A Make-Your-Own-Ending/ Interactive Fiction Writing Activity

I used the concept of Make-Your-Own-Ending (which we are studying right now) for a writing prompt yesterday that was a huge hit with the students. We’ve been talking about these stories (the use of second person narrative, the branches of the stories, etc.) for a week now, and have had some really interesting discussions about the set-up of these books.

I had created the template below to help with the writing activity. The idea here is that one person starts a story and creates two choices. We then randomly distributed the papers throughout the classroom, and someone else continued the story, adding two more choices for a third reader. The third reader then added two possible branches of the story, before the original writer got their own story back and wrote the final sentence or two. (The whole activity took about 30 minutes).

There was great excitement in the room. Everyone wanted to be creative, but they also were trying to keep an eye on what others were doing to their stories. We then spent about 15 minutes sharing the final stories out, to great laughter and entertainment. As we move into the writing of a larger make-your-own-ending story next week (we’re going to be using the Twine software, with the story theme of an archeologist/explorer in some ancient ruins), this activity gave them time to play with the concept and think about the idea of story branches.

I also began using the term “interactive fiction” for the first time, showing how the reader is as involved as the writer in making choices about the direction of the story. We’ve already done enough groundwork on the concept that they understood the concept well enough.

Make Adventure Story Template by KevinHodgson

I’ll try to share out some of the work tomorrow.

Peace (in the branch),

Slice of Life: Having Fun with Close Reading

This is for Slice of Life.
6words jabberwocky
Ok, so maybe close reading activities are not always fun, but we did our best yesterday as I introduced my sixth graders to the classic poem, Jabberwocky. First, we cold-read the Lewis Carroll poem, and here I had students volunteer to try their hand at reading the nonsense words. Then, I read it, in dramatic fashion. We then talked about the structure, and the story underneath the poem, looking for points of evidence. Finally, we watched the Muppets version of the poem, which is completely wacky and silly, and just the right tone to wrap up our close reading activity.

Peace (in the nonsense),

Slice of Life: Teachers Who Made a Difference (in my life)

This is for Slice of Life, although the idea began over at our National Writing Project iAnthology site, we’ve been writing about teachers who made a difference in our lives. I created the following comic to remember three teachers whose philosophies and styles linger with me.

Influential Teachers

Peace (in the past),

Mapping Out Choose-Your-Ending Novels

The excitement around using Choose Your Own Ending novels in two of my classes continues (and some complaints from the other classes as to when they will get a chance to read them, too). Yesterday, many students began their second (or third) book, and I had them working in small groups to begin mapping out the storylines in one of their books. It was an interesting process, with lots of discussions and page-flipping. This lesson is to geared towards having them get a real sense of how the books were written, so that when they start writing their own next week, it will be easier to jump into.

Check out some of their maps:
Story Map3

story map2

Story Map


Peace (along the branches),

Slice of Life: Wireless and Ready to Dance

This is for Slice of Life. My drummer came into practice recently with some high-quality wireless microphones, and I have been practicing with one on my saxophone. This Friday, at our gig, I’ll give it a shot. I’ll no longer be tethered to the PA system. I can dance.
6words wireless
Here is my band — Duke Rushmore – in action as part of our video archives:

Peace (in the sound),
PS — if you live in Western Massachusetts, we’re at the Holyoke Paper City Brewery on Friday night, 6-8 p.m. Entry at the door gives you free beer from the brewery and live music.

App Review: Topps Pennant


When my youngest son started his recent fascination with baseball cards, I figured there must be some cool apps for the iPad that could give him some more information about collecting and information on players. I haven’t found that App yet, but I did stumble upon this pretty nifty App from Topps called Pennant. It allows you to choose a team, and with a very interesting visual, infographic-style interface, you can see all the stats from every game from 1952 to 2012.

There are a couple of ways to look at the data. A timeline view allows you toggle through the years. A spinning wheel for each game allows you to view every inning, and every play. Other elements take you into a view of the entire season of a team, and even the winners and losers of divisions over the years. A map of the country allows you to find team to examine, and there are more features here than we have explored.

This Topps Pennant App really is what they say it is: “…the modern box score” document. It costs 99 cents, but it was worth it for our family of baseball fanatics.

Peace (in the history),

PS — here is a video overview:

Topps Pennant Full Trailer from Topps Digital on Vimeo.



Picture Book Review: Brothers At Bat


Our house is gearing up for baseball, with all three boys playing in three different leagues (the oldest just made his high school team last week and the other two had Little League evaluations on Saturday). So, at the library, we’ve been bringing home all sorts of baseball-themed books. Brothers at Bat: The Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick is a perfect companion to all the stats books and baseball cards, and resonated in our house of three athletic boys. The book centers on the Acerra family from New Jersey, and the boatload of kids they had (12 brothers and four sisters).

They not only literally had enough kids to field a team. They did. In the 1930s, there were more opportunities to create your own semi-pro baseball teams and hit the circuit, and the Acerra boys did that. This true story of the band of brothers playing baseball — with interruptions for military service and other factors of life — is nicely done, and Vernick did her own research by interviewing one of the surviving brothers. She really captures the spirit of family and the spirit of sports. And the illustrations by Steven Salerno were spot on, too.

Brothers at Bat is a book I would highly recommend for the start of Spring Training.

Peace (on the plate),

PS — Vernick shared some silent footage of the brothers on her YouTube account. Interesting.