The Why of It

Over at Connected Courses, the push this phase/cycle/week is into the “why” of connected learning and the why of teaching itself. A lot of people are sharing out this video by Michael Wesch, who has been pushing his university students into interesting terrain around digital humanities and culture and information flow. His use of the questions of “why” and “what” and others had me thinking of the classic Abbott and Costello skit.

The why of it #ccourses

Of course, Professor Wesch’s talk is not a comedy routine. And it is worth viewing.

Peace (in the why),

Why I Teach (A Comic Response)

An inquiry question that is emerging during this cycle of the Connected Courses is “Why I teach” and a bunch of people are writing and sharing media on this particular question. It’s always a good question to ask.

I went the comic route, although I felt a bit constrained by the format of the comic. I had to limit my explanations, I found. Still, I hope I communicated the complexities of teaching young people. It will be interesting to see how my own ideas of teaching intersect with other #Ccourse folks, who are mostly university professors/teachers.

Why I Teach

Why do you teach?

Peace (in the inquiry),

Slice of Life: Darn Right, I’ve Got Homework

(This is for the Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers.)

SOL T-Shirt on Ink to the People

“So, ” he said, juggling a neon green soccer ball in his hand, “I got all my homework done.”

I nodded. “Excellent. Now you can spend the afternoon outside, right?”

“Yeah. I have a soccer game,” my sixth grader answered, and then asked: “Do you have homework?”


“Yeah. Do teachers get homework? Like we get homework?”

I thought about the staff meeting I was going to with our new principal, where she would be handing out a pile of forms for teaching goals this year and for teacher evaluations. I’d have to fill those out. I thought about how I was going to a meeting after that meeting, with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, and how I needed to create a plan of action for the year for our Technology Team. I thought about the stack of vocabulary quizzes sitting on my desk.

“Yeah. I’ve got homework,” I said, smiling at him. “Plenty.”

“Too bad for you,” he laughed, as the dismissal bell rang and he raced out to his bus, balancing the soccer ball in his hand, as I yelled out “have a great afternoon” and made my way back inside on a beautiful end-of-summer/start-of-fall afternoon, facing another four hours of meetings. And homework assignments.

Peace (in the share),

A Few Six Word Webcomic Memoirs

Some students are finishing up the optional project of creating a Six Word Memoir in our webcomic space, and they are quite interesting to view. Here are a few that stuck out with me:
Sara the Writer

My_Six_Word_Memoir (1)

My_Six_Word_Memoir (3)

My_Six_Word_Memoir (2)

Peace (in six words),

The Path of a Poetic Thought

I had the pleasure of being part of an impromptu chain of poetic events yesterday, which stems in part from discussions in the Connected Courses, although all of those in this poetic chain are existing connections.

I may have gotten the very start of the poetic path wrong. I wasn’t there at the gathering, so I am interpreting from the echoes of words left as breadcrumbs from others, and I suspect there may be more to this that unfolded outside my field of vision. Isn’t that always the case anyway? Aren’t we always left to our interpretations of where an idea has begun and where it may yet end up?

So … I made a map, of sorts. Follow along, and take the connection further, if you will. We made room for you. Find an anchor and write. Make a connection and invite us in.

Peace (in the pursuit of a poetic idea),

Six Word Memoirs, Comic-Style

Six Word Memoir Comic

I have a challenge activity going for my sixth graders: create a six word memoir on our comic site. I shared mine with them yesterday, showing how narrowing the focus can give power to the idea of the six words. A fair number of kids were working on theirs yesterday, as they were finishing up another project.

Peace (in the words),

Don’t You Know, We’re Talkin’ About Our Aspirations

dream scene word cloud 2014
One of my all-time favorite start-of-the-year activities is our Dream Scene Project, in which students work on a project of their aspirations for sometime in the future. Over the years, this project has morphed from a paper art project, to a digital storytelling project, to the current form of a webcomic project.

The Dream Scene project involves students thinking of a dream for themselves, why it is important and how they are going to make it happen in life. Along with the mixed media that I introduce, this project gives me some keen insights into the minds of my students early on in the year, and sparks some great conversations about interests outside of school and where their heart is at.

I had interesting conversations this week with a student who wants to travel to Africa as a volunteer, and help fight poverty. Another conversation was with a musician who wants to write songs and sing for the world. Another is already writing her own novel and wants to be a writer (she already is!). There are two boys who want to form a technology company, and they already have a name and have begun some tinkering with their phones. A few would be happy to have a stable family and a roof over their heads.

It’s all good!

The word cloud above represents the various themes of their Dream Scenes from across four classes of sixth graders. These kids are going to change the world someday.

This is the one I shared out for myself:
Mr H Dream Scene


Peace (in dreams),

Graphic Novel Review: The Shadow Hero

As much as I enjoyed the story and art of The Shadow Hero, by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew, what I truly most enjoyed about this book is the explanation of how the book came to be. (You may know Yang’s name from his wonderful American Born Chinese and/or Boxers & Saints)

After the main story ends, Yang gives an overview of the origin of the story of the The Green Turtle, one of the first superheroes created by an Asian-American artist Hank Chu, and his battles with publishers to create an Asian-American superhero. He actually failed in this fight, according to rumors that Yang chased down, and his original Green Turtle comic – published during the Golden Age of Comics — is interesting in that Chu always hides the face of his hero, so the reader can’t discern racial identity.

Let me have Yang explain:

Yang and Liew decided to invent the “back story” of the Green Turtle in The Shadow Hero, providing insights into Chinese-American culture, racial prejudice, and the myth of The Green Turtle superhero, who has been mostly forgotten in comic circles. Until now.

Following Yang’s piece of writing, the two provide the very first comic of The Green Turtle, as a sort of interesting time travel twist. You can get the sense of what Chu was after with his creation, and see how he pushes up against the publisher’s restraint against an Asian-American comic book superhero. It’s a fascinating lesson in history.

The story in The Shadow Hero is solid, inventive and engaging, with plenty of action and humor, and a bit of tame romance. I would say this book would work fine for upper elementary, middle and high school students.

Peace (in the story),

WMWP: Revisiting and Rethinking Assessment

Our Western Massachusetts Writing Project is focusing in on assessment this year as our inquiry theme, and our annual fall event — WMWP Best Practices — in October will have the focus of pushing against the confines of assessment and exploring more ways to shine a light on student learning, as opposed to data collection.

WMWP Best Practices 2014 by KevinHodgson

If you teach in Western Massachusetts, please consider joining us for what will be a great day of connecting and collaborating and sharing knowledge (plus, lunch is included). Here is the link for online registration.

Peace (in the event),

My Students as Comics

I love gathering our “comic” versions of ourselves for the first days of the school year. As my sixth grade students make avatars (and as we talk about digital representations) in our webcomic space (Bitstrips for Schools), it creates a classroom picture, with all of our comic avatars together.

Check it out:
Comic Classrooms

Peace (in the strangeness of ourselves),