Slice of Life: I eye i

(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 spent a good part of the long weekend reading and assessing short stories, the first large writing project that my sixth graders have done this school year. There were a lot of fun and interesting stories, but one thing kept sticking out for me.

i

i

i

You may know that I am all in support of the ways that technology and digital writing techniques and possibilities have opened up many writing opportunities for young people. Embedded media, hyperlink associations, etc. Composition is changing, and I’m fine with that. And young people are writing all the time. Writing is at the heart of most of the texting, video creating, commenting, Instagramming, status updating, etc. that they do.

Yet …

I still get frustrated by the use of “i” instead of “I” when it comes to more formal writing. It feels like one of those non-negotiables when it comes to formal writing, right?

I do mini-lessons around techniques of proofreading and of writing, and of how different formalities of writing call for different things. Lower case “i” is fine for texting with friends, I tell them, but not for formal school writing, and I show them, and explain it to them.

Still, the i persists.

It’s likely a combination of them seeing the lower case so much in other places and spaces that their eye doesn’t immediately notice it, as mine does. Immediately. When using their Google Docs accounts, the “i” is not always deemed a spell-check issue, I’ve observed. So no red squiggles appear on the screen. I don’t know why not. I also know they should not need to rely on the red squiggles for something as simple as “i” becoming “I”. Finally, we all know that proofreading is always a struggle for young writers.

Sigh.

Maybe there are a few ee cummings in the mix …

Peace (i mean it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Out On the Wire

(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 may have written a bit about this last year, too. Our team-building outdoor adventure field trip happens this time of year, and yesterday, we took our sixth graders to an all-day outdoor space, with the highlight for many being the high ropes course.

High Ropes

Watching from the ground, with the deep blue sky above, is always an interesting perspective.

High Ropes

What you can’t hear are is the soundtrack of all the students not on the wires, shouting out encouragement and advice. That’s as wonderful as watching kids counter their fears of the course by completing it.

High Ropes

Peace (in the skyline),
Kevin

Making Writing Visible

Making Storywriting Visible

My sixth grade writers are in the midst of a fiction writing project, where our focus has been on plot design, dialogue writing, proofreading, openings and more. As usual, as they have been writing, I have been writing, too, and as I try to do, I have been sharing my drafts and process as we go along.

Yesterday, I shared out this opening to my story, in which the narrator is sent back in time by Book (a character I’ve pilfered from our reading of Book: My Autobiography) to Gutenberg’s time, in order to help him with the printing press and find a way back home for the narrator. I made lots of notes in the margins, and read them out as I read them the story, trying to articulate my “moves” as a writer.

It’s not that I want them to emulate my story construction, but some of the techniques become more visible this way.

It occurred to me later that a good activity would be to do a crowd-sourced annotation of a story with them, and ask them to identify and annotate places where various writing techniques are visible in the text.

Hmmm …

Peace (stories abound),
Kevin

100 Years From Now … State of the Book

Books (stories) of the Future

I mentioned the other day how I use Book: My Autobiography as a read-aloud with my sixth graders at the start of the year as a way to introduce creative non-fiction and a history lesson around the evolution of stories and books over time.

A writing prompt in their writing notebook afterwards asks them to consider the world 100 years into the future — 2117 — and sketch out and explain some ideas about what stories will look like and/or how stories will get delivered to readers. In other words, what will books be like in 100 years?

The picture above is my example — I envision Tattoo Stories which can be shared and remixed with others.

Stories of Future Collage

My students have a range of ideas, including:

  • Embedded story contact lens for your eyes (and/or wearable glasses that do the same thing)
  • Holographic characters who act out the story in front of you (and other variations of virtual and augmented reality concepts)
  • A device that you sit in and punch in information about protagonist and antagonist character traits, and a story gets created into some form, in the moment
  • Books and stories that float nearby, and move along with you as you walk around, so you always have new stories in reach
  • Story microchips inserted into your mind so that you can active a tale at any time
  • Portable personal libraries that appear when you need a book from the shelves and disappear when you don’t need it
  • Foldable books that can easily — no matter the size — fit into the corner of your pocket
  • Story cars, busses and trucks — the entire vehicle is a moving story of some sort and the driver is the reader

Who knows. I suspect we will still have good ol’ book with us, too. I hope so.

Peace (thinking forward),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Not Yet Grounded

(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.)

So much of the start of the year is about finding out more about who our students are as learners, as writers. I’m still figuring that out, particularly now that I have a short story project underway that involves multiple steps (planning, drafting, etc.) and involves more critical thinking and effort that anything we have yet done this year. One of my four classes has quite a mix of struggling writers and behavior issues that stems from the grouping of students, and some of these students already seem disinterested in what we are doing (five weeks into the school year).

I lost my patience in class a bit with one of the students yesterday who was being disruptive, even after some warnings and moving to another part of the room. I knew in the very moment it was happening that calling them out was the wrong approach. This student clearly needs a more personal approach, and other ways to engage, and I am going to make time to today for a one-on-one chat, to both apologize for my approach and to try to brainstorm ways to deal with that behavior if it comes again. That doesn’t mean the disruption is acceptable. But I could have figured out a better way to address it.

Much of the behavior issue stems from a resistance to writing (so, it is going to be a long year, since writing is a key feature of everything we do) and struggles with learning. The behavior is clearly a way to divert attention, to provide a front for peers. I get it. I’m going to have to work through all that cloud to get to the real kid in there and help them make gains with their writing.

It’s on me, as much as on them.

I wish every class were this well-oiled machine, where everything flows perfectly. It’s not. Almost never is. And that’s one of the most challenging elements of being an educator — the unpredictability of kids and their lives, and how what happens in expected moments of the classroom changes the dynamics of the space  — and one of the things that makes being a teacher so rewarding when breakthroughs happen.

Peace (finding my ground),
Kevin

Teaching Attribution

This “card” will be helpful for my students to have in from of them when I get into my lessons around digital media and attribution principles, with a focus on how to search for Creative Commons for projects and how to use what other people have made in our own work.

This tutorial image comes from a useful post over at KQED called “Pause Before Downloading” and that article also includes a helpful list of places to look for Creative Common images.

And I don’t want to forget that Alan Levine’s handy attribution tool for images is something to install as a bookmarklet on our school laptop browsers. Alan has created a simple way to make sure you have the language of attribution down. Just drag the bookmarklet into your browser and whenever you find a Creative Commons image, just click on it and it will give you options for attribution. I use it all the time at home. Simple. Powerful. Handy.

Peace (link it),
Kevin

 

Newspaper/Podcast: Sparking A Love of Independent Reading

Gazette Chalk Talk

A column that I wrote for our local newspaper through an ongoing monthly publishing partnership via the Western Massachusetts Writing Project to feature WMWP teacher-writers ran yesterday morning. In it, I explored how the book Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst has me wondering what else I can do to get my sixth graders deeper into independent reading. The stats they provide, and my own classroom observations, indicate a decline in “books in hand” and I find that alarming. I decided to do a podcast version of the piece.

Peace (listening in),
Kevin

The History of Stories through the Eyes of Book

This is the second year I have used the creative nonfiction text — Book: My Autobiography by John Agard (illustrations by Neil Packer)– as an opening novel with my sixth graders. I read it aloud (and we do some various activities with it, including some sketch-noting) so we can talk about where stories come from, and where books and texts have evolved from.

This short book (which we humorously refer to as Book book in class), with lots of woodcut drawings, does a nice job of giving Book (a collective voice of every book ever written) a role as personable and wise narrator as we move through the timeline of history, from oral storytelling to papyrus to paper to illuminated texts to printing presses to libraries to ebooks and more.

In using the Book book, I laying the historical foundation for why we write and why and how we read stories, and how stories change who we are in powerful ways. I wish I could spend a few more weeks doing more activities — long ago, I did a printmaking activity for a newspaper unit — but I need to keep moving along.

We do make time for activity in which they design a book, or story delivery system, for a time 100 years into the future. I wonder what they will be making this week …

My students mostly enjoy Book book, although the chapter where we learn about book burning and the ways dictators often target writing and writers as symbols of dissent is a little unnerving. (It gives me a chance to chat about banned books, too).

I also do love how the book itself is scattered about with poems and proverbs and excerpts from writers from all over the world, from many cultures.

And of course, the storyline of Book book is another entry into how literacy has shaped the world, particularly during moments when an innovation opened up the possibilities of reading and writing to those who would not otherwise have had access, leading to eras like the Reformation and the Enlightenment.

Peace (in the book),
Kevin

Circle the Story/ Make the Dot

Dot Day Circle Stories 2017

Yesterday, my sixth graders took park in International Dot Day (which celebrates artistic and creative spirit) by writing Circle Stories (short stories with either a circular object or a circular theme) and using the words to paint the stories into circles (or dots).

Dot Day Circle Stories 2017

We then added them to a Padlet canvas as part of the sharing out with the millions of people who were also participating in Dot Day around the world. If you look at the #dotday hashtag stream on Twitter, you can see some incredible and amazing Dot Day activities going on. It’s all pretty inspiring, and dots are simple and flexible for all ages.

Made with Padlet

Peace (dots everywhere),
Kevin

Celebrating Dot Day

Dot Day ... come create

It’s International Dot Day. Nearly 10 million people in nearly 170 countries have signed up to be creative today, inspired by Peter Reynold’s The Dot picture book. That’s a whole lot of dots being made in the world with positive ink. What mark on the world will you make? (I made the comic above).

My sixth graders will be making Circle Stories today (writing about round objects in a short story format) and then using Visual Poetry to draw dots with the words of their stories. They will then add then to a Padlet canvas to share out with the world.

Simple, but powerful connection points.

Peace (making a difference),
Kevin