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

Six Word Slice of Life: Protest

(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: Today is the National Student Walk-Out Day, and although our elementary school is not officially part of the student-led protest against gun violence and in favor of more gun control, my heart is with students everywhere. My sons (13 and 17) will likely take part in walk-outs planned at their two schools. Students in the middle and high school in my district — my former students — will be involved in protest and activities. Will any of my current sixth graders want to walk out today? Or have 17 minutes of silence? Not one has mentioned doing so to me and our administration has not pushed the issue, due to the thorny debates and age of our students, and snow days and other things have disrupted our schedule. We’ll see. My thoughts will be with all students, everywhere, today, that they can make the change the adults are afraid to make.

Six Word Slice of Life Protest

Peace (bringing the possibility),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Visiting Teachers

(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, two seventh English teachers from the middle school came down to visit our sixth grade classroom. They have been making the rounds to all five of our regional elementary schools, to peek at what kinds of writing and learning are going on. We were able to chat for about 30 minutes about a range of topics, including finding a shared sixth grade novel that could become a touchstone text for discussions when all sixth graders arrive together in seventh grade (but different from a summer reading book). It was a nice visit, very positive, and my students were just starting an Interactive Fiction project, so they were excited and energized and happy to talk with our visitors about what they were up to with writing. We don’t do enough of these kinds of visiting classrooms in our district, and almost never do we do seventh grade teachers coming into sixth grade classrooms (and vice versa). So, this was a welcome endeavor.

Six Word Slice of Life Visitors

Peace (visits us),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Play Quidditch Plays

(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: If you have been hanging out with me for many March SOLs behind us, you know that this time of year, our sixth grade shifts into Quidditch Season. Yes, we play our version of Quidditch — this is the 19th year of it. This version of the game was first developed by students, and then we have adapted it over the years. I try to incorporate different writing activities into our class as part of these activities (which culminate in a day-long Quidditch Tournament between the four sixth grade classrooms). One of the expository writing pieces I have them do is to design a Quidditch play and then write an explanation of how to play the play. This connects to our work with informational text, of using images as a text, and Quidditch itself.

Six Word Slice of Life Quidditch Plays

Want a closer look at some of the plays?

Quidditch Play Collage 2018

Want to learn how we play our version of Quidditch? (It’s very different from the college-level game)

Peace (on and off the court),
Kevin

 

Six Word Slice of Life: Story Branches

(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: We began our unit this week on Interactive Fiction, stories where there are “branches” or choices to be made, and every decision sends you on another path. A few kids have read these stories, and some immediately connect to the narrative arcs of video games, but for others, this is a whole new way of thinking of reading, and then writing, a story. So, I begin with read-aloud, and as a class, we make choices on the flow of a story — this one is called The Green Slime. On the board, I map out the choices we make, showing in visual fashion the various “branches” of the story. Four classes, one book, four very different maps.

Six Word Slice of Life Branches

Peace (branches for support),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Questions (on the bus line)

(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: It’s an unscheduled early dismissal day because of the impending snow. The students are all waiting in line, ready to depart to the bus loop, with the understanding of knowing we went just long enough not to have to make up the day in June. Winter has already taken its toll, and our school district is threading the needle on this Nor’easter storm and its strange timing. A question works its way down the line: What’s the first thing you will do when you get home today? Food, play, sleep, read are common answers. Me, too.

Six Word Slice of Life Waiting

Peace (waiting it out),
Kevin