The Staff Talent Show: Stray Cat Strut

I should have know someone would have videotaped our staff act at the Talent Show and put it up on YouTube. I don’t mind. In fact, it allows me to share it with you (I shared it with all of my students today since some of them did not attend the event).

That’s me on the saxophone — in white shirt and black hat. And we are playing live — no lip syncing for us. Everyone on stage is a member of our staff, except the drummer, who is a friend of the staff (he drums for us whenever we have a need).

Peace (as a real cool cat),
Kevin

Stop-Motion Lego Exploration

Yesterday, I finally got some students working on using our stop-motion software (it’s free for PC!) on the laptops. I carted in a HUGE bucket of Legos from my kids’ closet (don’t say a thing … top secret) and let my students just explore the use of creating short stop-motion movies.

In about 30 minutes, all five groups had created something and most had begun to understand how to capture frames, how to get your hand out of the way (crucial) and how to be incremental in your movements of objects.

This will all lead us to a Claymation Project very soon (this year’s theme: climate change).

I uploaded two small Lego Movies via Flickr and share them here. These are raw — no sound or anything. So, hum a little song in your head as you watch, OK?

Peace (in ssssslllllllloooooooo mmmmmmmooooootttttiiiiioooooonnnnnnn),
Kevin

Space, Edition 2

George Mayo and his students continue to promote a great idea: an online student journal that is essentially run by students. The first edition was released about a month ago and this weekend, the finishing touches were put on the second edition.

It is a pretty amazing collection of student work that reflects some inroads into writing in the digital age. There are movies, stories, essays, poems and animation — all with links back to student and class sites. Students submit work through the YouthTwitter Network.

I have a handful of students who submitted some pieces to Space again this time around, including a few hyperlinked poems. We used Powerpoint for our linked compositions, but other students from other schools used Hypertextopia as the platform for publications and sharing.

Here are pieces from my students:

What I like is the possibilities here. The digital canvas might allow for students to really explore different kinds of composition and writing, and then share it with a real audience of other students. You could never do this with a paper journal. Movies, audio, animation, etc, would all be flattened down.

The next edition of Space may be handed off to students elsewhere (more on that in the coming weeks) and a wiki may become the publishing platform. I like how the investigation of the right tool is still being explored. The first edition used Google Docs, then Google Page Creator, and now maybe Wikispaces.

Peace (in student work),
Kevin

 

PS — Another amazing project by George and his students was a collective writing project called @manyvoices, in which more than 100 students from around the world contributed to a collaborative story using Twitter. I ordered a book version from Lulu publishing, and it was pretty amazing. You can also download a free PDF version from Lulu, too.

 

Alliteration, Personification and Quidditch: A classroom tour

Every now and then, I like to share out some of the projects my students are engaged with in the classroom. The past two weeks, we have been working on Figurative Language as we gear up for poetry, and then songwriting. I wrote a post about the use of hyperbole for tall tales over at TeachEng.Us last week. We also looked at comic books for Onomatopoeia, did some games around Idioms, reviewed similes and metaphors, and listened to color poems for Imagery.

For Alliteration, we worked on tongue twisters, using Dr. Seuss as an entry point into the crazy ways that words can make your tongue jump, twist and turn. Some of the students participated in a podcast of their tongue twisters, after I first shared out the twisters that I wrote for myself and the other three teachers on my team. I used a little Olympus voice recorder to move around the room.

Take a listen to our Tongue Twister Podcast

Then, for Personification, we talked about how it can be used for an entire story (Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, for example) or in a sentence. We created some sentences, got on the computers, and they had to illustrate one of the four Personification sentences that we composed. Here are some of the illustrations:

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Finally, our school is in the middle of Quidditch season, and one art activity that we do with them is the creation of team t-shirts. I went into the art room with my camera to capture some of the work they were doing for our team: The Ice Legend.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Here is the shirt the kids are working on for me. I let them do what they want and hope they won’t embarrass me too much.

Peace (in student work),
Kevin

Space: the new (literary) frontier

George Mayo, who helped pull together the Many Voices for Darfur project, is at it again — this time, he has launched an online magazine to showcase student writing. It is called Space and it is an offshoot of the YouthTwitter Project that he and others (including friend Paul Allison) have begun as a way to connect students together.

George is using Google Docs as a main platform for the online publication and students submit pieces of writing through YouthTwitter. I really wanted some of my students to get some “space” and so we joined YouthTwitter as a classroom account (for now) and submitted six short stories based on the Chris Van Allsburg book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick (which I wrote about before and even did a podcast book review). I used Google Page Creator to put the stories on their own webpages and then shared the web addresses via YouthTwitter.

One day, I read a concrete poem that George submitted (about concrete poems, appropriately enougy), so I figured I would submit some writing myself — a concrete poem in the shape of a saxophone that I created a few years ago and share with my students every year.

Today is the first publication date of Space and it is a nice mix of student work. I would love to have my students move more into hyperlinked poetry (next month, I hope!) and multimedia creations (I have some burdening moviemakers in class). I think the digital platform holds some interesting opportunities for students to compose and publish for a real audience (always a good thing).

Space might even inspire me to venture into hyperlinked poetry myself, something I have considered but never pursued. Thanks, George, for the inspiration.

Peace (in publication),
Kevin

My Darfur-ian Day: blogs, podcasting, social action

My students were so excited to be part of the Many Voices for Darfur project. They were writing and then blogging and then podcasting and then reading the blog posts of other students and we even attempted a Skype call with the students from The Blurb (didn’t quite work out but excitement generated was worth the attempt)

At last count, I saw more than 450 comments on the Many Voices for Darfur blog. Wow.

One of my students really wanted to make a slideshow about Darfur:

christdarfur

briDarfur

briDarfur (5)

christdarfur (1)

christdarfur (2)

christdarfur (3)

And here are the class podcasts (they are a bit long):

The kids are now talking about ways to raise some money to help the Darfur relief agencies and we are bouncing around some ideas. I love that the writing and blogging is moving into social action.

Peace (in the world),
Kevin

Darfur Project: An overview and a launch

The Many Voices for Darfur was the focus of a recent Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast in which students and teachers talk about the blogging social action project that launches today and tomorrow to gather many posts from young people around the world.

Listen to the TTT episode.

If you want to learn more, or if you want to get your students involved, you can head to the Many Voices for Darfur Project.

Peace (with students taking action),
Kevin

The Revised Darfur Video

My students were singing today, helping with a revised version of my Darfur protest song entitled “I’m Still Waiting (for the world to get it right)” and they (and I) had a blast with it all day long. I have four different writing classes and all listened to the song, and then practiced it, and then we recorded it.

I used Audacity and then mixed all 80 student voices together as backing vocals. Tomorrow, I show them the video and get to work on writing their persuasive writing projects as part of the Many Voices for Darfur project.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=7768949726610095025" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

But you can also download the MP3 version of the song by using THIS HYPERLINK or you can just listen in.

Peace (in the world),
Kevin

Darfur Protest Song/Video

I wrote this song about the Darfur situation and I hope to bring the song into my classroom and have my students sing some back-up. Will it work? I have no idea but it could be pretty cool. I’m interested in having them think about how songwriting and music can be used as a platform for political protest and outrage. It’s just another way to demonstrate how writing has the potential to make a difference in the world.

If Iget some good recordings of my students singing, I will remix this video and see if we can add it to the Many Voices for Darfur project in some way.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-4323540144778393547" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in all points of the globe),
Kevin

The Many Voices for Darfur Project, Part 2

“Why are we doing this?

The question came from a student who was not trying to challenge me. He really wanted to know. What do kids in a small suburban town of Massachusetts, USA, have in common with the crisis in the Darfur region of the Sudan? Why should he care?

For the entire day, my students were fully engaged in learning about the situation in preparation for participation in the Many Voices for Darfur Project (see yesterday’s post of my lesson plans and thoughts going into the discussions). They were outraged by the information they gathered. But some, like this student, were wondering why this was part of writing class.

But I was ready.

In fact, I had hoped students would ask such a question and had mulled over what to say as a sort of pep talk.

My answer, not quite verbatim but close:

“Why? Because there is a crisis going on in this part of the world and there is suffering going on and if anyone, anywhere, has the power to confront evil — not the evil you see in the movies but the evil that takes place in reality — then they should have an obligation to do what they can to confront that evil. We have talked all year about how your writing has power and your language is more than just words on paper. Young people can make a difference and here is a project in which your writing, and the writing of other young people around the world, could influence those people in power to choose peace instead of war. We’re lucky to live in the United States, where this sort of thing does not happen. You should always count yourself lucky. But you still have an obligation to be informed and to get involved. If you can make a difference, you should make a difference.”

My student nodded in agreement and got back to work. A few minutes later, a group of girls came up to me and said they want to do some kind of fundraising activities to help the refugees in the camps in the Sudan.

“We want to get them tents and warm blankets and food,” one said to me. “We’re going to plan something.”

Now that is what I am talking about: social action through writing and through action.

Peace (shall rise),
Kevin

Crisis in Darfur overlay on Google Earth

(found this map)