Slice of Life (Day 18): Making a Mess

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

Yesterday, our normal Friday schedule was all messed up. We had a visit from the guidance counselor at the regional middle school, where nearly all of my sixth graders will go next year, and along with getting information, they filled out some paperwork. It’s a sign that the end of the year is on the horizon (well, in a few months). The other sign was that we gave out report cards for our second trimester yesterday, too.

We are now in the last trimester of the school year. How’d that happen?

Since the day was already broken up, we decided to allocate a stretch of time for students to begin making posters for the Quidditch teams. Each team (each sixth grade class) has to have five huge posters for our upcoming Quidditch Tournament — three run-through posters and two posters to hang on the wall to decorate the gym. So they did sketching in the morning and then some painting in the afternoon.

Making posters

Oh boy. These kids are messy with paint, particularly when you have 70 kids painting in the same space — the cafeteria. The teachers were wandering around with paper towels and wipes, reminding kids to clean up any drips and dribbles. At one point, a student hopped all the way across the cafeteria floor to me, asking for a wipe. He pointed to his shoe.

“I stepped on a glop of paint,” he chuckled, and indeed, the entire bottom of his show was now coated in black paint. Sigh. I handed him some wipes and watched him one-foot hop his way all the way across the cafeteria floor.

Clean-up was crazy and chaotic, and the end of the day was a mess of motion — moving posters to classrooms to dry, washing paint brushes, wiping the floor, handing out report cards, keeping track of everyone. I was happy for the quiet of the empty classroom.

Still, the posters are looking pretty darned good.

Making posters

Peace (it’s here),
Kevin

St Paddy Day Tie

Slice of Life (Day 17): When Memes Creep into the Classroom

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

There’s a single line in the short Quidditch video that I shared with my sixth grade students yesterday that sparked an interesting reaction in all four classes that I teach. I was sharing a clip from the first Harry Potter movie, where Oliver Wood explains the game of Quidditch to a very young Harry.

The video, as well as one showing how they play Quidditch at the college level, is part of our work around our game of Quidditch, played for more than 12 years at my school and the 2017 Quidditch Championship is coming up in two weeks. (Video below is how we play our game)

The two videos set the stage for an activity in which students design and explain in writing how to play the play. It’s a lesson around different kinds of literacy — how a sports play diagram can be “read” and “written” — as well as reinforcing expository writing.

Anyway … in the movie video clip, Harry looks down at a box of Quidditch supplies.

“What are those?” Harry asks (at the 34 second mark, in case you are curious), pointing to a bludger bustling to burst out of the box.

What are those … students in every class echoed together as soon as they heard Harry speak the lines. What are those … What are those …

I had heard this phrase before, but not recently, and I never followed up with any research as to where it had gone viral, and why. Of course, yesterday afternoon, intrigued, I did some research, going to Know Your Meme site (bookmark that site, teachers) to find out what is up with what are those … I knew it had to do with shoes and a sweeping hand movement towards the feet. I had seen students doing that, and crowd giggling.

According to Know Your Meme:

On October 2nd, 2011, Urban Dictionary[4] user JOHNxRYAN95 created an entry for “What Are Those?”, defining it as a question yelled at someone wearing unkempt or off-brand footwear. On June 14th, 2015, Instagram user Brandon Moore (a.k.a. Young Busco) uploaded a video in which he confronts a police officer by loudly asking “What are those?” before panning to his black shoes (shown below). Within three weeks, the video gained over 2,300 likes and 1,200 comments.

And the What Are Those? meme became a hit on Vine, I guess, and I suspect this is where my students found the meme.

It looks like the meme peaked about a year ago (according to Google Trends graph) but I guess some viral sayings just stick with you.

What are those

What are those?

Peace (that’s what they are),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life (Day 16): An Audience of Interactive Readers

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

As my students were finishing up their Interactive Fiction stories, they were curious to know what others had been writing, too. Of course, I told them to feel free to share their Make Your Own Ending Google Slide stories with others, in view or comment mode, but I also know that narrows the audience.

Reading Interactive Fiction Stories

So, we set up laptops around the room, pulled up Interactive Fiction stories, and I worked like a carnival barker, moving readers from one story to the next with chaotic efficiency. “Over here,” I’d yell, pointing to an empty computer. “Who hasn’t read this one yet? Step right up!”

Reading Interactive Fiction Stories

The result was a fun 20 minutes or so of just reading. This time, I didn’t have them keep reflection documents or any other element, other than an open mind and reader’s eyes. They loved it, moving from one story to the next, calling out encouragement to each other — “Hey, great story” and “I love that ending with the twist” and “Way to add humor to your story.”

Reading Interactive Fiction Stories

Wait. You want to read a story or two, too? Of course. Just follow the hyperlinks …. and I suggest you use the Full Screen mode, too.

Peace (every which way),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life (Day 11): Quidditch Comes Early

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

Regular readers here (Thank you) will know that our school plays our version of the game of Quidditch, and we have a Quidditch Tournament Day every year in which all four sixth grade classes compete for a full day. It’s very fun and very crazy, and it’s a unique experience for our students. They may someday play Quidditch in college, but the college way is not our way, not by a long shot (and we think our rules and our game is much better than what is played on the college club circuit).

Quidditch Tshirts 2017

Quidditch comes early this year because of shifts in the standardized testing season, and with the tournament coming during the school day on March 30 (and at night, we teachers play the kids — our team name is Pink Fury), there is a lot to do with creating posters and, as they were doing yesterday, making t-shirts to wear on Tournament Day.

Quidditch Tshirts 2017

My class came up with the team name of Blue Barbarians, which is not a name our class (with main color, blue) has had before. We’re often a cold or ice name.

We made this video a few years ago to show other schools how we play our game. We’re OK if others “borrow” the rules and adapt for their own situations.

Given that our Quidditch season at school coincides with Slice of Life here at the blog, you can probably expect more updates through the month. We connect writing, art, and physical education. We work on teamwork and collaboration as a class community, and we talk about winning and losing and other social skills, and more … all connected to the notion of Literature in Motion that drives our Quidditch season.

Peace (in snitches and quaffles),
Kevin

 

Interactive Fiction Invitation: Come Play Some Stories

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

The other day, I wrote about my sixth graders planning out and learning about Interactive Fiction. They are in the midst of creating their own stories, using Google Slides and Hyperlinks as the backbone technology for composition and publishing. A few students are nearing the end of their projects, so I figured I would share out a few for you to play, if you want.

So strange to say that — Playing the Story — but I do it all the time with my students in this writing unit, to enforce the mindset of a different kind of narrative writing and reading. It makes the story a game, of sorts, and puts them in a different kind of position as writers of the story.

Peace (follow every path),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 10): The Tangled Knots of She Said/He Said/She Said

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

One of my students was crying. The cafeteria director asked me, Why is she crying? I didn’t know. It happened at the end of lunch. I walked over, and took the student aside, and tried to gently figure out what was happening. It wasn’t easy. It’s hard to talk when you are crying. We took our time.


knots flickr photo by mlberman25 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Untangling the knots of adolescent social conflicts requires finesse, and patience, and compassion. In essence, this is what happened, and it involved my student, and two others.

Student1 was crying because Student2 told her that Student3 had said that Student1 talked about Student2 behind Student2’s back. Student2 confirmed that Student3 said that, but Student2 didn’t really believe it. Why did Student2 tell Student1 that, then? They didn’t know. Meanwhile, Student3 said the tone in which Student2 asked the question about whether Student1 talked about Student2 behind their back seemed to indicate that if Student3 didn’t implicate Student1, Student2 would be angry with Student3. So, Student3 admitted to what they said about Student1 to Student2, but explained it wasn’t true: Student1 was not talking behind Student2’s back. Student3 apologized to Student1. Apology accepted. Student2 apologized to Student3. Apology accepted. Crisis averted. For now.

If you could follow all that, well, more power to you. My head was spinning as I was trying to sort it all out in the hallway, but was relieved that the crying (two students were sobbing by the time we were done) was over and the apologies were accepted. I know I made this exchange into a bewildering post but I also know that for 11 and 12 year olds, this is serious business and helping them to sort it out was probably the best thing I did during the day.

I won’t even get into the other student who I found crying in the hallway earlier in the day for an entirely different reason …but we hopefully sorted that out, too.

Peace (in hallways and in friendship),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Eight): Designing Interactive Fiction Story Trees

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

Last week, I wrote about my students reading and mapping out Interactive Fiction novels (Make-Your-Own-Ending is another term for the books), and now they have flipped and are becoming the writers of Interactive Fiction. We use Google Sites and the power of Hyperlinks to move the reader through the story. In fact, I did an entire mini-lesson yesterday about the innovative power of Hyperlinks, which are the digital architecture of the Internet.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

First, though, is task of the creating of Story Trees and Decision Branches where choices will become part of the story. Yesterday, many students were finishing their Story Trees up, and talking about what is going to happen at different branches.

The project is called A Mystery of Ruins, and the theme of the stories are about an archeological dig or an explorer coming across the remains of a lost civilization or culture. They have to write in second person narrative point of view, use good descriptive writing, have at least five to seven branch points and three different endings, and no violence or death.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

What I love seeing in the development of the Story Trees is the thinking out loud, and the connecting of story points, and how the narrative will be weaving this way and that way, and how a writer plans for the reader to be in charge of the story.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

This is a very different kind of writing for my students, and many are deeply involved in their narratives, and are eager to get writing as soon as class starts each day. That is always a good thing.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

Peace (branches here and there),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Three): The New Cold War Kids?

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

This is one of those slices that will be sort like a mirror of past year slices done on March 3, but from a slightly different angle.

Yesterday was Dr. Seuss’s Birthday Day, and we love that Mad Hat Cat writer around here in Western Massachusetts (where he was born and raised). I often use the opportunity to talk about Allegory with my sixth graders — connecting story to theme to overarching geopolitical ideas. And I almost always share The Butter Battle Book with them, as I did yesterday.

But where as in recent years I could talk about the Cold War and Arms Proliferation as some distant past — way distant for these 11 year olds but not so much for me — this year, I found myself musing over the recent headlines that link Russia and the United States, and we talked about the term “Cold War” coming back around again (particularly with Trump’s push for increased military and more Nukes).

I still appreciate that The Butter Battle Book ends on the unknown … and we talked about why Seuss left that cliffhanger in there. I also wondered if that stalemate between those crazy butter-toast-heads might not yet be something in the near distant future. Are we on a collision course again? I surely hope not. I’d hate to think of my students as the new Cold War Kids.

Peace (sometimes it rhymes),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day One): Unexpected Turns in the Story

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

You know that moment when you introduce an entirely new concept to your students, and even as you are watching their eyes take in the new information, you can see the wheels turning in their heads as they process it all? That was me and that was them, yesterday, as I began a mini-unit around Interactive Fiction (sometimes known as Choose Your Own Ending stories).

We began with a discussion about its basic elements — reader in charge of story, multiple narrative paths, use of second person narrative point of view, story maps, etc.)

Story Branches of Interactive Fiction

And then I read a book out loud called The Green Slime, allowing the entire classroom to act as “reader,” making “choices” along the way about where the story should go. Funny, each of my four classes took four different narrative routes, so each time I read the story, it was different experience for me.

I mapped out the different “branches” of the story as I read, showing them a visual of where we had been, and making note that they would be doing this kind of mapping, too, but from the writing standpoint, with every possible choice for the reader made visible.

Oh, they were pretty excited. Only a few had ever even seen these kinds of books, although some of my gamer’s make quick connections to the ways that video games use the same techniques. In the next days, we will be doing some writing and then some deeper reading and mapping of these books, and then move into a larger project using Google Slides as a launching point for Interactive Fiction, where hyperlinks become the way a reader “jumps” through the decision trees.

Peace (active and interactive),
Kevin