Slice of Life: That Girl Can Teach

(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.)

She had been asking me for weeks now. In fact, after every lunch, she and her friend would rush back to our sixth grade classroom before others arrived, stand before the whiteboard with my daily agenda, and use their “teacher voices” to explain to an invisible classroom of students what the plan for learning was today. They would deepen their voices, an adolescent playfulness combined by a fake adult voice, and then crack themselves up.

“Can I teach a lesson? For real?” she asked, and I had told her, yes. I just wanted to find the right time and content, so before Thanksgiving break, I asked if she would like to lead us in the next vocabulary lesson. She sure did. She was so excited. She took her book home to make sure she knew what she was doing and came back, with the lesson dotted with sticky notes.

Yesterday morning, she checked over the pronunciation of words with me (‘monotonous’ seemed rather challenging), asking some questions on how to best proceed, and then later in the day, she took over my classroom, leading the lesson on vocabulary. The class was amused that I had handed over the reins but mostly game (one boy was a little too amused and had to be separated from the rest) as she called on students to help with words and definitions.

She was confident and knowing, giving encouragement and helping with challenges. This girl can teach!

She will continue as our teacher during the next days of this vocabulary unit — and she informed me she had figured out how to explain a rather difficult and new section in our book this week — while others, including the “rather amused boy,” asked if they, too, could lead a lesson in the future.

Yes, I told them, now wondering how to balance all of this “visiting teacher” out, but knowing that I will.

Peace (and sharing),
Kevin

Musical Landscapes: Cue the Queue (Song Four)

I am immersing myself in making music, and found myself connected to the idea of a musical landscape, a musical map of ideas expressed not in latitude and longitude, but in sound, melody and rhythm.  This project connects back to this month’s Pop-Up Make Cycle with the CLMOOC.

I have already shared out three pieces:

This fourth piece, entitled Cue the Queue, is inspired by the bird talk I heard while walking our dog, Duke. A flock of somethings were chattering up in the pine trees of the front drive. When we walked close, the entire tree went silent. As we wandered past, the chatter started up again. I imagined one lead bird, with baton, queuing them up. Meanwhile, the beat is that of the dog and I, walking away.

Listen to Cue the Queue

Thanks for taking the time to pay attention.

Peace (in the quiet),
Kevin

Aw Snap — Introducing Digital Annotation with #BookSnaps

BookSnap Mentor Example

I ran across a reference to an idea called BookSnaps that seemed intriguing so I followed the thread to Tara Martin’s blog, where she shared out information about how to use digital tools, particularly Snapchat, for annotation and layering of media.

Watch Tara’s short talk/presentation about the idea:

I was intrigued because I am interested in finding more ways to engage my sixth graders with annotation and digital tools, for many of the reasons that Tara gives: the ways annotation focuses attention, how it helps us remember, how to it makes visible the learning of a text.

While Tara shares about Snapchat as the platform, I was more interested about using something within our students’ Google accounts, to make it easier to teach and easier to save. We are in our Independent Reading unit right now, so this is a perfect way to share the first pages of books they have chosen, I am thinking.

My sample — for Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust, see above — was done in Google Drawing and it all went quite well, using call-out text boxes for the writing and some images searches for the “stickers.” There’s not a lot of space, so finding focus will be key, as will setting parameters for how many overlays can be on a page. I can see my kids getting carried away with images.

Tara does have a video about using Google Drawing that helped me think this through:

(Note: Google has now changed the way one can take image snapshots within its system, so the direct method that Tara mentions in her video may no longer work. I used PhotoBooth for my sample, but Tara kindly mentioned a free extension by Alice Keeler for Chrome that takes pictures and puts them into a Google Drive folder, which can then be moved into Google Drawing. I tested it out and it seemed to work quite well.)

I envision this BookSnap idea as one of the first steps of our work with digital annotation, and the connection to Snap Chat (even though we won’t be using it) with layered text and layered image, and sharing, should grab my students’ attention. And sharing out books, and reading about what others are reading, is always a powerful sharing experience, made more fun with layers of annotation.

I’ll let you know how it goes …

If you are thinking that the use of Snapchat App is of interest, this video by another teacher (not Tara) gives a good walk-through of each step along the way:

Peace (layer it and annotate it),
Kevin

Musical Landscapes: Under Each Leaf (Song Three)

I am immersing myself in making music, and found myself connected to the idea of a musical landscape, a musical map of ideas expressed not in latitude and longitude, but in sound, melody and rhythm.  This project connects back to this month’s Pop-Up Make Cycle with the CLMOOC.

I have already shared out two pieces:

This third piece, Under Each Leaf,  is inspired by what the title says. I was looking under a certain leaf in our yard as I was doing some raking, and found bugs and critters all beginning to settle in for the cold, as if the leaf were a blanket of some kind.

Take a listen to Under Each Leaf.

Thanks for taking the time to lend your ears.

Peace (under us),
Kevin

Musical Landscapes: Busy in the Trees (Song Two)

I am immersing myself in making music, and found myself connected to the idea of a musical landscape, a musical map of ideas expressed not in latitude and longitude, but in sound, melody and rhythm.  This project connects back to this month’s Pop-Up Make Cycle with the CLMOOC.

Yesterday, I shared out the first piece, entitled Interlocking Parts.

This one, Busy in the Trees, is inspired by the way the squirrels and other small animals dance and jump and cruise through the trees of our yard. It’s a circus act of sorts. The last note of sustain is the tree branch slowly going back to static mode after the last leap of the squirrels.

Take a listen to Busy in the Trees.

Thanks for taking the time to listen.

Peace (sounds like),
Kevin

Musical Landscapes: Interlocking Parts (Song One)

The other day, I immersed myself in making music, and found myself connected to the idea of a musical landscape, a musical map of ideas expressed not in latitude and longitude, but in sound, melody and rhythm.  This project connects back to this month’s Pop-Up Make Cycle with the CLMOOC.

Over the coming days, I am going to share out the short musical pieces that I created and then, I hope to figure out a way to map the sounds into a landscape of some sort. Most of the songs (all very short, by the way) will be inspired by something I have seen or noticed in the natural world.

The first track here is called Interlocking Parts.

It was inspired, in part, by a particular tree whose branches are folding in on itself. Many are now fused together, interlocking with the other. I thought the tree was interesting, and reminded me of how melody lines can intertwine with others.

Thanks for taking the time to listen …

Peace (on the map),
Kevin

Giving Thanks: Keepers of the Flame

This video from my friends at Fablevision (Peter and Paul Reynolds) made its way to my mailbox this week, as they offered to thanks to teachers in their network. It’s a quiet poem, with the power of gratitude, and it is infused with the Reynolds’ gentle touch of art and hope and wonder.

If you are an educator celebrating Thanksgiving today, thank you for all that you do (particularly if you are a teacher of my own kids). If not (either not a teacher or you live outside the US), thank you, too. I am grateful for those folks in my various circles.

Peace (and hope in the flame),
Kevin

Pinning Class Books on the Map

Mapping Books

My sixth graders have just finished a novel in which a character is sending postcards and letters and more from her travels around the world. I want to show my students how to use Google Maps for constructing maps of information. As a sampler, I began making a map of locations related to some of the class novels we will be reading this year.

This also nicely connects to the Mapvember theme of a CLMOOC Pop-Up Make Cycle. Come join in. Make maps!

I think my students will enjoy the making of maps within their Google Accounts, once they get comfortable with how to do so and with the different visual aspects of icons, images, etc. What I would like to also do is teach them how to use the different elements of mapping (such as distance calculation, connector lines/points, and more). And also, I’d like them to learn how to move the code from Maps into Google Earth.

Take a look at my book map so far …

Or check out the embedded version:

Different layers, different complexities.

I’ll share some student maps in the coming days …

Peace (mapped and known),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Hallways of Peace

(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.)

I love this time of year for the ways our art teacher has decorated the hallways with a myriad of posters created by our sixth graders for the Lions Club Peace Poster contest.

Peace Poster sampling

Each year, the kids work off a theme about peace, and their posters are designed to capture the concept. This year is all about the Future of Peace. One student’s work will go on to the state level of competition, and then perhaps beyond.

Peace Poster sampling

The young artists cannot use words or text, only image and design. I work with the art teacher on the students’ writing of an Artist Statement that will hang with each piece. Students write about their artistic intentions, use of symbols, choice of elements and more, and that writing really exposes their thinking.

Peace Poster samplingYou can’t help but notice the possibilities of peace as you wander our school hallways. That’s a good thing.

Peace (beyond posters),
Kevin

Games, Learning, Literacy: Week 4 (Art Forms)

James Paul Gee Quote18

I’m off on a new reading adventure, diving into James Paul Gee’s book — What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy — with discussion prompts by my friend, Keegan. 

This weekend, I came to the end of Gee’s book, and I found myself once again appreciating the perspectives he brings to the picture. It’s most pertinent now for me because I am bringing my sixth graders into their game design unit, starting today. While Gee’s work looks more at the player within a game system, and all the literacies that are part of it, my aim is more around teaching my students how to think of a game as a story, and the story as the framework of the game.

Gee’s wrap-up thoughts around Affinity Spaces and the fluid nature between game designer and game player (particularly as more and more games have open ended entry points for players to mod, or hack, games) is intriguing. It reminds me there is so much I don’t know about video games when it comes to reading and writing and thinking.

And Gee also admits that this kind of literacy moment is still emerging (he wrote the book a few years ago, but that is still true, I believe) and there is much we don’t know, and may not know, for some time. That makes it all very intriguing as a curious teacher of writing and reading, right? I think so.

James Paul Gee Quote19

Peace (reading and playing),
Kevin