Day 17: 30Poems 30Days

(Poet’s note: This poem was inspired by a conversation at a literacy conference, where we were talking about struggling readers and how they sometimes can’t see below the surface of the letters on the page).

She reads the words,
not the text.
She zeroes in on the sounds,
not the meaning.
I’d like to shrink her down
so that she can dance inside the sentence
and tightrope among the twists and turns of the font
that holds the story up
when it often appears to her to be on the verge
of collapse.

Here is my Voicethread for this week’s group of poems, as I am away from home.

Peace (in the poems),


Literacy for All Conference

I’m just back from a long day at the Literacy for All Conference here in Providence Rhode Island. The day has been somewhat mixed. The keynote addresses were fair, although I cut some slack for the first presenter — Linda Alston, author of the book Why We Teach — who got stuck in the Denver airport in a snow storm and was speaking on 24 hours of no sleep. Given that, her views on early literacy and the photographic tour of her classroom were magical. The afternoon speaker was Linda Gambrell, who used research in the field of literacy to really talk about the power of reading in the lives of our students.

I went to two break-out  sessions today.

The first was by Carl Anderson, who talked about establishing effective writing conferences for students. He showed us a few videos of him conferencing with students of a variety of ages, but I wish we had been engaged in some activity.

Here are my notes:

Predictable structure to conferences (not aimless conversation)
●                 Ask assessment questions
●                 Read student writing
●                 Make a decision on what to teach
●                 Give critical feedback
●                 Teach the mini-lesson
●                 Show sample of writing
●                 Have student talk through example
●                 Move towards independent writing

Ideas – advice

●                 Don’t be afraid of silent thinking by students before responding
●                 Take student responses and re-frame/re-state with writing discourse language
●                 Ultimately, the teacher can shift focus of conference
●                 Use your own writing experience in the questions that you ask
●                 Trust yourself with your questions and direction you take the conference
●                 Not necessary to read the whole piece by the student  — pieces of it are fine
●                 Use cues from students to know where to focus on a piece

And then I attended a session by Donalyn Miller, the Book Whisperer, about moving away from Whole Class Novel Reading. She had a great personality that led to some interesting discussions. Many of us in the room were upper elementary/middle school teachers.

Here are my notes:

Why do we use the class novel?
●     Common text
●     Exposes students to variety of genres/cultural texts
●     Teacher can invest a lot in teaching of the one book

What are concerns about using Whole Class Novels:
●     Varied reading levels and interests of students
●     Novels take too long
●     Extension activities reduce reading time

How to streamline approach to Whole Class Novel:
●     Shorten time on novels
●     Strip units of many activities and vocabulary work
●     More read aloud books and shared reading
●     Provide more for independent time for reading
●     Alternate Whole Class Novels with independent reading units
●     Provide instructional support for reading of novels

How to re-position reading instruction around Independent Reading:
●     Design instruction around genre studies, literary elements or comprehension strategies, not specific books
●     Create guiding questions and common assessment to be used for any book
●     Use common texts like short stories, articles, first chapters, etc.

More sessions on tap tomorrow.

Peace (in Rhode Island),

Collaborate on an Important Question

Paul B. has set up an interesting Google Slideshow and is seeking collaborators. The question: What experience do you provide for your students and what experience do you hope they get? Paul hopes you add an image and a sentence that captures your insight.

Here is my addition, which I created over at ToonDoo:

But you can add your own or at least, see what others are adding:

(I hoped to embed the slideshow here, but I could not seem to get it to work.  I might not have enough access to the Google Doc to do that.)

Peace (in the thought),

Day 15: 30Poems 30Days

(Poet’s note: I was writing this poem with a comic in mind and then realized that it would be best served on a comic medium (with fries on the side!). And, what the heck, I wanted it a movie, too!)

The poets would laugh at you
if they saw your words in a comic
because how could they take you seriously
when your words are shoved into speech bubbles
voiced from the mouths of funny characters?

Let ’em laugh, I say,
because poetry is no longer bound to the page –
it is alive with creativity
and, anyways, they’re dead and buried as mere echoes of the past
while I am alive and living here, in this moment.

You can go to the comic poem movie directly or watch it down below:
DayFifteen Poetry by dogtrax

Peace (in the bubble),

Where am I? A comic for my kids

I am out of the classroom all next week — first to Providence for Literacy for All and then to Philly for NWP and NCTE. Yesterday, I had to stay home with my son, who was sick, and then they have the entire Thanksgiving week off (we have professional development), which means I won’t see my students for more than two weeks!

Ack! That’s a long time.

So, I went on our comic site and made this for them. A few have already started to leave me comments. I like how comics can connect us.

Peace (in the frame),

Day 14: 30Poems 30Days

(Poet’s note: I’m not sure why I was thinking of the giant trees in our front yard — maybe it is the dangling branches that have me worried. But, in the spring, our neighbor comes and taps them, and then we make syrup. It had me wondering from the tree’s perspective. So, a Haiku for you.)

In spring, when trees cry,
we collect tears as sweetness:
dripping on our tongue

Listen to the podcast poem.

Peace (in the flow),

The National Writing Project Annual Meeting

It’s that time of year: the Annual Meeting of the National Writing Project. Next week, I’ll be heading off to Philadelphia to join my fellow colleagues in celebrating and exploring the art of teaching writing, and the art of writing, in a variety of sessions.

My hope is to blog and tweet about my experience there, including the exciting Digital Is conference on Wednesday that comes from an incredible new partnership between the NWP and the MacArthur Foundation. The work, which I am part of, helps take a look at where writing is going in the digital age. We’re in the process of developing online resources but this conference will bring together a lot of people to look at, discuss and then consider the implications of digital composition. I am presenting a piece of student work — a digital science book.

That same night, I am going to a a conference entitled: The Power of Youth Voice: What Kids Learn When They Create with Digital Media. I can’t wait for that!

My only other presentation at NWP this year is on Friday, when I am joining a number of other people in roundtable discussions about how to use an online social networking site to discuss books. A friend and I are focusing on a section of the online site where we talk about graphic novels and comics. We even had an interesting online book talk about a graphic novel that was fascinating and a bit frustrating, and shows the possibilities and the drawbacks of an online discussion site.

I am planning on going to three other sessions while in Philly:

Writing in a Digital Age

This workshop explores the evolving nature of writing and literacy today. Participants will examine students’ digital writing from a range of classrooms and consider the digital and physical environments that support such writing practices. Participants will have opportunities to discuss the implications of what they observe for their own classroom and writing project site work.

21st Century Literacy and the Graphic Novel

This session will focus on the prevalence and permanence of the graphic novel. We’ll examine its integration of multiple literacies as well as its impact on youth culture, youth identity formation, and the development of students as readers and writers. Participants will examine the graphic novel as a format and as a specific mode of communication and written self-expression and will explore its potentialities in the classroom as a tool for fostering the developing literacy of diverse student populations. Through discussion, participants will develop rationales for the increased use of graphic novels in 21st century classrooms.

Reading the Research: Living and Learning with New Media

This Reading the Research session examines a research report titled Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. Funded by the MacArthur Foundation as part of their digital media and learning initiative, this report emerges from a three-year study carried out by researchers who explored the ways that the interaction with and use of new media impact the lives and learning of youth today. Facilitators and participants will explore implications for their local writing project work and applications for local programming.

Plus, all of the other fun stuff — like social gatherings, the big morning address to all NWP folks in attendance (a great way to see how many people are there at the conference), with guest speaker Billy Collins. (wow!) I wonder if I can get him to sponsor me with my 30Poems 30Days project. Ha!

And of course, my work over at the NCTE meeting on Saturday (presenting and then book signing. See yesterday’s post)

And, to top it off, I am hoping that we can gather up a bunch of folks from my Tech Friends networking site — where NWP technology liaisons like me come together online to chat, share and connect. We usually try to convene for a dinner and face time.

I hope to see you there!

Peace (in the City of Brotherly Love and losers of the World Series to the Yankees!),


Day 13: 30Poems 30Days

(Poet’s note: I feel a bit like I am running out of steam. 30 days is beginning to take its toll. So, I looked around our house and tried to focus on something simple for this poem. What I found was a bench piled high with books for the kids — picture books, chapter books, comics, graphic novels, sports books, etc. So, a poem to the pile!)

There’s no madness to this mess —
it’s just a mess of stories
that never rests —
nor do we want it to
even as the stack teeters precariously
under the weight of those words and stories
that provide buried treasure there
for even the most intrepid explorer.

Listen to the podcast poem

Peace (in the verse),


NCTE: Focus on the work of Teaching the New Writing

I am off to Philly next week for a variety of events — including the National Writing Project Annual Meeting, a day-long conference called Digital Is that is the product of a partnership between NWP and the MacArthur Foundation, and the annual meeting of the National Conference of Teachers of English. I’ll try to write more about what I am going to be up to later, but on Saturday (11/21), I am going to be with my co-editors of our book Teaching the New Writing, pen in hand and ready to sign books.

A book signing! Wow. This will be the first. And my handwriting stinks, so it will be a challenge for me.

The book signing (at booth 702 at 11 am) comes right after a session that we (co-editors Charlie Moran and Anne Herrington and fellow chapter writer Dawn Reed)  are doing for NCTE called Assigning and Assessing Multimedia Writing. We’ll be showing some student work (digital science books and podcasting work) and talking about ways to look at (or listen to) digital compositions from a teaching and assessment standpoint. That session takes place on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at Marriott/Franklin 4, 4th Floor.

Here is the blurb:

Title: Assigning and Assessing Multimedia Writing
(Sponsoring Group: National Writing Project)
How can we responsibly assign multimedia writing projects when state and national standards favor the five-paragraph theme? And what criteria can we use to assess this new writing in our own classrooms? This workshop will offer two models of multimedia projects, one a sixth grade digital picture book project and one a high school ‘This I Believe’ podcast project. The presenters will focus on the ways in which they hve assigned and scaffolded their students’ work in multimedia, the criteria they have used in assessing these multimedia projects, and the ways in which they have aligned the projects with state and national testing programs. Participants will then collaborate to develop assessment criteria for another multimedia text.

Chair: Diane Waff, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Presenter: Anne Herrington, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Kevin Hodgson, Leeds, Massachusetts
Charles Moran, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Dawn Reed, Okemos High School, Michigan
Reactor / Respondent: Cozette Ferron, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

At 1:15 that same day, I am one of the presenters at the Technology to Go kiosks and I will be showing people webcomics and hopefully, I will have a ToonDoo site ready for folks to get into and try out for themselves.

So, if you are there, please say hello.

Peace (in the sessions),