Using Art to Promote Peace

GK Peaceh Poster
Each year, our fantastic art teacher conducts a project known as Peace Posters, in which students must represent the concept of peace through art. I have always loved this project because the range of work and the symbolic representation is often so creative and wonderful to see, particularly when the posters are hung all around the school.

Today, the posters are due to the art room. Yesterday, one of my students proudly showed me his poster and it really is quite detailed and intricate, showing sports all around the world. (They can’t use words — only images). I’m looking forward to seeing what others have done with their poster projects.

Peace (on the poster),

Saving some turtles, one leaf at a time

turtle adoption nov10 (2)
I teach four classes of sixth graders and right now, two of those classes are finishing up the novel Flush by Carl Hiassen. This engaging and often-funny book centers on pollution of waters off the Florida Keys by a gambling boat and the efforts of a boy and his family to stop the pollution and protect the beach where endangered Loggerhead Turtles come to lay eggs.

We’re on a year-long inquiry around the environment, thanks in part to our participation in the Voices on the Gulf Project, and I saw an opportunity here with this book to try to do something constructive. So, we agreed that we would “adopt” a loggerhead turtle that is being cared for by the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Jones Beach, Floriday.

The catch was that my students could not just go home and ask for $2 for the turtle project. They had to earn it, and the suggestion that they came up with was raking leaves (we’re in New England and leaves are everywhere right now).

The packets of information for our turtles (each class adopted one) came in yesterday and the kids were very excited. Sure, there were some jokes about “why didn’t they ship the turtle?” But overall, I could tell they were satisfied that they had some something good for the environment with this simple turtle adoption project, and it connected perfectly with our reading of the novel and our research around turtles.

Now, I’m thinking: they might need to invent a story with our adopted turtles — Andre and Gilda – as characters. Hmmm.

A Bit of Me on Glogster

We haven’t begun using yet this year but we will soon. Last year, I became a Glogster Ambassador, which basically means that I am available to talk about how I use Glogster in the classroom and share out any resources that I might develop for teachers in workshops, etc. What I get out of that designation is a free upgraded account, which has been nice. (Note: is dropping its number of free student accounts for teachers from 100 to 50 very soon).

The other day, we were asked to consider making a Glog about ourselves as they try to showcase some Glogster Ambassadors. So, here’s what I came up with (direct link to the Glog):

Peace (on the Glog),

Presenting: The Resources of NWP’s Digital Is

nwp digitalis
About a year and a half ago, I went out to California for a meeting about a National Writing Project venture that was be entitled Digital Is. Supported in part by the MacArthur Foundation, the Digital Is concept involved a web portal to explorations of technology, writing and learning in ways that would go beyond the “how to do it” of typical websites.

Yesterday, the NPW Digital Is site launched to the public, and it is a wonderfully rich potpourri of teacher reflections on the “why” of technology as much as the “what we did” of technology. There are plenty of examples of student work, too, and discussions will hopefully revolve around our changing ideas of what writing means when it comes to multimodal composition and the classroom.

Elyse Eidman-Aadahl,who directs the national programs and site development for NWP and whose insights into technology and learning are worth their weight in gold, explains in her blog post on the site about the launching of Digital Is:

…  there’s no mistaking the impact of both the development of new digital tools for composing and of the internet as a global communications and collaboration space. What it means to write, to research, to publish, and to work together has changed dramatically in the last few decades.  As educators, we know our teaching must change too.

As a start, I want to point to a few “collections,” which are curated resources that are constructed around themes. This idea of collections is a great idea, as it pulls together projects and frames them in an importance concept or question by the curator.

So, check these curated collections out as a starting point:

The site is designed to keep growing and you don’t need to be part of the National Writing Project, either. I encourage you to take a tour of Digital Is, become a member and join the conversations around what writing and composition looks like in this midst of technological change, and where our teaching might be going in the years ahead.

Peace (in the sharing),

Creative Writing with Invented Artifacts

This week, I intend to introduce a new book that we just bought this year: Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise. It’s a short, fun book told with humor and in the style of using “artifacts” from the characters in the story — mostly memos, letters, and notes. I also considered Avi’s Nothing But the Truth, which is another powerful story told through emails, phone messages, etc., about a high school boy who hums along with the National Anthem, gets in trouble with his teacher and sparks a media frenzy. But, some of the language was a bit too much for my sixth graders, and the themes were more high school than elementary school. Still, it’s worth reading.

What I like about the concept of Regarding the Fountain is that I can really teach inference with my sixth graders, as you need to make connections between what is being shown and written, and what is not. And, of course, point of view is critical, too. What are characters not saying?

I am working on my own short story with artifacts, too, because when we are done with the book (it won’t take long to read), I want to have them try their hand at their own. It may be tricky and some of my young writers will be in a better place with their critical thinking skills than others. I know that I am struggling a bit with how to leave out important information so as to not give the story away too early.

Here’s what I have so far:

And if you have never heard of Regarding the Fountain, check out this glog review I did last year when I stumbled onto the book.

Peace (in the inferential thinking),

Once Upon a Midnight Dreary …

This is a great video interpretation of The Raven, which seems appropriate on this All Hallow’s Eve. It’s just a close-up shot of the reader. Nothing more ….:

Peace (in the night),

Whisper: A Stopmotion Shadow Video

This is interesting: using stopmotion with shadow puppet techniques. I like the video itself, but I really like the “behind the scenes” video even more because it shows us how they did what they did.

Peace (in the shadows),

A Look at the Hudson Valley Writing Project

HVWP at 10 from Bonnie Kaplan on Vimeo.

Bonnie, my longtime friend and collaborator at the Hudson Valley Writing Project, has put together a fascinating look at her writing project’s history and where it is now, and where it is heading. It’s worth sharing because it tells the story of an organization of teachers using inquiry to make change in practice and in the classroom all under our NWP banner of “Teachers Teaching Teachers.”

Peace (in the sharing),