Slice of Life: When (the) Lightning (Thief) Strikes

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

We finally got around to our field trip (it had been snowed out on us last week) to see the Lightning Thief movie yesterday (known as Percy Jackson and the Olympians to those folks in the movie business). We read the book as a class novel and I already blogged my own thoughts on the movie version of the book. So, when we got back from the theater, I was curious to know what they thought but I resisted offering my own thoughts until the end of our talk, which ranged more than 30 minutes of engaged conversations. Hands were up all around the room. Heads were nodding to the points made by others, particularly about how the movie did not quite intersect as neatly with the book as my students would have expected.

Like me, they were baffled by a number of main events left out of the movie, and they were just so thoughtful about dissecting the flick that I was felt so proud of them.

First of all, I was proud that they knew the book so deeply that they could see the flaws of the movie (OK, so the flaws were big enough to drive a truck through but still …). Second, I was proud because they saw Hollywood gloss for what it is (sell the tickets!), with one student even noting the change in ages of characters “so that they could flirt and get away with it, and reach older kids.”

We all admitted that if you had not read the book, you would view the movie as a fun adventure flick full of  Greek mythology. But reading the book made us all critical viewers and who can argue with that? I’m now glad that the movie was so different.

And it was fun sitting in the theater with my 80 kids, munching on popcorn, a bit of candy and some fruit punch. So I just laughed when, on the bus ride home, one student asked,  “Can’t we just make every Monday a trip to the movies, Mr. H?”

Yeah. I wish.

Peace (in the dark),

Slice of Life: When the cat meows

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

Some mornings, our cat (Coltrane) drives me crazy. Like this morning. At 3:30 a.m., I hear him prowling around the hallways and he starts to meow, just low enough to drive a sound stake into my head. I try to quietly call him back to the bed. He ignores me and starts to cry again. Then he goes silent. I start to drift, only to be awakened again by him. Dagnabit!

I finally muster up the energy to get up and put him outside, only to have him run and hide under the table. Does he want to go out or not? I grab a new can of cat food. That piques his interest. I open up the lid. Now, he is halfway out of his hiding place. I do a quick fake move towards the counter, feint to the left and then reach down and pluck the old fellow up. He is now about 15 years old, but still pretty spry. I cradle him in one hand and the can of food in the other.

He is purring. I am tired. I toss him outside and put a bit of food out there for him. The purring gets louder. It’s hard to stay too made at a purring cat, I guess. I reach down and pet him, and then go back inside, way too early for the start of the day.

Next up, the dog …

Peace (in the moment),


Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers

My friends, Stacey and Ruth, run a blog that you just have to follow, particularly if you are a writing teacher. Their work at Two Writing Teachers is inspirational (and they are working on a book right now, so that’s even better) and you are sure to come away with great ideas for the classroom.

Two years ago, and then again last year, I joined them for a month-long project called Slice of Life Challenge, in which they ask followers of their blog and others to write a bit about a moment in their day, post to a blog and then link off Two Writing Teachers (although I suppose you probably could also write in their comment slot for that day, too, if you are blog-less … but don’t be blog-less! Create one for this project, if you need). My Slices are still archived here on my blog, which is pretty neat (see for yourself).

They call it a challenge because they are hoping that participants will write a Slice of Life post every day in the month of March. And here it is, almost March already. There are gifts for folks who complete a post every day and kudos to those who try to do every day but don’t quite succeed. And even if you pop around to read the other Slices, and add a comment here and there, the value is that your online writing community expands pretty significantly during Slice of Life.

Plus, Stacey and Ruth are cool. So, there’s that.

You can read more information here by Stacey and Ruth about the Slice of Life idea.

Peace (in the moments),

The Last Slice of Life

(This is the last post of the Slice of Life project)

Has it really been a full month of daily slicing? I guess so. I had not intended to write every day in March for Slice of Life but I got so caught up in the moments, and the network of connections, that I just kept right on going as the days of March rolled along. I appreciate all the work that Stacey and Ruth put into Slice of Life and I am amazed at the quality of writing that I found when I went back to travel around the blogs (not nearly enough … I apologize).

I was thinking about Slice of Life and its effects as I stood staring at the white bucket hanging from our tree with a tube running into the bark. Our neighbor taps our trees for sap and then boils it in his yard into syrup. The kids love this — the fire and thick smoke draws kids from near and far — and like Slice of Life, it only lasts for a short intense period of time. The sap runs when the conditions are right and then it stops. But the sweet taste of memories remains with us for some time, as we get some of the syrup in little jars. Our neighbor has already packed up his fire and syrup pans but the bucket is still on our tree for now, ready to collect whatever may still drip out. But, we’re on our own now if we want to create syrup.

Slicers, I hope all of your words keep flowing like the sap from our tree, and that your experiences are just as sweet. You are welcome to tap my tree any time you want — read the words, watch the movies, listen to the songs, engage in conversation. In the end, we all get something out of the connections we make in these virtual writing networks. Projects like Slice of Life remind us of that.

Thank you for sharing your month with me.

Peace (in slices),

(audio) Slice of Life: songs

(This is part of the Slice of Life project)

I’ve been tinkering with some new songs lately, and as with most of my writing, a lot of it will not go farther than my living room. Not long ago, my band broke up (amicably) and I have been playing guitar with one of the members, working through some material and planning for an open mic night here and there. It’s been fun and creative and who knows where it will lead. Yesterday, I was plunking some chords and this song came out. It is pretty rough and it may not go anywhere, but I’ll share it with you as it was a slice of yesterday when the house was quiet. The lyrics are inspired by that quietness and about being called “mean” by one of my kids recently for laying down the law of the house (thus, the reference to me being a “mean ‘ol man” in the break of the song).

The vocals are, well, shoddy. But I wanted to get it recorded so that I would not forget it, in case it ever amounts to anything more. This one is called “Way out of Tune” because we always joke how I can’t keep one of the strings on my guitar in tune and my voice, well, is often out of tune. It’s good to poke fun at yourself from time to time.

Listen to Way Out of Tune, the demo

Peace (in music),

(video) Slice of Life: playing with photostory

(This is part of the Slice of Life project)
There was so much going on yesterday — from the New England/New York Writing Project Retreat, to the convening of combined Technology Teams from Western Massachusetts and Hudson Valley writing projects, to bringing a van full of 8 and 9 year olds to see Aliens V. Monsters (I was not impressed but the kids loved it) to ….. — but I want to focus on some play time.

In preparation for a Digital Storytelling Conference next weekend, Mary F., Tina and I sat around my computer in a comfortable, dark barroom of the Hotel Northampton as I showed them a bit about Photostory3. The two of them — wonderful people, wonderful teachers and curious technologists — will be leading a session in a few days on the tool and although both have tinkered with the software, we wanted to do something together.

So, we grabbed some old images from my laptop (left over from a trip to Chico, California, for the National Writing Project’s Tech Matters retreat, when my friend Lynne C. was showing me her Photobooth program on her Mac) and on the fly, created this little doozy. It was great fun and that sense of engagement is exactly what I see in my students when they work with the program, and what we hope teachers will experience themselves on Saturday.

Here, then, is our masterpiece:

Peace (in mirror images),

Slice of Life: Connecting with Network Friends

(This is part of the Slice of Life project)

Yesterday, after a rush home from school and a quick hello to the family, I was back out the door to the first day of a retreat of the New England Writing Project, where our conversations will be centering around ways to keep teachers in our National Writing Project sites connected. I met up with two other Slicers (Hey ya, Bonnie and Tdawg) who were also there, as our focus will be on using technology (ie, social networking) to keep teachers in the loop of the work of their sites.

It was great to see them, along with two others (Mary F. — from Day in a Sentence — and Steve) and our discussions were focused on a presentation we are collaboratively giving today to the various site leaders on the rationale of using technology for what we call “continuity” in the writing project, and then, more importantly: the logistics of the launch of a networking project that will get underway in the fall. (Oh yeah, and Mary and Tdawg and I are also talking about next weekend’s Digital Storytelling event run by our site).

In the midst of those discussions, we looked and discussed the merits of Twitter and Facebook, checked out a Ning site that I set up for technology liaisons within the National Writing Project, dove into Photostory for a few minutes and just had a rich conversation. Plus, I had a Guinness, so it was all good, and today will be even better, I bet.

Virtual friends are nice but when you couple that kind of sharing and writing with meeting/seeing/reconnecting with someone in person, it makes the friendships even better, right? So, when is the Slice of Life vacation package going to be announced?

Peace (in the moment),

Slice of Life: Off to Mars

(This is part of the Slice of Life project)

What kind of whim is this? One I rarely pass up.

I saw someone (Bud the Teacher?) post something about sending your name to Mars on a microchip in a future Mars Rover via NASA. This is my kind of adventure: I get to send part of me without having to endure the grueling travel. So, I did it, and now my name will be forever etched upon a chip heading to Mars, although whether anyone or anything(!) will ever read it is another story for another time (and another place, too, I bet).

But, at least I am certified, with a number and everything. And I am clearly Part of History. (You can come, too, if you want. I’ll bring the beverages if you bring the food. We’ll have a grand ‘ol time — plenty of stories to tell. Just think the Slice of Lives we could put together.)

Mars Science Lab: Send Your Name to Mars

Peace (in space travel),

Slice of Life: baseball begins

(This is part of the Slice of Life project)

Last night, I sat in on a meeting of coaches for the local Little League teams as they “drafted” young players. I offered to help a neighbor coach his team this year. My son was on his team last year and we think highly of this man, and plus, I wanted to see what went on behind the doors. Basically, all players are evalulated and rated following an evaluation day earlier this month, and then it goes around the table as coaches choose players for their teams. It’s difficult. We wanted a balanced team, both in terms of abilities and also personalities. I was happy with the outcome, even though there are a few names on the team that we do not know.

And next week, practice will begin. Baseball season is here.

Peace (on the mound),

(video) Slice of Life: So you wanna play Quidditch?

(This is part of the Slice of Life project)
This is a slice, a few days removed, as I have finished up the Quidditch video project that we shot with kids last week. The idea here is to begin to share our game of Quidditch with other schools and to celebrate playing the game for 10 years at our school. This project was fun to edit, if a bit time-consuming, but I like the final product. I realized early on that the video footage of the kids playing the game was too hectic to really understand from an outsider’s standpoint, so I moved to use still shots with the voice-over from the book.

Eventually, this will find a home at our school website, with written explanations to go along with the video.

Peace (in golden snitches),