Of Julapa-Julapago, Nerds, Snowmen and Permitious Berms

puppets 2010 (60)

We’ve moving slowly towards holiday break (not done yet!) and we’re moving slowly on collaborative script writing for puppet theater, too. Slowly, for sure, but making decent progress. The general concept behind the project (see handout for the project) is that each group of three or four students has developed a story line based somewhat on a fictional holiday idea, is writing the script and making original puppets, and then will perform for younger students in our school sometime in January.

Meanwhile, I had groups also post what I termed “the elevator pitch” of their story to our class blog site. The whole idea here is to narrow down a story into a three to five sentence summary. This is a skill that some students really struggle with, I find. What I notice when we do this “elevator pitch” activity is that it sparks new discussions among the group about the core essence of their stories.

Here are a few that got posted yesterday (more will get done today):

Our puppet show is based on a holiday called Permitious Berm Day. The characters are Veronica, Chippy Dippy and the Narrator of the story. The problem the play faces is the day of Permitious Berm Day, and Veronica hates the holiday, but loves to shop. So she heads to the mall instead and runs into a Permitious Berm Day mascot (Chippy Dippy), who convinces her to like the holiday, after singing and arguing. In the end, Veronica goes home and had a special feast for the holiday.

Jour De Bon Bons is about a girl that hates candy on Candy Day. Her little robotic sidekick friend Phillipe is French, love candy, and loves Candy Day (in French, Jour de Bon Bons). Martha makes a giant Veggie Monster to get rid of Candy Day. Carl, a town boy who goes crazy for candy, defeats Veggie Monster by making a giant mint candy to clog him.

Our play: The Real Story of the First Moon Mission
It is about how, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin go to the moon, they find that the moon people need their help to save the moon from Evil, who wants to destroy it in order to prove his power. Neil, Buzz, and the moon people try to turn Evil good and they…
We can’t tell you how it ends! You’ll have to watch the show!

Our puppet play, (No Homework Week) is about two kids, Rock and Brick are ready for no homework when the homework liking nerd Sebastian hypnotizes their classroom’s teacher to give everybody homework. Then Rock and Brick go on an epic journey to get Sebastian to un-hypnotize their teacher. To find out more watch our puppet play.

Our puppet play is called Snowman Day. It is a day where everyone in the town makes snowmen that come to life! But one boy named Frank hates winter and rather would have a endless summer and builds a heat machine to melt the snow.So a boy named Joe who loves winter must stop him from ruining the holiday.

Julapa-Julapago is a holiday where friends give each other presents. A bully beats up on a group of friends because he’s jealous. So he ends up becoming friends.

A few observations:

  • The Permitious Berm group decided to completely make up a wacky idea with made-up names. I asked if they meant “pernicious” but they insisted, not. Permitious.
  • The group doing the “Jour de Bon Bons” play has been using Google Translate to come up with some lines said in French. They are three girls, laughing their way into French words. It’s very funny to watch.
  • Why is it the “nerd” and “geeks” of the world continue to be the ones desiring extra work from the teacher? In my view, those kids are the ones doing things on their own, not looking for extra assignments from school. (Don’t these kids read Boolean Squared?)
  • More than a few groups liberally “borrow” plot ideas from holiday movies they have seen (see Snowman story). I don’t mind that they be inspired by that, but I do encourage them to move beyond that, if they can.

Peace (in the puppets),

Book Review: Everything Explained Through Flowcharts

I’m one of those readers who loves non-traditional books. Give me something odd, and I am all over it. This is one of those books. Everything Explained Through Flowcharts (subtitle: Tips for World Domination, Which Religion Offers the Best Afterlife, Alien PickUp Lines, and the Secret Recipe for Gettin’ Laid Lemonade) by Doogie Horner is so intriguing, funny and off-kilter that it is hard to explain.

Basically, the book is a series of flow charts on a topic, with hilarious side roads of information. The whole first part of the book dissects each religion around the afterlife, and Horner (is that his real name?) skewers just about everything you can think of. As your finger travels the flow of the flow chart, you’re likely to lose your place from laughing too much. Another section around superheroes is another classic look at stereotypes and how to bust them. A four page flow chart around the topic of “how to win an argument” could be the cornerstone of a debate class, as Horner chips away at every angle of an argument (in this case, that oranges are sweeter than tangerines.)

I brought this book to my son’s basketball practice, and soon, I had a small crowd of parents looking over my shoulder, pointing to things and turning the pages. Forget the boys; we were laughing too hard together. But note: this is NOT a book for kids or the classroom. Some of the flow charts are fine, but others (such as the one about alien sex, and things to say during sex … not really that appropriate).

You can see a sample over at Wired Magazine (which is where I first heard of this book).

And here is Horner’s take on Facebook photos (not in the book, but from the Fast Company website).

So, how might this be a learning tool for the classroom? I’m tempted to make a flow chart about that for another day …. hmmmm. Stay tuned …

Peace (in the info flow),

Sunday Morning X by X Poetry

Each weekend, over at our iAnthology network for National Writing Project teachers, Bonnie or I or a volunteer post a writing prompt. It’s always sort of a challenge to find an idea that will engage as many of the close to 400 members as possible (on average, about two dozen folks will contribute to a prompt each week).

Yesterday morning, I was trying to come up with an idea when I got a link shared to me by Ira Socol, who was responding to my post about 25 word stories. I loved the poems he shared, which are structured poems. I didn’t see a name of the style, so I called it X by X (X being the number of lines and then X being the number of words per line).

The response has been pretty wonderful, and I have been using Cinch to record audio responses to everyone’s poems, giving some voice to my reactions to their writing. I love the simplicity of Cinch and how easy it is to embed into our site. And since it a site where geographic distance is everything, having a voice connected to your writing gives it a certain power of response, I think.

Here are the poems that I wrote and shared:


Coffee cup

filled, steaming


Dog walking, cold

fingers, cold toes,

silent morning frost


Four balls bouncing loudly

against the garage floors

echo like a shotgun —

can’t take it anymore


Lying here in the silence

of the night, no movement

in the house, save me,

and my own restless thoughts


The smiling face is silently mocking

the reason why I am crouched

on the floor, with my youngest.

I hold the plastic action hero

in the air, as if fighting,

when what I desire is peace.


“Seven” is what I said when asked

what is my favorite and magical number.

We sit, elbows touching, at the table

where his fingers hold a crumbling cookie

of fortune and mystical numbers of chance.

I expect the next question: “Why seven?

but it never comes; only quiet munching.

And here is my podcast, via Cinch:

Peace (in the Sunday poems),
PS – If you are a Writing Project teacher looking for a supportive space for writing, drop me a comment and I will invite you into the iAnthology network.

Deconstructing a 25-Word Story

car 25 word story juxio
I’ve been tinkering with 25 word stories over at Twitter for the last few months, and find it interesting to pack a punch in such a short amount of space. Someone called this “restrictive writing” but I find it challenging to find a way to leave out as much as you leave in.

Yesterday, I wrote the above story (recast on Juxio) and as I was driving my sons to their various basketball games, I started to think about all that was going on with the sentence. Later, I found that a bunch of people had retweeted it on Twitter, which made me think it was one of those small gems that strike a chord with folks.

So, a little deconstructive reflection:

  • I’m not sure where the story concept itself came from, since I have never really been stuck on the side of the road and my father doesn’t talk like that at all. And he’s no mechanic. I started with the idea of winter (my 25 word stories seem to reflect the seasons) and snow and went from there. In my mind, I saw a car off the side of the road.
  • I can see the character — a man, maybe in his 20s, still young in years — sitting alone and cold on a stretch of wintry road, stuck in his car and suddenly remembering his father’s warning. I imagine the character to be resentful of the advice, and also kicking himself for not heeding it.  There’s some inner conflict going on in the silence of the car. It turns out his old man was right all along. But that doesn’t help him one bit right now.
  • The father is one of those “I told you so” characters, for sure, and he is always spouting off one bit of advice, told harshly, after another until all his children hear is white noise. I can see the father as a bit rough around the edges (the use of language is my giveaway) and yet, he wants to impart knowledge on his kids. Too bad they don’t listen.
  • The interesting thing is that we are in the present with the story – the man remembering his father is stuck — but how did he get there? This is where inference has to come into play, and imagination. I imagined he hit some black ice, and stalled out on the side of the road. His heart has finally stopped racing and now he has to come with the grips with what to do (where is his cell phone?)
  • And then, the aftermath: after he is found and helped (probably by AAA or something) does he tell his father that the advice was right all along or does not say a thing? It all depends on the trajectory of their relationship, doesn’t it?

OK, so I plunged deeper than I probably needed to go here, but I find it useful to flesh out the story beyond 25 words. The 25 is only the start; the real story unfolds outside of our field of vision.

Peace (in the words),

PS — Are you on Twitter? Search for the #25wordstory hashtag to read more stories and add your own.

Music and Learning and Discovery

One of the more interesting elements of reading on the Web is the way that hyperlinks send you off on a journey, and how readers can add in as much substance as the writer. This morning, I followed a trail that began with an email newsletter from Edutopia. The headline on an article caught my eye: Using Music in the Classroom. (written by Gaetan Pappalardo).

I love Gaetan’s work around music and learning (we’ve crossed paths before with the National Writing Project) and so, of course, I wanted to read what he had to say. In the piece, he gives pointers on some simple ways to incorporate music into a lesson, including using an instrumental piece for writing.

“I want my students to use their mind’s eye so I reverse the roles. Instead of writing music to the story, I want my students to write a story, a thought, a scene, or a list to the music.”

So, I am reading Gaetan, and then I scroll down to the comment section and there, I find a long list of teachers who  have been adding their own ideas about music and learning, and suggesting lesson ideas.

For example, I found a link to an article about the benefits of having music playing while students are studying (Study, Stress and Music by Michael Griffin) and a series of songs that could help teach about bullying behaviors, and a link to another Edutopia piece about music and social behaviors and then I found myself off at this post called Teaching With Tunes: 21 Idea for Incorporating Music Throughout the Curriculum by Fallwell Dunbar.

And then, it was back to Gaetan’s article and off again to see Benjamin Zander TED talk about music and passion (Passion being one of Gaetan’s topics on his piece).  There, I found the video embedded up above of Bobby McFerrin and his visual demonstration on the power of the Pentatonic Scale, and music and movement.

But I noticed that the sign behind McFerrin said “Notes and Neurons,” so I had to figure out what was up with that, which led me to the World Science Festival site about music and the brain. That is a site I have to come back to one of these days, but not now.

My journey came all the way around, as I write here about what I found. I love that discovery process that began with a headline and expanded out towards a whole session of learning and music.

Peace (in the notes),

Whither my Bookmarks?

Ultimate Guide to Delicious Social Bookmarking

Thanks to a leak inside of Yahoo, news spread quickly yesterday that the struggling technology firm might be shutting down various elements of its services as a way to stay afloat. Someone inside the company apparently leaked a slide from an upcoming presentation that showed some of the Yahoo services in “sunset” mode. I don’t think Yahoo has made it public or outright confirmed the plan, so who knows what it means.

The one service that might be shuttered that caught my eye was Delicious, which is the bookmarking platform that I use almost daily, and I have been using it for years now with great success. I have a nice little Delicious tool bar in my browser and when I see something of interest or something to save for later, click a button and it is saved. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I even used the bookmarking function within the browser itself. That doesn’t make sense for me, working as I do on at least three computers each day (home, school).

I have more than 4,400 bookmarks on Delicious, I just realized. And, I have my delicious network set up for an RSS feed, so that when my friends add resources to their Delicious account, I get to see that in my RSS reader. I’ve stumbled across many cool tools, and had a strange inside glimpse into the thinking and planning of my online friends that way (which is sort of strange, too.)

So, if Delicious is going to be gone (and that is still up in the air, but there seems to be a gust in the wind), then what do I do?

Well, I have used Diigo before and I think that will be my first step forward. Last night, I exported my delicious bookmarks and then imported them into Diigo. (see this website about how and where to import bookmarks) I know there are a lot of them, but they still hadn’t shown up this morning, so I am trying again.

Diigo does a lot — almost too much for me. I liked the simplicity of Delicious. But I know I can use Diigo in simple terms, particularly now that I found its diigolet button, which you can drag into your browser for saving bookmarks. (One thing I did not like about Diigo in the past is that I installed its add-on for Firefox and it was just too much — too many choices, too much room in my browser — the diigolet is small and useful).

And this reminds me, once again, that we need to be ready for change and be ready to adapt (remember the end of free Ning?) and not get stuck to doing things one way. I may eventually realize the true power of Diigo and never wonder about Delicious.

I wondered about other alternatives to Delicious and Diigo, and came across this lengthy list. Go explore!

Peace (in the bookmarks),

A Myriad of Resources from NWP Annual Meeting

The National Writing Project sent out a flurry of posts the other day about its resources and materials gathered from the NWP Annual Meeting last month in Orlando.\

Peace (in the NWP),

The Edublog Winners

Last night, the winners of the Edublog Awards for 2010 were announced. Once again, the competition seems less important than the uncovering new resources and people in our ever-expanding network (ie: I didn’t win anything but was excited to have been nominated).


Here is a quick recap of categories I was following (you can see that Richard over at Free Tech for Teachers received multiple kudos for his daily sharing of so many interesting ideas and tools. Pop him into your RSS):

Congrats to all of the winners! I’ll be exploring many of the sites and the runners-ups, too, in the coming days. You should, too.

Peace (in the limelight),

This Super Book is Super Valuable

A whole bunch of folks added to this free ebook resource, The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators, which maps out various technology tools across grade levels, and provides a valuable narrative to the rationale for using the tool. Thanks to all the folks who added their knowledge to this book, which is available for download or for embedding/sharing. And thanks to Richard Byrne, of Free Technology for Teachers, for organizing the effort.

The contributors to The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators:
George CourosPatrick LarkinKelly TenkelyAdam BellowSilvia Tolisano,Steven AndersonCory PloughBeth StillLarry FerlazzoLee Kolbert, and Richard Byrne.

Peace (in the book),