breathing is oxygen. You need oxygen to live. That’s why you can only hold your breath for a certain amount of time.

You can’t see oxygen. It’s invisible. It is a gas. A gas is matter that has no shape or size of its own. Gases have no color.

Gases are all around you. You can feel gas when the wind blows. The wind is moving air. Air is many gases mixed together.

Where else can you find gas? In the inside of a balloon.

Activity: The Magic Teapot: Ice turns to Steam. 10-15 minutes

Start with ice: Have the students identify as a solid. Have students describe the properties. Ask students explain why it is a solid.

Have a glass of water. Have the students identify as a liquid. Have students describe the properties. Have students explain why it is a liquid.

Put the ice cubes and water in the teapot. Plug the teapot in. Soon, the students will see steam. Have the students identify the steam as a gas. Have students describes the properties of gas.

Then show the class the inside of the teapot once it cools off. Have the students’ notice that the ice changed into a liquid.

Writing Activity: (5-10 minutes)

Have the students go back to their seats and write about where they think the ice went. It magic! It disappeared!! Where did it go? (In case they need another example: When ice in your soda melts where does it go? What does it become?)

After, explicitly ask students to write down the three different states of matter on an exit ticket. Ask the students to give one example of each.

8. Closing Procedures:

What are the three states of matter?What are the properties of a Solid, Liquid, and Gas?

What are the differences between a Solid and a Liquid?

What are the differences between a Gas and a Liquid?

What are the differences between a Solid and a Gas?

What is an example of a Solid, Liquid, and Gas?

Summary Statement:  Wrap Up

(What will you say to summarize and conclude what you did today? Hint: Use vocabulary from the lesson when stating learning objectives met.)

4th graders, I am so proud of the way you paid attention! I was impressed when you were able to differentiate the three states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas when we observed the properties of various items in the room. I also appreciated how the class was able to identify the properties of matter in our top-down chart.  Great job!

9. Teaching Techniques:

Direct Instruction: The form of instruction that is displayed when orally explaining something. Teacher will explicitly state the three states of matter. Teacher will explicitly review the distinct properties of each state.Indirect Instruction: The form of instruction that is displayed when the teacher becomes the supporter rather than the facilitator. This teaching technique is implemented when the students are working on top-down chart as a class and when they are at their desks writing.

Experimental: Students work as a class to identity the three states of matter. Students will use objects in the room and use pictures teacher brings in. Students will have a chance to answer various questions orally.

Interactive: Students will find objects around the room. Students will write on chart paper. Students will write on experience. Students will observe the ice turn to water and steam.

10. Learning Considerations: 

Improving access to learning for all students (Hint: Consider UDL Principles) Associated Accommodations(s)/Modification(s)(Supports and Challenges)
Multiple Means of RepresentationVisual: Writing properties on a top-Down Chart, pictures, tea pot, bag of ice, glass of water, steam from tea pot, brain pop video

Auditory: Teacher questions, student questions, classroom discussion

Kinesthetic: Tea pot example 

Multiple Means of Expression

Visual: Writing properties on a top-down chart, picture cards

Auditory: Answering teacher questions, talking with Partner

Kinesthetic: Writing on the board/chart, writing in notebook, feeling the ice and water

Multiple Means of Engagement

Students are working in partners and are working individually. Students see an animated clip at the beginning, and then have the opportunity to use items in the room as examples. Students have the opportunity to share thoughts on a chart. The activity is presented as “magic” since the ice disappears. What happens to the ice? Present it is a mystery to solve.

For students who need additional support:

  • Allow students to reference the top-down chart when writing
  • Allow students to work with a partner (Partner Share) when choosing an item in the classroom
  • Allow students to discuss with other students when needed
  • Teacher will repeat explicit instruction/definitions when needed
  • Students will be allowed to reference vocabulary sheet

For students who need to be challenged:

  • Have students continue the top-down chart and provide additional examples of solids, liquids, and gases.
  • Have students create a pictorial representation of the different types of properties found in solid, liquids, and gases.
  • Have students predict how matter changes from state to state.


11. Assessment Plan:

I will assess student understanding….
Formative  During the lesson plan by:

  • Are students able to describe matter?
  • Are students able to give examples of matter?
  • Are students able to give examples of what is not matter?
  • Are students able to identify the three states of matter?
  • What are the properties of a solid, liquid, and gas?
  • What are the differences between a solid and a liquid?
  • What are the differences between a gas and a liquid?
  • What are the differences between a solid and a gas?
Summative  At the end of the learning opportunity by:

  • What are the three states of matter?
  • What are the properties of a solid, liquid, and gas?
  • What are the differences between a solid and a liquid?
  • What are the differences between a gas and a liquid?
  • What are the differences between a solid and a gas?
  • Writing Activity

Distributing an Exit Ticket: Write down the three different states of matter. Where did the ice go in the Magic Tea Pot experiment?


Exit Ticket and Writing Notebook

Record Keeping Plan:

Collect student writing and mark Exit Ticket in Excel