Neighborhood Maps Spark Discussions Of Community

(This dovetails nicely with Slice of Life)
Map Collage1

My students were working on maps of their own neighborhoods, as part of the National Day on Writing yesterday. We were using mapping as a way to think about community, about how mapmakers focus on what is important and what is not so important by using color and scale. And as students shared out their maps (with our classroom and then, online, with the #6Connect project), the discussions of neighborhoods transformed into discussions about community (with a little help from me).

map collage2

I love the idea of visually representing a place, and my students enjoyed thinking of how to represent their neighborhoods as a map as well as providing some insights into where they live on a day when we were writing and thinking about community for the National Day on Writing.

map collage3

Peace (on the map and beyond),
Kevin

Navigating Network Fluency

Network Fluency
I am just starting up a mandatory graduate level course by our state’s Department of Education about how all teachers can best reach our English Language Learner students through Sheltered Immersion techniques. I won’t say I am overly-excited about the amount of work that will be expected of us in the coming weeks/months, nor am I all that thrilled that we have to use Blackboard as our LMS (hate it), but the class discussions so far have been interesting.

I’m making a leap here (and it may be a bit of metaphorical ramble, so bear with me) but the theme of Network Fluency in the Connected Courses has me thinking of some parallels of thought. Just as I am learning more techniques for helping my ELL students navigate different languages, academic content, cultural expectations and learning platforms, so too are we in Connected Courses considering the “fluidity” of learners across online spaces. Being comfortable in one space/network does not translate into being fluent in the other space/network.

This comes to mind for me as I think about watching the flow on Twitter, or in the blog roll of Connected Courses, and how intriguing it has been to watch university folks move over some of the same ground as we have done in our Making Learning Connected MOOC, yet from a slightly different angle — of syllabus design, of institutional barriers and/or support, of wondering whether pushing barriers will hurt/enhance academic opportunities. The language and discourse of Academia has a different nuance to it, and the idea of Network Fluency is not just ‘Do I know how to use this space?’ but also ‘Can I project an identity into this space that has value for me?’

Right?

Network fluency #ccourses

Early on, I declared that I would only be observing the Connected Course. That didn’t happen (laugh track). That didn’t happen because the facilitators made me feel welcome and important to the conversations. I didn’t feel talked down to because I was “a sixth grade teacher” in the midst of university professors. A space at the table was made for me. Lurker, no more (although we wrote extensively about the value of observing from afar for learning and even about that term itself).

Over the course of a typical week, I realize, I am bouncing around many networks, most with distinct styles and certain lexicons of their own. From the physical networks embedded in my school day, to the online networks whose tone shifts depending upon the platform (Twitter, etc.) and the people who inhabit those spaces with me (serious? humorous? inbetween?). The way I write in various National Writing Project networks is slightly different from the way I write in others.  Sometimes, I connect in with more personal writing via Slice of Life.

We become fluent in these networking spaces by learning and participating, and with assistance of others, just as my ELL students are doing  in my classroom– watching, reading signs, paying attention to cultural markers, taking chances, finding confidence and then, establishing a voice that is valued. The social capital that is discussed in Connected Courses is the connections between those in the space, where trust is the glue that holds it all together. In the Connected Courses, I trust that my views as an elementary teacher will have value. In my classroom, I hope my students trust our classroom community enough to participate and take chances with their thinking, to push the boundaries.

If those things fall apart or never quite take hold at a comfortable level in my own networks, at least I have the opportunity to leave the spaces I am part of (well, except for things like the ELL training). I mostly pack up and say, that’s not for me.

My students? They can’t do that (another difference with university folks, where students can drop out). My young students’ network/language fluency depends upon me to construct scaffolding for them, so they can not just enter the conversations, but so they can be facilitators in those discussions, too, bringing the best of what they offer to the forefront of our collective learning.

If that sounds just like the way we think about the networks we wander into out here, in the virtual spaces, then I have made that thematic leap from my classroom to my networks clear. If not, eh, sorry.

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

A Few Six Word Webcomic Memoirs

Some students are finishing up the optional project of creating a Six Word Memoir in our webcomic space, and they are quite interesting to view. Here are a few that stuck out with me:
Sara the Writer

My_Six_Word_Memoir (1)

My_Six_Word_Memoir (3)

My_Six_Word_Memoir (2)

Peace (in six words),
Kevin

Don’t You Know, We’re Talkin’ About Our Aspirations

dream scene word cloud 2014
One of my all-time favorite start-of-the-year activities is our Dream Scene Project, in which students work on a project of their aspirations for sometime in the future. Over the years, this project has morphed from a paper art project, to a digital storytelling project, to the current form of a webcomic project.

The Dream Scene project involves students thinking of a dream for themselves, why it is important and how they are going to make it happen in life. Along with the mixed media that I introduce, this project gives me some keen insights into the minds of my students early on in the year, and sparks some great conversations about interests outside of school and where their heart is at.

I had interesting conversations this week with a student who wants to travel to Africa as a volunteer, and help fight poverty. Another conversation was with a musician who wants to write songs and sing for the world. Another is already writing her own novel and wants to be a writer (she already is!). There are two boys who want to form a technology company, and they already have a name and have begun some tinkering with their phones. A few would be happy to have a stable family and a roof over their heads.

It’s all good!

The word cloud above represents the various themes of their Dream Scenes from across four classes of sixth graders. These kids are going to change the world someday.

This is the one I shared out for myself:
Mr H Dream Scene

 

Peace (in dreams),
Kevin

My Students as Comics

I love gathering our “comic” versions of ourselves for the first days of the school year. As my sixth grade students make avatars (and as we talk about digital representations) in our webcomic space (Bitstrips for Schools), it creates a classroom picture, with all of our comic avatars together.

Check it out:
Comic Classrooms

Peace (in the strangeness of ourselves),
Kevin

Five Ways Our School Year Started Out Great

The first few days of school are times when you start to learn a lot about the character of your class. Sure, kids are a bit muted as they settle into routines and try to get a sense of their teacher(s). But you can still learn a lot. This Haiku Deck is a way to reflect on our first four days together, and things we have already accomplished. I have a great class of sixth graders!


Five Ways Our Year Started Out Great – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Peace (in the five),
Kevin

Considering Comic Literacies

My latest blog post is up at MiddleWeb and I consider comics in a variety of ways. What drove this piece is realizing that while many of students read graphic novels, they don’t all understand how to “read” graphic stories. Come see what I am talking about.

Read my piece at Middleweb.

This is a project that my class did to create a graphic story rendition of one of our novels.

Peace (in the frames),
Kevin

Surveying Students: The High And Lows of the Year

I try to give a final writing prompt for my students, asking them to rate the various projects we have undertaken, and books we have read, and offer them a place to grade me (if they want) and to offer suggestions for improving what I teach and how. This year, I decided to use the Adobe Voice app to make a short digital story of some of the data I collected. I decided not to add my own narration and just let the slides speak for themselves. It seemed more effective that way, like a silent movie.

Peace (in the reflection),
Kevin

How To … Diagrams from Student Writing


It really is by chance that one of my students’ last writing assignments (but not the very last — they are finishing up a short story projerct) was an expository piece, or a How To Do Something paragraph. I say “by chance” because the first Make Cycle of the Making Learning Connected MOOC is all about creating a How To Do Something project.

Along with the writing, my students had to diagram out the sequence of the steps of whatever it was that they were showing us how to do. The results were pretty interesting (and came on the heels of doing some fun work with Rube Goldberg Machine drawings).

I grabbed a bunch of diagrams and popped them into Animoto.

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

 

What They Will Make: A Media Project

What Will You Make media project
We’re in the last week and a half of the school year, but we’re still making and creating in my classroom. Students are finishing up a short story project (theme: a person from history is stuck inside a game and the narrator has to go into the game and get them out). Part of the project is to make a media component to the story, and what they make is wide open. I offer some suggestions (make a video game, create a story/movie trailer, compose a comic, etc.) but leave it to them to decide what they want to do.

This chart is just another way of representing some options, and my classroom has been abuzz the last few days as students are working on the media projects and their short stories, with time running out on us.

The chart connects nicely to the launch of the Making Learning Connected MOOC, too, as the ethos of the collaboration is all about choice, making things of interest and sharing within a community.

Peace (in the share),
Kevin