Sketching out my head

Stacey, over at Two Writing Teachers, had this link in post this week (sent forth by her mom) and I just love it. It’s called Sketchcast and it allows you to draw and embed into your blog (and with the new freedom of Edublogs, you can embed it right into a post now with going through hoops and hurdles).

Here is a sample I made about a look inside my cluttered head:

I am wondering how to bring this into the classroom, as my kids don’t have their own email addresses. I might be able to use the Google Email Hack, though. Or maybe I can set up a classroom account and just let multiple kids create multiple sketches at the same time.
Peace (in sketch form),

The World of Comics


I was prowling around the web, searching for some comics that I might be able to use for a lesson on Onomatopoeia today when I found this site called


I love comics and I always have loved them, back from the days of delivery newspapers as a kid. I used to spend hours with the newspaper and comic books when I was young, and I still wrestle with my own kids to get to that section of the paper. I think the web, like so many things, has the ability to make content more available in our own time frame, for our own interests in a way that is changing the delivery and discovery of comics. (There are downsides to that, too, including the lack of serendipitiously stumbling on something cool that you did not know was there).

When I travel to other cities, I always buy the local newspaper. It’s part of the old journalist in me to see how things are faring in the local newspaper market.  You can often tell the status of a community by the quality of its newspaper. I also turn to the comic page to see what comic strips I am missing.


This comics site has a lot of comics that you might find in various daily newspapers, but what I found it interesting is how they sort them and break them down by age and gender. It made me truly wonder who designates what age a comic is appropriate for? Whose to say that I don’t like a little Reality Check in the morning? Or that Lola’s joke about ebay dentures this morning won’t be funny for a man?


I know everything out there is just waited to be sorted and indexed and put into little small piles of information. But I kind of wish they would let me, and not them, do it for myself.


I noticed that they also have a category just for web-based comics, although I wish comics would begin to push the envelope a bit, using hyperlinks and embedded audio and video, and other elements of the web. I think it is possible to push beyond the frames.


Peace (in little square stories),



A Poem a Day

Bud the Teacher showed me this, via Twitter.


You can sign up for a poem to be delivered to your email inbox every day for the month, and I already have two wonderful gems come my way. This is just one way to celebrate the art of poetry, which hopefully extends across the year.

You can sign up here.

Peace (in poetic delivery),

Day in a Sentence: slicing into your week

Day in Sentence Icon

The Day in a Sentence has always been purposefully minimalistic.

It’s about narrowing down your reflection to its essence. But the recent Slice of Life project (kudos to Two Writing Teachers) that I have been part of has demonstrated how insightful it might be to pull back a bit and broaden that focus.

So I am going to suggest that we consider doing just a bit more writing than a sentence this week.  I ask you to consider writing a few sentences or a short paragraph that brings us inside your classroom and sharing that experience with us.

Of course, you still have the option of a single sentence (that is always the default, given the lack of time that so many of us have).

As usual, please use the comment link here at this post. I will collect all of the submissions and then post them together on Sunday. If you decide to podcast your writing, just provide me with a link or email me your audio file at dogtrax(at)gmail(dot)com and I will host for you.

Here is my submission:

The toolbox of figurative language can be fun for writers and readers, I assured my students, and then we launched into the realm of hyperbole. They caught the exaggeration bug quickly, easily telling tall tales about their lives. The alliteration was also a blast, as we tied up our tongues with our own twisters and read from Dr. Seuss’s Oh Say Can You Say. I had more volunteers to read from that book than pages and more laughter than time. But idioms? Oh my. Perhaps it is their age but idioms confused so many of them. And for my few students whose second language is English, idioms are like some bastion of imprecise phrases. One even asked, what do you mean, they don’t mean what they say? We took it slow, but not slow enough.

Peace (in slices),

PS — Alice M. has agreed to be host of Day in a Sentence next week. If you think you may want to host, please just let me know. It is simple, yet informative.

Matt’s Rip Van Winkle

My good friend, Matt Needleman, put together this video about the state of education, using animation and the story of Rip Van Winkle. Matt tries to show, in a creative way, how much the world has changed but not our schools.

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Thanks, Matt!

Peace (in waking up to the real world),

Slice of Life, the weekly series, Chapter 1

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

I had not meant to write. I was going to wait a week and get back into Slice of Life, in its weekly incarnation, in round two. But something in the newspaper caught my eye and I felt the need to reflect.

The news article was about the death of a local activist, Herb G., whom I remember clearly and dearly from my years as a newspaper reporter. I first met Herb and his wife, Charlotte, as a school reporter for the regional newspaper, and I could count on either one or both of them calling me or stopping in to the newspaper office on a regular basis. Charlotte-and-Herb or Herb-and-Charlotte — they were always referred to as one name, it seemed — were transplanted New Yorkers who came to our city to work in the social service sector.

But their heart and soul were in the areas of social justice and education. Everything they did was done through that lens. Local politicians used to roll their eyes when Herb and Charlotte came into a meeting. They knew they were in for a grilling. As a newspaper reporter covering the city school system, I was a main contact for them to get their message out. Our city was not quite as progressive as it is now. (And that, too, may just be a projection of hope of the present). The community was in the midst of an ideological struggle between the conservative old guard and the newcomers with families seeking to cast a broader net for all people. This does not mean the conservatives were heartless, but they often resisted any change. And they resented the influx of Hispanics and Asians who were arriving on a steady basis. The progressives eventually won out.

In those days, Herb and Charlotte were fearless in their discussions and debates. They demanded equal access to education for all children. They decried any implications of racial imbalance. They sought to nurture and cherish the various cultures of city residents. They were the first to call for action when racial epitaphs were written on public property and the last to end the discussions for learning. Their own children were long grown up, but they saw themselves as advocates for those could not speak, or were scared to speak, for themselves.

It would not be unusual for me to be caught in a conversation with Herb and Charlotte that might last a good hour or two. They knew they had me and they bent my ear as much as they could. And boy, they could talk. Charlotte often greeted me with a warm hug, even after I had left the school beat and was reporting in another city. She was about human connections.

Their message of social justice did come through for me. Now, as a teacher, I still think of Herb and Charlotte often as I try to show my students the bigger world beyond their insular community. Their message resonates today.

So I was saddened to learn that Herb passed away. Charlotte, too, died last year. Their legacy remains, I hope, in the ways in which the people they touched — including me — see the world.

Peace (in social justice),

April Fool’s for Geeks

Wired Mag has a list of some geeky April Fool’s Jokes that include:

  • remapping the keyboard of a friend
  • changing the sound of incoming email to a fart sound
  •  covering up the light on an optical mouse
  • the screenshot-as-desktop gag
  • and more

Check out the ten gags and you can even vote on the best ones. (but don’t try any of these with me!)

Peace (in playfulness),

Slice of Life, Chapter 31 (the final call)

(This is the last segment of the Slice of Life Project)

Today ends the Slice of Life Challenge that began way back on March 1 and it seems an opportune time to reflect on what I have been doing.

I am both saddened and a bit relieved, too, as once I started writing about some aspect of my day, I felt some internal motivation to keep it up and not miss a day. In that vein of daily writing, I was successful, although the quality of the composition ebbed and flowed. I have loved the concept of slicing into a day and then bringing the focus from a singular event into something more global, more wide in view.

I think, at times, I may have brought that focus too close into my family life and I worried about it at times. I do try to protect the privacy of my family. This is the Internet, after all, and the audience is not just the participants of Slice of Life. My wife was a little uncomfortable with some things and she had some valid points. I guess I felt, as a writer, my family is the most important thing to me and the biggest part of my life, and so my Slice of Life had to reflect on those things. I did notice that I was paying attention to the small events going on around me. But I may have been writing, and not talking, about those things in my quest to write for reflection. That creates imbalance in life.

One thing I did enjoy was connecting with other writers and teachers who were outside of my normal network. It was intriguing to read and react to the slices of the other handful of writers. There were many truths about life being written on their posts — so many insights that were valuable. Some slicers were going through the death of a family member. Some were planning weddings. Some were dealing with sick and sad, or healthy and energetic children. Some examined friendships. Some were struggling or celebrating the communities of their classrooms. I felt honored to be part of their conversations. It did feel a bit strange that I was the only man writing in Slice of Life. I tried to get others involved, but I had no luck. In the end, it was not a big deal, just sort of odd. It makes me wonder about gender and writing, and what it all means.

I discovered the Slice of Life through my RSS feed (from A Year in Reading blog) and then, as I began to take part, some of the readers of my blog began writing their own slices. Some (like Bonnie and Nancy) added their links to the Two Writing Teachers blog. Others (like Karen) did not, but still kept writing.

I hope to use some aspects of Slice of Life for the Day in the Sentence (for example, I liked the Mr. Linky widget that was used so that people wrote on their own blogs but were all linked together at a single point). I hope that some of the Slice of Life writers will continue to join us in Day in a Sentence. Stacey and Ruth, at Two Writing Teachers, are going to continue to offer a weekly version of Slice of Life, so if you are interested, you should check it out. (I will pass for tomorrow, just for a breather).

Peace to all of you who followed me here and keep on writing and reflecting!


Day in a Sentence: End of March

Thanks to everyone who participated in this week’s Day in a Sentence. It continues to be a pleasure to see your words before the rest of the world and I am always truly honored by your posts.

And now, your sentences …

Larry (whose sentence I almost lost — sorry, friend) saw with his own eyes the continued aftermath of the storm.

Spent a mixed week in the New Orleans — the French Quarter is wonderful but so much of the city is still devastated two-and-a-half years after Katrina.

Lynn reminds us of the work that goes on behind the scenes by teachers and others to make sure our students have educational experiences. We’re often like the wizards in Oz, right?

Today’s excitement is palpable as our Arts-Media-Communication students arrive early to school anticipating our excursion to the Norton Simon Art museum: they will never know the effort, work, headaches, and sheer drudgery experienced by the 3 teachers who fought two bureaucracies to bring it about. (I’m extending to sentence 2.) Tonight is Back-to-School night, and I fully expect to fall asleep behind my teacher mask that will automatically chat and smile with parents.

Jane comes into Day in a Sentence from Slice of Life and I am so happy to see her participating with us. She reflects on snow and perceptions.

It seemed to me that today’s round of yet another snowfall would be terribly discouraging for the birds but as I watched them hop about their daily business seemingly oblivious to the obstacles created by the snow, I decided to do the same with the falling problems in my life. Matthew 6:26

There are birds in the air (I, too, noticed the sounds the other day) that signal changes for Connie.

Standing outside in our nature area, I see wave upon wave of migratory female robins arriving; I notice that the males are singing new songs.

Bonnie has been away and now is back home. In-between, she carved out a moment for her sentence.

I am on the last legs of my March adventure in Israel and it has been rich with a guesting hosing for Boil Down You Week, my obsession with creating slices each day as a way of documenting this experience and sharing it with our virtual communities and IMing marathons with Nancy and Karen…a rich experience in the moment and sharing it on the web. PERFECT!

Ben B. had a full house (room) on a day of testing, showing that students know when it is time to skip and when it is time to stay.

My worst-behaved class must have known about the standardized testing today because despite the three absences, there were more bodies present than chairs.

I am not one to accuse anyone of sabotage, but it seems as if Sara had it a little too easy the other day. What was she doing near the water pumps at 4 a.m. that morning, anyway? (laughs)

“Okay, it is with an almost unprofessional glee, that I report the following news: when my school’s town shut off water yesterday afternoon to make some routine repairs, my brand new school neglected to shut off their water pump, so it burned out, and the outcome is this – kids dismissed at 9:45, and a good chance we won’t have school tomorrow (nothing is better than an unexpected day off, even better when it probably won’t have to be made up in June!!)

Elona reports from the north in a wonderfully poetic way.

The record snow fall we’ve had here in Mississauga, Ontario this winter is finally melting away this week in the warm sunshine and my thoughts this week turned to gardening.

looking out the kitchen window into the backyard
beyond the orchids on the inside window ledge
ignoring their exotic deep yellow and fushia blossoms that scream for attention
down at the semi-frozen garden bed at the shyly emerging green shoots of crocus bulbs and the promise of spring realized

Boy, Anne sure has a full plate: family, friends and sheep (I think).

Being on 2 weeks holidays this week, means that I have had time to spend with my family, including babysitting my little grandson, time to explore further the wonderful websites that my ‘twitter’ friends put up, time to just catch up on my long list of ‘to dos’ and oh…. time to help out a bit in our woolshed as shearing is in progress on our farm!

Delaine finds solace in the regularity of the days.

I realized how much I love the routine of my life after having it disrupted this week.

Eric sees spring right around the corner. There it is! No. Shoot, it disappeared. Wait! There it is!

Things are changing around here- must be spring.”

Amy, a newcomer to Day in a Sentence (welcome!), also awaits the first signs of spring.

Spring break quickly turns into a time for addressing all the necessary parts of life that are pushed aside during the normal week.

Matt is all about definitions. It does turn out that everything is something else, after all. (ps — check out Matt’s site for the cool Rip Van Winkle movie he made about the state of education)

I’m beginning to wonder if crazy is the new normal.

Nancy was part of what sounds like a wonderful New York City Writing Project this weekend and like all technology-infused adventures, it had some moments that probably made her wish for pen and paper.

Despite technical glitches at yesterday’s Teacher 2 Teacher presentation, a good time was had by all but boy, Windows ought to be strung up, tarred and feathered.

Peace (in words),

How the College Kids Play Quidditch

As some of you know, we are in full swing for Quidditch season at my elementary school. This is the eighth year that we have played a version of the Harry Potter-inspired game at our school and all four sixth grade classes will be competing in a crazy, madcap Quidditch Tournament in about three weeks. (My team won last year … not that it is about the winning, of course)

Our version of the game is a mishmash of activity, but it also stresses teamwork, cooperation and positive interaction on the field. The game was created by some students and our gym teacher.

But I guess Middlebury College has their own version and their players came to visit the local Amherst College last week. CBS News was there and did some segments on the college game for The Early Show. And I just found the video of the segments.

Let’s see if I can embed the video here:

Peace (in games and competition and magic),