Puppets on Display

My sixth grade classes spend much of the end of November and into December working on their own puppet play performances, starting with mapping out a story along a plot arc, developing character, and integrating a moral into the story. They must also invent a winter holiday and use that as the setting for their stories.

Then, they work with the art teacher and myself to make puppets, and use a wonderful hand-carved puppet theater at our school to perform for younger grades (which actually begin today!). This year, I video-taped each small play (there are 20 total plays this year) and will be publishing the videos online in the coming days via our classroom Weblog and the Homework Weblog site we use for families.

For now, though, I created this short teaser for parents and students.


Peace (with puppets),

Vote for Blogs

If you want to find some good blogging, you can’t go wrong by checking out this list and casting your vote for some of the best educational blogs out there. This site is the home of the Edublog Awards for 2006 and, if you are anything like me, you’ll be stealing some ideas left and right. And I would like to put in a plug for Teachers Teaching Teachers, which is a wonderful venture to have teachers talking and podcasting and writing about their work in the classroom. It is a collaborative venture all around and well worth your attention.

Head to the Edublogs Award Site and cast your vote!


Innocent Boy

I recently discovered Photo Story software by Microsoft and have been tinkering with it as a real alternative to MovieMaker as a digital storytelling device. It seems simple to use, has some built-in music features and allows you to get the Ken Burns effect with relatively short learning curve.

As an experiment, I created two stories: One is about my childhood, using old pictures that I converted to digital by using my digital camera to take pictures of pictures and the other story is about my three young sons.

I also recorded a song I wrote about my kids called Innocent Boy ( I used Audacity, so the quality is OK but not great) and inserted that song into the digital story as background music. The results were pretty nice, I have to say, and I can see introducing Photo Story to my sixth graders later this year (they are already tinkering with MovieMaker).

You can listen to my song, Innocent Boy song

Peace (in pictures),

Created in Darkness … lists from McSweeney

We all need to laugh … so here are some excerpts from the lists that end of the very funny collection of funny stuff from McSweeney’s Created in Darkness By Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney’s Humor Category:

Less Popular Board Games (by Neil Chamberlain)

  • Chute and Chute
  • Slumlord
  • Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Spouses
  • Tax Cheat
  • Cannibal Adventure
  • Pet Rock Divorce Court
  • Desperation

School Yard Games for Unpopular Children (by Gren Knauss)

  • Hide and Be Lonely
  • Teeter
  • Goose Goose Goose
  • Kick the Can, over and Over Again, Angrily
  • Very Easy Tag

Phrases That Have Never Been Uttered in Human History (by Marshall Sella)

  • Look out, God — behind you!
  • The New World has that New World smell
  • Yummy plague!
  • Let the ant-shaving begin!

Buy the book! It will have you chuckling for days! (or visit the List Website for new and exciting lists!)


Comics, again

I know I am on a Comic Strip kick lately and I can’t explain it, but the artist (Tim Rickard) who does the strip called Bewster Rocket: Space Guy (it makes fun of the whole sci-fi genre, along the lines of Futurama) is doing something very interesting with the storyline. The main character, a goofball Brewster, has been sent into a Third Dimension — the Comic Page.

The artist superimposes Brewster “outside” of the story narrative and comic boxes and the character is both observing the storyline and commenting on the comic characters that he “see” in the other comic strips around him. It is very funny, in a post-modern kind of way.

(from http://www.comicspage.com/brewster/brewster.html)

Peace (in the third dimension),

OnPoEvMo: Boy Versus Jacket — Dec. 2006

This is another poem in my effort to write and publish at least one poem every month for an entire year. This particular poem was inspired by watching my youngest son struggle to get his jacket on one day (poor kid).

Boy Versus Jacket
December 2006

lights up his face
his arm struggling against the suffocating fabric
as the seamless entry shifts, disappears, shifts, reappears, shifts, disappears again,
so he turns on me
as if I were the one casting some invisible net all around him
– a sinister Spiderman of a sort–
confounding his efforts in an premeditated move
to listen to him scream.

If only he knew …

I watch helpless as he drops like a rock
prone horizontal to the ground,
legs kicking with a power all out of proportion to his age,
the wail of anguish suddenly pulsating up from his chest
out through his lips, and right into my brain.

Meanwhile, his sworn enemy – the winter jacket – waits on the ground
patiently – waiting for another round against the boy
and already silently declaring victory.

Listen to me read Boy Versus Jacket Boy Versus Jacket

You can also read and listen to the other poems in this series.

Peace (with poetry),

The Genres of Superheroes and Playing Cards

My two older sons (eight years old and six years old) got into a superhero kick this weekend and they began making a ton of Superhero trading cards based on our family. What was interesting to me is how closely they figured out both the genre of superheroes (they all have a strength and a weakness, and an alias) and playing cards (complete with a picture on one side and some stats and info on the other). I wonder what kind of cards my students would make in writing class? (hmmm)


Here are some of our Superhero Family stats:

Name: SuperDad (who carried a guitar as a weapon)
Power: Playing anymusical instrument
Weakness: Having his instrument destroyed
Team: Band

Name: SuperMom (whose picture shows her having about 6 arms)
Power: To make 1,000,000 suppers at once
Weakness: A messy room

Name: SuperBella (our dog)
Power: To run faster than light
Weakness: Taking a bath

Name: SuperColtrane (our cat)
Power: To scratch
Weakness: Not being let in the house in the morning

Peace (through the use of superpowers),

Traveling in our Town

This is a project my sixth graders did in collaboration with our school librarian and the Youth Radio project. My students reflected on what makes our town special for them and then they worked to profile local businesses and areas of interest for a travel brochure. I then handed off my MP3 player to a student and asked him to interview his classmates as podcast, and then we converted that into a videocast.