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),

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),

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),

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),

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),

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),

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),