Slice of Life (Day 12): Putting Postcards in the Mail

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I finally got some time to write up some postcards for the CLMOOC Community, which has been engaged in a Dear Data-style project in 2017, where every month there is a new theme and we collect data that we put onto postcards and mail out to others on the list.

Yep. It’s cool and challenging.

The theme for March is music, and how people collect and share their data about music is completely up to them. I decided to track a single day of listening, as best as I could, and then using a chart in the form of a record player to represent the clock of the day. I don’t want to share it because that will ruin the surprise of folks getting it. I have about 12 postcards to go out, including a few for my overseas friends (who are musicians, so perfect fit).

Duke and I and Postcards

Duke and I Gear Up for Walk to Post Office

I’ve written about this postcard project before, so I will just reiterate: the personal connection of using the mail to send off postcards to people I’ve met in online communities is such a beautiful, human reverse of how we envision virtual friendships. I cheat a bit with my data postcards, making copies for multiple postcards … I am lazy and messy in my writing.

But I figure this allows me to send more postcards.

Duke and I braved some very frigid winter air, and cold gusting winds, on a walk to the Post Office yesterday for some International Postcard Stamps. Meanwhile, this following song was a collaboration with a bunch of people in the CLMOOC Postcard Project (you can read about the song here).

Peace (in the post),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 11): Quidditch Comes Early

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Regular readers here (Thank you) will know that our school plays our version of the game of Quidditch, and we have a Quidditch Tournament Day every year in which all four sixth grade classes compete for a full day. It’s very fun and very crazy, and it’s a unique experience for our students. They may someday play Quidditch in college, but the college way is not our way, not by a long shot (and we think our rules and our game is much better than what is played on the college club circuit).

Quidditch Tshirts 2017

Quidditch comes early this year because of shifts in the standardized testing season, and with the tournament coming during the school day on March 30 (and at night, we teachers play the kids — our team name is Pink Fury), there is a lot to do with creating posters and, as they were doing yesterday, making t-shirts to wear on Tournament Day.

Quidditch Tshirts 2017

My class came up with the team name of Blue Barbarians, which is not a name our class (with main color, blue) has had before. We’re often a cold or ice name.

We made this video a few years ago to show other schools how we play our game. We’re OK if others “borrow” the rules and adapt for their own situations.

Given that our Quidditch season at school coincides with Slice of Life here at the blog, you can probably expect more updates through the month. We connect writing, art, and physical education. We work on teamwork and collaboration as a class community, and we talk about winning and losing and other social skills, and more … all connected to the notion of Literature in Motion that drives our Quidditch season.

Peace (in snitches and quaffles),
Kevin

 

Interactive Fiction Invitation: Come Play Some Stories

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

The other day, I wrote about my sixth graders planning out and learning about Interactive Fiction. They are in the midst of creating their own stories, using Google Slides and Hyperlinks as the backbone technology for composition and publishing. A few students are nearing the end of their projects, so I figured I would share out a few for you to play, if you want.

So strange to say that — Playing the Story — but I do it all the time with my students in this writing unit, to enforce the mindset of a different kind of narrative writing and reading. It makes the story a game, of sorts, and puts them in a different kind of position as writers of the story.

Peace (follow every path),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day 10): The Tangled Knots of She Said/He Said/She Said

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

One of my students was crying. The cafeteria director asked me, Why is she crying? I didn’t know. It happened at the end of lunch. I walked over, and took the student aside, and tried to gently figure out what was happening. It wasn’t easy. It’s hard to talk when you are crying. We took our time.


knots flickr photo by mlberman25 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Untangling the knots of adolescent social conflicts requires finesse, and patience, and compassion. In essence, this is what happened, and it involved my student, and two others.

Student1 was crying because Student2 told her that Student3 had said that Student1 talked about Student2 behind Student2’s back. Student2 confirmed that Student3 said that, but Student2 didn’t really believe it. Why did Student2 tell Student1 that, then? They didn’t know. Meanwhile, Student3 said the tone in which Student2 asked the question about whether Student1 talked about Student2 behind their back seemed to indicate that if Student3 didn’t implicate Student1, Student2 would be angry with Student3. So, Student3 admitted to what they said about Student1 to Student2, but explained it wasn’t true: Student1 was not talking behind Student2’s back. Student3 apologized to Student1. Apology accepted. Student2 apologized to Student3. Apology accepted. Crisis averted. For now.

If you could follow all that, well, more power to you. My head was spinning as I was trying to sort it all out in the hallway, but was relieved that the crying (two students were sobbing by the time we were done) was over and the apologies were accepted. I know I made this exchange into a bewildering post but I also know that for 11 and 12 year olds, this is serious business and helping them to sort it out was probably the best thing I did during the day.

I won’t even get into the other student who I found crying in the hallway earlier in the day for an entirely different reason …but we hopefully sorted that out, too.

Peace (in hallways and in friendship),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Nine): Writing Projects, National Parks and Summer Camps

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Ok. Summer is not close. It’s early March, already. But yesterday afternoon, in a meeting, all we talked about was summer. I am the lead organizer of a proposed free urban Youth Summer Camp that connects middle school students from Springfield, our main urban center, with the Springfield Armory, our only National Park in Western Massachusetts.

A lot of the work ahead of us is contingent on a grant that the Western Massachusetts Writing Project has submitted to a regional arts organization, as we propose weaving narrative writing, primary sources and local history, and professional development for teachers who will design and run a free summer camp. We’re optimistic on the grant, which would fund two years of collaboration.

It’s a lot of juggling, though, to plan such a project. Sitting around the table with my colleagues, including a school administrator from the social justice/expeditionary learning magnet middle school we are targeting and a park ranger from the Springfield Armory, we were energized by the possibilities of the partnerships underway. The fourth colleague is another teacher who has been an educational consultant with the Armory and helped run a similar camp last year. (I’ve worked with the Armory via WMWP for Professional Development but was not involved in the camp in the past)

We talked about who will do what, and how things will unfold, and possible logistical hurdles (and solutions). We all agreed that the kids will benefit greatly from this endeavor.

I’ll be helping to run the Professional Development aspect, with mostly Social Studies teachers diving into writing about history and civics, and those teachers will co-design the curriculum of the summer camp at the Armory itself. This will be the third year WMWP has partnered with the Armory, thanks to support from the National Writing Project, so we are not starting from scratch.

Recruitment of teachers now begins and then the campaign to get as many as 40 urban middle school students into the camp for the last week of June. That seems far away. It’s not. I need to get working on a flier for students.

Peace (in connections),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Eight): Designing Interactive Fiction Story Trees

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Last week, I wrote about my students reading and mapping out Interactive Fiction novels (Make-Your-Own-Ending is another term for the books), and now they have flipped and are becoming the writers of Interactive Fiction. We use Google Sites and the power of Hyperlinks to move the reader through the story. In fact, I did an entire mini-lesson yesterday about the innovative power of Hyperlinks, which are the digital architecture of the Internet.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

First, though, is task of the creating of Story Trees and Decision Branches where choices will become part of the story. Yesterday, many students were finishing their Story Trees up, and talking about what is going to happen at different branches.

The project is called A Mystery of Ruins, and the theme of the stories are about an archeological dig or an explorer coming across the remains of a lost civilization or culture. They have to write in second person narrative point of view, use good descriptive writing, have at least five to seven branch points and three different endings, and no violence or death.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

What I love seeing in the development of the Story Trees is the thinking out loud, and the connecting of story points, and how the narrative will be weaving this way and that way, and how a writer plans for the reader to be in charge of the story.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

This is a very different kind of writing for my students, and many are deeply involved in their narratives, and are eager to get writing as soon as class starts each day. That is always a good thing.

Interactive Fiction Story Trees

Peace (branches here and there),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Seven): Cells, Cells, Everywhere You Look

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Sometimes, it is a joy to wander the hallways and see what my colleagues are doing with our students.

Cells in the Hallway

In Science, the unit right now is Cells and these four posters — one from each of our sixth grade classes — were up on display yesterday morning.

Cells in the Hallway

I love the colors and the humor and the large-scale Comic Strip feel to them. Two of the posters deal with Animal Cells and two, with Plant Cells.

Cells in the Hallway

Each student had a different part of the Cell, and their job was to create the character (most used alliteration) and create a dialogue bubble for talking about their “job” in the Cell.

Cells in the Hallway

Peace (inside and out),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Six): Recording in the Home Studio

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

We have a relatively new bass player in our band. His name is Brian and we are all impressed by his chops, and focus, and kind personality. Turns out, he loves music, just like us, and he is dedicated himself this year to doing even more music. When I learned that he has a home recording studio set-up at his apartment, we connected with a plan to try a little recording of some songs outside of the band setting (but let the band know).

Hanging with Brian2

Yesterday, I drove over to Brian’s pad, and for about two hours, we talked about music and did some recording of scratch (rough) tracks with my guitar and my (still-sick) voice and two songs from a collection of songs that I have been writing for a few years as part of a much larger narrative project with poems and stories and …. oh, who knows anymore.

Hanging with Brian1

It was fun, though, recording again, and I am curious to hear what Brian does with the tracks. I explicitly gave him full permission to do what he wants with the guitar and vocal tracks, so he can feel free to experiment and add layers. We’re hoping this partnership extends into more formal recording down the road.

For now, for yesterday, it was just for fun. Sometimes, that’s the best kind of music to be made.

Peace (in the studio),
Kevin

Slice of Life (Day Five): On the Possibilities of Collaboration

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

One of my hesitations in jumping into Slice of Life is my participation in something known as Networked Narratives, a ‘course’ being run at Kean University by Mia Zamora and Alan Levine (remotely) which has an open online invitational component, which I am part of. So, this Slice of Life sort of converges with Networked Narratives. That’s a good thing.

My good friend, Wendy, from Australia, has been tinkering with the app Acapella as a way to foster more narrative collaborations with the NetNarr folks, mostly those of us out here in the wide open spaces. The students in the actual course seem a bit more restrained and follow the course’s activity guidelines pretty closely. Out here, we just do what we wanna do. We’re not getting graded, of course.

Anyhoo … Wendy and I have been trying to navigate the potential of the Acapella app, which has strange quirks around collaboration yet has some potential that we find intriguing enough to stay with it. We’ve messaging back and forth, working through the kinks and frustrations.

This is one of our impromptu collaborations.

Next up is an invite to a few more friends (Sandy and Terry) and plan out something a little more creative and focused.

Peace (in collaboration),
Kevin

PS — this is one acapella mix I made myself long ago, when I first tried out the app.

Slice of Life (Day Four): Watching Logan Run

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

My youngest son, age 12, wants to see Logan. Ain’t happening. I went with my nearly-17-year-old son last night, and I have to say, finally, there’s a movie out of Comic Book Land that has a rich story and a real heart, overwhelming the magical wonders of watching a character with a superhero power. But man, Logan (rated R, for good reason) is very violent. This is not a kid’s movie. (By the way, one preview piece I read before the movie repeated that phrase three times IN CAPITAL LETTERS. I concur.)

With three boys who love movies and who love comic books, I’ve had to sit through some real awful doozies, in my opinion. The Avengers‘ movies were a mess. Same with Civil War. Iron Man? Didn’t do much for me.  If I never see another Batman or Superman movie again, I’ll be just fine with that. The new Lego Batman Movie? It was OK, but not nearly as inventive as the first Lego Movie. If they never make another Batman VERSUS. Superman movie again, the world will be a better place. Trust me.

Give me Ant Man any day, though. I enjoyed the lightness of that one. I wish Doctor Strange were a bit better, but I liked it. I am a fan of Guardians of the Galaxy, which is my youngest son’s favorite movie of all time.

But so many of these Marvel and DC Comic movies are just so over the top with effects and glitz, with no attention to character and story. You get lost in the haze of fighting. Fighting for the sake of flashy violence. I often walk away from the theater, barely remembering what we watched.

Logan is deeper than most of the superhero movies (including the various XMen movies that disappointed me), as a character grapples with themes of age and family. There is a complex narrative that weaves through this flick, one that resonates most in the quiet moments. But the Wolverine has always been a dangerous character, so danger comes and so, too, does the fighting to survive. And the scenes are graphic, even as the violence and its impact on those who wield it is part of the thread of the story. I suspect some parents might make a counter-argument on the nature of the violence and why it is needed.

So yeah, our youngest son? He can wait a few more years on this one …

Peace (not war),
Kevin