Slice of Life (Day 15): The Odds and Ends of a Blizzardy Day

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Since it was a day of the Blizzard of 2017, I figured a slice of many pieces might be a better indication of the day behind us now.

Blizzard Window

First, the snow arrived, and came down hard, and we were out shoveling quite a bit. Yes, I was not happy to see snow in March. But sitting by the window with my book during a respite of shoveling, I could not help but notice how beautiful the snowflakes were, stuck to our large window. On a plus side, we never lost our power, which was a worry all day long.

Earlier in the morning, I had spent some time finishing up a collaborative project for Networked Narratives with my friend, Wendy, using an app. We had invited three other collaborative friends, but the complexity of the app, and the strange barriers to collaboration in collaboration mode (or so it seemed to us) had us throwing our hands up, and finishing the piece on our own. It would have been more powerful with more voices, though. What we were trying for was a piece of quilted parts, told as a network of folks, in a single screen, so that all of our parts would be woven together. The app didn’t quite live up to the vision.

Doodled clmooc

Have any of you been doing the DoodleaDay Challenge? It’s, well, a doodle shared every day, via Twitter with the #doodleaday hashtag. I’ve been popping in and out of it, but the prompt yesterday was to use images to make letters, and I could not resist a CLMOOC (Connected Learning MOOC) icon.

As I mentioned, I spent part of the day, reading. The book I had started and finished was the new one by Neil Gaiman, Norse Mythology. Like most Gaiman, it is excellent. Although it is strange to have both Gaiman and Rick Riordan exploring the same mythological terrain (Riordan with the Magnus Chase series), it was also an intriguing companion piece. And well, Norse mythology has some pretty wacky and strange stuff going on, and that is right up Gaiman’s alley.

Brackets

Finally, the day off from school gave the boys and I, and our dog, a chance to fill out our NCAA men’s brackets. Our dog’s (Duke is his name) bracket gets filled out by pushing his nose into one hand or the other of our son, who hides kibble and asks “this team” or “that team”? It’s pretty amusing. He chose Florida to win it all. It might happen. You never know.

This morning, my back aches a bit, but I know I have at least one more shoveling job to do before the sun comes out, and makes ice from the snow in the Blizzard ’17 aftermath.

Peace (and warmth),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life (Day 14): Confused Flower Buds

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

So much for the optimism of Spring. These little green tiger lily buds were pushing themselves up through the soil and leaves, no doubt hoping for a change in the weather.

Green Buds of Winter

It ain’t coming.

What’s coming is a blizzard, bearing down on us today with high winds, possible 4 inches falling per hour, and up to two feet of snow, not to mention worries of power outages. In fact, I just walked the dog and the storm has started.

Tomorrow’s slice is no doubt going to be about shoveling …

Peace (when it falls, it accumulates),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 13): This Dictionary Endures

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I was doing some cleaning through boxes of “stuff” and came across an old Mini-Disc. The label told us that it was our youngest son’s first birthday celebration — 11 1/2 years ago! Of course, we popped the disc into our DVD player, and wondered if it would play a Mini-Disc (they look like shrunk-down versions of DVDs).

After a few minutes of the player deciding just what the heck this thing was, it did start to play.

Boy, what fun it was to watch with him as his younger self, with his younger older brothers hovering around him, devoured brownies and ice cream, and then played with the wrapping paper on gifts, instead of the gifts themselves, as our old dog, Bella, paced around him and the other two boys in protective mode.

“Hey,” he shouted, pointing at the screen. “That dictionary. We still have that dictionary!”

Dictionary

We froze the screen and looked. Sure enough, the very same dictionary — a DK kids edition with a blue cover that has been everything from a source for looking up words to stages for Lego play to ramps for Hot Wheels — was sitting on the floor, just as it was in the video from more than a decade ago.

We all laughed. It’s not that the dictionary gets all that much use these days, but that little book of words and definitions seems to have remained in our family’s orbit for all that time (and maybe even longer, as I think it was given to our older son when he was a toddler).

So yes, the dictionary endures. At least, this one does.

Peace (more than words),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 12): Putting Postcards in the Mail

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I finally got some time to write up some postcards for the CLMOOC Community, which has been engaged in a Dear Data-style project in 2017, where every month there is a new theme and we collect data that we put onto postcards and mail out to others on the list.

Yep. It’s cool and challenging.

The theme for March is music, and how people collect and share their data about music is completely up to them. I decided to track a single day of listening, as best as I could, and then using a chart in the form of a record player to represent the clock of the day. I don’t want to share it because that will ruin the surprise of folks getting it. I have about 12 postcards to go out, including a few for my overseas friends (who are musicians, so perfect fit).

Duke and I and Postcards

Duke and I Gear Up for Walk to Post Office

I’ve written about this postcard project before, so I will just reiterate: the personal connection of using the mail to send off postcards to people I’ve met in online communities is such a beautiful, human reverse of how we envision virtual friendships. I cheat a bit with my data postcards, making copies for multiple postcards … I am lazy and messy in my writing.

But I figure this allows me to send more postcards.

Duke and I braved some very frigid winter air, and cold gusting winds, on a walk to the Post Office yesterday for some International Postcard Stamps. Meanwhile, this following song was a collaboration with a bunch of people in the CLMOOC Postcard Project (you can read about the song here).

Peace (in the post),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 11): Quidditch Comes Early

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Regular readers here (Thank you) will know that our school plays our version of the game of Quidditch, and we have a Quidditch Tournament Day every year in which all four sixth grade classes compete for a full day. It’s very fun and very crazy, and it’s a unique experience for our students. They may someday play Quidditch in college, but the college way is not our way, not by a long shot (and we think our rules and our game is much better than what is played on the college club circuit).

Quidditch Tshirts 2017

Quidditch comes early this year because of shifts in the standardized testing season, and with the tournament coming during the school day on March 30 (and at night, we teachers play the kids — our team name is Pink Fury), there is a lot to do with creating posters and, as they were doing yesterday, making t-shirts to wear on Tournament Day.

Quidditch Tshirts 2017

My class came up with the team name of Blue Barbarians, which is not a name our class (with main color, blue) has had before. We’re often a cold or ice name.

We made this video a few years ago to show other schools how we play our game. We’re OK if others “borrow” the rules and adapt for their own situations.

Given that our Quidditch season at school coincides with Slice of Life here at the blog, you can probably expect more updates through the month. We connect writing, art, and physical education. We work on teamwork and collaboration as a class community, and we talk about winning and losing and other social skills, and more … all connected to the notion of Literature in Motion that drives our Quidditch season.

Peace (in snitches and quaffles),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life (Day 10): The Tangled Knots of She Said/He Said/She Said

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

One of my students was crying. The cafeteria director asked me, Why is she crying? I didn’t know. It happened at the end of lunch. I walked over, and took the student aside, and tried to gently figure out what was happening. It wasn’t easy. It’s hard to talk when you are crying. We took our time.


knots flickr photo by mlberman25 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Untangling the knots of adolescent social conflicts requires finesse, and patience, and compassion. In essence, this is what happened, and it involved my student, and two others.

Student1 was crying because Student2 told her that Student3 had said that Student1 talked about Student2 behind Student2’s back. Student2 confirmed that Student3 said that, but Student2 didn’t really believe it. Why did Student2 tell Student1 that, then? They didn’t know. Meanwhile, Student3 said the tone in which Student2 asked the question about whether Student1 talked about Student2 behind their back seemed to indicate that if Student3 didn’t implicate Student1, Student2 would be angry with Student3. So, Student3 admitted to what they said about Student1 to Student2, but explained it wasn’t true: Student1 was not talking behind Student2’s back. Student3 apologized to Student1. Apology accepted. Student2 apologized to Student3. Apology accepted. Crisis averted. For now.

If you could follow all that, well, more power to you. My head was spinning as I was trying to sort it all out in the hallway, but was relieved that the crying (two students were sobbing by the time we were done) was over and the apologies were accepted. I know I made this exchange into a bewildering post but I also know that for 11 and 12 year olds, this is serious business and helping them to sort it out was probably the best thing I did during the day.

I won’t even get into the other student who I found crying in the hallway earlier in the day for an entirely different reason …but we hopefully sorted that out, too.

Peace (in hallways and in friendship),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Nine): Writing Projects, National Parks and Summer Camps

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Ok. Summer is not close. It’s early March, already. But yesterday afternoon, in a meeting, all we talked about was summer. I am the lead organizer of a proposed free urban Youth Summer Camp that connects middle school students from Springfield, our main urban center, with the Springfield Armory, our only National Park in Western Massachusetts.

A lot of the work ahead of us is contingent on a grant that the Western Massachusetts Writing Project has submitted to a regional arts organization, as we propose weaving narrative writing, primary sources and local history, and professional development for teachers who will design and run a free summer camp. We’re optimistic on the grant, which would fund two years of collaboration.

It’s a lot of juggling, though, to plan such a project. Sitting around the table with my colleagues, including a school administrator from the social justice/expeditionary learning magnet middle school we are targeting and a park ranger from the Springfield Armory, we were energized by the possibilities of the partnerships underway. The fourth colleague is another teacher who has been an educational consultant with the Armory and helped run a similar camp last year. (I’ve worked with the Armory via WMWP for Professional Development but was not involved in the camp in the past)

We talked about who will do what, and how things will unfold, and possible logistical hurdles (and solutions). We all agreed that the kids will benefit greatly from this endeavor.

I’ll be helping to run the Professional Development aspect, with mostly Social Studies teachers diving into writing about history and civics, and those teachers will co-design the curriculum of the summer camp at the Armory itself. This will be the third year WMWP has partnered with the Armory, thanks to support from the National Writing Project, so we are not starting from scratch.

Recruitment of teachers now begins and then the campaign to get as many as 40 urban middle school students into the camp for the last week of June. That seems far away. It’s not. I need to get working on a flier for students.

Peace (in connections),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Eight): Designing Interactive Fiction Story Trees

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Last week, I wrote about my students reading and mapping out Interactive Fiction novels (Make-Your-Own-Ending is another term for the books), and now they have flipped and are becoming the writers of Interactive Fiction. We use Google Sites and the power of Hyperlinks to move the reader through the story. In fact, I did an entire mini-lesson yesterday about the innovative power of Hyperlinks, which are the digital architecture of the Internet.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

First, though, is task of the creating of Story Trees and Decision Branches where choices will become part of the story. Yesterday, many students were finishing their Story Trees up, and talking about what is going to happen at different branches.

The project is called A Mystery of Ruins, and the theme of the stories are about an archeological dig or an explorer coming across the remains of a lost civilization or culture. They have to write in second person narrative point of view, use good descriptive writing, have at least five to seven branch points and three different endings, and no violence or death.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

What I love seeing in the development of the Story Trees is the thinking out loud, and the connecting of story points, and how the narrative will be weaving this way and that way, and how a writer plans for the reader to be in charge of the story.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

This is a very different kind of writing for my students, and many are deeply involved in their narratives, and are eager to get writing as soon as class starts each day. That is always a good thing.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

Peace (branches here and there),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Seven): Cells, Cells, Everywhere You Look

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Sometimes, it is a joy to wander the hallways and see what my colleagues are doing with our students.

Cells in the Hallway

In Science, the unit right now is Cells and these four posters — one from each of our sixth grade classes — were up on display yesterday morning.

Cells in the Hallway

I love the colors and the humor and the large-scale Comic Strip feel to them. Two of the posters deal with Animal Cells and two, with Plant Cells.

Cells in the Hallway

Each student had a different part of the Cell, and their job was to create the character (most used alliteration) and create a dialogue bubble for talking about their “job” in the Cell.

Cells in the Hallway

Peace (inside and out),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Six): Recording in the Home Studio

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

We have a relatively new bass player in our band. His name is Brian and we are all impressed by his chops, and focus, and kind personality. Turns out, he loves music, just like us, and he is dedicated himself this year to doing even more music. When I learned that he has a home recording studio set-up at his apartment, we connected with a plan to try a little recording of some songs outside of the band setting (but let the band know).

Hanging with Brian2

Yesterday, I drove over to Brian’s pad, and for about two hours, we talked about music and did some recording of scratch (rough) tracks with my guitar and my (still-sick) voice and two songs from a collection of songs that I have been writing for a few years as part of a much larger narrative project with poems and stories and …. oh, who knows anymore.

Hanging with Brian1

It was fun, though, recording again, and I am curious to hear what Brian does with the tracks. I explicitly gave him full permission to do what he wants with the guitar and vocal tracks, so he can feel free to experiment and add layers. We’re hoping this partnership extends into more formal recording down the road.

For now, for yesterday, it was just for fun. Sometimes, that’s the best kind of music to be made.

Peace (in the studio),
Kevin