A Podcasting Gift to Students

I normally don’t give out class presents. I figure that my presence and energy each and every day is enough (hopefully) of a gift to my students. They work hard, and I work hard, and we all have fun. This year, however, as I was sharing some of my podcast work with the sixth graders at this blog, a friend suggested that I burn the audio files onto a CD for families who might not have access to the classroom blog where the podcasts are shared.

What a great idea, and so I went ahead, and burned each of my homeroom students (20 of ’em) a copy of their voices, with a quick intro and outro from me, and then used some new CD package software to create CD covers for them.

It didn’t take much time and I believe it will be most appreciated by the parents and students.

Peace (in sharing voices),

Students 2.0

A group of students — reflective, opinionated and resourceful — have started up a wonderful site to give voice to those minds in our classrooms who feel frustrated and confined by much of the educational practice of our world.

The site is called Students 2.o and you can sense the exploration and learning and leadership that is being developed there by these students from across the world, as they use a blog for a platform for their views. They are advocates for change, and they are articulating the need for that change in new ways.

I hope teachers are listening (or it is another case of the teachers who are reading Students 2.0 already believe and the ones these students need to reach don’t even know how to find such a blog? I know the answer to my question, don’t you?)

Here is the first part of the Students 2.0 mission statement:

For decades, students have been stuck in classrooms, behind desks, being told how and what to learn. For a time, when students were expected to become widgets for the vast machine of industry, this model of education was highly effective. However, we have now entered a new age: an age where thinking is more important than knowing, where thoughts out-do the facts. Borders are melting away; project teams collaborate across the globe and intelligence is being continually redefined. The world’s information is at our fingertips and anybody can publish their thoughts for virtually no cost.

Peace (in empowering students),

The Puppets! The Puppets!

Each December is puppet creation and theater writing for my sixth graders, and it is always a flurry of panic (we perform for younger kids this week!!) as time runs out, scripts are completed and puppets are constructed. I usually try to film the puppet shows for the web (and will try this week) but until then, I created this little video so that parents can get a glimpse of what we are doing.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-2300864688933673392" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

(I taught a group of my students how to use my Super Dooper Music Looper software and then I asked them to create the soundtrack for the video)

You can also access a few of the scripts as PDF files (all plays revolve around an invented holiday):

Peace (in puppets),

Day in a Sentence: New Voices

Larry Ferlazzo took the reins of Day in a Sentence this week (head to Larry’s site) and as a result, there were many new and wonderful voices as part of the mix, including some of Larry’s own students (which is an interesting concept). I like that Larry’s connections brought in people from other parts of the world and I hope they continue to contribute to the feature.

I am going to host the feature again this coming week (be on the lookout for the typical midweek announcement) and then we may take a week off for holiday vacation, and then return with Matt Needleman at the helm as guest host.

Peace (in collaboration),

A Poem for Bella

We put our family dog, Bella, down to sleep yesterday and so it was a very sad time for all of us here, as our three young boys have known her as a friend and protector, and she was the first dog that I ever owned.

We also had a snowstorm here in New England during her final days and the pure whiteness of the snow, and its temporary nature, reminded me of her white coat of fur and those thoughts and the sadness of making the decision to end her life to spare her suffering sparked this poem in her memory.

All One of the Same (for Bella)
Listen to the Poem

I covet the unblemished snow —
the blanket of white replenished in this candlelight’s flickering glow —
knowing all the while how temporary this is
and how this earth will surely rise up to reclaim it
for another time;
another place.
It is all one of the same.
This flurry of contemplation brings on such a sudden sadness of loss,
so I reach out my fingers to gather up every flake falling
in order to watch the world disappear.
I hold tight to the memory of the moment
so that it
— all of it: the snow, the whiteness, the love —
may live on inside of me forever.

Peace (in dog heaven),

Radio Lab

This site crossed my Bloglines from Brian Lamb’s site and I listened to it with headphones and was blown away. (It kind of reminded me of Pink Floyd, but as a podcast and around the topic of science, if that makes any sense at all).

It’s called Radio Lab and it a radio show from NYC that is also a podcast. It’s worth your time to take a listen. Notice how they effectively use audio editing and the concept of the Internet connections and Web 2.0 in their shows.


Here is one of the shows that could be called Sound is Touch at a Distance in which the creators of the show talk about what sound is and how it can be used to tell a story. I particularly like the “telling” of what sound waves look like and what that means to us as listeners and scientists (heck, we are all scientists, if you think about it, charting new discoveries every day).

Peace (in podcasts),

Happy Birthday to Blogs

[kml_flashembed movie="http://voicethread.com/book.swf?b=33484" width="400" height="300" wmode="transparent" /]

What has blogging meant for you as a teacher and writer?
Wikipedia marks December 17 as the official Birthday of the Weblog and some folks — including Steve, the creator of Classroom 2.0 — have created a site (via a blog, of course) to celebrate its impact. The site is called Celebrating Educational Blogging and the VoiceThread above is from that blog and it asks you to post some reflections on what impact blogging has had for you. (You can also leave comments right at the celebration blog site).

I love this intro from the site:

Some of us believe that blogging, as one of the great entry points into the “read/write” web (or “Web 2.0”), is having a transformative impact on education and learning, and that we are at the start of a new renaissance that will be defined by the participatory, contributive, and collaborative nature of the Web.

What? You haven’t tried VoiceThread yet? Here is a wonderful chance. Just sign up and click your microphone and start threading your thoughts.

Peace (in blogs),

Day in Sentence on the move: Larry’s Place

We continue to expand the ownership of the Day in a Sentence and this week, Larry Ferlazzo has agreed to become your gentle host of sentences. (no words will be hurt in this production — promise).

Larry has a terrific resource blog that may be geared towards ESL/ELL families and teachers but it proves the concept of universal design — everything he shares seems valuable to anyone.

So, please, meander over to Larry’s site, take a look around and then boil down your week or day into a sentence and post it at his site. He intends to release our words to the world on Sunday.

Peace (in virtual partnerships),

Writing in a Digital Age: NWP Resources

In NYC last month, I helped organize and lead a presentation entitled “Writing in the Digital Age: Using Media in the Classroom” with three other National Writing Project teachers. The session went well, with about 75 people in attendance. In the aftermath of the presentation, we decided to pull together our presentations and resources and create a webpage for folks at the session and for others, too.

You can head to the resource page and then also find a link to the reflective notes from the various tables, as we asked people to consider how they could integrate technology further into their classrooms and into their writing project sites.

I used the simple Google Page Creator to pull these together, along with the slideshows, podcasts and links embedded into the site for easy access.

Peace (in sharing),

Day in a Sentence: December 9


This started out as a slow week for sentences, as I suspect folks are getting crazy with teacherly duties (Oh, yeah, I have report cards due this week!), and then it picked up steam late in the weekend. Here are the wonderful sentences submitted by some friends and colleagues and acquaintances:

Nancy has her groove back and is settling in but just on the horizon is … a break from the action: “We took a great field trip this week, dug deep into Judith Ortiz Cofer, and generally got back into the groove but we’re all waiting for Christmas break to hurry up and come.”

Nothing like leaving your classroom, crossing your fingers that things will go just fine without you there and then coming in and reading the note from a substitute that makes you want to transform into the Grinch (before his heart grew three sizes). The Mindful Teacher did some yelling this week, I think: “My sub could not control my class so they took advantage of that and now I get to be the mean, disappointed teacher and a couple of kids will have rotten days — and that’s just great.

Matt is always on the search for new and cool tools for his classroom, and he is always eager to share, too. This week, he f0und a web creation site that I have not yet heard of it and now need to explore. “I discovered RapidWeaver is a pretty cool tool for creating web sites quickly and cheaply.”

Bonnie is hopped up on optimism for whatever is ahead. I can almost hear her from where I sit. “My mantra for the week: collaboration can be messy, and I say, bring it ON,…it’s grant writing time and the HVWP is on its way, sharing leadership and bringing more of our people to the table; of course it would be easier to just keep the status quo but NO WAY…we are pushing ourselves beyond our( my) comfort zone and I say BRING IT ON!

A friend, Karen, brings into sharp focus the need for writing in her life and the demands that she has (which are many) and the incredible juggling that goes on in our lives, as she tells us: “Write this for her, write that for him, write this other thing for someone else, will there be time to write for me?

Sue reminds us that this is an incredibly hectic and nutty time of year (and my projects are way behind due to one snow day last week and another on the horizon for tomorrow) as she writes, ““Tis the season”, and we feel it this week as the calender is full with activities, the students friends and family are all busy in preparation, and the focus has moved from routine day to day activities to the all important “checklist”!

Tom, who is a leader with the Hudson Valley Writing Project and a poet (right?), is looking at the same sort of sky that I am seeing here in Western Massachusetts. “On a Sunday morning when gray skies promise snow and light winds sift through barren branches, inside, with warm scrambled egg bellies, we read newspapers and listen to the humming that emerges from a newly built fort of blankets on chairs.

Cheryl, who is part of the Bit by Bit Podcast trio, thanked me for the reminder (thank you, Cheryl, for participating) and writes about the deconstruction of her room. “My week, my technicians got rid of 12 years of old towers, monitors, printers, so we can move forward and fix towers with parts and get technology moving.

Ginny, who hopes to podcast her sentence via her PodcastPeople site (I think, and if so, maybe it will inspire others), talks about working with up and coming teachers. “I met with some trainee teachers earlier in the week and we discussed reflective practice as well as tips on creating a teaching portfolio.

Cynthia is a friend with a wonderful accent that you can’t hear (unless she could podcast) and she reports on the combination of work and play: “TGIF took on a new meaning this week: the students had the day off while the teachers traveled to Jackson for the MPSEA State Teachers’ Meeting and Christmas shopping!

(some late additions) Susan reminds me that she and I and another person from our writing project site need to be working on a Monograph Book project (thanks Susan for taking the reins for now!) as she completed another draft of the writing for us. “One long day of writing, pushing the monograph to its next phase; wish I had a week.

And someone new (a connection from Bonnie, I think), Eric, writes, “Late to bed- up early, breakfast for six under 7 (pancakes, scrambled eggs and leftover latkes), drawing, playing, ice skating, heading north to home where the menorah waits- when is this party gonna end?

Thanks to everyone who shared this week. Next week, I will be passing the feature along to Larry F. so be on the lookout for a post here that will guide you to his incredibly useful site of resources. It is an amazing compendium of links.

Peace (in connections),