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 asย  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!”ย  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 ofย  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,ย  “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),


The Most Beautiful Day of the Year?

Yesterday, after a night of fairly warm temperatures mixed with snow, the world was covered in white and as I drove to the University of Massachusetts for a meeting, I thought: this has to be the most beautiful day of the year. The sun was just starting to come up, and the snow was sticky on the trees, and it was just a breathtaking view of New England.

This picture is at the university — the library is in the distance. When I came out of the meeting hours later, the trees were trees again and the moment had passed.

Peace (in the world),

The workings of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project

I spent a good part of the day yesterday at a leadership retreat for the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. We worked in collaborative groups to explore the varied programs we are offering for teachers and students, and then began to lay the foundation for a vision for the future of our site. The writing project is always looking ahead (not withstanding concerns about funding at the federal level, of course) and the visioning process is often done as a group, and not by an individual. It’ s so heartening to be in a room of such smart people, particularly as we discussed strategies for creating leadership opportunities for even more people in our network.

On the chalkboard, our site director had etched out all of the work of our site from last year and it covered the entire chalkboard. I jotted down what she had written because I am working on a redesign of our website and it seemed like very useful information.

See for yourself:

Invitational Summer Institute

Co-directors: Joanne and Dawn

(A four-week intensive summer program that includes writing, research and inquiry, sharing of ideas and connecting with other teachers in many content areas.)

โ— Orientation

โ— Post-Invitational Summer Institute Inquiry Groups/Projects

โ— Invitational Summer Institute Inquiry Task Force

Co-director: Sherill

(Programs and offerings that allow teachers to remain connected to the work of the writing project site.)

โ— Digital Is technology resources developed by WMWP Technology Team

โ— Massachusetts Writing Project

โ— New England Writing Project

โ— Executive Board

โ— Teachers as Writers

โ— Writing Response groups

โ— Writing Contest (annual)

โ— iAnthology online network

โ— Writing Mini-Marathons

โ— Summer program: Teachers as Writers

โ— Retirees network

โ— Newsletter (twice a year)

Co-director: Tracy

(Programs that support teachers through professional development sessions to learn more about literacy and writing instruction.)

โ— English Language Learners Network

โ— Technology Spring Conferences

โ— Content-area Literacy Inquiry

โ— School/district-based in-service/Professional Development

โ— Department of Youth Services Initiative

โ— Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Summer Institutes

โ— Literacy/ Non-fiction Seminar

โ— Expository/Persuasive Writing Seminar

โ— MTEL Test Support Group

โ— Best Practices Fall Conference (annual Fall event)

โ— Certificate in Writing Program at UMass

โ— Living Holyoke Institute

Youth and Family Outreach

Co-director: Joanne

(Programs that reach young writers and connect with families through writing, technology and literacy).

โ— SummerWRITE for Youths

โ— Smith Voke (Claymation/Comics)

โ— UMass SummerWRITE

โ— Springfield YMCA digital storytelling

โ— Springfield Housing Authority digital storytelling

Peace (in the reach),

When the Status Quo Isn’t Good Enough

I sat in on a bit of a firestorm meeting the 0ther night at my neighborhood school (where my children go, but where I do not teach). We have had an interim principal now for about 18 months and the school superintendent finally has decided to find a permanent principal. (The interim status is a complicated issue, stemming from a budget situation that may lead to the closing of one of our city’s elementary school, the unexpected departure of our last principal, and apparently, squabbles among the teaching staff at the school that required a calming, uniting presence).

We’ve had our own share of difficulties with the interim principal around the issue of discipline, but my wife and I know both know her, and she is a wonderful person. She has a huge heart, coming as she does as the head of the English Language Learners program. I just don’t think she has the right personality for a principal, although it was noted that she has been held back in many ways because of her interim status.

But I think the superintendent was taken aback by the level of concern that parents have about the interim principal and I was both relieved and concerned that many of the complaints echoed our own. (Relieved, because now I know it was not just me. Concerned, because the lack of real discipline is affecting the school climate). I sort of felt strange because the principal was not there to defend herself, and the superintendent had to keep deflecting issues for fear of stepping over the line of privacy and personnel issues.

The superintendent proposed three options for moving ahead:

  • an in-district posting, which means that our interim would surely get the job — something even the superintendent suggested;
  • a regional search in area newspapers;
  • or a national search, which would require hiring a consultant.

It seemed to me, and to others, that the superintendent was leaning towards an in-district search, which alarmed us, so I hope our superintendent heard us, loud and clear, that we need to at least do a local search, but even better, do a regional seach in New England. Sure, it costs money. But you want as wide a net as possible, we argued. I reminded the superintendent of all the online spaces where you can also advertise for free or for limited cost.

I used an opportunity to speak about what I want in a principal, I told the superintendent that I believe we need:

  • someone with a five-year vision for our school;
  • someone who can collaborate with staff and the community but can make decisions when that time comes;
  • someone who can create an identity for our school that we can be proud of;
  • someone who can prepare our children for the future that is still unknown, by harnessing technology to collaborate and connect with others around the world.

The school still has a computer lab, where teachers drop off the kids and have their prep period. I hate this model because the projects and activities that my fourth grader are doing are the same exact projects that students were doing at this school when I was a student teacher there nine years ago. It’s all “create a powerpoint about an animal with clip art” and “play games.” That is NOT technology integration!

All around our neighborhood, and at the YMCA, and other spaces, parents were still talking about the meeting and they were trying to decipher what the superintendent is going to do about a search. If she decides to do an internal search, then she better be ready for aย  parent revolt because there were some pretty frustrated parents at the meeting who are not ready to settle for the status quo. I am one of them.

Peace (in our neck of the woods),