Day Six: 30poems 30days

(Poet’s note: I was touching the pad of my iTouch the other day and suddenly had this wave of memories of buying vinyl as a kid. Thus, this poem)

Remember when:
you’d sit around on the floor
with the album cover open on your outstretched legs,
reading everything from liner notes to lyrics
and experiencing the music, visually;
or when the songs on the eight track player would spill over
into the next one like some unexpected
mash-up with overlapping beats and voices
creeping around like dust in the attic;
or how you had to carve up your mother’s scotch tape
in order to sticky-fix the cassette that came un-spooled in your lap
while the cat played with it from down below?
Now, you tap your fingers on the screen
in order to access the music from some far-away database
in such a way that no effort is required
other than the listening,
and the cat is nowhere to be found but in the past.

Listen to the podcast poem

Peace (in the past),


My Friend Glen and Scrooge

My friend, Glen Bledsoe, has published a book he wrote that comes out just in time for the holiday season. It is entitled The Charity of Ebenezer Scrooge, and it is a follow up to the original Dickens classic (which comes out again as a new movie soon).
Glen does amazing work with comics, digital storytelling and more with his classroom. His most recent project is a serialized graphic novel about a truant officer. Read Benny & Sid.

You can find the book on Amazon. And here is an interesting trailer that he created for the book. Glen always amazes me.

Peace (in the charity),

Day Five 2: 30poems 30days

Poet’s note: one thing about this challenge is that I can create poems at any time and get them into the mix. A friend asked if I would write an elegy for the Yankees when they lost to his beloved Phillies. Well, we know how that turned out. So here is my elegy to the Phillies (a worthy team but not good enough this year).

Elegy for the Phillies

I’m sorry to say
you have to go home
and ride the wave of defeat for a year

We’ll sing your praises anyway
as the worthy opponent who swung for the fence
but missed by an inch

We’ll swallow up the cheers of the crowd
and dance among the littered
hot dog wrappers and confetti

and channel our days on the field
in fake pinstripes
when the world stood still to watch

every last swing …

Listen to the podcast poem

Peace (in baseballville),

Day Five: 30Poems30Days

Poet’s note: There are days when I wake up with music in my head and I know some sort of symphony was working out in my brain all night. Does that happen to you?

Words won’t do this justice:
I’m stumbling about this place
in search of a melody that runs through me
each morning in those moments when I awake
to near-silence.
Just beyond the dreams, though, a violin plays softly
in harmony with the ghosts of thoughts
still descending from the night.
When I open my eyes to the dancing notes of the song,
the melody is gone and I’m left even more bewildered
than I was before.

Listen to the podcast poem

Peace (in the muse),

All-Call for Days in a Sentence


dayinsentenceiconHow is your day going? Your week? Consider joining us for this week’s Day in a Sentence. Here’s how it works:

  • You reflect on your day or your week
  • You boil your thought down to a single sentence
  • You use the comment link on this blog post to submit your sentence (it will go into my moderation bin)
  • I gather up all of the sentences and post them as one collective post over the weekend
  • Bravo!

Come join us. It’s fun. It’s easy. It’s a way to connect with other educators and writers around the world. You are invited!

Here is mine, spurred on by an onslaught of conferences just ahead:

What was I thinking when I agreed to lead or co-lead so many workshop sessions in November?

Peace (in the days),

Day Four: 30Poems in 30 Days

Poet’s Note: I looked up as a flock of geese were flying by, loud in their honking. Then, silence. Then, a few minutes later, that one lone goose tries to catch up. It had me thinking ..

I wonder about that one lone goose
in search of the flock:
how did he spring loose
and why does he seem so lost?
I’m reminded of that student of mine who sings a solitary tune
as others mill about, moving on
and leaving him standing alone, oblivious,
until the last second
when it dawns on him that everyone else is gone.
I suppose that even daydreamers
have to fly.

Listen to the podcast poem

Peace (in and out of the flock),

Moving Students to Think with Writing

Our school has been knee-deep in data from our state’s standardized testing results (a mixed bag) since the start of the year as we work to orientate our Professional Learning Communities towards using weaknesses we are noticing to drive changes in our curriculum and approach.

For me, as the sixth grade writing teacher, two things jump out. First, our students do a poor job on being able to read and use non-fiction text. We noticed this trend a few years ago and it continues. We are working to address that by teaching more reading skills across the curriculum (how to read a map in Social Studies, how to analyze a data sheet in math, how to pull out information from a chart in Science, etc.) and I am doing more current events with the students, using Time for Kids magazine for non-fiction reading as well as supplementary text. (We intend to read Three Cups of Tea for young readers later this year but more on that some other time).

Another major area of weakness is in reading a text and then answering an open response question that uses evidence and examples from the text to support the answer. Gosh. This is going to take a lot of work, I can tell, and it’s clear that they have not been asked to do this enough in prior grades. They can do literal thinking but moving them into critical thinking is a challenge.

So, a big shift for me this year is really using rubrics (that tie in to our new standards-based reporting) and paragraph writing prompts that will give them plenty of exposure to analyzing a text and give me more chances to walk them through exemplars of student writing.

On that note, I created this list of generalized writing prompts that will be more specific to the book or text that they are reading. Much of this is tied directly to standards in our Sixth Grade ELA curriculum. But I would appreciate an outsider’s opinion.

Am I missing any major points here when it comes to critical thinking in reading text? If you notice anything, please let me know.

Sixth Grade: Common Open Response Writing Questions for Literature Class

Main Questions

Character development is important and good books will often have characters “change” over the course of the story. Choose a character and explain how that character is different by the end of the novel. Be sure to use at least two pieces of evidence from the book to back up your ideas on what the character was like when we first met them and what they are like by the end of the story. Also, explain why it was important for the character to change through the course of the book.

Setting plays a large role in any story. Where a story takes place — the time, the environment, the location, etc. — will often shape how the story is being told and what happens. Identify the main setting of the novel and explain its importance to the story. Why did the writer choose this setting for this book? Be sure to include evidence from the novel to support your answer.

The theme of a book is the overall message of the story. It is often explained to the reader through a lesson that is learned by the main character. Identify the theme of the novel and explain how the characters in the book come to learn this lesson. Make sure you use evidence from the novel to support your answer. Also, in your answer, be sure to reflect on why the writer choose this particular theme to develop a story around. Why is this theme important to a reader?

Plot development is how the story unfolds over the course of the novel (remember: Exposition/Rising Action/Climax/Falling Action/Resolution). The main element is the climax of the story, which is the “main event” of a book when everything comes together for a dramatic moment or decision by the main character. Identify the climax of the novel and explain why you chose it as the climax. Include evidence from the book to support the idea that this is the main event of the story.


Symbolism is the use of a concrete image to represent something abstract (not seen). One example might be the American flag, which is a physical object that represents the United States of America. Identify the use of symbolism in the novel and explain how the writer used that symbol to tell the story. Make sure you provide evidence from the novel to support your answer. And, explain why you think the writer chose this particular symbol for this story.

Foreshadowing is when the author leaves clues for the reader early in the story. It is often only later in the story that these clues make sense to the character and the reader. Identify at least two elements of foreshadowing in the book and explain how these clues became important as the story progressed. Be sure to back up your ideas with evidence from the book. Also, explain in your answer why you think the author used foreshadowing in this novel.

It often helps a reader to connect with the experiences of a character. Choose a character from the novel and write about experiences that you have had in your life that seem similar to the experiences of the character in the book. The experiences may not be exact, but you should be able to understand the emotions, reactions or actions of the character based on your own life experiences. Be sure to support your answer with evidence from the novel and from your own life.

Peace (in the teaching),

Day Three: 30Poems30Days

Poet’s note: Today’s poem is inspired by construction going on at our house.

If you were to construct me,
would material would you use
that would allow me to bend and shift
with the turbulence?
Would you sign off on me
as the inspector
looking for cracks in the facade
or would you just turn the other way
and hope for the best?

Listen to the podcast

Peace (in the walls),

Day Two: 30poems30days

Poet’s note: This is the second day of my 30Poems in 30Days challenge. I wrote this poem, trying to think of the infrastructure of the digital world and using that idea as a sort of metaphor for a relationship.

If you were One and I was Zero,
we could inhabit the architecture
that holds up everything digital …

If you were One,
you could stand tall
enough to let the information
balance in your head;

If I was Zero,
I would be more than nothing;
I would stand in defiance
so that, in the emptiness,
there would be meaning;

If you were One and I was Zero,
inside this on-again/off-again mirror,
we’d prop up everything digital …

Listen to the podcast of the poem.

Peace (in ones and zeroes),


Holding off the Invasion Force

This is the final installment for my Home Alone story arc, and I am taking a breather from Boolean Squared for a few weeks as I concentrate on my 30Poems30Days adventure.

Peace (on TV),