Poetry Book Review: Swimming Upstream

I am afraid I can’t remember who in the Slice of Life community wrote about this book of poems, but I am thankful. Swimming Upstream by Kristine O’Connell George was the perfect way to end our recent poetry unit. My sixth graders are in the final days of their elementary school lives, soon to shift to the huge regional middle and high school building.

They have a lot of anxiety about friendships, lockers, finding classrooms, new teachers, and the social pressures that come from being a middle school student. This book of poems – small verses for the most part — was a perfect way to address some of those anxieties and also, provide a way to talk about what comes next for them. With themes built around the narrator’s own navigation of middle school, George’s poems felt authentic in feeling and emotion.

The book does what good poetry should do: it brought to the surface much of what goes unsaid in the mind of the reader. I read this book out loud, letting the words and stanzas sink in, and the classes were quiet and thoughtful.

Swimming Upstream was a nice bookend text, too, as we began our poetry unit with a Poem for Four Voices by Paul Fleischman (from the book Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices) entitled Seventh Grade Soap Opera, which has a neat twist to its weaving voices, and brought to the surface some of the same social navigation waters as does George’s book.

Perhaps poems will help get them ready.

Peace (the next step forward),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Collecting Sketching

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Last week, for my Slice of Life post, I shared out and mentioned a sketching vacation that I was on for the week. I did sketch, every single day, and now I have gathered up the sketches into a sort of video portfolio via Animoto. (I like the hanging hooks element of this particular video theme). This sketch collection includes a few sketches that I did during the week but didn’t share out, for reasons mostly due to dissatisfaction on my part.

Peace (and love to those in Manchester right now),
Kevin

Interpreting, and Honoring, the Words of Others


Untitled flickr photo by kangster shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Thanks (again) to Terry Elliott for sharing a new possibility for close reading and digital interpretation. This time, it’s something called Lumen5, which allows you to use text from blog posts (or freewrite) to create a short video not unlike a digital story. I like the “pick and choose” element.

By close reading posts of others (or close reading yourself, too), you can point to textual elements and then add images and music. The site then kicks out a video.

I tried the process first with my friend, Karen LaBonte, who wrote of her move to Portland and what she is seeing in her new community in a very poignant piece of writing. She also shares how she hopes to make an impact there (of that, I am sure.)

The second was a piece by Maha Bali, as she continues to explore the terrain of “open learning” in a variety of ways. In the post I used, she uses the metaphor of the flower.

In both cases, I hoped to honor my friends with the choosing of words (and hoped the context would not be completely lost through my interpretation) and that the video versions might lead others on a path to their blogs and writing.

Karen writes All Hands on Deck

Maha writes Reflection Allowed

And you should, of course, read Terry who writes Impedagogy

Peace (extended outward),
Kevin

PS — I also could not resist making a version of my Western Massachusetts Mission Statement as a video.

Sketching from the Couch Day Seven (Floor Music)

Floor Music

My son has white headphones for his white iPod, and he leaves it everywhere in the house. As I sat sketching on my last day of a sketch vacation this week, I noticed his headphones and iPod on the floor. It seemed like a perfect ‘still life’ scene. Of sorts.

I’ve had fun this week, with my attempts at art. A few sketches never got shared. But I aim to collect them all together in some form later this week.

Peace (sounding good),

Sketching from the Couch Day Six (Sockets)

Sockets

I am near the end of my sketching vacation, a little detour from writing this week (but who am I kidding … I’ve been writing stuff every day) as I sat in my living room, and drew what I saw (or tried to). Today’s sketch is of the electrical outlet. Something drew me to draw them.

Peace (charging forward),
Kevin

Sketching from the Couch Day Three (Book Shelf)

Sketching from the Couch

I am doing some sketching this week to play with art (and take a vacation from writing), using my living room couch as my pivot point and drawing only what I can see from there. Today’s sketch is a small table/sitting piece that no one can ever sit on because it always stacked with my sons’ books. They are every which way, always about to fall. It’s a beautiful messy structure of stories.

Book Shelf

Peace (stacked),
Kevin

Visual Slice of Life: Outside from the Inside (Sketch Day 2)

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

It’s Day Two of my Sketchbook vacation, using my couch in the living room as the place where I am looking from and/or stationed at, and drawing at. Yesterday, I noticed the scene out of the front yard window, as my son was shooting baskets in the hoop near the street.

Outside From Inside

Peace (swish it),
Kevin

Sketching from the Couch, Day One (Abstract Dog)

Sketching from the Couch

I’ve decided to take a little break this week from words, and focus my brain instead on sketching. (I know. Here I am writing about doing less writing. Can’t help it).

Following the lead of my friend, Sheri, I am trying to view the world from the end of the (digital) crayon. Or paintbrush. Or, stylus. Sheri is part of #Sketch50 (which I think is just ending?). She gave me a bunch of hashtags to consider.

I am doing a week here with art as a sort of mental vacation.

Sketch Couch

I’ve decided to limit my view of the world to the view from a couch in my living room. Only what I see from my seat there is what I will draw. I will be using the Pencil App to do my drawings. I’m not suggesting I am a talented artist, but I want to try to stretch a bit.

Abstract Duke

My first drawing (other than the couch with its bow-tied feet) is of my dog Duke, but I wanted to go a little abstract. He was sitting by my feet, wondering why I was staring at him. He wagged his tail a few times. He’s always a happy dog.

Peace (coloring beyond the lines),
Kevin