Six Word Slice of Life: Talking and Listening

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: As I mentioned in my Slice of Life yesterday, I am here in Washington DC, with a large group of National Writing Project teachers, lobbying our members of Congress to support educational funding for professional development for teachers. The president has decimated that funding in his budget but the recently passed funding deal might have a little more leeway for increases. We in the writing project network hope to be able to tap and leverage federal funds for our work. My Massachusetts contingent visited the offices of four Representatives (Kennedy, Neal and McGovern) and two Senators (Warren and Markey), telling our stories as teachers in the classroom. To be honest, these were sympathetic ears, already supportive of education. But telling our stories of our work, and the stories of our students, to those in power is still important. I think we’ve all learned, you can’t rest on your laurels these days.

Six Word Slice of Life Talking and Listening

Peace (in the halls of power),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: NWP in DC

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: My wife and I headed to the airport after school, and flew together to Washington DC for the Spring Meeting of the National Writing Project. This gathering is about advocacy — the NWP’s funding has been cut by the Trump administration — as well as developing and supporting programs. I am involved in a new project stemming from a partnership between NWP and the National Park Service. However, with both my wife and I gone, we have been stressed and worried about the kids at home, enlisting family member and neighbors to help us. It will all be fine, and the two boys at home are old enough that this is not a problem. The problem is us. We leave home but never really leave home, if you know what I mean.

Six Word Slice of Life NWP

Peace (in distance),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Protest

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: Today is the National Student Walk-Out Day, and although our elementary school is not officially part of the student-led protest against gun violence and in favor of more gun control, my heart is with students everywhere. My sons (13 and 17) will likely take part in walk-outs planned at their two schools. Students in the middle and high school in my district — my former students — will be involved in protest and activities. Will any of my current sixth graders want to walk out today? Or have 17 minutes of silence? Not one has mentioned doing so to me and our administration has not pushed the issue, due to the thorny debates and age of our students, and snow days and other things have disrupted our schedule. We’ll see. My thoughts will be with all students, everywhere, today, that they can make the change the adults are afraid to make.

Six Word Slice of Life Protest

Peace (bringing the possibility),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Visiting Teachers

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: Yesterday, two seventh English teachers from the middle school came down to visit our sixth grade classroom. They have been making the rounds to all five of our regional elementary schools, to peek at what kinds of writing and learning are going on. We were able to chat for about 30 minutes about a range of topics, including finding a shared sixth grade novel that could become a touchstone text for discussions when all sixth graders arrive together in seventh grade (but different from a summer reading book). It was a nice visit, very positive, and my students were just starting an Interactive Fiction project, so they were excited and energized and happy to talk with our visitors about what they were up to with writing. We don’t do enough of these kinds of visiting classrooms in our district, and almost never do we do seventh grade teachers coming into sixth grade classrooms (and vice versa). So, this was a welcome endeavor.

Six Word Slice of Life Visitors

Peace (visits us),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Story Well

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: Do you know Hello, Universe by Erin Estrada Kelly? I was deep into the story yesterday, and I won’t give much away, other than the hint of my six words.

It’s a great story (it just won the Newbery Award), told from many perspectives and full of insights into the colliding worlds of children.

Six Word Slice of Life Well Story

Peace (in connections),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Chords

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: I’ll often pick up my guitar and just play whatever gets played, with no plans at all. It’s not practice. It’s just playing. These moments are often where new songs come from. A chord progression, a small melodic lick, or just random humming might suggest a song. Yesterday, I hit an accidental chord … and was intrigued. But no amount of tinkering could bring an odd kernel of an idea I had into visibility. The chord never really struck again. I’ll go back today and see if a song surfaces.

Six Word Slice of Life Chords

Peace (sounds good),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Play Quidditch Plays

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: If you have been hanging out with me for many March SOLs behind us, you know that this time of year, our sixth grade shifts into Quidditch Season. Yes, we play our version of Quidditch — this is the 19th year of it. This version of the game was first developed by students, and then we have adapted it over the years. I try to incorporate different writing activities into our class as part of these activities (which culminate in a day-long Quidditch Tournament between the four sixth grade classrooms). One of the expository writing pieces I have them do is to design a Quidditch play and then write an explanation of how to play the play. This connects to our work with informational text, of using images as a text, and Quidditch itself.

Six Word Slice of Life Quidditch Plays

Want a closer look at some of the plays?

Quidditch Play Collage 2018

Want to learn how we play our version of Quidditch? (It’s very different from the college-level game)

Peace (on and off the court),
Kevin

 

Six Word Slice of Life: Story Branches

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: We began our unit this week on Interactive Fiction, stories where there are “branches” or choices to be made, and every decision sends you on another path. A few kids have read these stories, and some immediately connect to the narrative arcs of video games, but for others, this is a whole new way of thinking of reading, and then writing, a story. So, I begin with read-aloud, and as a class, we make choices on the flow of a story — this one is called The Green Slime. On the board, I map out the choices we make, showing in visual fashion the various “branches” of the story. Four classes, one book, four very different maps.

Six Word Slice of Life Branches

Peace (branches for support),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Questions (on the bus line)

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: It’s an unscheduled early dismissal day because of the impending snow. The students are all waiting in line, ready to depart to the bus loop, with the understanding of knowing we went just long enough not to have to make up the day in June. Winter has already taken its toll, and our school district is threading the needle on this Nor’easter storm and its strange timing. A question works its way down the line: What’s the first thing you will do when you get home today? Food, play, sleep, read are common answers. Me, too.

Six Word Slice of Life Waiting

Peace (waiting it out),
Kevin

Six Word Slice of Life: Eavesdropping

(For this month’s Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers, I am aiming to do Six Word Slices most days, with some extended slices on other days.)

Context: One of the important skills for Slice of Life writing, I have found, is the ability to respectfully eavesdrop on the conversations of others.

I was in the small local library last night, picking up some books, when the librarian behind counter — an elderly librarian with a grumpy exterior but an active mind, who often engages me in discussions about the books I have chosen, particularly graphic novels — began a conversation with the man in front of me about the book he had pulled from the shelves. It was about Geology and stories, and she went into a story of her own about studying at Yale and taking a Geology course that interested her, and who was this author, and then proceeded to flip through the book, reading the biography and noting that she teaches at nearby Mount Holyoke College.

Meanwhile, the line is getting longer behind me, and the man at the check-out is feeling a little antsy. I just smiled at him, giving him the look that there was no rush, that discussions about books in a library is perfectly in tune with the experience. Meanwhile, I leaned forward to listen in, and wondered, too, about the book, and I tried to steal a glance at the cover as she finally checked him out and sent him on his way.

“Patrons find the most interesting books,” she said to me, as I handed her my card and we started our own dance about my choices for reading.

Thus, my six words:

Six Word Slice of Life Eavesdropping

Peace (storm a’coming),
Kevin