Day in A Sentence/Comment Challenge Reflection

Since I have been blog-deep in the 31-Day Comment Challenge — visiting sites and engaging in discussions — I think it only fitting that this week’s call for Days in a Sentence go out to not only the DayinS faithful but also any folks moving through here as part of the Comment Challenge. After all, the sentence is a comment. (And my reflections on my commenting activities is down below)

Here is how Day in a Sentence works:

  • You reflect on your week or a day in your week
  • You boil it all down to a single sentence
  • You use the comment feature on this post to share your sentence
  • On Sunday, I gather them all up, write some quick introductions and share out as a community of writing/reflecting educators (and associates)

Please consider this your invitation to take part in Day in a Sentence and feel free to read through some of our archives to get a sense of the richness of the sharing that can take place. The Day in a Sentence also regularly heads off to guest blogs, so if you are interested in taking the helms one week, just let me know.

Here is my sentence and you can listen to the podcast version:

From the Goo Goo Dolls to Green Day to the Sofa Kings and my own song with a missing verse, my classroom was a rockin’, songwritin’, dancin’ kind of place this week, and Jack Black would have been proud.

Peace (in words),
Kevin

PS — Today’s activity for the Comment Challenge is to consider some lessons learned by the act of expanding our commenting activities.

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Here are some of my reflections:

  • It turns out that I love Co-Comment as a way to track comments. I now realize just how much I have been missing in conversations. I am able to follow the comments of others, add my own thoughts, come back and see what has been added. It no longer feels like a paintball tournament, where everyone is just shooting scatter-shot into the wind. I am not so fond of the ads, as I have stated before, but I can live with it for now. I love that Co-Comment gives me a little indicator at the bottom of my browser when a blog post where I have already commented has been updated. That is a lifesaver.
  • I am coming to understand more and more how many different circles of bloggers there are out there, and it is cool to see them periodically overlap (through events like the Comment Challenge). We all have our friends but it is so intriguing to stumble into a network of others and realize they have been at it, too, and now there are some cross-connections taking place. It’s not that I felt as if me and the blogs I follow were the only ones, but still, it is eye-opening to find other groups of people engaged in similar conversations. I had this same experience one day when I came across The Two Writing Teachers site and realized what great work they were doing and how they were also building a sense of a writing community outside of my traditional radar. How many other communities of teacher-writers are out there, I wonder?
  • It occurs to me that we are all so lucky that there are so many people willing to give their time for projects such as these. I look at the Comment Challenge Wiki, and I know there is a group of wonderful people involved in this, keeping the project moving along and thinking and reflecting upon it, and encouraging others to do the same. Just think what a gift that is. The webbed world could have easily been different (and could still take a turn, I suppose). It is a place where people share, collaborate and support each other. I am grateful for the organizers of Comment Challenge and I realize how remiss I have been in mentioning who they are. So, without further ado, I send out some personal kudos to the organizers of the Comment Challenge:

Slice of Life, the weekly series, Chapter 6

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

Poetry ended on a humorously macabre note in class yesterday as we wrote out some epitaphs for fictional characters, my classroom mascot (an old stuffed polar bear who has lost a lot of beans this year), and anyone they wanted, including themselves. Many of my young writers chose to eulogize their long-lost, but not forgotten, pets in their short gravestone poems.

Now, I shift into songwriting, and it always makes me a bit nervous. But I know it is a lot of fun and something completely different for my students.

Here is what we do:

  • We examine some lyrics and songs that they are (hopefully) familiar with. Today, we’ll be listening to the Goo Goo Dolls (Better Days) and Green Day (Good Riddance) and thinking of how the poetic devices we have used in poetry is used in songwriting and lyrics. I will be bringing in my acoustic guitar and trying to coax them to sing the Green Day song with me.
  • Tomorrow, I will bring in my electric guitar, drum machine and set up a little PA system with microphones in my classroom. I then have a worksheet that has them reflect on songwriting, and then I play them a song that I wrote called Just Believe. My song has a missing verse, and their job is to write a verse, and then … come up to the front of the room on the following day, and sing it the song with me.
  • Last year, I tried to record some of the kids singing, but it was too loud and distorted even for me to listen to. We’ll see about this year.

I love the intersection of the arts and writing, and I see some of my students suddenly think of songs in a different way after these lessons. And I try to remind them that anyone can write a song and everyone SHOULD write a song (at least once in life). The combination of words, music and rhythm are a powerful medium of expression.

And speaking of music, tonight is our school’s Talent Show (the teacher who organizes it whispered to me yesterday, ‘we’re going to start calling it Variety Show to be a bit more accurate in what it is ‘ and then laughed). Each year, the staff puts on an act, and this year, we are performing Stray Cat Strut (by Stray Cats) as a live band. I am playing the saxophone and singing some of the lead parts, and we are going to ham the whole thing up as much as possible. It should be fun.

Music will be a big part of today, that’s for sure.

Peace (in rock and roll),
Kevin

Day in a Sentence gets released

This week’s Day in a Sentence was a low-traffic affair. Perhaps you are all busy, or wandering elsewhere, or just not all that interested in VoiceThread. It’s OK. I understand. I hope to have your words back this coming week when Day in a Sentence returns to its traditional form of a sentence, and nothing but a sentence.

At least one person, Stacey, had a heck of a time with VoiceThread and she got plenty of frustrated, which makes me feel sad since I want to have us explore new technology but not to the point of tossing the computer out the window. (I’m sorry, Stacey). If you had problems with VoiceThread, can you let me know?

Stacey’s last email to me could have been her sentence: “Literally gets stuck on the screen.” I think that sums up her Day in a Sentence VoiceThread experience. Bah.

But some of you made it through and here are your sentences:
And, believe it or not, you can still add in a thought, if the inspiration strikes. I am keeping this VoiceThread open.

Peace (in reflection),
Kevin

Comment Challenge Video

I just uploaded a video into the Flickr Comment Challenge Group in which I try to give a video tour of some of the blogs I visited yesterday on the 31 Day Comment Challenge. I hope others might also give the video option a shot. The Flickr idea comes from Kate, who posted her own video at the start of the project.
Take a look and please, consider joining the Flickr Group or the 31 Day Comment Challenge (it’s never too late)

(The music is original and part of another song)

Peace (in sharing),
Kevin

Reflecting on Comment Challenge

Yesterday, I decided to try out the 31 Day Comment Challenge, and I am so glad that I took the plunge. I already feel as if I have connected with entire new worlds of educational bloggers that were outside of my comfortable circle of “regulars” (cue: theme music from the old TV show Cheers) but are worth the connections. One blog mentioned around town was The Bamboo Project and so now, that blog is in my RSS.

It was interesting to read through their Comment Audits, and notice some themes. Many of us do visit a handful of blogs per week, make comments, but don’t track them and rarely return to further the conversations. It’s like a hit and run. If commenting is an integral part of blogging, I know I am guilty of not doing enough on my part as the reader/viewer/commenter.

I also used Co-Comment for most of the day. Other than the annoying advertisements (which I know are necessary for a business, but still annoy me), the platform for tracking comments on blogs is pretty amazing. I use Firefox, and CoComment is now embedded right in my toolbar and browser. I just click on the little blue CO and I am at my homebase in CoComment, looking at the trail of comments I have left, and any responses. This tool makes so much sense and I am kicking myself for not using it before. But I guess that is yet another reason why I am glad for the Comment Challenge.

Here is one example of connections.Over at Kate Foy’s blog — Spinning a Learning Web, she posted a video welcome to the Comment Challenge. It was neat to have some multimedia as part of the challenge, and I wrote a comment, saying that it might be cool to have folks use video to reflect or even to comment (although not all blogs allow that, I think). She agreed (I saw this via CoComment) and now Kate has set up a Flickr Group for Comment Challenge, and she hopes folks will upload videos (you can do short ones via Flickr now, with Pro Accounts) as part of the challenge. Great idea! If you want to join this Flickr Group, you can ask Kate through the invitation at the Flickr site.  I’ll work on a short video reflection later today.

Meanwhile, if you are visiting here from the Comment Challenge, I would like to invite you to consider a weekly feature called Day in a Sentence, in which teachers boil down a day or the week into a sentence (or some variation) and share it out as part of a reflective community. This week’s Day in a Sentence is on VoiceThread but you can also just leave your sentence as a comment, and I will embed into the final VoiceThread later.

Go to the post about this week’s Day in a Sentence

Peace (in connections),
Kevin

The 31 Day Comment Challenge

31 day

I’m probably not going to go full depth into this challenge, but I love the idea of connecting with others and I want to be somewhat involved. The idea behind the 31 Day Comment Challenge is to engage bloggers in developing more meaningful discussions and dialogue with other bloggers through the comment/discussion feature on the blogs.

There are prizes and all that, although that doesn’t interest me at all. And although the organizers have suggested using co-comment platform to track comments, I may not do that either. The program seems to have bugs. So, I may just move among the 100 (yep, 100) bloggers who have signed on and engage in conversations that way.

A starting point are these three questions that formulate a sort of self-assessment:

  • How often do you comment on other blogs during a typical week?
    • During a typical week, I comment at about 7 to 10 blogs that I track through my RSS. Many of the bloggers are friends, but I do try to leave comments on blogs that I don’t otherwise have a connection with. If a blog has a theme or writing style that seems interesting, then I will often put it into my RSS and follow the blog from there.
  • Do you track your blog comments? How? What do you do with your tracking?
    • I track my comments only if the blog has an option to track the comment, and I admit, it does get difficult to follow discussions. It often feels like a hit and miss operation. And I don’t always return to the discussion, even when I am tracking comments.
  • Do you tend to comment at the same blogs or do you try to comment on at least one new blog per week?
    • I do tend to comment on a set number of blogs (mostly through connections of various projects that I am engaged in) but I do try to comment once in a while on new blogs, just to extend those connections outward.

And now, I am off to explore some new blogs and leave some trails behind.

Peace (in dialogue),
Kevin

Converting VoiceThread to Video

I experimented for the first time with converting a VoiceThread into a video file, using the new feature over at VoiceThread. The process cost me three dollars, but if you have a paid VoiceThread account, I believe you get a few of these for free. The VT comes back at you as a Quicktime movie, and it is interesting to see how it looks in this different format.

I uploaded it into Google Video, but the darkness and shrinking of the screen does not do justice to the video that I received from VoiceThread. I also notice that Google Video no longer allows you to adjust the size of the screen (look how tiny it is!). Next time, I should use TeacherTube or YouTube, perhaps. Oh well.

My idea is to archive any of the Day in a Sentence VoiceThreads that we have done and so here is one from February 2008.

Speaking of Day in a Sentence and VoiceThread, the invitation is still open for you to boil your day or week down into a sentence and share it out via this week’s VoiceThreaded Day in a Sentence. (You can also use the comment feature either at this post or the initial post from a few days ago, if VoiceThread is not your thing)Peace (in sharing),
Kevin

Stop-Motion Lego Exploration

Yesterday, I finally got some students working on using our stop-motion software (it’s free for PC!) on the laptops. I carted in a HUGE bucket of Legos from my kids’ closet (don’t say a thing … top secret) and let my students just explore the use of creating short stop-motion movies.

In about 30 minutes, all five groups had created something and most had begun to understand how to capture frames, how to get your hand out of the way (crucial) and how to be incremental in your movements of objects.

This will all lead us to a Claymation Project very soon (this year’s theme: climate change).

I uploaded two small Lego Movies via Flickr and share them here. These are raw — no sound or anything. So, hum a little song in your head as you watch, OK?

Peace (in ssssslllllllloooooooo mmmmmmmooooootttttiiiiioooooonnnnnnn),
Kevin

Day in Sentence: VoiceThreading It

Day in Sentence Icon

Greetings.

This week’s Day in a Sentence meme is moving onto the VoiceThread platform, which allows us to embed our voice, and even webcam video, as part of our weekly reflective sharing. I hope you will consider joining us. You will need to have a VoiceThread Account, but it is worth it — this application is easy to use and has wonderful possibilities.

If the thought of moving into a different platform just gives you a headache, then feel free to use the comment feature on this post, and I will later copy your words into the VoiceThread, so that you can still be part of the group conversation.

Anyone, and everyone, is invited to participate. I will re-release the VoiceThread, with any additional comments, on Sunday.

Peace (in a week of peace),
Kevin

Slice of Life, the weekly series, Chapter 5

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

I love Love That Dog, a short novel in poems by Sharon Creech, and yesterday, I began reading it aloud to my sixth graders as part of our poetry unit. A few have read it on their own before, but most had not. They were mostly quiet as I read — taking in the story of a young boy (Jack) who does not like poetry but is asked by his teacher to keep a journal, reflecting on the poems he has heard, read and written.

The story begins with Jack stating outright that “Boys don’t write poetry. Girls do.” (That got a few laughs … from the boys)

But slowly, he opens up his eyes to the possibilities of poetry, and Jack’s story of his dog and what happened slowly gets told through journal entries told in Jack’s endearing voice. The journal entries themselves are poems, and Jack watches as his teacher — Miss Stretchberry — types them up and puts them on display. It is through this that Jack realizes the power of his writing, and then digs deep to understand a tragedy that happened in his world.

Throughout the book, Creech shares the poems that Jack is learning about, so the reader gets to peruse Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, William Blake, and others in the poetic canon.

Yesterday, I stopped at the point where Jack is all excited about Shape Poems (poems where words take the shape of the thing the poem is about, is how Jack puts it) that have a humorous bent to them. The one in the book — called Apple by S.C. Riggs (Creech herself) — shows an apple with a wormy worm in the center. Jack creates his own poem about a dog, with a tongue dripping drool and the tail wag-wag-wagging. We then began creating our own funny shape poems (I did a football with grass stains and air hissing out of a hole).

I had more than one student ask, this is poetry? Yes, I said, this is poetry, and isn’t it fun? They are so used to prose and sentences and paragraphs that they are surprised by the freedom of poetry. Too many students balk at poetry because they think everything is about rhyming. I hope they are learning that poetry is about exploration and questions, not answers. (This was made obvious by our discussion of William Carlos Williams’ The Red Wheelbarrow, which confused the heck out of them).

We’ll continue reading the book out loud again today and likely finish up tomorrow, and I always get a bit choked up at the moment when we learn the true story that Jack is struggling to tell and only finds his voice through poetry. I often have a few kids with tears in their eyes. There is an emotional resonance to Love That Dog that any middle school student, or older, should experience.

Peace (in poems),
Kevin