(This is a post for Slice of Life.)
Lately, I’ve noticed that our mail does not get delivered anymore during winter storms. Whatever happened to “neither rain nor snow …” and all that? I don’t begrudge the mail service, of course, and last night, a friend and I were driving home in some of the worst conditions of the winter: snow, sleet, freezing rain. Things were slick.
And all because my band — Duke Rushmore — is gearing up for a gig this coming Friday night (passing through Western Massachusetts? Come to the Paper City Brewery in Holyoke, from 6-8 p.m. — see you there!). We jammed the songs out one last time, worked through a few pieces that are new for us, and then began to pack up the gear that we need to lug to the brewery. (We need roadies.)
I have some revisions to do on my notes, which I keep handy in the days before the gig to help me stay focused. You can see all the scribbles, arrows, and other handwritten notes that I need to use to adjust my notes. During gigs, I barely glance at them. But before the gigs, I consult them quite a bit, thinking of song keys, solo sequences, changes, background vocals, etc.
Friday will be here soon and we get to rock and roll. What’s better than that?
(This is a post for the Slice of Life, facilitated by Two Writing Teachers throughout March and every Tuesday during the year. You come write, too.)
Yesterday was the birthday of Dr. Seuss. Theodore Geisel has local connections to our area (Springfield, Massachusetts, is right down the road) and so we often do play up celebrations around the author. Yesterday, with all of my sixth grade classes, I read aloudThe Butter Battle Book. Only a handful had ever heard of it before, and a few had read it.
The Butter Battle Book is not his best book — I still vote for The Lorax just about any day of the week — but it does give me a chance to do a mini-lesson around “allegory” — a pretty complex literary term for sixth graders. But after discussions around the Cold War, and global geopolitics both of the past and present, we dove into the story of the Yooks and Zooks who hate each other because of how they butter their bread.
Reading the picture book, playing up the voices, asking questions, sparking discussions — it reminds me that we don’t do enough to use picture books for mentor texts in the upper grades. I use them, but I could probably do it even more.
We were hoping to do an All-School Read-Aloud for Read Across America Day yesterday (and Wednesday is World Read Aloud Day), but snow moved in (surprise) and we had a two-hour delay, so that community reading will happen this morning. I am trying to find my copy of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. Anyone borrow it?
You know it’s almost baseball season here when my son starts asking for us to read-aloud books about the sport. We picked up Fantasy Baseball, which is not about the game lots of people play in picking and trading players online. Instead, it is a very interesting novel by Alan Gratz in which a young boy, Alex, finds himself inside a fantasy world — Ever After — where the winners of a baseball tournament can ask the Wizard of Oz for a wish.
Yes, the Wizard of Oz. Gratz mixes up all sorts of literary characters (Toad, from Wind in the Willows, for example, is a mighty talented short stop) and book references (from Holes to Alice in Wonderland) in this witty book. At first, it just seems like a whimsical story. Alex thinks he is dreaming and goes with the flow — he loves to play baseball, so why not? He is bound to wake up eventually, right? Then, the Big Bad Wolf tries to eat him and the onion skin of the story starts to reveal itself.
It turns out that Alex is actually the Dreamself (or, as they are called, a Lark) of someone else — Alex, the boy in real life — and that boy is dying of cancer, and as Alex the boy fades, so too does Alex the Dreamboy. It’s up to Alex the Dreamboy/Lark to save Alex the Human, and that means winning the baseball tournament to get the wish. Gratz does a nice job of balancing the fantasy of the story and characters (even slyly referencing one of his own characters from another baseball novel that we are reading right now: Samurai Shortstop) and the tragic decline of a young child battling cancer.
(This is a post for Slice of Life, a daily writing challenge throughout March that is facilitated by Two Writing Teachers. Come write, too.)
I was tempted to draw a map of my “life on the road” yesterday, driving around. But then I figured, today was a day to tap the “Super” app and create this Slice of Life. One of the prompts is “current status” and I know they mean “romantic status” but still … I was not available at all for anything other than behind the wheel.
I invited a small group of our Western Massachusetts Writing Project to my home yesterday for a Make/Hack/Play session. These are folks on our WMWP Tech Team. Along with great conversations and connections, we got down to making, hacking and playing.
First, we used paper circuitry to think about scientific discovery, writing and map making. Everyone created their own map — either literal or metaphorical or symbolic — and then we created a paper circuit board to light up the important nodes on our maps.
Second, we dove into Webmaker’s Popcorn Maker to create video projects. I shared the one I did, using the I Have A Dream speech with overlays, and a few other folks also tinkered with social justice-themed video projects.
It was a blast and for my visitors, the paper circuitry and Popcorn Maker were relatively new experiences (one of the Tech Team folks had participated in a paper circuitry session at another WMWP event.) I’m grateful to have colleagues who would give up part of Saturday to make/hack/play and think about learning in new and interesting ways.
It’s March. For me and my blog (hello, old friend), that means dipping back into the Slice of Life Challenge, where each and every day throughout the month, a whole bunch of folks aim to write a bit, share a bit, and connect a bit. (On Twitter, we use the #sol15 hashtag, just so you know.)
The whole shebang (love that word) is coordinated by the folks at Two Writing Teachers (more than two now, but hey … who’s counting heads?). I do try to do things different each year (this may be my seventh or eighth year of Slice of Life), so I am considering making myself a little calendar for different types of media for Slice of Life. I guess I should have put that into place before the challenge actually began but …. here I am, writing my first slice.
And making a comic …. one or two of my days will be comics.
What’s your slice? Come join the Slice of Life Challenge. Even if you don’t write every day in March, get writing. Connect.
This morning, I have a small group of folks from our Western Massachusetts Writing Project Tech Team (which I lead as as the co-director of technology for WMWP) coming over to my house to do a Make/Hack/Play session. We’re connecting together over coffee to play around with paper circuitry first — we will be making “maps” (metaphorical or literal) that we will light up “nodes” of interest.
Then, we will shift over to Webmaker’s Popcorn Maker for remixing of video and media. My hope is that we will use MLK’s I Have a Dream speech as the center and then layer in media on top of or inside of the video. My friends have not ever used Popcorn, so I am curious to see how best to guide them into it.
This is what I created this morning:
This small group work will also help me and a WMWP technology team colleague think about an upcoming presentation at a WMWP Spring Symposium, where we are facilitating a session around student agency with media and technology. She teaches a college course on using media and I am leading the hands-on portion, where folks in the session will be using Popcorn for remix.
This demo song is one I wrote quite a long time ago, and only recently pulled it back onto my guitar. It was first written in the aftermath of the devastating Haiti Earthquake. I tinkered a bit more with it in the last few days, adding a new section, and then recorded this as a spare song. Don’t worry — it’s thankfully not about me. I am happy. I am fine. The narrator of the song is not. (I always feel the need to write that for these kinds of songs.)
My latest post at Middleweb comes on the heels of completing a course on ELL Immersion. Our state now requires the sheltered immersion course as a requirement for re-certification. It was a bear of a course, and I share out Nine Lessons Learned.
The theme of the recent Walk My World Learning Event is “dreams.” I don’t often remember my sleep dreams at night. But thinking about the theme of dreams had me remembering this: my very first song that I ever recorded. I was in my teens, and my friend and I had a cheap two-track recorder and a little Casio keyboard, plus a guitar (we used it for bass, too, if I remember correctly). We had to keep combining tracks and layering them over one another. It was very complicated. (Today, Audacity or Garageband offers easier options but you don’t have to think about it as much, either.)
It’s a little embarrassing to hear it now on the Interwebz, and to share it out, but it is a bit of a memory road trip, too. I was just beginning to write songs — this may have been the first or second song that I ever wrote in a complete form and shared with my childhood friend, a drummer. You can tell by the words that I was moving from teenage poetry into songwriting. I had just taught myself how to play guitar, too, as I am a saxophone player. We recorded Follow That Dream as a lark, to see if we could do it, and then realized that we both liked the recording process, tinkering with sounds, and spent the rest of the summer making songs. (Although everything is so tinny in those sessions, because we had these little cheap Radio Shack microphones and the two-track recorder.)