Slice of Life: Bag o’ Work Left at School

(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.)

This is the first Spring vacation week in memory where I didn’t have an overflowing bag of student writing (either literally, or figuratively, now that I use Google Classroom for much of our writing) to read and assess and comment upon. My carrying bag, the one that is often filled with student work, is still in my classroom. I didn’t need it.

Either through planning (there was some of that, to be sure) or sheer luck of where our unit is right now (there is some of that), I’ve been able to mostly keep it relaxed so far this week.

So, why does that make me feel guilty? Sheesh.

I’m so used to spending time outside of school with student writing, and thinking of lesson plans and activity flow, that when things slow down, I feel as if something should be happening. Helping students make progress with their learning — with their writing — that’s what teachers do.

Ok, but … still … relax.

Enjoy your books. Enjoy your family. Enjoy Spring (even with snow and sleet still on the ground from yesterday’s storm that gave us permission to stay inside most of the day). Think about the days ahead when we get back, but not too much.

The dog needs a walk. Go on and do it.

Peace (on the horizon),
Kevin

At Middleweb: Mistakes Were Made


Broken Glass flickr photo by spi516 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Hmm. I guess I never posted this. Another mistake.

I had wanted to share this column I wrote for Middleweb a few weeks back, about reflecting on where things have gone wrong in my classroom. This is a necessary ballast to stories I often share of where things go right in my classrooms. Reality is messier. Kids are unpredictable. And I don’t always know what to do.

Head to Middleweb to read Mistakes Were Made

Peace (fixing it, slowly),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Stories on the Wall

(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.)

Like many teachers, I try to display student work throughout the year, both as a way to get some of our stories read by classmates and to showcase some exemplary work. I often will take names off the work, for various reasons, and my closet door often becomes one of the classroom posting sites. Students line up near the closet at the end of class, so it becomes a prime viewing spot.

I had placed a bunch of stories written as part of a lesson around remixing stories from a different character perspective — we used Rikki Tikki Tavi as our core story — and it was a few days later that one of the writers was reading the stories during a lull when he gasped, and shouted out that he recognized his writing. (The stories were typed, so handwriting was not a visual give-away).

“Hey, that’s my story! I wrote that! That’s my story!”

His friends all came over to look and read with him. Then, they started to read and re-read the others.

Student Writing on Display

Peace (displayed, read, celebrated),
Kevin

 

Six Word Slice of Life: Quiet Wriot

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: There’s something magical about watching classrooms of students, working hard at a piece of writing. The quiet focus, and deep attention, of the young writing talent is evidence in the quiet. Yesterday, my students were working on a “story remix” activity — retelling a story from another character’s perspective (in this case, Rikki Tikki Tavi) — and I just marveled at the way so many them were so quickly lost in their writing, nearly oblivious to the time on the clock. Forty-five minutes after starting their stories, I brought them up for air, as we wrapped up our writing session.

Six Word Slice of Life Quiet

Peace (write it),
Kevin

 

Six Word Slice of Life: Computer Use

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: As a professional development facilitator with our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, I’ve too often run into situations where our teachers and programs have been shut out of computer labs for weeks at a time, all because the computers were being used for testing and data collection. Mostly, this was in our urban high-needs schools, where access to computers was already limited for many students. It drove me crazy. Now, my own school is making the shift to have students take our state’s standardized testing system (MCAS) online, with computers. During our training session yesterday after school, as we learned about the teacher portal and the student interface, it occurred to me again that the vision of how I see computers — as a means for composing with media and pushing the boundaries of what we define as writing — and how state administrators see computers — a means of gathering data on students and schools — are often in conflict with each other. On the other hand, our school community — not one to often provide money for our school, which is near the lowest in the state in per pupil expenditures — did allocate quite a bit of investment last year for new computers. However, the town did that because of the worry about state testing, not for fear that our students aren’t learning important technology and communication skills. We take what we can get, I guess, and make the most of it.

Six Word Slice of Life Testing

Peace (power it up),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: From Design Flow to Interactive Story

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: I wrote the other day about the ways my sixth graders were making design plans to create Interactive Fiction stories inside Google Slides. Since then, they have been working hard to bring the stories to fruition, and by yesterday, many were finishing up the writing and proofreading of their stories. I enjoy this time of reading the finished game/stories, after so much work with conferencing on narrative ideas and technical assistance.

Six Word Slice of Life Student Stories

You can read a few of their stories (It’s best to go full screen to experience the pieces … use the hyperlinks to move along the narrative choices):

 

Peace (make a choice),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Kids, Dancing

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: Yesterday was our annual Sixth Grade Quidditch Tournament at my school. My class (they chose Tsunami as their name) came close to winning, but not close enough. Still, they had a blast, playing our version of Quidditch all day long in our gym before the rest of the school and visiting families. At night, the teachers’ team — Pink Fury — took on sixth graders in a fun match, and I will be feeling the effects of that event for a few days, I am sure. My six words are not about the tournament itself, which I have written about in the past, but about what happens in-between the games. The DJ (DJ Fred: mailman by day, DJ by night) kicks up the jams, and a horde of students rush to the gym floor to dance together. It’s quite a sight to see hundreds of elementary students — from young kids to older kids to adults — doing line-dancing and other popular moves in sync, all with smiles and laughing and joyfulness. I wish I had a picture of all that but it is clear in my mind — this ocean of young dancers.

Six Word Slice of Life Dancing

Peace (dancing it),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Peaceful Silence

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: This is the time of year when the work we did around routines earlier in the year can begin to pay off. Sometimes. We’re into an independent reading unit, and I try to stay true to the need to carve out about 15 to 20 minutes of each class for quiet reading. The kids sprawl out around the room, and after getting settled, they are almost all quiet, immersed, engaged in their novels. I love that silence.

Six Word Slice of Life Silent Reading

One of my students saw a video from last year, when we did our Mannequin Challenge of frozen readers, and he asked if we could do one this year. So, yes, of course we did. It was a ton of fun.

Peace (on the pages),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Fragile Students

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: Actually, I don’t want to give much context today, to protect the privacy of my students. I just want to say that the inner lives of our students are complex and confusing at times for them, and their grappling with difficulties and stress and anxiety and friendships can suddenly surface in unexpected ways. Helping our students through that, as best as they can, is part of what makes teaching both challenging and rewarding.

Six Word Slice of Life Fragility

Peace (inside, too),
Kevin