Making Connections: Final Reflections

My big blogging project — Making Connections — is coming to a close and students and teachers are doing some reflecting on the experience. We had more than 200 middle school students from six different schools (targeted at rural and urban schools that are struggling) working on a variety of blogs. One wing did poetry, memoir writing, and friendly letters, while another wing (which I was part of) did shared science experiences and data collection and science-based fictional stories. The Making Connections project is funded through the National Writing Project.

Here are some student reflections:

“I like this weblog project. I like it because you got to communicate with other students. I liked doing all of the work for the blog. It was fun reading and responding to some work from students from other schools. Weblogging in school is very fun. I learned many things doing this project. I learned different kinds of ELA writings such as I poems. I learned how to use constructive criticism. I learned how to write better in the Blog project. I learned how to respond better to other students. I learned personal thing about my friends and classmates. I have learned a lot doing this Weblogging Writing Project.” – Mike

“I liked this project. I liked it because you can express yourself without getting bullied. Kids could write from the heart. So they could write without pressure on your back. By my calculations 90% of students in 99% of schools are not the way they make themselves seem to be. They could be really smart, but not want to show it because of popularity. I learned how to express myself. I was able to write about Megan without feeling mad or sad. I learned how to be a polite critic. I learned to say nice things about others.” — Rose

“I really liked this project. The best part of this project was when we got to write our different stories. Also another good part of this project was being able to use this to talk to some of your friends you don’t really talk too. It was a pretty fun project overall. This was one of the best projects I have ever done or been a part of. I learned how to read a little more carefully. I mean like being able to find any mistakes in the poems and if they had creativity or not. Also I learned that you can have fun with writing poems and stories. I also learned how to be a lot nicer to people than i used to be. I learned how to listen a lot better too.” – Nick

“I liked this project because I got to learn a lot of different things about computers. I also enjoyed the fact that I got to leave the classroom every now and then. Since we got to use the computers it made writing more fun for me. I liked this project because I got to talk to different people in different schools and grades. I learned a few things from this blogging project. One of the things I learned is to elaborate on certain topics. I also learned that are mean seventh graders who don’t answer the letters we wrote to them. This blogging project helped me to use better grammar, kind of. I learned how to give constructive criticism. Which was very helpful. That is some of the things I learned using this blogging project.” – Emily

“The project, Making Connections, lasted for months through the school year. I liked this project for many reasons. One was that it used technology and a different way of a school writing project in a good way. Another thing that I liked was that the writers got to use feeling into their writing and most of the writing entries were very good. Finally, another reason why I liked this writing project was that you got to interact with many schools in this area. They were also very creative writers and had similar and different opinions as I do. This is why I liked this project. I also have learned many things while using this blog. I learned how to use constructive tips and not hurtful ones. I have also learned that many writers feel the same way I do in some topics. I have also learned about many writing assignments and how to improve them. This is what I have learned from this project. “ — Jim

Here are some teacher reflections from a few who were new to the project this year and had no technology experiences prior to Making Connections:

“I have definitely furthered my technological knowledge through this project. I originally thought I would have some difficulty with the technology aspect, but was relieved to discover that it was relatively easy. I have learned a lot about blogging and how to connect writing and technology. I feel more confident with computer technology as a result of this project. I think my students have learned a great deal as well. They have learned how to blog appropriately and meaningfully, and they have gained technological skills. I think they also learned a lot just from reading about the personal experiences of older students involved in the project. Finally, they learned how to give both positive feedback and constructive criticism in their responses to posts.” Paula, Chicopee.

“I felt it was very important in the beginning of this project to get together as a group. We were able set timelines and goals for ourselves and the group, which was very important and helpful for me as a way of keeping focused and on track. However, sometimes time limitations and trying to work around so many peoples’ schedules made this difficult. One of the most productive professional development sessions happened during a scheduled leave day from school. This was an opportunity for us to spend a good amount of time together and actually utilize the computers and learn by doing, not just listening. . One of the easiest parts of the project was having each student post their own introduction. Students love using the computers. I think many students find writing on the computer easier than writing on paper and so we’re more willing to write and share more about themselves or respond to others. We have a mobile computer lab so each student is able to have his own computer. The only problem at times is access to the computer cart. Our school only had one cart at the time of this project and many teachers use this cart. It can be frustrating to know that you have a deadline and then not have access to the computers in order to meet this.”Lisa, Southampton.

I think the biggest goal that I had this year was to incorporate technology into the lesson modeling that I needed to do as an ELA coach. I was also concerned in the beginning as to the benefits of this project in terms of being a more effective way of writing than traditional. The students responded in a very positive manner to this project and I think that blogging made them forget their sometimes negative feelings about writing.”Michelle, Chicopee

Peace (in reflection),
Kevin

Science Picture Books

My sixth graders are nearing completion of a book project in which they used MS PowerPoint to create and publish their own fictional Science Journey Stories as a picture book format. Their intended audience (we start sharing our books tomorrow at our school) was other students in grades first through fourth, and I have been presenting mini-lessons on some deeper aspects of PP to give them some ideas on how to use the tech to create a different kind of book.

They are also publishing their books to our Making Connections Science Weblog, which is a much larger project in which my students and other middle school-age students from three other schools in Western Massachusetts have been doing shared science experiments, posting scientific abstracts and now publishing science-based fictional stories.

Meanwhile, I am also planning to write about this science picture book project for as a chapter for a book on technology and the classroom that I am helping to edit with two esteemed college professors. As a result, I have been having my students reflect on how using the computer has been altering their composition process, and how their books will be different once I print them out on paper. I’ll share some of those observations at a later date.

Anyway, here are a few of the books:

MELvin

Journey into the Cell

 

 

 

 

 

Mr beebo power duuuuuuuuuude

Mr. Beebo

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventure Of A Cell

Adventure of a Cell

 

 

 

 

 

Water, Water EverywhereWater, Water Everywhere

 

 

 

 

 

mel the cell

The Adventure of Mel the Cell

 

 

 

 

 

Inside a Cell

Inside a Cell

 

 

 

 

 

Power point (Updated)

Elmo and Dorothy Explore the Cell

 

 

 

 

 

rudolf the RAPPING raindrop!!

Rudolph the Rappin’ Raindrop

 

 

 

 

 

Peace (in pictures),

Kevin

A new adventure: Summer Camp

My wife and I are trying something new this year — we are working together to offer two week-long Claymation Summer Camps for kids at her vocational high school. This is a new partnership between our Western Massachusetts Writing Project and her high school, and it is exciting. I stole this idea from my good friend, Tonya (she will recognize some of the information on our flier, as it comes from her flier).

 

Right now, I am in the midst of a claymation project with my sixth graders (in collaboration with second graders) and we will start filming any day now.

Here is a little movie I made for my Collaborative ABC Movie Project that shows some of the kids making their little clay creations. Some of them are very interesting and remain works in progress (I mean, clay creatures here, but I suppose I could be talking about my students, too).

I am sharing this via TeacherTube, which now allows for embedding into Edublogs, which is very cool and a great alternative to YouTube and Google Vid.

Download:Letter C – Powered by TeacherTube.com


Peace (with squishy parts),
Kevin

Massachusetts Writing Project Conference

(This is news that I wrote at our Western Massachusetts Writing Project site and figured it should be shared here, too.)

The first-ever Massachusetts Writing Project Conference took place this past weekend in Worcester and featured three rounds of interesting and exciting workshops from Teacher-Consultants from all four MWP sites (Western Mass, Central Mass, Boston and Buzzards Bay).

Workshops included:

  • ESL instruction
  • Technology integration
  • Writing across the curriculum
  • Family writing nights

There were more than 100 people attending the all-day event and keynote speaker was the wonderful Sonia Nieto, who divided her talk up into the difficulties facing teachers today and some enriching stories of teachers who are making a difference in the classrooms and being reflective of their practice.


(Sonia Nieto with Susan Biggs, director of the Mass Writing Project state network, and Gail Gilman, of the Central Mass Writing Project)

Listen in to parts of Sonia’s inspirational speech as she details the work of some of the teachers that she has worked with on two book projects:

Audiocast Workshop: Week in Sentence

This is a podcast from the workshop that I am giving at the Massachusetts State Writing Project conference. In this room, there are teachers (mostly from the middle school level, it turns out) who are interested in learning more about how audio and the Web 2.0 can expand the reach of audience and technology for their students.

pod1Here is a podcast that we just completed. I asked them to write a sentence that is a synthesis of their past week, for good or for bad, and then volunteers read their sentence into my Blue Snowball microphone, which was hooked into Audacity software. I have just walked them through the upload of the audio file into this blog.

pod2Week in Review

Peace (in the pod),

Kevin

Casting Your Voice to the World: Podcasting 101

I am presenting a workshop this weekend on Podcasting and Audiocasting to teachers in our newly-reinvigorated Massachusetts Writing Project network. The conference is called Because Writing Matters and features Sonia Nieto (who writes and speaks so eloquently about social justice in our educational system) as our guest speaker and a whole host of workshops.

Here is the slideshow that will go along with my workshop. What you can’t hear are small bits and pieces of student voices that runs on each slide, and I intend to use my friend The Reflective Teacher‘s idea of boiling your week down to a single sentence as our writing prompt that will lead to a podcast in the workshop (posted here, of course).

[slideshare id=43815&doc=casting-your-voice-out-to-the-world-2183&w=425]

Here is the direct link: Casting Your Voice Out to the World.

Peace (with podcasts),
Kevin

Making Connections: Student Poems and Responses

One aspect of a large blogging project underway called Making Connections (funded through the National Writing Project) involves middle school students writing and posting some “I am …” poems and then offering comments, suggestions and critique to others. (Meanwhile, a second wing of the project is working on science-related writing and experiment and sharing — that is what my class is part of). Some of the poems being posted (in a protected site) are powerful, so I thought I — as the project director — would share a few with you.

I Am…JASMiNE

I am bite size but believe I’m bigger than the world!
I wonder whats going to happen in the future.
I hear the beautiful waves sound of Japan that I miss so much.
I see the beautiful lights at Dragon Palace.
I want a juicy KING SIZE Milkyway.
I am bite size but believe I’m bigger than the world!

I pretend not to be sad, although I’m crying a river inside.
I feel like crying because I’m always worrying about losing someone.
I touch my doggy as I lay myself down to sleep.
I worry that the things I hope for the most will end up not happening.
I cry when I think of the past, because I know that it will never come back.
I am bite size but believe I’m bigger than the world!

I understand that you live and you learn.
I say that you should live life to the fullest, because you never know when God’s going to need another angel.
I dream of what the future is holding for me.
I try not to worry about bad things happening to me or the people I love.
I hope I will get into a good college and make myself and everyone who believes in me proud.
I am bite size but believe I am bigger than the world!

And here are some comments:

Wow…i love this poem!! It’s my favorite so far…I love the imagery, and everything else is great too. suggsetions…well, i think it’s lovely the way it is!! — Natasha

Heyy,

I think you need to add more metaphors. It would make it really good. Also, I like how you used the color and sizes to attract attention to the part. Your poem was great especially how you said you were bite sized its funny B-) bye,

laura

Hi Jasmine.

You had such an awesome poem. I loved the way you wrote it. You have a really cool way of saying things. I really liked this line:

I say that you should live life to the fullest, because you never know when God’s going to need another angel.
When i read that I copied it right away just to tell you its awesome. GREAT POEM! — Allison

Hi Jasmine,

I liked your poem. It was really good. I think you could add a few similes though. Other then that I think you did a really good job.

Andrea C.

Hi Jasmine,

I thought your poem was awesome!! It was so original. I liked the line:

I say that you should live life to the fullest, because you never know when God’s going to need another angel.

I think you should’ve added a simile. But that’s only what our teacher said to tell someone if they didn’t have one. I like your poem just the way it is.

From,

Shannon 🙂

I Am Andrea
I am a girl who loves adventure and sports

I wonder what the world will be like in the year 2015

I hear fans cheering me on to win the game

I see the roses people giving me as I finish the routine

I want the opportunity to be whoever I want

I am a girl who loves adventure and sports

I pretent I am as glamorous as a movie star

I feel the pressure to be like everyone else

I touch the sky with my curiosity

I worry what the world will be like when I am older

I cry for those who are disabled

I am a girl who loves adventure and sports

I understand that dreams are as wonderful as vacation

I say everyone is their own unique person

I dream of going to many different places

I try to forgive people when they make a mistake

I hope I do not become cold-hearted

I am a girl who loves adventure and sports

Your poem is really good! i like it a lot its set up very orderly and has connections with every line! one thing you could change is be more careful with your spelling. but over all it was a great “I” poem! — Samantha

I liked your “I” Poem. It was very very good, also i liked how creative you are. I think of you by what i read in the poem that you are a friendly person and your always surrounded by other people.The only thing you had to do was check for your spelling mistakes. Other than that your poem was great!!!! — Chris

Hi Andrea,

I thought your poem was awesome, but you have to watch your spelling.I love the whole first paragraph I thought that was the best part of the best.

Well bye

Maya C.

I Am Andy

 

I am a decent swimmer and like to read
I wonder why the Yankees always win
I hear the sounds of the frontline
I see an amazing amusement park
I want to be an amazing swimmer
I am a decent swimmer and like to read

I pretend to do my work
I feel like doing something stupid
I touch anything I want
I worry that college will be hard
I cry when my favorite TV show is cancelled
I am a decent swimmer and like to read

I understand moments in time
I say lets go skating
I dream of succeeding in life
I try to do my best
I hope to live forever
I am a decent swimmer and like to read

 

I like the line “I hear the sound of the frontlines.” It shows great emotion and great visual effect it gave me in my thought. I also wonder why the Yankees win. I love the Boston Red Sox and hate the New York Yankees. One suggestion I must give is that in the line where you say, ” I understand moments in time…” What times do you mean? It hits the heart, but better if you elaberated more. Great Job! Really meant something to me!

From,

Jim T.

I like your poem it was cool it tells a lot about you — Ryan

I Am

I am a hateful person who likes to read.
I wonder what will happen in my future
I hear little voices in my head sometimes
I see angels in my head
I want to not be so mad all the time and to have more patiance
I am a hateful person how likes to read

I pretend to be nice when i dont want to be
I feel love and hate all the time
I touch love in my boyfriends heart
I worry about my future
I cry when i get mad or sad I am a hateful peroson who like to read

I understand that life sucks
I say I hate the world
I dream about death and my own death
I try to make people understand i hate the world and them
I hope death will come unpainfully
I am a hateful person who like to read

hey gabriella i love your poem. its very good. but try to be more positive my love. okay okay. love you =]

Carly

hi Gabriella,

you had a really good peom. You probably shouldn’t have put that your a hateful person. Or that life sucks. Other than that its a really good poem.

Bye,

ally

Hi Gabriella,

I thought your poem was really good. I think you should change the you poem a little.In stead of putting things that are negative put some things that are positive in your life.why do you hate life so much,because that was what I was getting from your poem.Well anyway your poem was really good.

Bye from Maya

Hi gabreilla I think that maybe in your poetry you should try to be little more optimistic you know. Try to look at the bright side of things. I like how you said I think that it is good that you see angels in your head.

jenisa F.

Your poem is OKay

but you could have put an exclamation point after life sucks

bye

Jacky

Peace (I am),
Kevin

PS — I actually checked in with the teacher of the student for that last poem, as it made me worry about her. The teacher reported back that everything was fine and that the student turns to writing for expression.

The WMWP Concept Map

As I was in Chicago working on our Monograph Book Project that centers on how our Western Massachusetts Writing Project responded to change, I began to get more interested in our use of creating concept maps to chart out who our program leaders were and what they were doing, and how things were overlapping with each other. I have not made these maps — that has been the work of others — but they are interesting to think about, and have shaped our inquiry at our site over the years.

So, in true digital storytelling fashion, I created this little video:

[googlevideo]-5891908020128311573&hl=en[/googlevideo]

Peace (as a concept map translated into reality)<
Kevin

Winding down in the Windy City

This was a weekend of deep thinking here in Chicago as part of a Monograph Book Project with the National Writing Project. Yesterday, we met with some friends from Western Pennsylvania and we gave them some feedback on their draft of their book (about how a group of teachers moved their site forward through a Visioning Process), and they did the same for us and this feedback helped us immensely. But it also shifted what we had already written in a pretty significant way and so, although not much writing got done yesterday, there was a lot of discussion and remapping out our ideas.

And now we are all about to do more writing again as we use a real inquiry question focus into how our Western Massachusetts Writing Project site coped with significant change and established the groundwork for leadership transitions for the future. My task is to write about mentoring models, job descriptions and how technology helped us completely re-envision our site through the use of website design.

Peace (with progress),
Kevin

Hello Windy City

On Friday, I am off to Chicago for a Monograph Book Project with the National Writing Project. My colleagues, Bruce P. and Susan B., and I have been writing the story of what happened to our Western Massachusetts Writing Project when three seismic events took place:

  • We lost all of our state funding for supporting writing teachers in our region
  • One of our founders and guiding forces died suddenly and unexpectedly
  • Another founding member and longtime director announced that he would be retiring

This was all before my time at WMWP, so it has been quite a narrative journey for me to discover the history of our site. In Chicago, we will be meeting with editors and other writers from other writing projects to discuss our progress and how things are going.

Essentially, our book is built around these ideas:

Þ The creation of an inservice coordinator position to spearhead our efforts to reach into more schools by tapping into the expanding knowledge base of our teacher consultants.

Þ The addition of a technology liaison who not only helped move us forward into technology in new ways but also became part of the leadership team that allowed our site to view what we were doing, and how we could improve, through a different spectrum.

Þ A model of mentoring in which veteran leaders of site-based programs would ask for newer, less-experienced teacher consultants to become co-leaders and this not only gave us flexibility in times of unexpected crisis, but also expanded the number of leadership positions at our site.

Þ Writing out explicit job descriptions for leadership posts, from co-director to technology liaison, as a way of not only explaining the roles and responsibilities of the position, but also leaving a paper trail for the future.

Þ The recasting of our entire leadership structure to feature rotating co-director slots with three-year term limits and the launch of a task force structure that allowed more teacher consultants to get involved in the decision-making process of our site than had happened previously.

Þ Increased efforts to create partnerships with organizations outside of our traditional circle of friends that allowed us to expand our visibility and reach in a wider geographic and demographic area. These partnerships included Westfield State College, the Wisteriahurst Museum in Holyoke and the Springfield Republican newspaper.

Peace (with reflection),
Kevin