Student Voices: A Falling Leaf

Listen to sixth graders read their stories.

Today in my Sixth Grade Writing Workshop, students learned a bit about point of view narrative techniques in writing.

  • First Person Narrative: stories told from the view of a character.
  • Third Person Narrative: stories told from a perspective outside of a particular character
  • Second Person Narrative: stories that insert the reader into the story.

Students then wrote in a First Person Narrative style that captured a leaf falling from a tree in Autumn. Some of those young writers, after sharing their writing with the class, agreed to help create this audiocast.


The World of the Saxophone

Since blogging is often a source of obsession as well as of information, I figured it was time to check out some sites dedicated to the windy world of the saxophone.


I used my Delicious account to track down some sites as opposed to Google because I was interested in meandering through some other folk’s networks and interests as I pursued my own. So here are some sites of interest to the saxophonists out there:

  • First, there is the Wikipedia entry on the Saxophone. One interesting fact is that Adolph Sax, who created the instrument, designed over 14 different models of the musical invention in the 1800s.
  • There is a neat timeline of patents related to the Saxophone at this site. The last patent (according to this site) was in the 1920s and had to do with a key that makes playing a few multiple notes a bit easier.
  • Here is a photo gallery of all sorts of saxophones, spread out across the years and companies. Very nice pictures here. I liked the last few folders that shows rarities and odd assortments, such as the Slide Saxophone.
  • Apparently, saxophone players are feeling underprivileged in the music world because there is a Saxophone Alliance. The group even has a constitution and bylaws. This is serious! Actually, it’s nice to know that all sorts of communities of interest can spring up on the ‘net.
  • One fellow has designed a site to make fun of saxophone solos in pop songs over the years and it is quite funny. The site provides short audio clips of the solos and there are even grades for the solos there (example: the solo in Billy Joel’s Still Rock and Roll to Me garners a B while Huey Lewis and the News’ Back in Time gets a lowly D grade.
  • Finally, check out this classic video clip from the one and only Sesame Street on how a saxophone is made in a factory. This is from YouTube, just so ya know, so I can’t vouch for copyright protection. (Ahh, go ahead and watch it — it’s very neat)


Composing Music

In the interests of more experimentation, I am posting a song that I composed on software called Scorewriter, which I first exported into a MIDI file, and then converted into an MP3 file (nothing is easy and everything takes a few steps but the process is a learning adventure). This particular song called The Door to Five-Four was written in 5/4 time, which is tricky to pull off (the most famous being Dave Brubeck/Paul Desmond’s jazz classic Take Five), and I am not quite satisfied with the voicings of the three parts (and the fact that Scorewriter’s internal voices are merely adequate — it is a tool for writing compositions more than listening to compositions).
I plan on doing a future Dogtrax Audiocast on my Scorewriter compositions.

microphone Listen to The Door to Five-Four

I also realized that I could create a PDF file of the actual composition (in case you want to play it at home for yourself — laugh-laugh)

Here is the actual written musical composition


Dogtrax Audiocasts: Rough Draft

This is the the third in a series of audiocasts that I am experimenting with through this Weblog site, which has really become a mishmash of my thoughts on education, music, personal writing, and my work with the National Writing Project. I hope anyone who reads my site doesn’t feel the lack of focus is frustrating.

This audiocast features the archived music of a band that I was in during my college years at Eastern Connecticut State University in Connecticut. ECSU is in the shadow of the University of Connecticut, and is situated only a few miles away from UConn.

Our band, Rough Draft, was composed of myself and some close friends — Johnny D. on guitar and Alex D. on bass — and a drummer (Josh) who never watched the rest of the band when he played, but still did an OK job (it wasn’t easy to find a drummer in those days). We played parties, and some bars, and just got together to make a lot of noise and have fun.

The songs from this audiocast were from a short television show we did for the local cable company and are all songs that I wrote for the band.

microphone Listen to Dogtrax Audiocast Episode Two: Rough Draft


Valuable Resources and Information

This summer, the folks at Tech Matters were kind enough to load us up not only with cool ideas, but also with resources. The series of Seven Things from Educause is one example of very useful information for teachers and educators. Here are some readings/handouts that I think are really valuable and worth sharing with colleagues either in the hallways or in workshops:

7 Things You Should Know About PODCASTING
7 Things You Should Know About WIKIS
7 Things You Should Know About Collaborative Editing
7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking
7 Things You Should Know About Screencasting
7 Things You Should Know About Videoblogging


First Day of School: Sixth Graders Speak

It was Day One of the school year, and so I demonstrated to my sixth graders all the steps necessary to creating and posting audiocast to our Weblog site by actually doing it together (in 30 minutes!!) and we ended up with this audiocast:

On the first day of school, my homeroom students created a podcast about their expectations for sixth grade and/or their concerns for the year ahead.

Listen to Their Voices

Oh, if you are wondering about what Quidditch is, here is a visual guide:

Using Vaestro for Audio Messages

After listening to a Going-Back-to-School Podcast by Bud the Teacher and his friend, Darren (at a site called A Difference), on Labor Day, I began checking out Vaestro as a possible source for a deeper use of audio for Weblogs. Vaestro is an online audio messaging and recording/playing system that is free, and may allow for greater collaboration for my students this year.

The site allows you to record outgoing messages and encourages anyone with a computer and microphone to leave a message. It’s kind of like a free online companion to Skype. I found an interesting article by Wesley Fryer about the use of such services for collaboration in education.
As part of this experiment, I created a message and I am hoping some folks will leave me an answer.

Head here to listen and respond to my Vaestro Message.


On the Radio

In the past two years, I have been on the local NPR affiliate (WFCR) two times — first, as a guest commentator speaking of the values of nurturing student leadership and community service at my school (Norris Elementary School), and, second, as a leader of the National Writing Project-funded Making Connections Weblog Project.

As I continue to explore ways to integrate audio into Weblogs, I figured this would be a time to link those two radio files to this site.


My Writing Curriculum Map

I have always shared information with my parents and students right from the first day of school because I believe it is important for everyone to know what is ahead in my sixth grade writing class. It should not be a mystery. This year, I decided to take it a step further and put together an overall curriculum map and distribute via our school website (which is being revamped) and my classroom Weblog site.

It was a valuable experience for me, as a teacher, to realize the scope of work being accomplished by my students over the course of a school year. I also realized that there are endless mini-lessons and activities that fall outside the scope of this generalized curriculum overview. But I guess it is a start.

Here is the curriculum map for parents and students


Writing Curriculum Map

Sixth Grade Writing Curriculum

A resource for parents and students


Unit Name




Start of the Year Activities

(approximate timeframe: September)

  • Oral Storytelling (act out stories with keywords on note cards)
  • Writing Prompts: freewriting (throughout the year)
  • Intro into Weblog Technology
  • Writing BioPoems
  • Read Aloud Plays (cooperative group)
  • Creating Writing Portfolio with goals, reflections, etc.

Adventure Short Story

(approximate timeframe: September-October)

  • Pictures tell a story: safari adventure
  • Conflict/Resolution in writing (puppet skits)
  • WriteSource 2000 – Plot
  • Writing dialogue minilessons
  • Writing an adventure story – project (w/plot peak organizer, scoring rubric)

Descriptive Writing: Monster Exchange

(approximate timeframe: October)

  • Using the senses in writing (alien activity)
  • Monster Exchange
    • Reading Rotten Island
    • Illustrate from listening
    • Creating Monster and description
    • Day in the life of Monster
    • Monster Exchange in classroom

Expository Writing: Imaginary Land Brochure

(approximate timeframe: October-November)

  • Read Weslandia
  • Examining and analyzing travel brochures
  • Creating Imaginary Land and a travel brochure for that land, using attributes of travel brochures
  • Using Microsoft Publisher to create promotional flyer

Theater Writing: Puppets

(approximate timeframe: November-December)

  • Reading Fairy Tale News play (genre of play script writing)
  • Reviewing Plot/Theme
  • Reading ‘Celebrations of World” and discussing common threads (lights, food, family, etc)
  • Prompt: Inventing a holiday and creating story map (setting, characters, plot, resolution, theme)
  • Cooperative Groups
    • Choosing one story map or combining together
    • Writing a script (every group member has role in creation of project)
    • Making puppets (w/art teacher)
    • Creating promotional materials
    • Performing for younger grades
    • Creating movie documentary of the puppet project

Origins of Words

(approximate timeframe: January)

  • Borrowed Words
  • Jigsaw Words
    • Roots
    • Suffix
    • Prefix
  • Eponyms
    • Create ads for objects
  • Made up Words
    • Frindle
    • Class Dictionary
    • Shakespearean insults
  • Multiple Meanings
  • Slang

Parts of Speech

(approximate timeframe: January-February)

  • Madlibs
  • WriteSource
  • Grammar Rock Video
  • Poster Project
    • Adjectives
    • Adverbs
    • Nouns
    • Verbs
    • Prepositions
    • Pronouns
    • Interjections
    • Conjunctions
  • Writing song in style of Grammar Rock – record and post to Weblog

Paragraph Writing

(approximate timeframe: February)

  • WriteSource Overview
  • Expository
    • Giving directions for Norris/HRHS buildings
    • Writing the steps to how to do something
    • Sharing and posting to Weblog
  • Persuasive Writing
    • MCAS as requirement for graduation?
  • Descriptive
    • Describing Quidditch
    • Stuffed Animal Day
  • Narrative
    • Reading Mem Fox  Wilfred…
    • Writing about object that has strong memories
    • Recording and publishing to Weblog

Essay Writing: Name

(approximate timeframe: March)

  • Prompt: Inventing a Legend of your name
  • Handouts: Genre of Five PP Essay Writing
  • WriteSource
  • Interviewing family: origins of name
  • Computer research/sharing of discoveries
  • Writing essay

Figurative Language

(approximate timeframe: March-April)

  • Hyperbole
    • Davy Crockett Listening Quiz
    • Safari exaggeration sheet
    • Creating own Tall Tale Story
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Personification
    • Writing from view of your house in morning
  • Alliteration
  • Imagery
    • Five Senses Chart – using Halibuts and Hailstones
  • Idioms
    • Phantom Tollbooth
    • Beach Boys lyrics
    • Idiom Game
  • Simile/Metaphor
    • Describe Self


(approximate timeframe: March-April)

  • My America – sense of place/imagery
  • Poetry Exploration Project (finding and sharing poems with class)
  • WriteSource overview
  • Illustrating “mind pictures” from some poems
    • The Raven
    • Paul Revere
  • Reading Love That Dog and share poem styles
  • Poems for Multiple Voices
    • Recording to Weblog
  • Poetry Marathon
  • Animal in Me
  • Haikus
  • Inside this ..
  • Odes
  • Create Poetry Book
  • Letter Writing Mini-lesson
  • Submitting Poetry Journal and letter to me
  • Songwriting

Picture Books Creation

(approximate timeframe: May)

  • Integration of curricular theme (this year – science/ last year – math)
  • Read Aloud Author and From Pic to Words
  • Working with librarian to examine genre of picture books
  • Planning and Writing picture book
  • Using Powerpoint to create and publish
  • Sharing with younger grades
  • Posting to Weblog

Short Story: Trapped in a Board Game

(approximate timeframe: June)

  • Reviewing plot
  • Reading/Watching Zathura and/or Jumanji
  • Writing adventure story
  • Integrating historical figure into story