Day in Sentence: VoiceThreading It

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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),

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),

Teachers Teaching Teachers: Making Space

I was fortunate to be part of a recent discussion about online student publishing the other week on the wonderful Teachers Teaching Teachers program. While the focus was on Space, a new online publication for and by students, the talk also moved into how the web provides a unique platform for publication. Space uses YouthTwitter for students to submit work and network with each other.

We were joined by a few students, too, and I love that their voices were part of the discussion.

Listen to the podcast of Teachers Teaching Teachers.

By the way, this was the 100th episode of Teachers Teaching Teachers, which is a great accomplishment on the part of Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim and others. They really dig deep into issues.

Peace (in discussions),

100 Tools for Learning

This list of 100 web-based applications came into my RSS the other day and it seems like a wonderful resource, moving across all sorts of applications, programs and possibilities. This comes from Jane’s E-Learning Pick of the Day at the Center for Learning and Performance.

I deeply appreciate when other people put in the time to compile a list like this and then share it with the world.

Check out the list of 100 applications (pdf)

Peace (in sharing),

Just One More Book: My Review, part 4

The wonderful children’s book blog — Just One More Book — published another of my reviews of favorite picture books. This one is called The Three Pigs and it is written by David Weisner. What I like about the book is how he takes the traditional story and completely breaks down all of the narrative walls.

The folks at Just One More Book are always looking for listener feedback (you can do it on the phone, even) and for guest reviewers. This is my fourth review so far in the past year. Take a look at Just One More Book.

Here is my review of The Three Pigs

Peace (in pictures and stories),

The Pew Report: Teens, Technology and Writing

A new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project starts out with this:

Teens write a lot, but they do not think of their emails, instant and text messages as writing. This disconnect matters because teens believe good writing is an essential skill for success and that more writing instruction at school would help them.”

The report is interesting and I need more time to digest it all. But certainly some trends seem to emerge from the data. The report indicates that teens are writing, and writing quite a bit, but their perception of whether that counts as “real writing” is low. Perhaps their writing in emails, on social networks and blogs, and in other technology-related projects is not being validated enough by adults because it falls outside the realm of traditionally-accepted practice.

One alarming trend is the perception by boys, in particular, that writing is not fun and not something that they are interested in. This gender gap correlates, too, with the fact that more girls than boys are using online platforms for writing, expression and communication. I see this in my classroom, for sure.

The Pew report also indicates that there seems to be both positive and negative connotations of how technology is affecting the writing habits of you people and what kinds of writing is being done in and out of school.

Check out these tables:

It is clear that writing is still a focus for teens (always a good sign) and that the imperative of educators is to use that desire to write in the classroom in meaningful ways. We need to use their interests in their authentic writing to guide them into instruction that we deem important and vital for them. There are ways to do this, but how many teachers are considering this? Not enough.

Yesterday, after the release of this report, I was contacted by a reporter from The Boston Globe for some comments on the Pew study. The reporter’s angle (there is always an angle) was that some findings in the report indicate that IM/Chat lingo is creeping into the classroom and into formal writing.

I certainly have seen that happen (and wrote a poem about it yesterday) but I explained that there is a balance between allowing young people to express themselves in a language that they can call their own and also reminding them of the expectations of formal conventions.

In my class, we talk about the English Language, and how it is a live entity and not dead on the page, and therefore, changes happen. The reporter seemed pretty much set against the idea that language shortcuts such as IM lingo are valid ways to communicate and that she was worried about the downfall of the English language as she knows it. So, I guess I will see how I am portrayed in the newspaper.

Check out the Pew report yourself and see what you think.

Peace (in writing habits),


Moving Music into Learning

I am convinced that music gets a short thrift in most classrooms. I know that, as a kid, if my teachers had at least once in a while use music for lessons, I would have been much more engaged in what was going in the class. I try to use music as much as possible — from analyzing song lyrics to listening to music to writing songs.

The other day, I came across Mr. Duey, who is a teacher from Detroit who raps, and after watching this video about Fractions, I ordered his CD. Even if it was bad, I figured any teacher who tries something like this needs support.

And the CD is pretty decent. It is divided into curriculum areas — Math, English, Science and Social Studies — with an audience of middle school students. Topics range from writing essays to solving improper fractions to latitude/longitude lines. I got the CD yesterday and my own two kids were boppin’ around the house, reading the lyrics and listening to the hip-hop beat. Mr. Duey’s rap about Integers even sparked a discussion about the number line and positive and negative numbers.

Along with the CD is a DVD that I have not yet watched, but which shows the making of the music and this following video. I can’t wait to check it out.

Hey ya, Mr. Duey!

Peace (in rappin’ teachers),

poemtextmessage: a poem in SMS

This morning, I had an inspiration to write a poem using the shortened SMS language of the cell phone and chat room (and twitter, too, I suppose).

So, here goes:

(listen to the poem, translated)

u thnk txt &wrds r doa
but omg rotfl bout that @shmh
‘cos ov cors, imo, 2moro will ch8g 4 us &4u
QFT: ppl r str8ng & lng str8ngr
th4, i activ8 ur txt 4u
w/lnks & soh fwiw &hope u
h/o 2 w/e u can
& now pls gt bc 2 yr hw
yer PAW

Pce \\//

Day in a Hyperbole, over at Ben’s Place

Day in Sentence Icon

It was the most amazing thing.

Out of nowhere, I received this call on my bluetoothed-gamma-radiation-brain-a-ma-phone from Radio Earth, asking if I would be willing to be interviewed about the plans by the global government to use the concept of Day in a Sentence on an intergalactic mission now being planned for next year.

You may not have heard about the latest development of Day in a Sentence, but our community of writers may soon include beings from another world, another language, another …. oh heck, so I get carried away with my introductions.

This week, Ben B. is taking over the Day and he wants you to use some exaggeration in your reflection as he brings us in a potentially strange and humorous direction: Your Day in Hyperbole.

Go ahead and fib all you want. Ben encourages your creativity and he only asks that you avoid some of the more standard words to fluff up your otherwise mundane day (I know that isn’t true, but now I am working on reverse-hyperbole). See his blog for more details.

I’m trying think up my own Big Whopper.

Please head to Ben’s blog called Awaiting Tenure

Peace (in tall tales),

Behind the Scenes of Stop-Motion

I just found this pretty neat video that brings us behind the scenes of the making of a stop-motion animation movie. I got the link from a great site called AnimateClay, which always has interesting resources for those of us interesting in exploring the world frame-by-frame.

Peace (in frames),