Storybird: The Poetry Option

I noticed that Storybird, a site that allows you a unique way to create and share picture book stories, now has a poetry option, although it is still in beta. But I tried it out. The poetry option combines the idea of magnetic poetry (a set cache of words) with the Storybird format (a collection of images along a theme). You drag and drop words on the image to create a poem.

Here’s what I came up with:

Peace (in the poems),


Poems with Mary Lee: Ocean Waves and Mountain Sunlight

Mary Lee has been posting a great collection of multimedia from Wikimedia Commons over at A Year of Reading, and this morning, I caught up with two of her poetry prompts. The first is inspired by an audio clip of ocean waves, which reminded me of my mother-in-law on our summer vacations, and the second isĀ  inspired by an Ansel Adams piece that had me thinking of the way the sunlight is seen on the mountain.


She was always happiest
sitting by the window of the house
overlooking the Atlantic Ocean,
knotty hands knitting
as she listened to the rhythm of the tides
coming and going, like the years,
just like the years, coming and going,
and sometimes, I’d see her eyes close,
as if she were floating away for a few minutes
towards something better.


You’re out of breath,
chasing sunspots around this mountain
as if you were lighter on your feet
than a rainbow,
or faster than the fingers of clouds
casting shadows.

Peace (in words),


Poems with Bud: Mobius Strip Moment

This morning, Bud the Teacher had an image for poetry that had me thinking. It showed a mother and child, standing in front of a picture of a woman, and a man is off to the wide of the frame, looking in. I had this sensation of everyone looking for everyone else, but in different realities (including the photographer), and that reminded me of a Mobius Strip.
Here’s what I wrote:

I’m the guy in the corner of the frame

looking in on the scene

as the photographer snaps the shot

from the other side of the room.


Together, we form a bit of symmetry,

dancing along this Mobius Strip of


watching the


watching the


watching the


watching the



me out of the corner of his eye,

even as


eats her breakfast in the perfect silence

of the

Still Life

hanging on the wall.

And the podcast:

Peace (in the frame),


Student Interactive Fiction: Exploring Brankav

BrookeAudrey Exploring Brankav

I’m slowing sharing out a collection of student-created Interactive Fiction pieces, which I am compiling into a website resource, too. Here, a team of two students really got into the narrative choices as they worked with the software, Twine, to map out and create their story: Exploring Brankav (I believe the name is a play on elements of their names).

Read Exploring Brankav by Brooke and Audrey.

You can also read the story I posted the other day — The Temple of Selaina by Sarah.

Peace (in the branches),


Book Review: The Comic Book History of Comics

It took me a few months to get through this “history of comics,” told in comic form, by Fred Va Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, but it was worth it. The Comic Book History of Comics is an insightful ride through the history of the graphic story which has its roots way back in storytelling with images, and has now pushed its way into the digital sphere (when a recent comic distribution site — ComiXology — offered to make free some old archives of Marvel comics, the rush by folks to get there caused the entire site to go down.)

What’s great about this book is how the history is told as comic story, with funny and insightful jokes scattered throughout the frames even as the ups and downs of the comic world are told. The illustrations and artwork are witty, with tons of tongue-in-cheek references to politics and pop culture, and more. (In this way, the book demonstrates the kind of storytelling power that comics are about.) Topics range from the stereotypes of early comic strip characters, to the “investigations” by the government of the moral influence of the comics, to the emergence of new forms of comics in Japan, and more.

That said, this book is probably not all that interesting to most young readers. It is pretty dense, coming across more like a textbook for a college classroom than a readable history. (That’s why it took me a few months to read.) In some ways, this history comic is for the diehard comic fan, or for that person who wants to go deeper into the impact that graphic storytelling is having on our world. You can see the influence of comics in movies, books, and popular cultural, in general. The Comic Book History of Comics does its job well, but it is not for the casual reader.

Peace (in the frames),


When Fox News Comes to Town, Part 2

The other night, the segment about data mining and privacy issues in the digital age ran on Fox News, and my students and I were part of the mix. Some of you may remember that I allowed Fox News, with anchor John Roberts, to come to my sixth grade classroom on Digital Learning Day as we were in the midst of a unit around digital citizenship. The hour-long feature — called Your Secret’s Out — is pretty damning, as Fox examines how companies and the government use data to know who were are and what we’re up, too, etc, and is pretty much, well … Fox News. There’s heightened music, a sense that something is very wrong with the world, and Robert’s arched eyebrows show us that we better be more aware of our use of digital spaces. Now, this is true, but the feature gives is more of a dark underpinning than it needs. But that’s television, for you.

Now, you can imagine my worries about how my students and I would be portrayed in that kind of conversation. The last thing I want is for my students to come across as fools, or inarticulate kids. That didn’t happen. We did OK. I think we all came off as pretty thoughtful, and the brief segments show us in good conversations about the digital world. I think I was able to explain the rationale for teaching about digital footprints, in soundbites. I have edited our section out of the larger piece so that I can show my students. The stories that immediately follow us include references to sex tapes and Charlie Sheen and other pop cultural references that I’d rather not bring into my classroom, if I don’t have to.

Peace (on the small screen),


Poems with Mary Lee: This Crazy Zoo

Mary Lee posted a video clip this morning, as part of her month-long inquiry into using media to inspire poetry, connected with using Wikimedia Commons. The video shows a bird, in a cage, squawking as if laughing (I doubt it is laughing, though), which led me to write this short poem. I was playing with rhymes a bit, trying to overlap lines.

Don’t laugh
this could be you
stuck here with me
inside this zoo

where all we do
is prance and wait
for someone else
to navigate

we situate
ourselves, here,
while dreaming only
to disappear

I fear, though,
we’re here for ages
tossing words
across our cages.

And the podcast:

Audio recording >>

Peace (in the poem),


Storybird: Why I Keep Teaching

There’s been a ripple of posts around the Net lately in which educators write or share their thoughts about why they keep teaching (see the Use Your Outside Voice blog being moderated by Beth Shaum). An offshoot of these are public resignation letters being sent to Arne Duncan. These responses come, no doubt, due to the increasing pressure we teachers are under from political officials. Over at our National Writing Project iAnthology space, the question of “Why We Teach” is at the heart of this week’s writing prompt. I went the route of using Storybird to create my visual, storybook response:

Peace (in the book),
PS — here is the video put together by Beth and others that captures what is on the minds of many teachers.