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

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

Slice of Life: A Walk Around the Block

(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 took our dog, Duke, for a leisurely walk around the neighborhood yesterday. It was a warm end-of-summer day.

Duke, cartooned

Here’s what Duke and I saw:

  • Two puppies and one elder dog, and Wally the cat. Wally, a female, loves dogs, and loves Duke, so she rolled on the pavement as Duke investigated, touching noses before moving on.
  • A dead squirrel. Duke wanted to get closer. I did not want Duke to get closer. I won that tug of war.
  • Three young sisters on some sort of electric scooter/bike that their handyman dad cobbled together. They zoomed past us, huddled together on the contraption, giggling, “Hi Duke.”
  • A hummingbird at the flower patch by the mailbox. Duke didn’t seem to notice or pay attention but I did. I never get tired of seeing hummingbirds and their ability to seemingly float in midair.
  • Three people who mentioned my New York Giants shirt (we live in New England Patriots country), with a mix of humor and friendly derision. I still had some hope for my team last night. Wasn’t enough.
  • A neighbor out raking, the first leaf raker I have seen this season. She stopped, leaning on her rake, and we chatted, and when she said, “I can’t believe I am doing this already,” I playfully suggested she “leap into the huge pile of leaves” she had raked. She declined. I kept walking.
  • Five possums in a possum parade, crossing the street from a small dingle to a small drainage culvert. One saw Duke and leaped back to hide. The other four hustled across the street. They are funny-looking things, sort of creepy with wobbly bodies and short legs.
  • The next-door house that has seemed too empty in recent days. One of our elderly neighbors was taken to the hospital a few days by ambulance, and we think he’s still there, and his wife is no doubt spending time there. Duke looked to the house. He always had treats in his pocket for Duke.

Peace (through the days),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: The Ethical Questions of Ease (Who Pays the Price?)

(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.)

We’ve been a Google Apps for Education (or whatever they call it now) classroom for a few years now, using Google Docs and Slides and more on a regular basis with our sixth graders, but I haven’t dipped into the Google Classroom space until this year.

One reason I was holding off is an ongoing concern that everything we do is becoming more and more Google, a company that just loves to bring more young people into its data fold and nurture future Google Search users. Because the business model is pretty transparent: more searches means more money for Google.

So while I recognize and utilize the power of Google Apps with my students for peer editing, collaboration, use of media and words, publishing and more, I am always a bit reluctant to keep telling my students to crawl into the Google hole. (Maybe it’s just me but there’s something odd about the whole Google Superstar Teaching retreats that go on … I can’t quite explain it but it makes me feel icky to think that Google sponsors Professional Development and then has those educators self-identify as Google teachers … It’s also a brilliant marketing move.)

Another reason I haven’t ventured into Google Classroom is that I wasn’t quite ready to try something new. I was learning the management of Docs and Slides and how my curriculum might best use those features. I wanted to get a handle on what we were doing, and why we were doing it, before diving into new terrain.

This summer, I devoured an ebook by Alice Keeler who shared out 50+ ways to use Google Classroom (very helpful, but the Foreward in Keeler’s book by Google Product Management Executive Jonathan Rochelle made me cringe) and I have scanned through some of her videos, also helpful.

I learned enough about Google Classroom to know that I really needed to try out its features this year, if only to make my own life as a teacher tracking 75 students with Google accounts a bit easier and more manageable.

And it does. It really does, from allowing me to assign activities across multiple classes, to tracking who has finished and who has not, to a shared virtual classroom space, to scheduling assignments, to automatically creating student versions of my templates and putting them into a new Google Drive folder … there’s a lot that Google Classroom gets right.

Dang it. I’m sipping the tasty Google juice, and sharing it with my students.

But … I am also regularly talking about tech company’s intentions for gathering data and information about us, as means for making money from advertising and more. I hope that all balances out, and that in my attempt to make my life easier as a teacher I am not putting my students in the crosshairs of a technology behemoth.

Peace (go a little deeper),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Moon Over My Shoulder

(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 Labor Day night in Boston, bringing my middle son and his friend to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park (we gave him tickets for a birthday present way back in winter). It was a beautiful night in Boston, and at one point, after many of us in the seats noticed the moon being shown on the small television monitors, we all turned our heads to look behind us.

The moon was dangling in the air, a beautiful orb of light.

Later, I grabbed a selfie with the moon.

Boston Moon

Peace (shine on),
Kevin

Visual Slices of Life: Taking to the Crayons

(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.)

This summer’s CLMOOC (Connected Learning MOOC) is underway, with a coloring art theme. So, today’s Slice of Life is a look at a few of the coloring projects I worked on yesterday.

First, I received a CLMOOC postcard from my friend, Susan, that was just begging to be colored. So, I set up my iPad and used a time-lapse function on the iStopmotion app to capture the coloring. (You can also see how I used the colored page as a frame for a story, with ThingLink)

Second, my CLMOOC friend, Terry, took a page I had colored (a mandala pattern by Robin) and reworked it. So I returned the favor, layering his remix with my original in an app called Fused, and then realized that the slider effect on one of the filters was pretty nifty. I could not figure out a good screencasting app, so I just pointed my phone at my iPad, and shot away.

Finally, after CLMOOC friend Jennifer mused about what a CLMOOC Musical might look like as part of the introductions, I started up a YouTube Playlist, opening it up to others to contribute songs or bands with a color theme to them, attuned to the theme of this CLMOOC week.

We’ll be hosting the first CLMOOC Make with Me Hangout today with folks from all over, and we will be talking about the intersections between art and writing and making, and how we might make visible the Connected Learning principles of the CLMOOC play/work now underway. If interested and available, you can join watch the Make With Me live broadcast and join in the chat today (Tuesday, July 11) at 1pm ET/10am PT/5pm UTC and it will be live streamed with a synchronous chat at CLMOOC.

Peace (all hues),
Kevin

PS

Slice of Life: Playing Cards and Making Acquaintances

(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.)

We sat in a small circle, three middle school boys and I, and talked through the rules. We were playing UNO on the first day of a summer camp I am helping to facilitate that connects writing and local history, and is a complex partnership between our Western Massachusetts Writing Project, an urban school with a social justice identity, the Springfield Armory, Veterans Education Project and Mass Humanities (which is funding the project).

I won’t go into all of the hurdles we have faced to make this camp actually happen. It’s happening. The kids from this school in the heart of Springfield were engaged and enjoying themselves. That’s enough to cite success.

But this after-lunch scene, with me playing UNO on the grass fields outside the Springfield Armory (and much of the grounds is now part of a technical college) sticks with me. It was so much fun, getting to know these three middle school boys as we navigated the rules, helped each other out, and just chatted away.

Armory Camp Day 1

Day Two starts in a few hours, and we have some cool activities planned — including an re-enactment actress who will give a dynamic presentation about women’s roles in the Armory during World War II — but I already know that one of the boys from the UNO game is determined to get a game of Apples to Apples going at recess today.

I’m in.

Peace (relax),
Kevin

Slice of Life: We’re All All Right

(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 took my 12-year-old son to Guardians of the Galaxy 2 for the second time (we first went on opening weekend) because his friend had not gone yet. That seemed a shame. We had a blast in the cold theater on a hot day and my son’s friend loved the movie.

Once again, the scene where Cheap Trick’s Surrender plays hit me the heart of memory, reminding me of playing that song in my college-days rock band, Rough Draft.

So, I dug our cover of Surrender out. It was part of an audio track to a cable television recording we did, and then the studio lost the video tape so we don’t have that, only the audio. Maybe that’s a good thing …

That’s me singing and playing rhythm guitar. We used to have so much fun with that song. It was not a band of finesse. It was a band of loud energy. Rough Draft, indeed. Three of us from that band are still very close, and we get together once a year. In fact, that reunion is coming in two weeks.

We’re all all right!
We’re all all right!
We just seem a little weird …

Peace (no cheap tricks),
Kevin

PS — bonus song? Only if your ears can take it. This was early song of mine for Rough Draft. I was just starting to do some writing.

Slice of Life: A Cold Room on a Hot Day

(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.)

There are all sorts of reasons why people come to my classroom these days. A quick chat. Something forgotten behind. A borrowed book. Check-in with a student.

Mostly, though, it’s the cool air flowing.

I am lucky that I have the only air conditioned classroom in the building, a result of the room’s past life as the computer lab (we don’t have a lab anymore … we have rolling carts) and the home to the computer server, which thankfully was moved elsewhere a number of years ago (it hummed and rattled like crazy at times).

I don’t mind the visitors. I keep my head down when my colleagues complain about the heat and humidity — summer finally hit us here in New England — and I remain humble. I know I’m lucky and happy to share that luck with anyone who needs a moment of reprieve.

Just come on in. You don’t need an excuse.

Peace (in the hot and in the cold),
Kevin