Day turns into Night in a Sentence

This week, Tina takes over the reins of Day in a Sentence as guest host for the first time. Her twist on the ‘ol chestnut? (We’ve been doing idioms in the classroom, so they are coming through in my writing these days) She wants you to write a reflective sentence about what happens after you lock up the classroom for the day and head off into the night. (Keep it clean, folks!)

Please join us over at T-Dawg’s Blog for this week’s Night in a Sentence.


A Video Message from the Students

This video comes via Project Tomorrow (which oversees the Speak Up Project for youth) and the video is a powerful message about priorities and needs of education from the view of students.

In 2008, the involvement in the annual Speak Up Survey involved:
281,150 Students
29,644 Teachers
21,309 Parents
3,115 Administrators

Peace (in listening),


Poem-a-Day’s How to Read a Poem

I subscribe to the Poem-A-Day feature from It’s a nice way to begin the day, with some words sitting there in my email box. Some poems I like; some, I don’t. That’s OK, though. Today, I found a poem about reading poems without the need for a college degree. It reminded me a bit of Billy Collins. Yes, poems should reach everyone from all walks of life. It’s a shame that poetry is often the forgotten cousin to prose, isn’t it?

How to Read a Poem: Beginner’s Manual
by Pamela Spiro Wagner

First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma,
your steel-tipped boots,
or your white-collar misunderstandings.

Do not assume meanings hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.

To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
and trust.

Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.

Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.

When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don’t even notice,
close this manual.

Peace (in poems),

Reflections on Digital Storytelling with Teachers

(Note: a wordle of comments from teachers on what they enjoyed from the workshop)

Saturday morning, in my school library, there were about 25 of us wrapping our minds around digital storytelling at an event called Digging into Digital Storytelling and we were doing it in a very concrete way: by playing with the technology and discussing the implications for the classroom. This is the second annual conference that our Western Massachusetts Writing Project Technology Team has hosted (last year, we presented a Technology Across the Curriculum event) and we kept true to our values in the National Writing Project:

  • Teachers were teaching teachers
  • Writing was the heart of what we were doing
  • Sharing and reflection were built into the day
  • Activities were designed for participation

The day began with an overview of digital storytelling, allowing us to conceptualize the role of student as composer of multimedia stories. This was an audience of folks completely new to the field but who were interested in learning more about how to engage their students with media production and digital stories. (One teacher admitted she had never even heard the term “digital storytelling” prior to the event).

I shared out information about the Collaborative ABC Movie Project from a few years back, shared some student movies from our Memory Object project, and then two of my technology team members — Mary and Tina — shared movies, too. Tina showed a wonderful story about a local place that holds a place in her heart and Mary showed a story in which her students talked about a water table experiment they had done.

Then, with a quick step-by-step tutorial of Photostory, they dug in.

I had asked them to consider bringing their own flash drives with images to tell their own story, and most did. Within minutes, they were composing. Some were stories of places; others were stories of people. One created a movie based on a poem of love that she had written for her partner and selected images. A few worked on ideas that their students might work on.

It was wonderful to watch and they were very engaged in what they were doing. Just like students, when you give them the time and scaffolding to succeed.

Our plan was to transition halfway through the day to explore Voicethread, but everyone was so immersed in Photostory that it didn’t seem like the right thing to do. So, we suggested that they keep working on Photostory and then, for the last 30 minutes, I would walk them through Voicethread. They all agreed, and appreciated the flexibility of the workshop to accommodate what they were doing. I can’t stand it when a workshop presenter has no clue what the audience is up to, so I try to stay tuned in with where people are and what they need to keep learning.

The final reflections — we called it a Ticket to Leave — were overwhelmingly positive, with folks noting that the time to play and explore was crucial for them as they think about how they can bring the concept back to the classroom.

Here are some of the ways they hope to move the concept into the classroom:

* Using Photostory for fluency project
*I see a lot of promise for September, especially with public speaking class
* I will use this in World Civilization and Integrated Vocational Skills classes
* You sparked collaboration with other teachers and learners — an idea I might develop through either blogs with students/or possibly voicethread
* Using this with my fourth graders who are trying to remember parts of essay writing
* Remediation project of an argumentative essay
* I hope to use digital storytelling for a long-term science experiment in mummification
* Introduce the idea to my juniors and seniors as a possible tool for use on their research presentations on topics ranging from Buddhism to Heien Japan to Medeival art in Europe

One thing I wish we had done with them: create a gallery walk of all of the movies they were working on so that participants could see what each had been doing during the time together. I realized later that they were most likely interested in each other’s work and we had not provided them an official glimpse into their efforts.

One more note: Almost everyone agreed that Photostory was easy to use and most admitted their struggle now was not with the technology but with their technology coordinators. Since Photostory is a downloaded program (free from Microsoft), they would have to go through hurdles to get it on desktops or into their system, and I could sense most would at least pursue the request but for how far? When we grapple with access to technology, it is often as much about the equipment as it is the help from the so-called experts who really see themselves as gatekeepers. If you are a technology coordinator, give the teachers the keys to the closet, please. Most don’t want to rock the boat and will give up on an idea if it means coming into conflict with the technology coordinator. That’s my opinion, anyway.

Peace (in reflection),

Your Alliteration Days

The challenge this week for Day in a Sentence was to use alliteration. These were fun to read out loud.

  • To my motherly dismay my most mini of males is markedly manifested with the measles.Illya
  • Perhaps pathetic peripheral printer problems present, put possible pertinent proposed preparation plans past patching, partly precluding previously posted possible printer problems.Ken, who notes: “This was presented recently as a report to our coordinator who requested suggestions for the problems incurred when using the office printer.”
  • ‘eavily engaged in entertaining eerie aliens, as earthlings eager to exist for ever. Marg, who notes;: “Translation – we have joined the global writing project, where we have to write a story which entertains the alien king, or we all die. Eek! We are having enormous fun. 🙂
  • The tributary trickles tentatively through the townScibulous
  • Wearily writing winded words which wither within wastebaskets.Val
  • Tortuously training teenagers through timing, trial, tribulation and number twos to take THE TEST.Lori
  • Working with the worst attitudes warrants wistfulness, wisecracks, and a wandering mind after school.Brandi
  • Even though the sun has not yet welcomed us, as we wind our way around Washington, meeting with reps to win their support for the National Writing Project, there’s a blast of fresh air that seems to have washed over the city, the country and the world.Bonnie
  • I am perfectly puzzled and perplexed how I didn’t include two perfectly punctual Slicers in my giveaway … please forgive me!Stacey


Peace (in poetic purposes),

Quidditch Artwork and Student Imagination

I shared this over at PhotoFridays (a day late) but this is a photo collage of some of the artwork being done by my students for our upcoming Quidditch Tournament (in two weeks!). I love how it all looks together.

My motto for our team: Riptide — a force that you can’t resist.

Peace (in art),


Poems with Bud the Teacher

My friend, Bud the Teacher, is doing a cool little poetry event at his blog. He is posting pictures and prompts, and asking folks to be inspired and write poems in the comment section of his blog.

Here are three that I have written this week:

The Space Between the Aisles
Listen to the podcast

I wonder about
the space between the aisles
and which books have been left aside
by the keepers of the words;
which tomes have been deemed
so unwieldy as to not even inhabit
the empty air,
for as much as I see the books,
I also see the possibilities.

Do Not Touch!
Listen to the podcast

not touching is easy —
it’s the not playing
that always gets me
so, i swivel around,
making sure the coast is clear,
and take off into imagination —
soaring the sky —
until the footsteps of the world
trample me
and i return my eyes to the sign
that reminds me
of the things i cannot touch
and the things i cannot do
and i leave so quietly that no one even knows
i was there.

Listen to the podcast

Time … time?
who needs time
when I’ve got my mind
running circles before the sun comes up —
it’s just me and the moon
and the cat, if you count living things that crawl into your thoughts,
and all that silence makes for a canvass full of nothingness
just waiting for words.

I come here looking for images
only to find letters
so I close my eyes
and concentrate on time.

There is still plenty of room for you, too. Come join the writing.

Peace (in poems),

Day in Alliteration

So, I am adding another twist to Day in a Sentence with Day in Alliteration. Your task: Reflect (of course) and thenwrite a Day in a Sentence in the comment section of this post using some sort of alliteration (a series of words with the same starting sound).

Here is mine:

I’m trying to quell the competitive craziness of Quidditch with my kids even as we keep on track with our class curriculum.

What about you?

Peace (in posts),

PS — Want to know about our game of Quidditch? Here is a video documentary of our game: