Student Voices on Art and Peace for National Day on Writing

Yesterday, students in each of my classes did some podcasting for the National Day on Writing.

They had written an artist statement about a Lions’ Club international Peace Poster project now underway with our art teacher, with a theme of Our World/Our Future. When their posters are hanging up around the school, their artists statement will be part of that. I am still mulling over the best way to connect the podcasts to the posters in a digital space. Maybe Voicethread …

Here are a few of the podcasts:

Peace (in every poster),


Of Field Trips, Vocabulary and Comics

We went on a whitewater rafting trip last week and when we got back, I challenged my students to create comics about the trip, using some of our vocabulary words. A few have gone into our webcomic site but a few chose to do traditional comics.

Check them out:
Raft collage


Peace (in the panels),

Stories Untold: Short Story Titles by Sixth Graders

Here, at the start of the year with my sixth graders, we do a lot of brainstorming activities. This writing prompt has them generating a list of short story titles that they might pull from during the year for various writing-into-the-day activities. Plus, it is interesting to see what they come up with. Here are just a few from the list of 80 short story titles of stories not yet written. I put them in Prezi to give them a little “wow.”

Peace (in the story),

What It Looks Like When We Hack Chess

hack chess collage 2013
My sixth graders have been working in collaborative groups to hack the game of chess, with new pieces and new rules on how to play. I’ll share more later as part of a larger collaborative DS106 radio project but this collage nicely captures some of the work they are doing to invent new board games out of traditional ideas.

Peace (in the hack),


Slice of Life: Did You Approve My Comic?


(This is for Slice of Life)

She was barely in the door, when she asked: “Did you approve my comic?” When I answered, yes, she jumped and shouted out, “Yes!” and high-fived her friend. Talk about getting excited about publishing. We’ve been using an online webcomic space and it’s interesting how the act of sharing out work to an audience of peers within the closed webcomic community of just a classroom can really bring forth a certain amount of excitement and motivation.

Honestly, I liked her comic because of the musical theme, and girl empowerment. She’ll be happy to know that I am sharing her comic here, too, I suspect.


Peace (in the frames),


What My Writing Looks Like When I Freewrite

Freewrite with Students Oct2013
I am going to use this image for another post in another space, but I thought it gives a pretty good view of what a page of my writing notebook looks like when I am freewriting over the course of a day, which is what I was doing with my students the other day.  There is a poem in the middle, some funny notes making fun of myself along the edge, and then the sketch when I got lost and didn’t know what to write. You should have heard the gasps and laughter when I shared this page with students. They expect that I write perfect, every time, but no … my writing is often a mess and a stew of ideas that sometimes coil around a theme.

Not always, but sometimes ….

Peace (from the writer to reader),


Dreaming of School Themes

Schools of Their Choice
We had just finished up an interesting article about schools that are developed along themes and so, that led to an activity in which they did some thinking and writing about the school they would want to establish and attend along a certain theme. There were interesting choices, beyond the popular sports motif. Can I say I was happy that Engineering and Math, along with culinary and agriculture, were on the list? I have a student body with broad interests, that’s for sure.

Peace (in the school),

More Connections and Sharing in the World

Skype with Virginia collage

We connected with another class of sixth graders — with Michelle Haseltine’s class in Virginia — to talk about similar projects that our students worked on to start the year around dreams, aspirations and goals. The video feed didn’t quite work on their end, but we still chatted and shared for about 20 minutes, and we are planning more talks in the future.

One topic that emerged from the students in Virginia was the question of how to stay focused when writing. If you could have seen the virtual high five I gave Michelle, you would know that this is the kind of question that a teacher lives for, particularly when it is asked with no adult prompting. And my students did a fine job of talking about strategies and techniques that they use to remain focused on a piece of writing. I was so proud of them for stepping up and articulating those ideas.

For our part, my kids were jealous that Michelle’s class is piloting a laptop program, allowing them to use technology in all of their classes through the course of the day, as needed. It was a nice connection to start the year (and my class’s second outreach to another school) as I try to continue my goal of connecting my students to the world.

Peace (in the talk),

The Loudest Pencil in the World

We’ve been working on a short story project for the past few days, and I have been so amazed at the quiet focus of my sixth graders on this project. You can hear a pin drop for 45 minutes at a time as they work on their stories. Then, yesterday, in one of my classes, all you could hear was this one kid’s pencil in the back of the room. It was incredibly noisy. It might have been his grip, or his intensity, or the table surface … who knows.

But as they wrote, I composed this poem:

The Loudest Pencil in the World

I just heard
the loudest pencil in the world;

Some kid in the back of the room
with a Kung Fu grip
and words tumbling out of him like an avalanche –
He’s racing to keep up,
pushing lead to stay ahead of his ideas,
else all might be lost …

And, boy, I know that feeling – all too well –
yet I write quiet,
so as to not cause a riot in my foolish head
as every sliver of sound has the potential
to get me lost
on some byway of my own way of thinking.

His pencil?
It shouts;
It hollers;
It sings;
It’s the loudest pencil in the world.
He’s scratching out a symphony in the back of the room
and the sounds have us all wondering –
I can see the heads of other students popping up
like prairie dogs now and then –
what is he writing,
and will his writing stay in tune

And I wrote it to be read and listened to, paying attention to internal rhymes. So, here is the podcast:

Peace (in the poem),

A Few Dreams to Inspire Them …

My students are working on their Dream Scene projects (done in a webcomic space) and I am enjoying getting to know them a little better through their aspirations (Note: I am sharing two versions here — the flash version and then the image version.)

Peace (in the dreams),