Imaginary Slice of Life, 2: While I Am Away

Slice of Life

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

So, here I am, writing my second imaginary Slice of Life while away on a long weekend. I imagine that there are some funny comments in my blog bin about my imaginary slice from yesterday. So, even though this is being written a few days ago before anyone read a thing, I want to answer a few of your questions that are no doubt sitting in there:

  • What does your imaginary voice sound like? Good question. It sounds a bit like Elmo, but a cool Elmo. He’s actually kind of hip, making the high-pitched sound reasonable to live with. For now. But when Elmo hits his teen years, watch out, man.
  • Do you ever write when you dream? Funny you should ask that. I do. The problem is that the pen I use is always hard to find in the night, so my words get all jumbled up on me.
  • How did you write this days ago but only post it today? I used a courier pigeon to bring my notes to a telephone pole, where a squirrel dashed off my notes to a crow, who tied it to a hot air balloon, which used GPS to bring my words to the little Internet fellow who writes all of my blog posts for me. It was easy, trust me.
  • Do you think this imaginary slicing has some people scratching their heads right now? Not at all. I know the Slice people. They are quite nice. And they are all missing their heads, so really … nothing to scratch, you know? In fact, they are all heart and soul. Heart and soul.

Peace (in my mind),

Imaginary Slice of Life, 1: In the Sun

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

I am away this whole weekend on a short but sunny vacation with my wife and I won’ t likely be near a computer, so I am working on posting a few imaginary Slices of Life. What? That’s not legal? Well, here I am, on the beach in Florida with my wife, probably walking along the water and just enjoying time together while my blog automatically posts this piece. So, my slice is this: I am not right now thinking of the world beyond the sound of the ocean, the smell of the water and touch of her hand. Promise. It’s a peaceful slice of life here, away from the world.

Peace (in my mind),

Slice of Life: Rocking the House for a Cause

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

After a delay caused by winter weather and then school vacation, the Concert for Change event took place last night, with more than 25 student and staff musicians and singers (the number is a bit inflated because our finale piece was having a large group of fifth and sixth graders on stage, singing the song “Three Cups of Tea.”) playing their hearts out and in the process, raising money for the Pennies for Peace organization and books for schools in New Orleans.

The crowd size was OK, maybe about 75 people? We’ve had more in the past but then, rescheduling a concert made things difficult, particularly here in sports tournament season. But we filled up about 10 large boxes of donated books and filled a few large jars with coins.

And we played music of all kinds (including some Guns N Roses, Bob Marley and Jason Mraz). I performed two original songs — one about Hurricane Katrina and the other, about the Haiti earthquake, and I was joined by one colleague on his accordian and another on vocals.

What I liked best was that I was able to get a lot of my current and former students up on stage. Every time I looked up, there was another student on stage, doing something. I know that is how I planned it but still … it was such a great experience to see them up there, taking charge.

I had one my most dramatic former students (in a good way) come back to be master of ceremonies (he took a break from his role as the Wicked Witch in the high school production of Wizard of Oz coming up), and a few other former students were playing guitar and singing on various songs. We had others helping with the door, collecting books and coins, and doing the lights and running the video camera.

And my current students were with me, too, including one boy whose question “Can we collect books for New Orleans?” led to the entire event. He played drums and I was so proud of him. Another student sang a solo version of “I’ll be There” with me on guitar. And another group of boys just learning guitar wrote a song for the event and we played it together.

Fifth grade students came on stage to talk about Haiti (they are doing a read-a-thon), and about reading Three Cups of Tea, and they did a fantastic job speaking on a stage, with the lights, in front of a good sized audience.

I am glad it happened, and now, I am glad it is over, too. There’s a lot of planning that goes into pulling off a 90-minute benefit concert and snow didn’t help.

Peace (in the notes),

PS — Here is some video of one of the bands (with me on bass).

Day in a Tabloid Headline (Sentence)


So, we missed last round of Day in a Sentence. Sorry about that. And I am away this weekend, so all collections of your words will have to wait to be published until early next week. Which gives you plenty of time to boil down the essence of your day or y0ur week, and then use a bit of hyperbole, and (this was a suggestion from one of you), create a DAY IN A TABLOID HEADLINE.

Sure, use capital letters. Exclamation points are good, too. It’s all about the shouting this week. And word play. So, have fun with your DAY IN A TABLOID HEADLINE!!!!!!!!

You can submit your headline by using the comment box on this post. All the headlines will go into my holding cell, where I shall feed the words on bread and water until they give up the truth and nothing but the truth. Freedom is but a week away, however.


Here is mine — it has to do with a big Benefit Concert we are doing tonight to collect books for needy schools and donations for Pennies for Peace. My brain is full with the planning of it. I used the fun Newspaper Clipping Image Generator to create mine (if you want to do the same, then email the photo file to dogtrax(at)gmail(dot)com and I will include it).

Peace (and I mean it!),

Slice of Life: Gadzooks — It’s Parts of Speech

Slice of Life

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

This is a rant as much as  a slice, but there I was, working with my students on Interjections and Conjunctions and trying to make it as exciting as I could (such as, encouraging them to use that word “Thunderation!”  or maybe “Gadzooks!” from our worksheet when they are in math class and see how Mr. M reacts). But every year, I have the same thought: This unit that dissects words in a sentence does not do one iota of good in helping my students grow as writers.

Am I right or wrong on this?

Still, it is in our curriculum and it is even its own item on our new standards-based report cards. So, Parts of Speech it is. But to say my heart is in it as we move into Adverbs and Pronouns and then Prepositions …. that would be a stretch. I’ll make it as fun as I can but in the end, they are going to be staring at sentences and picking them apart like vultures on a dead body, but at least the vultures get some nourishment.

I’m not sure what my students get out of it.

Peace (in the parts),

Learning on a String

The front page of our local newspaper the other day had this wonderful column by Bob Flaherty about a local high school kid who has taken his skills in yo-yo-ing to new levels. Now, you might think, yo-yo? But yo-yo is pretty big around a certain set in our area, thanks in part to the most fantastic science store in the region (A-Z Science) where they hold classes on how to do tricks and compete with a yo-yo. I know, because a friend of my son’s has gone to compete in New York City and in Florida and other places.

But the newspaper focused on a boy named Daniel Dietz, who is not only considered one of the premiere yo-yo artists in our region, but also, in the entire country. And he is using that fame for a good cause. Daniel has raised more than $15, 000 for a group called Smile Train, which helps address problems of cleft lip and palate issues in the world.

The article also came not long after my colleague, Gail Poulin, invited Daniel to come visit her kindergarten class. I remember the day because Daniel performed in the cafeteria, and we were taking a test, but many of the boys in my class “had to use the bathroom” and took their time coming back. I imagine they were transfixed by the yo-yo act going on not far from our classroom.

Gail connected with Daniel through the amazing work she does with her students around the Kids are Heroes website, which showcases young people making a difference in the world. Gail writes about the project here at her class blog. Her students write comments as a class, known as Shout-outs, to the heroes and connect with the world. It just so happened that Daniel lived not far from our school and was willing to come and meet with the kindergarten students. I bet that visit by Daniel, and the message he sends through his work and play, is something they won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

And it reminded me that we need to value the skills of our students in all of its forms. I bet most of us think — yo-yo is fun but not real learning — but you need to see these kids in action and watch them practice (I have) to know that the skills include motor coordination, thinking through elaborate design in steps, memory skills and more. And then, to use those non-traditional skills to make a difference in the world? That is priceless.

Here is Daniel in action:

Peace (on a string),

Slice of Life: When (the) Lightning (Thief) Strikes

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

We finally got around to our field trip (it had been snowed out on us last week) to see the Lightning Thief movie yesterday (known as Percy Jackson and the Olympians to those folks in the movie business). We read the book as a class novel and I already blogged my own thoughts on the movie version of the book. So, when we got back from the theater, I was curious to know what they thought but I resisted offering my own thoughts until the end of our talk, which ranged more than 30 minutes of engaged conversations. Hands were up all around the room. Heads were nodding to the points made by others, particularly about how the movie did not quite intersect as neatly with the book as my students would have expected.

Like me, they were baffled by a number of main events left out of the movie, and they were just so thoughtful about dissecting the flick that I was felt so proud of them.

First of all, I was proud that they knew the book so deeply that they could see the flaws of the movie (OK, so the flaws were big enough to drive a truck through but still …). Second, I was proud because they saw Hollywood gloss for what it is (sell the tickets!), with one student even noting the change in ages of characters “so that they could flirt and get away with it, and reach older kids.”

We all admitted that if you had not read the book, you would view the movie as a fun adventure flick full of  Greek mythology. But reading the book made us all critical viewers and who can argue with that? I’m now glad that the movie was so different.

And it was fun sitting in the theater with my 80 kids, munching on popcorn, a bit of candy and some fruit punch. So I just laughed when, on the bus ride home, one student asked,  “Can’t we just make every Monday a trip to the movies, Mr. H?”

Yeah. I wish.

Peace (in the dark),

How to make a movie? Ask Amelia.

I stumbled into this neat picture book in our local library and finally got around to reading it yesterday with my youngest son. Amelia Makes a Movie by David Milgrim is a whimsical look at making a home movie from the viewpoint of two creative kids, and supportive parents in the background.

I love how Milgrim captures the essence of how to really make a movie — Amelia and her little brother plan out the story, build a set, shoot the video on the camcorder, re-imagine and re-shoot the movie when a better idea comes along (thanks to the little brother), and then after some editing, the kids showcase the movie before friends and family, just like a Hollywood premiere.

In a playful way, Amelia shows the reader how they, too, can make a movie themselves. It reminds me of a conversation that I had yesterday with someone who is writing a movie script in hopes of eventually shopping it around, and we were wondering what movies will be like in 10 years or so when this current crop of young video producers make their way into Hollywood. Just think of how young kids are with all the tools at their disposal for creating visual compositions.

I am going to try to add this book as resource over at my Making Stopmotion Movie site.

Peace (in the shoot),

Slice of Life: When the cat meows

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

Some mornings, our cat (Coltrane) drives me crazy. Like this morning. At 3:30 a.m., I hear him prowling around the hallways and he starts to meow, just low enough to drive a sound stake into my head. I try to quietly call him back to the bed. He ignores me and starts to cry again. Then he goes silent. I start to drift, only to be awakened again by him. Dagnabit!

I finally muster up the energy to get up and put him outside, only to have him run and hide under the table. Does he want to go out or not? I grab a new can of cat food. That piques his interest. I open up the lid. Now, he is halfway out of his hiding place. I do a quick fake move towards the counter, feint to the left and then reach down and pluck the old fellow up. He is now about 15 years old, but still pretty spry. I cradle him in one hand and the can of food in the other.

He is purring. I am tired. I toss him outside and put a bit of food out there for him. The purring gets louder. It’s hard to stay too made at a purring cat, I guess. I reach down and pet him, and then go back inside, way too early for the start of the day.

Next up, the dog …

Peace (in the moment),