Over in another online space, I am working to make and share a comic every day for 100 days as part of a challenge. I don’t know how I will do it. But I am trying (I am on day 16!).
With the end of the school year (kids left yesterday but I still have today in the classroom), my comics were focused on those final, hectic days. I had a great class this year — sort of loud and most days edged on chaos on times, but overall, they were wonderful, and I will miss them, for sure.
Peace (in the frames),
I love this final line from a poem by Joy Harjo, entitled For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in its Human Feet:
Then, you must do this: help the next person find their way
through the dark.
which completes this poem I discovered via Teach that Poem project (poems emailed every Monday), which shared the poem out as a suggestion to teach on the last days of a school year:
Peace (as school days end),
John Spencer has yet another intriguing post up, this time about actively and intentionally noticing the way sound in our classrooms play a significant role in student learning. He explores this from a couple of different angles, and I suggest you read the post he has written entitled “Sometimes a Quieter Classroom is Actually the Answer.” We (me) don’t often think much in terms of sound levels of our learning spaces, other than “that’s too loud” or “that’s too quiet.”
John notes that a noisy classroom does not translate into more active learning in this age of collaborative/cooperative learning. Neither does a silent classroom indicate that all students are working independently. Finding balance, and being intentional about the physical space of the classroom is one way to address this. Differentiating the classroom space for sound? Interesting.
This year, I’ve had one of the largest ratios of loud to quiet kids than I can remember, and I found myself struggling often to balance the spectrum of extroverts — who enter the classroom nearly yelling at their friends, gushing with news of the morning — with the introverts — those who settle in with a book or some work amid the morning chaos and try to ignore the noise. The extroverts are not mean; they’re social and excited and just loud. The introverts are not always passive; they often seem bemused by the antics, as quiet observers.
So, you know, it’s complicated.
I’ve tried different approaches to moderate the noise that often emerges from any learning activity, attuned to the quieter of my kids. And don’t get me wrong — we’ve had long stretches of intense quiet, particularly of writing quiet — the solitude within a crowd where a writer finds their words in stories, poems, essays or even daily writing activities. I enforce that quiet pretty strictly.
But other times? Man. It’s like I become a sound fighter, reminding people as I wander the room to “keep it down” and “you seem to be shouting at the person next to you” and “respect the space.” The lull lingers, and then is lost. There are times when we could barely hear the office announcements, and this is at the end of the day, when students are lined up and ready to head home. They’re so loud, they can’t hear the dismissal.
I’m going to mull over John’s points as this year ends — a sound audit of the classroom? Intriguing. More choice for students to work in quiet or active spaces? Possibly.
I am also sitting (quietly) with John’s (a self-proclaimed introvert) observation: Every student needs some quiet.
In music, there’s a deliberate symbol for rest. It’s not a break from the song. It’s a part of the music. But it is silent, and it is powerful. I think we need the same thing in the classroom. In a culture of noise, sometimes relevance isn’t more noise. Sometimes it’s more silence. — John Spencer
I only picked up Vacation by Blexbolex by chance at the library. I was wandering through the children’s section and saw it on the shelf. Something about the girl beckoned, and I listened. And this wordless novel of illustrations is a beautiful example of how lush illustrations, and overlapping narratives, can tell a story.
The story revolves around a young girl who is visiting her grandfather (according to the text on the back of the book) and it must be a vacation of sorts (deduced from the title), and as the girl and her grandfather spend their days, she takes on a small elephant as a playmate and dreams grand adventures.
The art is just lovely, reminiscent of old-time picture books from long ago and yet it feels fresh in the telling, too. There is something about the movements of the girl — and the vividness of her wonderful dreams — that bring the pages to life. Words are not necessary.
Vacation works on the level of storytelling, merging the ideas of a picture book with the idea of a short novel. And in that intersection, the young girl’s story surfaces and blooms.
Peace (without words … oops),
Yesterday, in our last full week of the school year (still a few days to go, though), our sixth graders took part in an activity called The Ultimate Game, organized by an outside group. The Ultimate Game turned local recreational parks in town into a huge game board, for collaborative and cooperative activities. This was our first time using this group and I was impressed.
There were riddles, and challenges, and a GPS scavenger hunt component. Teams of students had to work together to find clues, solve mysteries and earn tokens, roll huge fuzzy dice, move pieces on a massive game board, draw on their various strengths, and it all came together so nicely — the weather, the kids, the game — that it has me wondering how to do even more of using the outdoors — field, forests, park sites — as settings for cooperative game design.
We have explored game design throughout the year, from different angles, so this field trip made sense as a way to tie things together.
Along with a six week video game design unit earlier in the year, we ended the year in our ELA class with a short story project in which students wrote a fictional piece of a narrator going into a board game to rescue a person from history. The game becomes the setting. Sort of like Jumanji and Zathura, picture books by Chris Van Allsberg (and both became movies, of course).
In the Write Out project from last summer, we explored and talked about more ways to better integrate the urban, suburban and rural outdoors into curriculum, and I admit, I did very little of it this year until the end of the year.
So I paid attention to the group that led yesterday’s events, watching how they so skillfully set up engaging experiences for success for all students, and used the contours of the landscape and woods and fields for the design of the huge game system they put into play.
(Oh, FYI: Write Out for 2019 will be this coming fall, in conjunction with the National Day on Writing. Keep an eye out for more details later in the summer).
Peace (outside inside),
My students recently finished up working with a visiting artist — a woodcarver named Elton Braithwaite, who has been coming to our school now for 22 years — and their two pieces of collaborative carvings are very impressive. One has a tree theme. The other, a book theme.
The pieces have yet to be painted, so I took pictures of both carvings in their unpainted state, and began to play around with app filters (inspired by a friend of mine, Simon). One filter app I used (on the tree) is called Olli and the other (on the read) is Painteresque. The gif maker site is called Gif Maker.
I wanted to see the same image, fading in and out with filters. This approach worked better in another space, where Simon and I and others are sharing writing and art and more. The fade there was more natural. But here, I just used the online gif maker and layered the photos. The transitions are more abrupt, and a bit too quick (maybe I should have tinkered more with the settings on the gif creator).
It’s still kind of neat. The tree one works best, I think, for the app brings to the surface more of the textures of the carving piece. It’s a more natural piece of art. The read one is sort of distracting with the filters I used — at times giving it a sort of metallic sheen that goes counter to the concept of this being a carving on wood.
Peace (in the carving),
Once you get Charlie’s voice in your head — and it takes a few pages for the rhythm to settle in, for writer Christopher Paul Curtis pulls you right into young Charlie’s vernacular speech of the South during slavery, where Charlie is a poor white child whose father has just died and Charlie is left to cover his father’s debt — you’ll never lose Charlie again.
In The Journey of Little Charlie, the story centers on the boy, as big as a man but still learning about the meanness of the world, as he accompanies a slave catcher to the north on a mission to find and return some runaways. Charlie does not want to be there but his hand is forced by his situation.
And time and again, we see the world through the boy’s eyes, a world full of injustice and cruelty, and Charlie’s own discomfort with things, but also, his inability to do much about it. He’s a boy, after all, in man’s world, and the man he is following — Cap’n Buck — is not one to be trifled with.
Without giving the story away, Charlie is faced with a moral choice, a tangled situation in which the boy must become a man, sooner than one would hope, and the decision Charlie makes impacts many in the Cap’n’s orbit. Curtis, a master storyteller, pulls it all off by diving deep into the head and the heart of Charlie.
Once you’re with Charlie, you won’t ever forget Charlie.
Peace (in the escape),
This is the second in a periodic but not all that regular series of comics featuring a dog, whose personality (in my mind) is inspired by Duke, my dog. The comic is called Dog’s Eye View, and cats figure prominently at times. Like this one.
Peace (in the yard),