Feedback from Student Editors for The Serendipity Journal

As I began writing this middle grades chapter book, I shared drafts of the chapters on Children from all over the world were invited to be my editors, and they took me up on the offer. It was an incredible journey!

There are many reasons I did this. First, I love to write and I love to inspire children to see themselves as writers. Second, research has shown that writing and reading for an authentic purpose has a significant impact on student achievement and student engagement. Third, students are wonderful editors because they are so honest. I am writing this book for them. Who better to get feedback from?

Here is my original post about this process:

My why for writing this book dates back to my first years as a teacher. I was teaching my students about William Glasser’s Choice Theory and I dreamed of writing a realistic fiction chapter book that would teach them the concepts. That dream will be coming true, chapter by chapter, week by week. Right here. And each chapter will bring an opportunity for children to proofread, to give feedback, to ask questions, to point out errors, to show me where to elaborate, and more.

Some of what I write is autobiographical and some of it is my mom’s story. Other parts are completely fictional. As I share the chapters, I will also share some “behind the scenes” information about the section of the story.

I plan on posting new chapters on Sundays, ready in time for school on Monday. My hope is that teachers will use this process to help engage their students in reading and writing in a real and authentic way. I am not sure of my schedule yet, I would love to post weekly but that may be too ambitious. We will be working through this process and learning together.

Okay, are you ready? Ready to get started with The Serendipity Journal?

Let’s go! Click here to begin the journey with me!

Chapter Eight: An Evil Plan

This is a portion of Chapter 8, and it takes place on Monday.

“So, are you still planning on this weekend?” Susan asked Kip. “I was able to sneak in a quick ride on Bess after we got home from our trip last night and it was awesome. She is such a fun horse to ride, and she is so gentle. You are going to love her!”

Kip turned to Susan but then scanned the room to see who might be watching them talk. Everyone else was busy finishing their writing or putting their journals away, so Kip relaxed and answered her new friend.

“Yes, I am really looking forward to it. My dad will be working on Saturday morning and my mom will be taking by brother to batting practice so my grandpa said that he could bring me to your barn. I gave him the address that you emailed to me. He likes to look up the directions on the computer and print them out. He is so old-fashioned!”

Susan giggled with Kip, “Great! I can’t wait for you to meet Bess! And, I can’t wait to laugh at you–it is always funny to see how people react the first time they are on a horse. They make the weirdest faces and noises and I bet you will too.” Susan distorted her face to mimic the first-time horse riders–a look of combined surprise and fright with eyes wide open and mouth shaped like an O. Kip’s chuckle turned into a roar of laughter that she stifled so she wouldn’t draw attention to them.

Unbenounced to Kip and Susan, they were being watched very closely by the two people who were conspiring to make Kip’s life miserable. And, they were getting very close to putting their plan into action.

Dear Student Editors,

This portion of Chapter Eight is foreshadowing a big event that is coming up.

  1. Who do you think was watching Kip and Susan?
  2. What do you think the two people are planning to do to make Kip’s life miserable?
  3. What questions do you still have?
  4. Did this section get you excited to learn more or leave you confused?
  5. What details do you think I should add?
  6. Did you find grammatical errors?

Please put your edits in the comments on this post. I will comment back to you and make changes to the chapter based upon your feedback. I can’t wait to learn from you!

Chapter Seven Continued: Susan Cautions Kip About Britt

“So, want to hang out next weekend?”

Kip turned her head when she heard that question, wondering who was asking Susan. She saw Britt standing near Susan’s desk and tried to smile at her, but Britt didn’t look at Kip. Purposefully?

Kip slowly closed her notebook, wondering how Susan would respond. Would she tell Britt that she has plans to go to the barn with Kip?

“Ummm…I don’t know what I am doing yet,” Susan said. Kip’s heart fell right to her shoes.

Britt didn’t seem deterred by Susan’s response as she said, “You could come with my family to the movies. I promise I won’t eat all the popcorn this time! Let me know when you figure it out.” Britt walked back to her seat after dropping her Serendipity Journal into the bin. Kip wondered what she was writing back and forth with Mrs. Holiday.

Susan turned to Kip and whispered, “Remember how I told you that Britt and I got into a huge fight this summer and stopped being friends? Well, this is what always happens. As soon as she sees that I am making some new friends, she wants to be my friend again. I am not going to give in this time! Every time I do, she ends up saying mean things about me behind my back. She will never change.”

Kip felt reassured and breathed a sigh of relief. But that relief didn’t last long because Susan went on to give Kip a warning.

“Just be careful Kip, Britt tends to get really jealous of any new friends I make. She can be really, really mean. Especially when she teams up with Cody, they can be vicious together.”

Gulp. Kip’s head was spinning and the empowered feeling she had when she was writing to Mrs. Holiday flew out the window. “Oh boy,” Kip thought to herself as she panicked, “This is not good.” Not good at all.

Dear Student Editors,

Many of you wanted to learn more about Susan and Britt and why they aren’t friends anymore. This portion of Chapter Seven gives you some insight and I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

  1. What questions about Susan and Britt did this portion of Chapter Seven help you answer?
  2. What do you infer about what happened with Susan and Kip?
  3. What questions do you still have?
  4. Did this section get you excited to learn more or leave you confused?
  5. What details do you think I should add?

Please put your edits in the comments on this post. I will comment back to you and make changes to the chapter based upon your feedback. I can’t wait to learn from you!

Mrs. Holiday and Kip are celebrating the holidays

Hello My Dear Student Editors,

Mrs. Holiday and Kip along with the whole Serendipity Journal crew have decided to take a couple weeks off for the holidays. They are thrilled to rejoin you in 2019 to continue this great adventure!

Please look for another chapter to be posted on Sunday, January 6th. In the meantime, feel free to read through other student feedback to see if you agree with their input.

While I (Mrs. Apsey) am on Christmas Break, I hope to finish the manuscript for The Serendipity Journal, using all of your amazing feedback of course!

Enjoy this special time with your family and friends! Happy holidays!


Mrs. Apsey

Featured image source:  HERE

Chapter Seven: Mrs. Holiday Writes Back

September 6, 2017

I really love your goals. When I was in college, I learned a valuable lesson about goals. The best goals are SAMIC:





Contingent only upon yourself

Let’s look at your goals to see if they meet this criteria. So your first goal is to make at least one friend. I think that is pretty simple, and it definitely is attainable. It is easily measured because if you have one friend at the end of the year, you have met your goal. You can start working on your goal right away, so it is immediate. The only thing I wonder about is the last part–is it contingent only upon yourself?

Friendship is often described as a two-way street, where both people have to put in equal amount of effort to keep the friendship going strong. So, I wonder if this goal could be contingent only upon you? Maybe we could change your goal just a little bit to have it more focused on your own behavior? What do you think about having a goal of learning about friendship and what it takes to be a good friend?

As for your other goal, I am hoping that you will really learn in English class and in homeroom this year. Will you promise to let me know if you are not learning new and exciting things? Student feedback is important to me because it helps me get better all the time.

Please let me know if you like the idea of shifting your first dream to be more contingent just on your own behavior by focusing on learning what it takes to be a good friend. I would love to help you with this goal!

Mrs. Holiday

Dear Student Editors,

I am so excited to hear what you think of Mrs. Holiday’s journal entry to Kip!

  1. What did you think of as you read Mrs. Holiday’s advice?
  2. What about SAMIC makes sense to you, and what leaves you a bit confused?
  3. What SAMIC goal do you have for yourself?
  4. What details do you think I should add?
  5. What ideas do you have for Kip’s response?

Please put your edits in the comments on this post. I will comment back to you and make changes to the chapter based upon your feedback. I can’t wait to learn from you!

Chapter Six: Taco Night

She heard the chaos before she even walked into her grandpa’s house that afternoon. Jeff was at it again, pestering Jill until she started screaming. It was a recipe she could predict every time. Jill would get annoyed with Jeff and Jeff would ramp up his annoying behavior until Jill screamed. A + B = C. Every time.

Kip had three younger siblings. She always pictures the stick-figure window cling on the back of her mom’s minivan when she thinks about her siblings.

stick figures

Kip laughed out loud as she thought about the fact that Jeff wasn’t born yet when her mom put the stick figure family on the car so she thinks of him as the dog. The dog is long gone so it works out perfectly. In so many ways.

Kip’s brother Joe is in the fourth grade and already had a shelf of championship trophies from football, basketball, and baseball. Her sister Jill was the dramatic one and she was six years younger than Kip and in first grade. Oh boy, that girl could change her moods like flipping a lightswitch. Then there was the baby of the family who got what he wanted ALL the time…Jeff. Jeff was only four years old and he already knew how to rule a household.

Yep, Kipalee had three siblings named Joe, Jill, and Jeff. No more Fabio romance novel names for her parents. She was the only “lucky” one. Faith Hill’s The Lucky One ran through her mind as she chuckled to herself about her luck in the name department.

Kip’s mom was preparing dinner, looking exhausted. “Who could blame her with this crew?” she thought as she smiled at her mom.

“How was your second day honey?” Kip’s mom asked. “Did you have a great day again?”

Kip decided long ago that she was never going to place any more burdens on her family than they already had. “It was good. That nice girl, Susan, asked me to come to her barn to meet her horse next weekend.” Kip only told her parents the part of her story they want to hear, the part that leads to them smiling sweetly at her, thanking their lucky stars that she was so easy.

Kip’s dad rushed in, gave her mom a peck on the cheek and grabbed a handful of the tortilla chips her mom had set out to accompany the tacos they were having for dinner. He headed toward the stairs as he said, “So sorry honey, I have to head back to work for a meeting. We have an important project starting up tomorrow and we are not ready at all.”

Kip’s dad was an electrical engineer who works for a small company that makes all sorts of springs. Kip’s mind always wandered when her dad described the different kinds of springs they make…the only thing she knew for sure is that they are not bed springs and they are not Slinkies. The rest of what he told her went in one ear and out the other.

Kip’s mom sighed heavily as she surveyed the feast she was cooking. She put a weak smile on her face as she asked Kip, “Will you please let your brothers and sister know that it is dinner time?”

Kip went into the living room, untangled Jeff and Jill as they were fighting over a toy, and escorted them into the kitchen before heading to the backyard to get Joe.

“Hey Joe, it’s time for dinner,” Kip approached Joe, careful not to get in the way of the bat he was swinging. Sometimes Kip got jealous of Joe. He was like the perfect child in all the ways–he was handsome with his curly light-brown hair and his dimples, he was smarter than everyone in the family added together, and he was an incredible athlete. Oh yeah, he was also one of the nicest people ever. Just being around him was comforting for Kip

“Is dad eating with us tonight?” Joe asked Kip, “Or does he have a meeting again?”

Kip scanned his big hazel eyes to see if she could spot any disappointment. Nope, he just looked curious. Man, she wished she could be like Joe…just content no matter what. She responded, “They have a new project starting tomorrow so he has to go back to work.”

“Well, at least grandpa will be there. He wouldn’t miss taco night!” Kip and Joe chuckled together as they thought about their big, jolly grandpa who loved mexican food. He might have little patience with the kids, especially when Jill and Jeff make messes, but he was very fun to have at the dinner table. He always told mildly inappropriate jokes that made their mom blush and say, “Dad!” in an accusatory tone.

Yep. This family might be a hot mess, but it was always entertaining. And, it was her’s. No matter where they lived, no matter what school they went to, no matter the challenges they face, they would face them together. Well, except for Kip’s school challenges. Those she was determined to face alone. She needed to be a help to her family, not a burden.

They all sat down to dinner and passed around the fixings for tacos. If someone were to look in the window, they would see a picture-perfect family sharing a meal. But, things are not always as they seem, are they?

Questions for my editors:

  1. Kip’s family is introduced in this chapter. How does knowing more about Kip’s family help you understand Kip better?
  2. What details about Kip’s family did you connect with?
  3. What questions do you have about Kip’s family?
  4. Are there any parts where more detail should be added? If so, which parts and what suggestions do you have?
  5. Did you learn any new words in this chapter? If so, what were the words you learned?
  6. Always let me know if you find grammatical errors.

Please put your edits in the comments on this post. I will comment back to you and make changes to the chapter based upon your feedback. I can’t wait to learn from you!

Behind the scenes info:

I think that I already mentioned that my mom and her family lived in Jackson when they were growing up. My mom moved to Grand Rapids after college because that is where my dad’s family lived, so I grew up in Grand Rapids. However, we spent lots of time in Jackson because we went back to visit my mom’s family a lot.

My mom really did have siblings named Joe, Jill, and Jeff. She was the only one with an unusual name. She laughed about that with us often.

I am not sure that the descriptions I give my mom’s siblings are completely accurate–you’d have to ask my grandpa about that. Uncle Jeff and Aunt Jill, I hope you aren’t mad at me about the descriptions I gave you. Remember, this is fiction. Or is it?

Chapter Five Continued: A New Character Introduced

Dear Student Editors,

I LOVE the feedback and ideas you shared about Kip’s journal response to Mrs. Holiday. I used many of your ideas when I edited the response this weekend. This week, I want to introduce a new character to you. Here is another portion of Chapter Five:

“Usually I ride Bess on Saturday mornings, but this weekend we have to head out of town to go to my cousin’s birthday party. Want to come with me to the barn next weekend?” Susan responded.

“That would be cool,” Kip tried not to sound overly enthusiastic. She was masking the excitement she felt about not only meeting Bess but also in strengthening her budding friendship with Susan.

“It’s a plan then!” Susan didn’t hide her enthusiasm at all in her response. As Kip agreed with Susan, she saw a worried look wash over her new friend’s face and she turned to see what Susan was looking at. She saw a girl named Britt give Susan a little wave. Susan had mentioned Britt to Kip at lunch yesterday, telling Kip that they used to be best friends but that they had a fight over the summer.

Britt was tall and had beautiful long blond hair. She was really pretty in an athletic-looking way and she had a spray of cute brown freckles across the bridge of her nose. She wore the typical leggings and sweatshirts that other girls at the school wore. But, Kip noticed that her sweatshirts seemed to be a little shorter than the other girls’ were. Kip’s mom would never let her leave the house in leggings unless her bum was completely covered. Britt’s mom didn’t appear as strict about that rule.

“Hmm…,” thought Kip. “I wonder what that is all about. Maybe Susan and Britt and I could all be friends. Maybe.” Kip tried to reassure herself. She wasn’t sure at all that Britt would be up for that. She breathed deeply and sang a few lyrics from Aretha’s “I Say a Little Prayer” to herself. Prayer never hurts.

I am excited to hear what you think about Britt.

  1. What do you infer about Britt and her relationship with Susan based on this portion of the chapter?
  2. What do you wonder about as you think about Britt’s role in the story? What do you think will happen?
  3. Do I provide enough detail about Britt? What questions do you have about her?

Thank you SO much for your feedback and for sharing your ideas and questions. Your insight is so valuable for me!


Mrs. Apsey

Chapter Five Continued: Kindred Spirits

Dear Student Editors,

Thank you for your incredible feedback and ideas for Mrs. Holiday’s first note back to Kip. I used your input to edit Mrs. Holiday’s response. Specifically, many of you liked the idea of Mrs. Holiday sharing that she moved when she was in school. Additionally, many of you thought that Mrs. Holiday should compliment Kip’s writing. Both of these suggestions are terrific ideas that will help Kip feel closer to Mrs. Holiday and better about her situation. Please check it out below and then see the questions for my editors following Mrs. Holiday’s note to Kip.

You are the BEST!


Mrs. Apsey



I am so glad that you moved to Jackson! I love having you in my class already. I definitely understand that it is very hard to move away from everything you know because I had to move to a new town when I was in elementary school. I am glad that we can connect with each other through your Serendipity Journal. Maybe I can help?

I love that you love to write! You are a terrific writer because your voice really comes through in your writing, it is as if you are talking to me. I am impressed with your use of punctuation and grammar also. And, by your picture I can tell that you love to read too. I think we are kindred spirits!

I wonder what your hopes and dreams are for this year? Especially with this fresh start you have–maybe it could be a serendipitous gift?


Mrs. Holiday


Dear Student Editors,

I think you know what I am going to ask you to do! Please give me input on what Kip’s response to Mrs. Holiday will be.

  1. What hopes and dreams do think Kip will reveal to Mrs. Holiday?
  2. If you were Kip, what other information about yourself would you share with Mrs. Holiday in your response?
  3. What do you think Mrs. Holiday means by “kindred spirits”?
  4. What do you think Mrs. Holiday means by “serendipitous gift”?

Put your answers to the questions in the comments for this post and I will use your feedback when I edit Kip’s second journal entry. Have I told you lately that I think you guys are awesome, and that you are the best editors ever?

Chapter Five: Mrs. Holiday Writes Back

Kip practically ran over to the bin to grab her Serendipity Journal the next morning. Mrs. Holiday said that she spent her evening reading through what each student wrote and responding to everyone. Kip thought to herself, “I bet Mr. Holiday wasn’t too pleased!”

“Okay my seventh grade friends, we will have ten minutes today to journal. I will walk around as you write to answer any questions you have. Before we begin, let’s review our guidelines. Who remembers one of them?”

A boy named Steve raised his hand, and Mrs. Holiday called on him. “No using real names, we can make up fake ones instead.”

“Good, thank you Steve. Now, who remembers another guideline?”

Susan and a few other students raised their hands. Mrs. Holiday called on Susan. “Don’t write anything mean or any insults.”

“Perfect! I think we are ready to write. I can’t wait to read your thoughts!” Mrs. Holiday said excitedly and Kip scrambled to find what Mrs. Holiday wrote to her.

Dear Student Editors,

This is your opportunity to really influence this book. I am so curious to learn from you! I have just two questions for you this week, but they are big ones!

  1. If you were Mrs. Holiday, what would you write back to Kip in the Serendipity Journal?
  2. If you were Kip, what would you like to hear from Mrs. Holiday? What do you hope Mrs. Holiday wrote to Kip, from Kip’s perspective?

Put your answers to the questions in the comments for this post and I will use your feedback when I write Mrs. Holiday’s response to Kip. You guys are awesome and I can’t wait to hear what you think.


Chapter Four: Don’t Stop Believin’

“That’s right. No prompts, just put the date at the top and then start writing. There will be a few guidelines to help us. Please don’t use other students’ names in your writing. You could give them a different name, or just use pronouns like she and he. Also, please don’t write insults or mean things. This is a place for you to express your feelings, good feelings and bad feelings, just not mean things. If I have a question about something you write, I will ask you to see me in my response to you. Okay, any questions before we begin writing?”

Kip wondered how long they would have to write, but she was not about to raise her hand and ask. Not on the first day. Susan must have read her mind because she raised her hand to ask what Kip was thinking, “How long will we have to write?”

Mrs. Holiday responded, “You will have five to ten minutes to write nearly every day, I promise. Often we will get out our Serendipity Journals and write as we are transitioning from homeroom to English. If there are no other questions,” Mrs. Holiday paused as she looked around the room, “Let’s begin! We will have five minutes to write this morning. Happy journaling!” She clapped her hands together again in that same bouncy way.

Excited but a little unsure how this all would go, Kip twirled her pen and looked down at her paper. When she looked up, she saw that all her classmates had started to write. Many of them were writing feverishly. For some reason, the Journey song Don’t Stop Believin’ started going through Kip’s head. Maybe because she was trying to hold on tight to the feeling of hope surging through her. Journey was a 1980s hair band that sang big power ballads that Kip’s mom loved to belt out at the top of her lungs while doing the dishes. Her mom told her that they were called “hair bands” because the guys in the group had big hair. The 1980s sounded so weird. So weird.

Kip put her pen to the paper and cautiously started writing. But, once she got started she found that her pen could barely keep up with her thoughts.

Ch 4 Journal Entry“Wow! It looked like all of you had a lot to write. I cannot wait to read your journals! I hope to write back to each of you tonight. No promises, but I will do my best. Now, let’s put our journals away and focus on grammar for the rest of our time together this morning. I have a fun activity for us that will help me learn what you already know about the parts of speech and what I get to teach you. Can you tell that I love grammar?” Mrs. Holiday clapped with glee.

“Is there anything you don’t love?” thought Kip, with a little smile. Mrs. Holiday’s enthusiasm was rubbing off on her for sure.

After English class, Susan showed Kip to her other classes. They were more normal, teachers going over rules and expectations. The same kids goofing off in each class and the same kids paying attention. Kip was happy that Cody wasn’t in any of her other morning classes. But, then they went to lunch.

She spotted him sitting with a group of boys. He glanced over at her as she walked into the lunch room with Susan. Kip was already feeling apprehensive about lunch because for the first time ever she was getting a hot lunch. Their family qualified for free lunch because of her dad’s job situation, which is helpful to her family, but made Kip a little nervous. But, Susan did say that they have incredible pizza at Jackson Middle School, so maybe there is hope for all the food. Maybe.

Susan showed Kip where the hot lunch line was and told Kip that she would save her a seat. Susan brought cold lunch every day except for pizza day. Moving through the line, Kip selected chicken nuggets that didn’t look too bad. She liked to dunk them in honey mustard but settled for ranch when they didn’t have her favorite sauce. She breathed a sigh of relief that she made it through the lunch line and scanned the cafeteria for Susan.

Susan saw Kip and waved her over to her table. Kip eyed the route from where she stood to where Susan was sitting, checking to see if she’d have to pass by Cody. Yup.

“Oh great,” Kip thought as she threw her shoulders back to fake a confidence she didn’t feel.

As she neared the group of boys Cody was sitting with, she noticed that they all dressed alike and had similar hairstyles. Name brand athletic clothing and hair that was longer on the top and was swooped to the side. Kip wondered if they were all jerks.

She stared straight ahead when she walked by their table but she could still hear them. It seemed like Cody wanted her to hear him when he said in a pretty loud voice, “That new girl’s name is Kipalee. Can you believe that? Who ever heard of a dumb name like that? She seems like a goody-goody too.” Cody and his friends chuckled at his comment, holding their hands over their mouths so they didn’t spit food all over.

Tears welled up in Kip’s eyes as she sat down next to Susan. No way was she going to let him make her cry. She took a deep breath, smiled at Susan, and started to eat.

“I am going to be okay. I am going to be okay,” Kip ran her mantra through her head several times before she could join in on the conversation between Susan and the two girls sitting with her. She was going to be okay. Maybe.

Questions for my editors:

  1. What do you think about the idea of the Serendipity Journal? Is it something that interests you? Would you like to have a Serendipity Journal in your class?
  2. What did you learn about Kip in this chapter? Did it answer any questions you had in previous chapters?
  3. Which character are you most connecting with at this point in the story?
  4. Are there any parts of this chapter that you did not connect with or that seem out of place?
  5. Are there any parts where more detail should be added? If so, which parts and what suggestions do you have?
  6. Did you learn any new words in this chapter? If so, what were the words you learned?
  7. Always let me know if you find grammatical errors.

Please put your edits in the comments on this post. I will comment back to you and make changes to the chapter based upon your feedback. I can’t wait to learn from you!

Behind the scenes info:

I feel exactly the same way as Kip about writing. I LOVE to write, but I mostly love to write what I want to write. I really am a little stubborn like that.

I was bullied when I was in high school and can relate to how Kip must be feeling. At, they define bullying as aggressive behavior that includes an imbalance of power and repetition. In Kip’s case, there is an imbalance of power with Cody because he is well-established at school with a group of friends and she is the new kid. A pattern of name-calling and mean behavior is beginning to emerge. If it continues over the course of the next few days, this will clearly be a case of bullying.

In my case, there was a power imbalance and there was repetition. The bullying that happened to me took place over a number of years by girls who were in the grade ahead of me. One of the scariest places for me in high school was the cafeteria, especially if I was walking alone. I never knew if I was going to be “bumped” into, called names, or threatened. As we continue in the story, there will be more similarities between Kip’s story and my bullying situation. I am hopeful that she doesn’t make some of the same mistakes I did!

I use mantras like Kip does in the chapter all the time. One of my favorites is to remind myself to be grateful by saying over and over, “I am thankful for all my blessings”. What mantra might help you?